Building the Practice of Productivity | Curtis McHale | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Building the Practice of Productivity

teacher avatar Curtis McHale, Programmer + YouTuber

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools Won't Make You Productive

    • 3. Choosing the right thing to do

    • 4. Which Tools Do You Need

    • 5. Choosing a Task Manager

    • 6. Choosing a Note Tool

    • 7. Choosing a Calendar

    • 8. Dealing with Email

    • 9. Being Focused - Apps & Devices

    • 10. Being Focused - Environment

    • 11. Self Care

    • 12. Weekly Review

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

This course will cover how to build the practice of being productive. Yes we all want the best tools, but taking your old broken process of getting tasks done to a new tool won't solve any of your problems. You'll still be missing tasks and always feel like you're running behind.

By the end of this course students will have established where they want to be and have some solid tips on how to build measured productivity into their life.

My name is Curtis McHale. I’m a programmer and YouTube creator that has been running my business for 12+ years. I use these practices of productivity to get enough work done and still have time to run, ride, and hang out with my kids on a daily basis without feeling rushed all the time.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Curtis McHale

Programmer + YouTuber


Hello, I'm Curtis.

I'm a father of 3 girls and married to one wife. When I'm not sitting at my desk coding or making videos I'm out running in the mountains.


You can join me on Youtube to get more videos on productivity, video editing, and sometimes random mountain runs.

See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Welcome. My name is Kurtis Michela. I am a content creator encoder. I've been running this business for over 10 years, I guess 12, almost 15 now. Wow. During that time I've gone from being way too distracted to work, not getting enough done, not building enough at all by any means in the first number of months, especially, to a point of burnout because I worked way too much and now to a point where I do work for other people a 3-4 days a week, and I do what I want one or two days a week. This whole course is going to teach you how to do that, how to set up the practice of productivity, choosing your tools right and just the planning systems that I use so that I work and have a measured life. A life that lets me hang out with my kids, volunteer at school, go for runs and bike rides and still get plenty of work done for other people. This course will really help you build a practice of productivity without aiming for overwork. We will talk about tools a bit more often. We're going to be talking about the philosophy of productivity. I'm going to make some tool recommendations and things that I like. This would be about the philosophy of productivity, how to plan your day because everyone goes in for tools. But I really think the most important part is how you do it because if you have a broken process, then you still take your broken process to the next tool and it's not going to solve your problems. In this course, we will cover: How tools affect your productivity, how to choose the right task to do, choosing a task manager, just the highlights, choosing a note tool for your auxiliary item that go with your tasks, choosing a calendar tool, dealing with e-mail, how to set your devices up for focus, how to set up your environment for focus, because where you work is super important to make sure you get your work done well. I'm going to talk about the importance of self-care because if you are not really ready to work, if you're not ready to focus on what's going on, then you're not going to get work done well. Then I'm going to show you how I review and plan my week so that you can take that process and just run with it if you want to then modify it to suit yourself. There are going to be a few class projects I'm going to encourage you to do about planning your weeks, deciding how you want to run your life, where you want to be in life, where you want to go so that you start actually planning that properly and planning your productivity and your work well. If you're interested in other stuff I do, you can find it at, and over there you'll actually find links to my YouTube videos as well. Buckle up. Let's talk about building the practice of productivity. 2. Tools Won't Make You Productive: One of the biggest issues that I see when people start really looking at their productivity is that they focus way too much on the tools. What is the newest tool? What is the hottest tool? What does some famous person use? What? All of these things that actually don't matter. Because as I've already said, if your practice of productivity is broken, it will not matter which tool you use. When you move to this new best tool that whoever uses, your process will be just as broken now as it was then, and you still will not get the work done that you expect it to. For years now, I've used basically the same process. Whether it's doing a phase of digital project management, or I'm in a phase of analog project management. Because I do switch back and forth a little bit as the season in my life dictates one or the other. When I was using a bullet journal, I would write down the tasks for this month and next month on different pages. When I got to a month I'd plan out which weeks things wanted to be done in, and then when I got to a week I would use time blocking to make sure that I set aside time for different tasks. You can actually find my time blocking course here on Skillshare as well. Now that I use Things 3, I do basically the same thing. I have a tag for next month, tag for this month, tag for next week, and a tag for this week. That's really how I do most of my task organization. It's the same thing. It's just adapted to a digital format instead of using an analog. Another important thing to remember is you don't have to take my system or any single person's system. Use it as a jumping-off point, and then as you build your practice of productivity, customize it to yourself. Customize it to what works best for you, and then build your own system and tell people about it because someone else will like your system better than my system. My system is a good jumping-off point. Now, outside of the course, if you really want to dig into some other books that I found foundational in building my practice of productivity and a lot of my philosophy, I have four big recommendations for you. I have Deep Work by Cal Newport. That felt like the book that said everything I wanted to say at the time. To set it succinctly, everything that I had been thinking. Four Thousand Weeks, which is a fairly new one, talking about you have about 4,000 weeks to live, so what are you going to do with it? The 12 Week Year is another good one about planning in quarters in 12 weeks. The other one is Rest. That's a good one about taking the time for self-care. While there are many other books out there, I think these four had the biggest impact on my productivity. 3. Choosing the right thing to do: Another thing that I find far more important than the specific tool you use is choosing the right thing to do in the moment. Today is a Friday. I have kids coming home early from school and one of the best things I can do is actually to get all this recording for this course done. I have just about an hour until I have to go pick them up and I can sit and do all the recording for this course, at least meet the talking bits in that time. That is really the answer to one question from the one thing, what is the one thing I can do this week or in this next hour such that everything else I do will be easier or unnecessary? If I can get all the recording done, then I can actually probably produce most of the course this weekend and have a new course out on Monday. That is the one thing I can do. Another important part of that is choosing to say no to things. I just got what's really looked like an interesting project come my way, but it was pro bono. Could I do it? Yes, I am totally capable technically of doing this coding project, but I don't have the time. Eat that frog, Brian Tracy says " You can only take advantage of opportunities and so much as you say no to things." I only have time to take some future opportunity if I say no to that one right now. That question, what can I do in this moment? That will make everything else easier or unnecessary is one that I've asked myself regularly. Years ago, I did it. I had another video course I was working on and I just had to get it done. It was coming up due and I just kept not getting to it, not getting to it. What I did was actually shut down everything for an entire week. I did nothing about this video course, produced it and the end of the week picked back up my coding clients and absolutely nobody noticed I was gone. Just not even a word. Just said, "Okay, let's keep going and we just kept working and it was totally fine." Now, to really be able to make that decision. What is the best thing I can do? What should I be saying no to? You really need to know where you're heading. Many people don't know. They just cling on and end up with a business or a life or something that they're really not happy with. I'm going to talk about a few exercises that I want you to do. If you look at the downloadable that you can find here on Skillshare it will be a bunch of prompt questions to go through. First off, I'm going to talk about your four quadrants. You do that by taking a piece paper folding in half, fold in half again, and start writing down what the important areas for your life are. Family business, professional finances, health travel. Fitness, again, I have on my list, food, marriage, whatever your four are. It doesn't matter and even the first time you may say that wasn't the right four. Underneath that, you start describing in bullet point what things you're going to be doing. I can take my kids hiking or outside a few days a week. I want is mine. I'm around to volunteer at the school for my kids and I am. I was in the library last night and I usually do cross-country. My wife and I are dating at least weekly and our time together is more meaningful than it is now. The time we spent together is meaningful to both of us. A second really good project that I like to do, and I do this every two years I do it is the ideal life essay. Both of these I do every two years, and this is essentially the same thing. In the next five years, my life will look like, what? This is where I write an essay and actually write like, I will be doing this. My dog's name will be that. We will be taking vacations that look like this. Here's all the different things that I will be doing in the next five years. Then you use both of these documents and really they're interchangeable. Lot of times you start writing essay and you go back and change your quadrants and then or if you start with your essay, then you go back and change your essay. Once you start with your quadrants, you go back and forth and you really design the life that you want to have, where you want to be. Then you can start looking at the work you're doing and does it actually match up with that? Does it allow you to have the freedom to hang out with your kids? Does it allow the freedom to do whatever it is that you want to do? If it doesn't, then you can start saying, "Well, what should I be saying no to? What opportunities do I need to take? What can I do right now that will make the rest of my work easier or unnecessary so that I can get to this life?" One final thing to remember in any productivity plan is to build in rest. Far too many people had for overwork, they work way too many hours, and it doesn't work. You, burn out. You have nothing left to give. Especially in creative pursuits, you really only have most research shows from when, from a book called Timeout , from lots of different places. They have four maybe five hours of good creative work in you and then your brain is spent. This eight-hour workday probably cannot be spent actually being optimally productive, creatively for eight hours. It's just not going to happen. The other thing that a lot people do when they're overworking like that is to make a lot of progress or they do a lot of different things. They make a little progress and lots of things and nothing actually gets finished. Even right now, I have to revamp my site. I have to work through this course. I have three videos to produce today. I've already recorded by first three videos, but the only thing I'm going to be doing right now is getting this course done. I'll get it revamped, get it out, and then I will actually finish revamping my site. Now, one of the ways I work to build them rest and I'll show you my weekly planning routine later where you can actually see it in my time blocking course already is, I start by planning when I am going to be working out and what constraints are, when's my wife going to work, when are my children's pick up events do I have. Once I've done that, then I can start planning the work that needs to get done in the week. Until I have planned by constraints, I just can't do it. Now, I'm going to show you my weekly planning routine later. But one of the ways I build an arrest is by starting off my weekly planning with the rest. With the times I'm taking away from work. With any of the other family constraints that come in, picking up my kids from school. When my wife goes to work, so I have to watch our younger children so that I know when I can actually work. Building an arrest is probably one of the most fundamental things that I do to make sure that I'm really ready to go in the rest of my work time so that I'm on and I am focused during it. 4. Which Tools Do You Need: Finally, we're going to start talking about tools and there are three basic tools you need. First off, is the task manager. Second is a note-taking tool of some fashion for any auxiliary information, and third is your calendar. Let's dive in and talk about them. First off, task management. For this, all you really need is a place to write down tasks and projects. A project is something that takes multiple steps, usually has multiple things in it. I know in Things, we have something called the areas. I'll have a personal area with multiple projects inside it or have admin area with multiple projects inside it. Some of them are multi-step, say I'm going to take every receipt, all my receipts might get tasks in the receipt project inside the admin area for my business. I said my first choice right now is Things 3. But if you are on Windows or Android, that's not going to work for you because it's Apple only. One of the things you need to look at for your task tools, it does it work on all the platforms you use? Another thing to look at is, is there any separation between personal and work? At one job I worked at, we worked in Wrike for project management for the whole company. Then I still kept my personal things in Things 3 and they didn't cross over because then it was on work time I worked in Wrike. When I was on personal time, on running my own business time then I worked in Things 3. To start, you need to make a list of things you must have. This list should be pretty short. If you're on a Mac, iOS, and Android, you need a task manager that is on Mac OS and Android, that's one of your requirements. It doesn't need to be this super long list. It needs to take some projects, take some tasks, maybe have some filtering for tags like I talked about in my this week tag and I'll show you those later. But that's it. It shouldn't have this epically long list of 7,000 things, it doesn't have an API. A way to interface with it programmatically via the web or something that maybe isn't it. A shortlist of things you must have in there. Now once you have a list, you can do some research and you can start choosing the one or two task managers that are worthwhile to you and then start looking into them more. But you really only should spend two weeks choosing this. That's it, two weeks making your first choice of a task manager. Then you can spend six months using it. You can write down any problems, maybe revamp your list and then you have another two weeks to choose and then stick with it for a year. Don't change all the time. Changing task managers irregularly to find the latest and greatest is not productive, it is not getting your work done. Your second tool calendars to hold your appointments, to hold, I do time blocking to hold my time blocks. Google calendar is going to be fine for most people. We've moved over to iCloud totally at my house because we're an apple house. It's easy for me to just sync between everything and you're having trouble with Google Calendar sharing properly just wasn't doing it in iCloud calendars seem to be sharing just fine. Here we really have, I guess three overall calendars. I have my work one, which my wife can see. I have a family calendar for everybody overall, even like my younger children can see it, although my youngest child can't edit, my oldest child can because she sometimes comes home late from school and she can just add in, I have cross-country practice on these days and she adds it in so that we are aware of that and we don't go rushing out to see where she is. Then there's my wife's calendar, which is her work calendar. I can see that for her personal appointments for stuff like that. All family appointments, all kid appointments, everything goes on our family calendar. Now there are some task managers like TickTick that combine calendars and tasks. I actually like that. I have a course on TickTick here on Skillshare. I do like that. I do like how it does for time blocking and maybe we'll show you that again, please pull up a video to show you from my TickTick course how that can work. But also Agenda, which is a Mac OS, iPad OS only option. It does combine notes and calendars. That was also fairly nice, but it's certainly not cross-platform. I think Obsidian has a better option for that with their daily planning plugins. I have an Obsidian course, which you can find on Skillshare as well. Finally, notes, you need something for reference material. You have a task and it needs to go to an e-mail or you need to hold a PDF for it. Where are you going to put that? Some tools will let you attach it right to your task manager. Project management systems generally will because they're meant to deal with projects for a company. Then you can drag and drop your PDF in there. Things does not do this. I need to have a link and I use DEVONthink for those types of things. If I'm linking out to a PDF that I need to reference later on when I do the task I link that into DEVONthink. I also use Obsidian for notes. These are for my text-based notes, for research notes often, but for text-based notes. My brother-in-law's gate code is in there so that when I go to his house, I can open up his gate without having to call in because it's just saves everybody time because we go there fairly regularly to my brother-in-law's house, and then the other one I actually use is Apple Notes. I have DEVONthink, Obsidian, and Apple Notes. Apple Notes is really just for a shared notes with my wife. We have one for each child for Christmas gifts, we have one for each child that shared when they're sick. We can say, You know what? 2.48 AM, we gave them some Tylenol, and if I go to the doctor later and my wife gave them Tylenol then I can look and say, at 2.48 A.M, we get this and here was the kids temperature. That's it. I don't really use Apple Notes for anything else because I just don't love it as much as some of the other options. Now, like I said, the important thing is to make a choice. Just make a choice with your tools. Don't sweat it. Don't spend months choosing. You're never going to find the perfect one. Even Things 3, there are things I do not like about it on the iPad, it doesn't show the tags very well. Why not? It doesn't attach files there's a bunch of stuff that it just doesn't do perfectly and other task managers may do better. But then there's parts of the other task managers I don't like too. You're generally finding unfortunately the least bad option for you. Like I said, take two weeks, choose your tools, and then live with them for six months. Write down the things you really don't like, and then you make another choice or do another evaluation for two weeks. Make a choice and stick with it. Stick with it for the long term. Do not be changing all the time. Changing your note too all the time is like epic work. I've done it twice. It's a pain in the butt. Changing your calendars are probably a little easier, but there's still going to be things you just miss, changing your task manager you're going to miss things. Realistically if you're like, I change task managers and didn't move a bunch of stuff. You should never had them in the first place. Whatever your broken process is in your current task manager, you're going to take it to the next one. Just don't even make a new decision. Stick with what you got, change process. 5. Choosing a Task Manager: Now let's talk specifically about choosing the right task manager and some of the things that I think are important when you look at choosing the task manager that should go on your shortlist. First off is easy task entry. If it is hard to get your tasks in, you simply won't do it. Something that Things 3 and most task managers I've ever looked at does, is it lets me tie a keyboard command on my Mac to enter a task easily. I use, I think it's command option space. I don't even think about it anymore. I've used it for so long for any task manager I've ever had on my system. It also integrates very well with my phone and with my iPad to share things into it with the iOS Share Sheet, or to share it via shortcuts if I want to build a project. With the latest update to macOS, iPadOS, and everything, it actually shares my shortcuts across everything. I really like how easy that is but if you are not on an Apple device for some of your work, then it's just not easy because there's no web interface either, something like Todoist or TickTick, which is cross-platform and it has easy task entry and has some automation, will be a better choice for you. Next up, how does it support overall organization? As I've said, Things 3 has three levels of organization. It has the area. I have man or business areas in there and that it has projects in there where I can put a single client and it has individual tasks. Then even below that, there's a checklist on each individual task if I want that. What type of organization do you need? I would say starting out by breaking it up into work and personal is probably a good thing. Then be light on the rest of your areas, you rest of your main organizational things because it's far too easy to divide it way too deep, and then you're like, I don't know if this goes in this little bit or this little area over here because the slice between them is so narrow, you're just never going to be able to decide most of the time. If you really can't decide if it goes in one area or the other, then you probably have it sliced too thin and you need to back off your deep nested organizational structure. Next up, task filtering or contexts filtering depending on what tool you're using. I have one called Errands and tags called Errands in Things 3, and that lets me just when I'm out on Errands, I can just tap the Errands tag and say, is there anything else I want to do and I can make all the errands in one shot. There'll be context filtering in OmniFocus or tag filtering other places, Todoist does this as well, TickTick does this as well. I can look across multiple projects and find any other Errands and just batch process all these things in one shot. That's an important feature. Next, calendar support. Do you really need it? Things 3 has, I would say minor calendar support. I think TickTick to-do-list has better calendar support, TickTick, especially that lets you drag tasks out into your weekly calendar and really plan them well. You need to look at do you need it, and how will you actually use it? I keep trying around Things 3, and I never really use it in Things 3, but I did use it, I want to use TickTick it was much better there. Finally, what about your project review? Does that have any special review features? I know OmniFocus, OmniFocus is excellent, even if you're on Windows, looking at the OmniFocus review system and finding a video on that you'll be impressed with how useful it can be. Otherwise, you have to dig through every project all the time and you have to actually review them manually, whereas OmniFocus lets you set like review intervals. Maybe you don't need to review this project for a month or for two months. But doing your weekly review and if there's any special features for that is just something to add to your list. This is a nice to have feature. You don't need it because you can manually go through everything, but it is still nice to have sometimes. Let's come up with four recommendations of good options for task managers. Number one is Todoist. It has multiple views, it as Kanban view, it has a ListView, it has multi-platform and it does collaboration. I am currently using that to manage a moving project with my wife because we can both add tasks in and out of it, and we can see the views we want to see, and it's easy for collaboration between the two of us. Next up, TickTick, also a good one, also does collaboration has multiple views, has automation, has okay automation, iOS, VR, URL support. You can do some of that on other platforms as well with their automation, which is in the documentation. I love the calendar view, that's probably one of my favorites, but it also does a Kanban view if you like that as well. I do like a Kanban view for organizing content, which I do a lot. Things 3 is my current one of choice. It has the best keyboard support of any app I've ever seen in iPadOS and I use iPadOS a lot. I really like that feature of it. It has good automation support, as you know, macOS, iPadOS everything updated recently, they took the shortcuts which usually you had to do like if iPad or iPhone and change things around. Now they're just all in one and even on macOS, it's all set up on one. They really do keep up with the development on that. Finally, Trello is also a really good option. It's a basic Kanban board. There are lots of plug-ins for it. You can use it for free almost all the time. I've used it free lots of time. So I have really liked it for that. It's got Quick Entry on macOS, it's got Quick Entry on Windows, and it does okay with sharing into iPadOS and the iPadOS or the mobile apps have been very good, in my opinion, not the standout, stellar things that Things 3 is, but still fairly good. Now let's move on and start talking about our other tools. 6. Choosing a Note Tool: Now, choosing a note tool. For most people, simple text-based notes are probably going to be totally fine. Most of my notes are in Obsidian, most of them are text-based. In which case, Apple Notes will be fine, OneNote is also excellent. Evernote is, okay, [LAUGHTER] I don't love it, but it can be totally fine as well. You may also need to hold some PDFs for this, I use DEVONthink, Keepit's good, Evernote's good. OneNote can do that as well. You just want something that you can link directly to from your task manager, from any other tool you use, and I can do that in Obsidian and in DEVONthink. Obsidian is cross-platform for everybody, so you could use that on your phone, whatever the phone you're on, and you can link directly to the Obsidian file that you want to reference. Now, some people may also want to take more advanced note features like you'd find in Obsidian or in Roam Research or in Craft as well, where you continue to link notes together. This is a little bit more to the research end, but at least something to take a look at quickly and say, ''Yes, I'm willing to use this or no, I'm not going to use this.'' I know that Francesco D'Alessio from Keep Productive, he sees them all. He sees why people think they're cool, and he never uses any of these features, so he just sticks with, I think it's Evernote, sticks to something fairly basic but doesn't have this cross-linking. But it's least worth looking at for you and saying yes or no. I feel like, that sounds interesting, and I have no idea where I'd use it then the answer is no, you won't use it. Just look for something that lets you store the auxiliary information you need for any of your tasks easily. That even with PDFs for contracts for clients, so I can link to all that in one spot, and I can just go and find all the information for one client easily. In my house, I said I use a combination of Obsidian, DEVONthink, and Apple Notes. Obsidian is for my thoughts. DEVONthink is from an auxiliary material, PDF, stuff like that, and other people's thoughts, articles I'm going to save, or you this might read it later service. Apple Notes is for what we share with my wife, and that's it. My wife only uses Apple Notes because it's totally fine for her, it holds all the files she needs just fine and works great across her devices. That's all she uses, and that's probably fine for most Apple people. OneNote again, totally fine for almost everybody. That's really it for your note-taking tool, find something to hold your auxiliary information that has deep linking, I would call it, so you can link directly to the note and then just don't worry about the rest of it. 7. Choosing a Calendar: Calendar tools. We just all have events that need to happen. I have a dentist appointment coming up, because I cracked a tooth. Actually, I think ironically last time I did a course on note-taking tools, I had cracked a tooth as well. I need to go to the dentist more often. We have no tasks. We have my daughter doing cross-country, we have appointments, my wife is talking to a mortgage broker right now. These were all on our calendar. Now one thing I really like about calendars is be able to see my tasks on it in some fashion. Tick Tick does a great job of this. You can do it with OmniFocus in some calendars as well. Some tools really do a good job of planning, and looking at those tools may be of benefit to you even as you look at a task manager, what type of planning does it allow for your week. Another thing you'll think about with your calendar is, how does it integrate with services like Calendar or Acuity for scheduling your appointments? Trust me, if you've never used one of these things and you schedule lots of appointments, it's so easy. Someone just looks at your calendar, they choose their time and it gets booked, and you can even set a blackout windows. When you add appointment to your calendar already, it says no, that time is not available. Saves me so much time booking calls with the clients. Another thing to think about with your calendar is once you put your tasks on the calendar in some fashion, then I'll show you some ways to do this. You also need to track where your time went. Right now I'm running a harvest time to know that my time on this day went towards this video project. I will track everything for this video projects so I know how much this course took me to do and then I can need a longer term to compute how much it earned me and then just figure out what if courses are worthwhile. Is the course of this style worthwhile for me? These are all important because especially when I started freelancing, when I started running my own business, I thought I was doing a lot of work and what I was really doing was a lot of Twitter. Knowing that with RescueTime, or Timery or Timings, I think on MacOS, but RescueTime works cross-platform. It actually will analyze what you're doing on your computer, what applications are open so you can really see where you are. Again, for counters at my host, we use iCloud. It's easy to share. My daughters can use it. Google Calendars continue to have trouble [inaudible] any device and the calendar I can't see them anymore, especially my wife. It was easier just to use iCloud, now we can all see them and it's easy to use. 8. Dealing with Email: Let's talk about dealing with email. One of the big things that most people pushed for that, I don't really love is hit inbox 0. I very rarely hit inbox 0. I hit inbox really very few. Nothing to do with immediately, but that's about it. Now the default for inbox 0 is to go through your email and actually get down to nothing in there. If it's a task, you create a task. If it's a note, you send it off to notes. That's something to follow up on later you create a task, you put it in your time block somehow so that you can see it later. Now, the thing for me as I tried to do this, especially with my receipts because I'll scan them and I'll email them to myself to deal with, and I try to just put them as a task in a factors I'd look at it months later and be like great now have like 50 whatever, 150 receipts to do leaving it on my email every Friday, there's all these receipts to deal with I'll just go through and do them all every Friday. I guess I could also and I did try this, put them in a folder, I don't even see them, but leaving in my inbox bugs me enough that every Friday I go through all my receipts or at least once a week, I go through all my receipts. Sometimes it's Saturday. I like that. I know some people don't, but I like that. Now for me, I also plan a big planning block an email block. Fridays I go through my email, I go through my planning system and I really set that up every Friday so that I'm planed for the next week, and then Mondays I have an email block as well in the afternoon to really go through any other email I didn't get to deal with throughout the week, and most of the rest of the week, I pretty much leave my email alone. I don't go into it very often. I let it sit and then I just focus on getting my work done. For email clients there are so many choices. I like spark and because it's available on Mac OS and iPad OS, that means I just have one interface to you. They have the keyboard commands that have to be the same across them. I like that. But really choose whatever you want. Email doesn't need to be, again being complex. You shouldn't spend a ton of time on it. One feature that I really think you should look for in an email client though, is the ability to deep link to an email. In a task you could say I'm linking to this email specifically and then you can go directly to the email just because it saves time and spark does allow that. 9. Being Focused - Apps & Devices: Next we're going to talk about setting yourself up for focus specifically in the devices and the software you use. One of the best things for me and iPad OS 15 and Mac OS Monterey has been the focus mode. I usually wait on upgrading my Mac OS because I'm a developer and I just don't want to deal with any of the edge cases that often happen in a new operating system. But mac OS Monterey has me upgrading like a week after, just because their focus modes are so great. This allows me to set, who can notify me based on what I'm doing. Right now I'm recording and nobody can notify me. All of my devices, everything is silent, we'll get no notifications, nothing, no app, nothing. When I work out, the only people that can notify me are my wife and my daughter because while I love to talk to my cycling friends about cycling stuff and what cool thing they did, I don't want that while I'm working out and I just ignore it and then this actually allowed me to get notifications on my watches or on my bike computer, so I can actually see what my wife said. If my wife said, "Hey, pick up milk on the way home." Or, "We're going out, meet us over here" or something like that, then I can just look at it and say, okay, and not need to stop my workout. Whereas before I always had to stop at least because I got notification and deal with it and she just wouldn't message me when I was doing a workout. Now, for everyone, the first thing in setting devices up for productivity is turn off all your notifications. You just don't need them, you really don't need them. A lot of times people say, I'll even say this when I do YouTube video, turn on your notifications, because YouTube actually does favor me when you plong the bell and you get notifications, but then I tell you turn off any YouTube notifications because you actually don't want them. I do not want notifications every time somebody releases a new video because I schedule my YouTube time. Do that yourself, turn off you notifications, only get notifications from the people you need at the certain time as you need and only let the apps that you really need notifications from, need as in, things will go bad if you don't. Facebook, you probably don't need notifications from it. I don't need notifications from Twitter because nobody will message me on Twitter such that like my children will die, so I don't worry about it. The next thing that most people need to do, especially on their computers, is block all the sites that are going to distract them, so you can use HeyFocus or FocusMe are two good apps that will do this and you install them on your computer and they will block social media for you, whatever sites you want, they will stop you from looking at it outside of prescribed times or you'll say I can only look at Twitter between this time and this time. I can only spend this many minutes on an app. It's something you could do on iPad OS. Those are really good things to do so that you don't get distracted because it's so easy and like a moment of waiting for a few seconds, I'm going to start checking Twitter, I'm going to start going to the local news sites, and then you look up in 20 minutes later you're still doing the same thing, which is not what you're supposed to be doing and you're not being productive. One of the final things that I do to stay focused is when I'm really, really busy, I break up my notebook and I'd take some journaling and every day and I write some little task and it all the time, but I break up my notebook then, and I write down the important things and I ignore everything else. I don't look at my task menus again, I don't look at anything else, I just take, here's the two things I have to do today, and that's all I do and I have them in the notebook, I can see them there and then I don't worry about anything and you know what, my notebook can't notify me, it can't bug me, all I can do is work. 10. Being Focused - Environment: Now, the next thing to look at when you're setting yourself up for focus is the environment you work in. Is it conducive to actually getting work done to helping you stay focused? Is it a place you'd like to work where you're not going to be avoiding even going in there into that space to work? I'm very lucky where I am that I have this room you see behind me basically to myself. It does have an entrance to the garage and into the house so people come through it, but the rest of the office is mine to do with as I want, to set up with as I want to. That is nice. I know you don't all have that but even finding a small nook to work in, which the last year I spent one day a week working in the kitchen so that my wife could work down here at the office desk and not be distracted. I let her one day a week for the job she did, let her to get all the work she needed to done and I would have one day of my own distraction with my youngest daughter around because she was not in daycare because of COVID. First-off, you need to ask does your office have a good lighting you like? I like a window, it's actually closed right now because I'm recording, but the window is nice to have coming in and I can see the bright light and otherwise I have nice lights that I can control, I control the temperature, I control the brightness, I can set up how I like. It doesn't matter whether people like everyone else comes in my office and says it's way too dark, but this is what I like. Second, what's the clutter level like? Now, something I used to tell when I'm way too busy is how cluttered is my desk? If it's got one receipt on it, which it does right now, because I had to buy a new Apple Pencil yesterday then I'm probably fine. If I've got a pile of stuff and I can't use the other end of my old desk to do any work because there's too much crap on it, that means I'm way too busy and I need to start saying no to stuff or I need to focus on one or two things, get them off the plate and then I can put them to rest and not worry about it. Try to keep your environment as clean as possible. Even my wife who is admittedly a little bit more cluttered, says that she works better when it's not cluttered, just had to keep it that way for her. Do your best to keep your environment clean and ready to be focused on for your work. Third, what type of music or noise do you like? Is it random coffee shop noise, in which case you can find playlist for that. Is it classical music? Is it death metal? If death metal is your thing, go for it. I actually really like the My Little Pony movie soundtrack, that's fun to work with, it's energizing. I know some people even work with podcasts, I can't do that. That bugs me way too much. That voice in the background talking just distracts me every minute. I don't do that, but I listen to lots of different music during my office day. I have some good speakers behind me and I just listen to my music and stay focused on my work. Fourth, if you've got kids, it's really hard to work. Kids are so hard I have three children. When I wrote the script for this, I had two home from school as they had colds and we're not sending them to school at all if there's any sniffle because life right now and they kept coming down to interrupt me. One thing to remember, and right now it's been my wife because she has not been working. It's her job to make sure that kids don't bug me so I can work. But as I also said earlier, it used to be last year, Tuesdays when my youngest daughter was not in school yet. She would be my wife's job four days a week and then one day a week would be my job because in that one day a week, I could plan a lot of admin tasks that didn't take deep focus and then she could do all her deep focus work in one day and not worry about it. Since my desk is basically clear because everything's up on monitor arm, she could just come down, set her laptop down and do her work. Defining which parent and if you have two or which adult is in charge of the children for a certain time, it is their job to keep the children from bugging the other adult is a great thing if you have that option. Finally, a good question to ask yourself is, do you need an environment change? Something I do on Mondays is actually do my writing at a local coffee shop. My wife comes and works with me sometimes. I sit down, I do my writing, I do some research and then I'll move later in the day to come back to my office. Sometimes an environment change is really nice. I know my friend Mike used to do that pre-pandemic times. He would move every so often in the day when he started feeling low creativity, then he'd move to his new spot, he'd do some more work and then he'd move again if he needed to sometimes two or three times a day, this may not be possible. Here in this office, I'm actually really lucky because I can sit at my desk here, I can sit at the coaches behind me, or I can even go upstairs because our children are not generally home right now because everyone's in school. It's nice if you have that space, if you can afford it. In the summer's I actually walk across the street to the school and work at the park because I do know the school Wi-Fi password, so I will work just outside out of picnic bench that sits in the school park. That is really nice as well. My kids sometimes have you even run over to play. My wife will send them a "Can they come play?" I say, "Sure, I'm just doing admin work." That's really good. Don't be afraid to take a break in the middle of your day. Go take a walk, go to a park, take 20 minutes and just have an environment change so you can come back and stay focused. 11. Self Care: In time off or practical guide to your rest ethic, one of the big things that they talked about that I really liked, that I really took to heart deeper again, was that you should have a rest ethic as strong as your work ethic. Unfortunately, most people don't really take this to heart and what they use is business as a proxy for productivity. If they're seen shuffling on the papers walking around busily then clearly they are productive. Now, most of my days I would use what I call the malt method of productivity. I focus a lot on my own stuff in the morning with little distraction, take a bit of a break and then the afternoon I allow some more distraction in via email, via other things on those days. That three to four hours in the morning is where I get most of my good work done all the time. That I mean, I spend those three hours working on a client project and then the afternoon I'm doing more organization of the project. I'm responding to GitHub tickets or I'm responding to the project management system. I even take this into account when I'm doing my time blocking. First, I add in all the constraints like my family, like my appointments, then I add in the workouts I need, then I add in staying in the work as my wife and myself because the kids are young enough, one of us has to be watching them still. It'll add any time I have planned hanging out with friends or other things that I had to do. Then I will start to add my actual work week in. By booking the things in, I'm going to do like rest and any other constraints. I help develop that strong rest at upfront and I actually see what I really have time to do All my real-time is in the week to do any work because the constraints have to happen. I have children to watch, I have to do those things. When I don't account for them upfront and I say I'm totally going to work between 9-5 every day and have no trouble. That's actually not the reality of my life so I can't do it. Only once I know the constraints do I really know where I could be productive and then I can make those right choices about what the one thing is I can do right now to make everything else easier. You can see my time blocking course, how to really dig into this and how I plan my weeks. 12. Weekly Review: Now the final thing and building a good practice of productivity is your project weekly review. Most of you will say you do this every week, and I would say yes, you ideally do need to do this every week. The truth is I get it done about three out of four weeks in a month because something just comes up on the other week, like today, my kids are off early, I've got about five more minutes to record then I'll have noise in the house and can't do my recording. I'm not going to get to my review today because I've recorded during that time instead. One of the questions I ask myself during my review is what has been successful and why has it been successful? What processes around it really made it successful? Another one that I ask is, what did not go as planned? Why did it not go as planned? What processes need to change, what things need to change to make it go as planned? Another one I'll ask is, how did this week impact my overall goals? Am I making steps in the right direction for myself? Again, one of my things is to continue to have courses so that it raises the floor of my income so that I'm always earning a certain amount. This project, it does accomplish one of my goals. Final question I ask myself, how did this week fit into the way I want my weeks to work? If it wasn't good, can I do anything about that? Is this actually a week that I really like? Am I enjoying it? Is it overall contributing to where I want to go and what am I going to change to make that better next time? These questions end up in my journal or in obsidian depending on what mood I'm in at the moment, whether I do them digitally or analog. Then I start really going through and analyze my week what projects I have. I'll look at my next week tag, what needs to get done next week. I'll plan out my week as you see in my time blocking video and I'm sure there's some B-roll right now showing you a version of my time block weekly planner. Then I start really diving in to the projects that are there. What things have to get done? What things would be nice to get done? Because there's always something that'd be nice to get done. There are some things where business will actually go poorly if I do not get it done. Sometimes that's I need to get this many hours of billable work done or I will not be able to pay my bills. Now during review, it's not time to beat yourself up. Taking a small step in the right direction is better than taking no steps at all and being paralyzed and just not getting to anything. Any further small improvement every week in your process will really build up what you do overall and how good you're getting at everything. Don't beat yourself up. Learn from it, keep going, and if you find repeated issues coming up, you really need to sit down and re-evaluate what you're doing that bring up these repeated issues. Maybe you need that environment change. Maybe you're not doing a good organization with your partner with who's in charge of the children. Maybe you just need to delete your Twitter account because it's way too distracting and you're getting nothing done. But don't beat yourself up. Keep taking steps towards productivity.