Live Encore: Productivity Exercises for a More Meaningful Life | Ali Abdaal | Skillshare

Live Encore: Productivity Exercises for a More Meaningful Life

Ali Abdaal, Doctor + YouTuber

Live Encore: Productivity Exercises for a More Meaningful Life

Ali Abdaal, Doctor + YouTuber

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7 Lessons (53m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:46
    • 2. What is Meaningful Productivity?

      3:27
    • 3. Ideal Ordinary Week

      17:05
    • 4. The Eisenhower Matrix

      17:48
    • 5. Homework for Life

      4:30
    • 6. Q&A

      7:09
    • 7. Final Thoughts

      1:44
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About This Class

Learn to work more efficiently towards the things that matter most to you.

Whenever YouTuber and podcaster Ali Abdaal gets asked how he’s so productive all the time, he says his secret is that he’s working towards something he really cares about. In this 50-minute class—recorded using Zoom and featuring participation from the Skillshare community—he’ll dig into this idea of rooting your productivity systems in meaning, with plenty of actionable strategies to implement.

You’ll start with a discussion of the ways Ali’s view of productivity has changed over the years, and why he’s now focusing on “meaningful productivity.” Then, you’ll go through some exercises and journal prompts that have helped Ali move the needle towards spending his time efficiently and on the most important things. Students who participated in the live session were able to ask questions, giving you even more insight into Ali’s ideas around productivity.

Perfect for anyone looking to make their days feel a little more purposeful, all you need to participate is your calendar and task organizer (digital or paper).

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While we couldn't respond to every question during the session, we'd love to hear from you—please use the class Discussion board to share your questions and feedback.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ali Abdaal

Doctor + YouTuber

Top Teacher

Hi there,

I'm Ali (26), a Cambridge medicine graduate now working as an FY2 Junior Doctor. 

I spend most of my evenings making YouTube videos, and for the past 7 years I've been running a company that helps students get into medical school. I've also got a weekly email newsletter and a weekly podcast that you might like to check out. 

I'm working on a series of Skillshare classes where I share my process and techniques for video and podcast production, and perhaps even some classes about how I efficiently prepared for medical school exams while doing these other things on the side. 

If you'd like to find out more, please do my Skillshare profile, and if you're a fan of my content and you've got ideas for classes that you'd find useful, drop me... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: So this idea of meaningful productivity is really important to me because having been on the Internet for the last several years teaching about productivity, I always get the question like, "How are you so productive?" The answer most of the time is just because the stuff that I'm doing feels meaningful, it feels purposeful. I'm working towards something that I care about and something that I enjoy. Hey, everyone. So my name is Ali and I'm a doctor, YouTuber, and podcaster. I've been working as a doctor for the last two years based in Cambridge in the UK and I've been a YouTuber talking about tech and productivity for the last, 3.5 years now. Today we're going to be talking about the idea of meaningful productivity. Now, this is one of the things that's very dear to my heart. It's about how can we be more productive, but in a way that is mindful and meaningful meaning that it works towards our goals, usually towards living a happier, healthier, more meaningful kind of life. So we're going to be doing a few different interactive exercises in the class. To follow along all you basically need is something to write with and something to write on. Although if you use digital things then a digital calendar would be very helpful you might like to try out Google Calendar and if you use a digital to-do list, it will be useful to have that open. So I'll be using to-do list as the example but feel free to use whatever you wanted. My real hope is that by the time you finish this class, you will have taken away the idea that productivity isn't just about getting stuff done, it's about getting stuff done that's meaningful that works towards our future goals. Just as a quick note this class was recorded live and I was answering questions from the audience on the Zoom chat as we were going through the exercises. All right. Let's get started. 2. What is Meaningful Productivity?: Hey, everyone. My name is Katie. I'm a producer with Skillshare, and I'll be hosting today's live session with Ali Abdaal. Ali, thank you so much for joining us today. Please give us a little quick overview of who you are, what you do? Hey. Thank you very much for having me. This is a lot of fun. Hey, everyone. My name is Ali, and I usually, if I'm on the Internet, I introduced myself as a doctor, a YouTuber, and a podcaster. I was working full-time as a doctor for the last two years, and I'm taking a bit of a break at the moment. Initially, I was planning to travel the world, but then coronavirus happened, and so I'm stuck in Cambridge in the UK and just making loads, and loads of YouTube videos, and occasionally, doubling in the medicine thing. Productivity is one of the things that I have somehow become known for on the Internet. Last year I made a couple of Skillshare classes about productivity, which seemed to go down reasonably well. I'm writing a book as well at the moment about meaningful productivity because I think the word productivity has gotten a bit of a bad rep, and I think there's that whole thing about hustle culture, and toxic productivity, and things that some people talk about. But I think productivity is the best thing ever because the way that I think of it is like, it's just we're doing the stuff that we want to do that is meaningful to us, and we're doing that more efficiently, and what's not to like about that? I'm writing this book about meaningful productivity, and so when these guys invited me on to do a Skillshare live, I was very excited. So yeah, that's me. What exactly do you mean by meaningful productivity? Yeah. That's a thing that's really hard to define. I guess when I say meaningful productivity, I mean whatever definition of meaningful works for you. For me, I think of meaningful in three different time horizons: There's the very broad big picture meaningful life kind of time horizon, then zooming in a bit, there's the meaningful goals, which is a few months to a few years sort of time horizon, and then zooming in even further, it's like, what am I doing on a day-to-day basis that is meaningful, i.e., moving me towards my meaningful goals and my meaningful life. It's hard to define meaning, and lots of philosophers have tried over the years to do it, and I'm not going to try. I just find it helpful to think of it in those terms. When it comes to meaningful productivity, we can think about it as, how do I make sure what I'm doing today right now is meaningful? How does it contribute towards my bigger picture of the meaningful goals that I've set? Then how does that contribute to my bigger picture of trying to lead a roughly meaningful life? Okay. What are we going to be doing today focusing on meaningful productivity, and what can the students expect to come out? We're going to do a few different little exercises that I found quite helpful over the last few months as I've been researching this whole meaning thing, a few exercises that have moved the needle for my own productivity but have also helped me identify what is actually meaningful to me because I think, especially, for like the long-term planning stuff. Historically, I wasn't a huge fan of it because I used to think what's the point of setting goals, and what's the point of thinking too far ahead in the future? But now I've really changed my mind on that, and now the more I plan for the future, the more it actually does help inform what I'm doing in the present. We will be doing some interactive exercises along those lines. 3. Ideal Ordinary Week: Let's get started with our very first exercise, which is the ideal ordinary week. I'm going to do a bit of a spiel first. When it comes to the meaningful thing, I think if we start with this idea of how do we lead a more meaningful life and then we can zoom in slowly with that. There's a lot to unpack here. But in general, when it comes to living a meaningful life, most people who've studied it, so there have been lots of studies that have been done about this and loads of philosophers and stuff who have thought about it over the years. It's really all about finding something that is in this intersection of the thing that you enjoy, and the things that you're good at, and the things that you can help other people with. It's this helping other people with that is the key component of meaning. Because stuff that we enjoy and just having a generally good life, people generally call that happiness. If there is a difference between happiness and meaning, usually it's this thing of being in service to other people. That is like a very broad way of thinking of the difference between happiness and meaning. Again, these are things that are quite difficult to figure out for ourselves. But there's one exercise that I find really helpful for this. That's the idea of this ideal ordinary week. The ideal ordinary week exercise is where you imagine your life five years from now, and you think what your ideal ordinary week would look like. It's an ordinary week in that you're not on holiday or doing something particularly crazy just like a normal week in your life, but it's your ideal ordinary week, because it's ideal like in an ideal world right now, what do you imagine would lead to a happy and meaningful life five years from now. I think actually blocking this out, is actually very helpful. That's the exercise that we're going to be doing. If I share my screen, you will see I've got my Google Calendar, and I have fast forwarded to January 2026. Five years from now. If you guys are following along with this, then get out your calendars, or again, you can do it on pen and paper. Basically the idea is we want to have this one-week view where you can see Monday through Sunday of a random week, five years from now. The idea is that we're going to be blocking things on our calendar just to create a rough first draft of what we think our ideal ordinary week would look like. When we're thinking about our ideal ordinary week, we want to think, what are the things that we want to have to happen during our week? This might be different for you. But for me, it's I want to be thinking about health and relationships as the very first thing. I want to be thinking of my work and my career as the very last thing. Because in general, a lot of people say that the four most important things in life are; health, relationships, money and happiness. I think the health and relationships are the stuff where if you're into productivity like me, it's very easy to focus on the work side of things and not enough on the health and relationship side of thing. Ideal ordinary week. For me, I'm going to say, let's say Monday from 06:00 PM to 09:00 PM, I'm going to do board games plus dinner night with friends, and I'm going to save that over there. That's my Monday evening blocked out. Now, let's say if I'm thinking on this relationships front while I'm here. I think on Saturday morning, let's say, 10 o'clock till 1:00, it would be nice to have brunch with friends at a nice restaurant. That's some time blocked out. Sunday evening will be quite nice as well. Let's do fancy dinner, maybe restaurant with friends or family. Ali, you are focusing on the social aspects of life as opposed to thinking of it as a whole at the moment. Exactly. I'm thinking, eventually, I want to have my whole ideal ordinary week blocked out. But instead of starting with work, I think starting with relationships. For me, it makes more sense because my danger in life is that I tend to neglect the relationship side of things and do the work thing for way too long. I find that it's like this analogy that you guys might have heard of, which is that, if you imagine a long glass, I don't know where it was from. You imagine putting stones into that glass, you've got like big stones, you've got pebbles, and you've got sand. If you put the sand in first, then you don't leave much room for the big stones and pebbles. Whereas if you put the big stones and the pebbles into the glass first and then you pour the sand in, then the sand actually fits in around the rest of the stuff. For me, I think of health and relationships and personal happiness as being the big stones, and I think of work as being the sand. Therefore, if I'm filling my little glass up with sand first, I will inevitably not leave enough time for the health relationships, social side of things. Whereas, if I can ensure that I'm filling up my little glass thing with the big stuff, the social things, the health things, then the work will just naturally fit around it. That's why usually, if I'm doing an exercise like this, I'll focus on the relationship side of things. So far on my thing, we've got dinner on Monday night, brunch on Saturday. Let's say Wednesday, lunchtime. Let's have lunch with someone, lunch with a friend over here. Again, this is just our ideal ordinary week. We're not being wedded to this idea. It's just a rough first draft, five years from now, I reckon this might be nice. Let's say early morning breakfast plus exercise with a friend. Now, it seems like fun. Let's say, Thursday evening. Thursday evening, 5:00 till 9:00, let's say that's a hang out with my lad friends from school. That's the social relationship beside of my ideal ordinary week, that's now sorted. Now, I want to fill in the health stuff. Because again, health to me is going to be a big stone, and it's something that I'm in danger of forgetting about. I'm thinking, five years from now, what do I want my ideal ordinary week to look like in terms of the health and fitness stuff. I'm a huge fan of playing badminton. Let's say Monday morning Badminton Club. That would be cool. I'm a big fan of playing tennis as well. Let's say Wednesday morning, let's go a bit earlier. Let's say tennis session. If I'm playing squash as well, so let's say on a Friday, we'll do squash in the middle of the day. Why not? I want to state or get reasonably hedge. Let's say on a Thursday morning, I'm going to do a workout at the gym, and in a dream world, I'd be waking up every morning and doing my gym workout session. Let's say we will do it on Saturday as well. Have a bit of a line on Saturday. So 9:00-10:00, we will say gym workout. I wonder if I can color-code this. Gym Workout session. Let's make this red as well. We're just getting an idea, again, just filling in the blocks in our ideal ordinary week. Let's do a gym session on Monday 4:00-5:00. Now I have blocked out the health and the relationship aspects of my life and I'm thinking, what else do I want to be doing in this ideal ordinary week? Work is now important part of it. Let's say work on an arrow from 11:00 till 4:00 on a Monday. That's a pretty working week, work stuff, maybe filming videos and let's give work the blue color code. Now, I've decided when I've thought about this stuff before that I want to stay being a doctor, but I want to be a doctor part-time. I want to do it some of the time but not all of the time and so let's say I have a work shift from 10:00 to 8:00 working at hospital in emergency department. I might be a fun thing to do, let's put that as blue. Let's say Friday as well. I can get rid of this meeting. Just this one. Let's say Friday morning from 7:00 till 5:00 I'm at work. Again, this doesn't have to actually reflect reality or what's even possible, it's just in a dream world, I reckon I'll be working in a hospital two or three days a week. Let's say two and a half days a week. Let's give out a half a day here for work, and as I'm doing this again, you guys just map out your own ideal ordinary weeks. Now we're seeing our ideal ordinary week take place. Let's do some video work over here, YouTube related stuff and let's give that a green because it's a different thing of my life. Then that should be a green as well and let's say over here, let's call this writing because part of being a good YouTuber is to be a good writer and writing a book and writing is fun. Let's make all of Thursday a writing day and that would be cool. Now we're seeing so assuming and waking up around seven-ish most days and going to bed, let's say anytime after 9:00 PM is family time. I'm going to say 9:00 till 11:00, family time and let's color code that in lavender. Another final thing I'm thinking is that, I'd actually quite like to make time for a few hobbies as well. For example, I've set myself a goal in 2021 that I want to get good at drawing and become a concept artist. I'm going to say arts, painting and drawing time. Let's give it a cheeky little emoji. Emoji is up here. Art painting drawing time, let's give it a color of grape, fantastic. I'm going to try and duplicate this. They've created its own cover image. Let's say cover. Duplicate that, and let's put that on a Saturday as well and you know what? I'm thinking, this is something I'd want to do fairly regularly. So let's put this in this gap on the Monday as well. So now my Monday is fully blocked out, Tuesday basically blocked out, Wednesday basically blocked out. Let's delete this. Thursday is basically blocked out, Friday I've still got some time. Now I'm thinking, what do I want to be doing on a Friday from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Actually, I quite like the idea of doing a live stream interview/ podcast recording with someone famous or someone cool. Not necessarily someone famous, but someone cool. That would be a YouTuber type thing. I've got my Friday blocked out and Saturday and Sunday, I've got my brunch with friends. I've got my family dinner at a nice restaurant. We've got some activities on a Sunday and I think I'm going to leave the rest of Saturday and Sunday blank just to give and give some breathing room. I see there's a few questions in the chat about are you planning for the week? This is not really about planning for the week. This is more like thinking five years from now, what do you want to be spending your time doing? What do you want your ideal ordinary week to look like five years from now. Once we've mapped all of this out, the next step is to think, what's the difference between my week today or this week, or for example, this year compared to where I want it to be five years from now. Then the way I think of it is, given that I know that or rather I think that five years from now, I want to be working two days a week in medicine. That means that in the next five years I need to work towards getting to a point in my medical career where I can comfortably work two days a week. Usually that depends on what specialty you're doing. So I'm thinking about emergency medicine and that's a nice specialty where you can actually work however many hours you want. I'm also thinking that, given that I only want to be working in medicine two days a week, it means I need to be making enough money on the side so that I'm able to work in medicine two days a week. It does inform how I'm thinking about my life right now. I've got a lot of social things on here. I want to have a board games and dinner night with friends. Google's added the thing to it. I want to have a hangout with my school friends. I want to have a dinner with family. This is a lot more social than I'm currently being. I guess the lock down and the pandemics causing issues with this. But at the moment, I hang out with my school friends maybe once every six months and I would really love for that to be a thing that we do more often. I'm thinking now that given that I know that five years from now, I want to be hanging out with my school friends every week, what do I have to do today to make that change in my life so that this is actually a thing that's going to happen? I'm thinking squash, tennis, and badminton I've got in my ideal ordinary week. I'm a member of a tennis club, but I'm not yet a member of a squash club or a badminton club and so post-pandemic, just the fact that I've done this exercise makes me realize, hang on. Yeah, badminton, and tennis, and squash bring a lot of joy to my life. Why am I not doing them more often? Post-pandemic, this gives me an indication that hey, I should probably join a tennis, badminton, and squash club, that might be fun. I've decided that writing and YouTubing are things that I want to be doing, which is basically what I'm doing at the moment. But at the moment I'm doing a five days a week and so the trick here is that, in my ideal life, I only want to be doing YouTube and writing related things two or three days a week. So what do I have to do? What systems do I have to build? What team do I have to hire to make that a possibility? Again, this is just a very rough first draft. Who knows if my life is actually going to look like this five years from now, but just spending 10-15 minutes to think about it. Anytime I do it, I always think, yeah, there's actually stuff I can do right now to help me lead towards this life that I think I would enjoy and there's no reason why I can't be making these changes from today. That's the exercise. Feel free to screenshot and post in the project section. Glad to see in the chat that people are finding this useful. Again, I've not included time for eating because I'm just assuming it would be too much effort to include time for eating. I'm not including traveling time in here, but this is just a very rough big picture overview rather than a minute by minute idea of what my week would look like five years from now. It's really great to actually see things down on paper or on screen. Rather than just keep it in your mind. Would you say you like the journaling? Some aspect of planning? Yeah, I think it's really useful to see stuff visualized in this format. There's a question in the chat as well, like what if your ideal week will be different five years from now? It probably will, the point of doing these long-term thinking about what we want our life to be exercises is not that we're restricting our self to that particular vision. It's that it just gives us an idea of what we think right now. What we might like five years from now, maybe next year my ideal ordinary week would be completely different. But that's why this long-term stuff is a stuff that we want to be revisiting, not too regularly but occasionally. I always think about this when I do my annual review, at least once a year I'll be thinking about these big picture questions. But sometimes even if I do like a monthly review with my productivity coach or something, he'll say something like let's take a step back. Let's think about the long-term vision. Is it still what you thought it was going to be six months ago? I'll say actually, I've lost interest in art completely so and that's no longer part of my thing or actually, I've just taken up music and I really like singing and I want to be doing more of that. It really is just a rough first draft. You don't have to be wedded to it. It's like if you're starting a YouTube channel, you don't have to know what content you're going to be making five years from now, because it's probably going to change over time. But even if it is going to change over time, it is useful just to have a bit of a long-term outlook and that's why I enjoy doing these long-term exercises. 4. The Eisenhower Matrix: Now we're going to move on to the next exercise, which is a really great way of organizing your to-do list. This ideal ordinary week exercise, the whole point of it was that it helps figure out this thing of meaningful productivity in a very long-term time horizon, like five years from now. The next exercise we're going to do is something that has really moved the needle for my own productivity. I've been reading about productivity for over a decade, probably longer than that now, and I've tried every productivity hack under the sun. This is one of the very few that I actually stick with that really does help me be more productive in a meaningful way. You'll see what I mean in just a moment. But this is when we're planning our day or when we're planning our week. We've gone from planning our life, which is ideal ordinary week, and we're zooming in now to think, when we're planning our to-do list, what are the ways that we can, a, be more productive and, b, make sure that we're being more meaningfully productive, if that makes sense. This is a technique called the Eisenhower Matrix. Now, this was a thing that was discovered by Dwight Eisenhower, who was one of the presidents of the US ages ago, and he was a super productive dude. I think he founded NASA or the NSA, one of those two and did loads and loads of projects during his two terms. Even after his presidency ended, he was pretty productive. He was still working as a military general and he took up oil painting and stuff. His whole spiel was that the things that are important are seldom urgent and the things that are urgent are seldom important. If it's important, it's not likely to be urgent, and if it's urgent, it's not likely to be important. He came up with this idea of the Eisenhower Matrix, which is how I think about my to-do list for a few different reasons. If I share my screen, basically, the idea behind the Eisenhower Matrix is, we first want to make a list of everything that we're doing, and that's just a useful exercise to do in itself because if you're not a massive productivity nerd, you probably don't have a to-do list that is 100 percent up-to-date. The problem with a to-do list is that, I'm sure everyone here, you've probably tried using a to-do list at one point, and I've had it the so many times, and for a few days, maybe for a week or two, you think, Oh my God, yeah, I'm going to put everything in my to-do list, but then eventually, you stop putting stuff in it, or things like, buy flowers for Mother's Day and things. We think that, that's not important enough to go on my to-do list, therefore, I'm just going to remember it. As soon as we start to try and use our brains to remember stuff for our to-do list, at that point, the system becomes pointless because we can't 100 percent trust the system. As a little exercise, for the next two or three minutes, just do a little brain dump and write down absolutely everything in your mind that you're currently storing in your head and just get it down on paper. Feel free to use a pen and a punt that you've got in front of you. Feel free to use an app. I'm using to-do as the web interface over here, so I'll share my screen so you'll see what's in mind. But this is just a useful thing to do about once a week. When I do my weekly reviews, I just try and make sure I've captured all these open loops. This is what David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, calls it capturing open loops. He says that our brain is for having ideas, not for storing ideas. Our brain is for doing interesting things rather than as a Random Access Memory. Next two or three minutes, just write down everything you have to do in the next week or so or anything that's on your mind and then we'll Eisenhower Matrix it to do things in an interesting way. Two or three minutes, just write down absolutely everything. Earlier, you've mentioned a few review things, so you do something like this with daily or weekly? Yeah. Usually at the start of the day, I'll look through my to-do list and I'll decide what is the one thing I want to get done today that's in my daily highlight. Then once a week, I will do a brain dump of absolutely everything that's on my mind. As I'm going throughout my days, I've got in my mind this principle of the brain is for having ideas, not for storing them. So if I ever think of anything that, oh, crap, I have to do this thing, then I will try my best to write it down and if I do, I know it'll get done, and if I don't, I know I'll forget it. It's like that's how I'm keeping my to-do list updated. But it's only around about once a week when I do my weekly review that I actively go through it and just make sure everything is up-to-date, because I think otherwise, the problem with to-do lists is that you can end up becoming a slave to your to-do list and you can end up, this is the problem with all this, hey, fancy new app for productivity, fancy new app for managing your to-do list that you start. It ends up being more about the app than it is about getting stuff done. The cadence I found is, I will update my to-do list about once a week and I'll do my best to stay on top of it throughout the week, but I won't beat myself too much about it. Again, I'm just thinking off the top of my head, what are all the things that I need to do and I'm just getting them onto this, and there's people in it. Reply to Ylias. It's not really an optimum amount of things, it's just getting everything out of your brain onto paper. Yeah. Exactly. If we're deciding things to do on a given day, then having too many on the list is probably not good, but this is the, if we imagine like once a week or for example, the first time that we do this, most people end up with at least 30 things on the list. Usually when I do this exercise with people that I'm actually teaching productivity to, we do it. It takes about half an hour and we get somewhere between 30 and 100 items on the list, because then the next step is to do interesting things with these items. It's been a few minutes. I've got lots of items on my list. There's probably even more things that I've got in my head that I'm not thinking about. But right now, this is a reasonable first draft of the things that I have to do. Now, the key thing with the Eisenhower Matrix is that we want to split our tasks into four different sections. Based on whether they're urgent or whether they're important. We have urgent and important as number 1, so let's say, one, urgent and important. I'd say number 2 is important plus not urgent, and say number 3 is urgent plus not important, and number 4 is not urgent, that's not important. There's fancier ways of doing this with to-do list. You can use labels. There's fancier ways to do annotation, but I'm just doing it in the simplest way just to show. If you want to do it, you can just click this little Add Section button at the bottom. Technically, the Eisenhower Matrix is really just a table. You can see my annotation there. You've got urgent on the top, you've got important. Urgent and important is this quadrant, urgent and not important is there and so on. You can do it in a two-by-two grid. That's why it's called the Eisenhower Matrix. It's like a matrix to make a grid, but I'm doing it on to-do list just to illustrate. Now, the idea behind the Eisenhower Matrix is that you want to basically put all of your things into one of these four categories. Let's say, arrange call with book editor for me is important and not urgent. Yeah. Write Chapter 9 for book proposal is important and not urgent. Write Chapter 7 is important and urgent. Call my mum is important and not urgent. Hip flexor stretching is important, not urgent. Meditation is important, not urgent. Home workouts, important not urgent. Reply to Michael's email, that's important and urgent. Schedule a call with Neel's productivity coach is, let's say it's not urgent and not important. Schedule a call with Neel himself, let's say not urgent, not important for now. Reply to Ylias, again, not urgent, not important for now. I'm just roughly doing this little stuff. Apply for council tax, that's not important. Fine. Let's say it's urgent and important. Call my grandma is important but not urgent. Film Notion video for Thomas Frank. Sorry, Tom, not urgent, not important for now. Film B roll for mouth taping video is urgent because it's coming out soon. Film airpods max review is coming soon. Film trailer for second channel, important, not urgent. Film testimonial video for Blueprint, let's say it's urgent, but it's particularly important. Film testimonial video for android, again, urgent, not as much very important, and film testimonial video for Charlotte, let's say urgent, important. Basically, we have just been chucking our stuff into these four different categories based on, is it urgent and is it important? Technically, if you're doing the Eisenhower Matrix and stuff properly the thing that Eisenhower used to say is that, if it's urgent and important, then you want to do it now or basically make sure that you're doing it today. If it's important and not urgent. Things like calling my grandma, selling a home workout. You want to schedule time for it? Because it's important but it's not urgent. You want to make sure it's in your calendar to do at some point, if it's urgent and not important. You want to try and delegate if you can, and if it's not urgent and not important, you want to eliminate it if you can. Does this help you with you mentioned before that not being a slave to a to-do list. Is this part of that process? Yes, because it's very easy to add an item to a to-do list. It very easy for me to say, this person has sent me an email asking me to do this thing. Therefore, let me just keep their e-mail, that e-mail hanging around in my inbox. If I use my inbox as a to-do list, which is bad, but a lot of people do or let me just add it to my to-do list and it's very easy to put stuff into a to-do list. Because usually when we put stuff into it to-do list, We're deferring having to do that thing to a future self. We're thinking, it's like when we say yes to a commitment, like if I said, hey, do you want to give a talk at this conference three months from now? It's very easy to be like," Oh, yeah, sure." Then three months when I'm like, damn, I wish I hadn't said yes to that thing. I find that for me I'm very quick to add things to my to-do list. But when I do this stuff is when I do the Eisenhower matrix is when I realized that actually a lot of these things, you know what, I could just not film this notion video. I could just not call Neel. I could just not reply to Ileus and I could just not call this productivity coach because it's not urgent and it's not particularly important. It's not the end of the world if I don't do it. I'm like, okay, cool. Like I just want to do those. If I look at this and think Tom is actually quite a good friend, you know what lets add that to my important knowledge and list. Then I can actively decide whether I want to do it. For this stuff, I could just take it off and now it's disappeared. I'm not going to see it again, and chances are it's not going to have any negative repercussions. But the main reason why I bring up the Eisenhower matrix in this question, meaningful productivity, is the difference between column one and column two. Column one is the urgent and important stuff. For most of us, if something is important and urgent, it's going to get done like we're going to do it like. I've got a sponsored video that needs to come out later today and it's going to get done like, even if I have to stay up late to do it, even if I have to add an [inaudible] to do it. If it's important and it's urgent, it's going to get done. This is what happens when you have an assignment due for the next day. At that point it's important and urgent and you will just get it done. The danger is all of this stuff. The important and not urgent stuff. The more things you have in your to-do list, the higher the chances that the important and not urgent stuff is going to get brushed under the carpet. It will be very easy for me to say, I'm not going to call my grandma today because it's not really urgent and I've got work and stuff and so I might screw call my grandma. It'll be very easy for me to say, I don't have time to do a homework out today because I'm just so busy with this urgent video that has to come out. When it comes to the important and not urgent stuff, it's too easy to put it off. One quote that I read when I was looking into this method was that, it's the important and not urgent stuff that is actually the most important. It's actually not particularly important for me to film and AirPods Max review like it feels urgent, but it's not the end of the world. Whereas if my health suffers because I'm missing too many workouts, or if my posture continues to be bad and end up with back pain and not stretching enough or if I, God forbid end up having a strained relationship with my mom or grandma because I haven't been calling them enough, that it actually like really bad. It's the stuff in quadrant two, important plus not urgent, that is actually the most important stuff. The way that we make time for this is to go back to the calendar, is to use a technique that I call the power hour. Now the power hour is basically every morning, for me, it's 9:30 to 10:30. If I plot this out my calendar 9:30 to 10:30, I usually use the lightning emoji for this power hour. Now, power hour is when, I've got this on my calendar and I'm going to duplicate it just to show you what I actually do. Repeat daily, okay, great. Now I've got my power hour every morning from 9:30 to 10:30. and the crucial thing about power hour is that in that time, you are only allowed to do things that are in that quadrant two, you're only allowed to do things that are important but not urgent. For me, for the last few weeks actually, when I've been doing my power hour, I've been making progress in writing my book because that's important but not urgent. When I didn't have power hour, the book just kept getting pushed back because it was like, I've got this video then he's come, I've got that urgent thing. I've got to call it that that person. Now in that one hour time, the only thing, I'm not allowed to do anything that has an imminent deadline, even if I've got a video that needs to come out later that day, I'm not allowed to do it in Power Hour because that's only for the not urgent but important things. When I think about it, when it gets to 9:30. You know what's important and not urgent. Let me call my grandma. She lives in Pakistan, that's a plus four hour time difference. I can usually catch her just after lunch. I'll call my grandma and while making a coffee, I'll have like a 10, 15-minute chat with her. It makes me really happy to have a chat with me and she's like really happy that I called her and I'm like, this is a small amount of my time that I've used to make my grandma really happy and it wouldn't have happened if I didn't have time in my calendar. For the thing, where I'm literary not allowed to do anything that is urgent, that has a deadline. The thing that my productivity coach says, which has been really helpful is that you're not allowed to check your notifications until after power hour. I've set up an app called Freedom on my Mac, which blocks my e-mail. It blocks YouTube, it locks Twitter, it blocks Facebook, it blocks Instagram, all that, all that stuff. It blocks all of those sites before 10:30 and since I've been doing this, I don't check email before 10:30. I never checked notifications. Sometimes I do when I'm on the toilet if it's like eight o'clock in LA, and I always feel I should have done this. Because there is nothing in at least in my life and probably most yours as well. That can't wait until 10:30 and then from 10:30 am like, okay, cool. I'm allowed to check all my stuff and that's all good. That is how the Eisenhower matrix is this idea of splitting to-do list into these four quadrants. It helps because we can eliminate everything in quadrant four. If you're into delegation, like I am, you can delegate everything in quadrant three usually. But it's really this quadrant two stuff, the important and not urgent things like doing a workout, going for a run, stretching my hip flexors to make my posture better, calling my mom and grandma, It's that stuff that I then make time for when I schedule in power hour. If I should take you to my calendar these days and enable stuff, I've actually been doing this as like a right with me, live stream co-working session. I'm doing that every week day for the next four weeks. That has become my power hour, where the only thing I'm allowed to do in that time is to write my book. I'm actually making progress on writing because that's the only thing I'm allowed to do in that time. That's been quite a nice thing. I find it helpful to add some level of accountability to the power hour just to make sure that I'm doing the stuff that moves me towards my long-term goals. i.e, the stuff that is meaningful and usually the stuff that's meaningful is the stuff that is important and not urgent. 5. Homework for Life: Finally, I want to talk you through an exercise, a daily journaling habit that's really help make my own life more meaningful and that I hope it will do the same for you. Every single productivity book talks about the power of doing some reflection at the end of the day. Just to check in with yourself to be like, how was today? How did I do? Was I being productive? Did I move towards my goals? I've tried lots and lots of these different journaling practices over the years, but the one that I now do is very minimalistic. I can do it basically every day. It's an activity called Homework For Life. I've read this in a book called Storyworthy by a guy called Matthew Dicks. It was the best book that I read in 2020. It's a book all about how to tell better stories. I really wanted to and still do want to become a better storyteller because getting good at telling stories is good for your social life and it's also good for your Internet life. Storyworthy, fantastic book, made me cry so many times. What it says is that we all think that we're not very good at telling stories. The reason we think that is because we don't realize that we have all these stories within our own life. What Homework For Life is, it's a simple table and in that table, all you have to do is you write the dates in one column, and in the second column you write what is the most story worthy thing that happened to me today? If I had to tell a story about something that happened to me, what would it be? This usually works. It's just one question. There are people that do these huge ass long daily reflection, and I've tried all of those, and I never managed to stick to it. But the one I've stuck with most often is Homework For Life because it's just one question. What is the most story worthy thing that happened to me today? That's got a few different benefits. Firstly, it actually makes you relive your whole day. It makes you think, "Oh, yeah, what did I actually do today?" Usually, I'll check my calendar. Select my calendar, oh, yeah, I did that thing, and did that thing, and I've got a cold air. I went for a run and that went okay. I had an interesting conversation my housemate when we were watching Bridgerton or whatever. I go through my calendar and I actively relive my day, which is great because it makes time pass slower. I don't know if you guys have had that experience where you think, "Last Monday or last Wednesday, what did I actually do? I have no idea. I'm just stuck at home and just having Zoom call after Zoom call, and the days blend into one another." It helps time go little bit slowly. The second benefit of Homework For Life is that then if I'm actively working to improve my storytelling, which I'm doing, I can look through and be like, "Oh, that would make for a good story." Then I'll try and bring it into a YouTube video or trying to tell it to my housemate just to practice my storytelling. But I think the most important one is that, for example, now I've been doing this for almost eight months now, eight months later, I can look back on the stuff I was writing in my Homework For Life in April and May of 2020, and I can just look through the list and be like, "Oh, yeah, that was a good day, that was good day, that was good day, that was good day." I can essentially relive the whole month just based on the story worthy moments. That's just really nice because again, when you're on this productivity hype, it's way too easy to just go at full speed, and to not actively reflect and to not think about the past, and not to appreciate how far we've come. I find Homework For Life is quite good just to go through one at a time. Any amount of journaling that you do before bed or just in the nighttime is going to be useful. A lot of people like to plan out their to-do lists, I don't personally because I'm a bit of a waste man. I'm quite lazy. Basically, the least amount of work I have to do to keep on top of my productivity, I will do. But the question that I do ask is every day, what's the most story worthy thing that happened to me? Not directly related to productivity, but it does help with the whole meaning stuff. That's what I wanted to end with. There's lots and lots of other journaling prompts. It's all these notion templates you can find with more elaborate journaling practices, but just what's the most story worthy thing that happened to me today? Usually, what I find is that it also reminds me to be grateful for people in my life, or things in my life, or experiences. Because until I ask myself that question like, what's the most story worthy thing that happened today? I just don't stop and then think about those. You guys might like to try that out. Definitely recommend checking out the book. Storyworthy, it's fantastic, made me cry so many times, and it's the best book that I read in 2020. 6. Q&A: Now we're going to open up to some questions from students in our audience. What matters more, I guess this is a personal thing as well, mindful productivity or meaningful productivity? I think they're both the same thing. A lot of people define mindful as focusing on the things that you care about. I would define meaningful also as focusing on the things that you care about. I think there's a huge overlap between mindful and meaningful. I think we're all agreed that productivity for its own sake is totally pointless. In fact, the way I define productivity is that it has to be meaningful for it to count. Because if I were to just run on a hamster wheel and not go anywhere, if my goal is to get somewhere, then I'm not being productive even though I'm wasting a lot of energy. If my goal is to burn calories, then yes, I'm being productive because I'm working towards my goal. I think mindful and meaningful are the same thing in that regard. How do you handle a real situation when you have everything scheduled in your calendar, but you feel like you're not up to doing that task in the moment, it makes you stressed, anxious. Schedules are piling up. I think we've all been there. I am very sensitive to that particular feeling. I guess we've all had that, when you see something on your list or you're like I have to do this thing, and you get this like "urgh" response. Whenever I have that "urgh" response, I know there's a problem, and I know that usually I'm not the problem. Usually it's the fact that I haven't broken down the task enough. For example, I had this the other day, it was like film video trailer for YouTube course. I just kept putting this, "Urgh, I'm coming with this, coming with this." I realized that whenever I have that response, it's usually because the job is just too big. Instead, if I split it up into write script for trade or for YouTube course, if I see that, I'm like, "Okay, that's easy." I can just hop on my laptop, sit on the sofa, and do that in ten minutes. Then if it's film trailer based on the script I've written, at that point it becomes easier. Anytime I feel stressed about something, usually I find that breaking it down and getting real clarity on what do I actually need to do. Back when I was in school in the university, if I had something like revised biochemistry or study biochemistry on my to-do list, it will never get done because that's just too big. It's like, "Oh my God, there's a mountain in front of me." Whereas if it's read pages 24-28 of biochemistry textbook, I'm like, "Okay, that's easy. Anyone can do that." I find the more granular and the more clarity I can get on what my tasks are, the more likely I am to get them done. I find that 100 percent of the time that reduces that feeling of "urgh" when I look in my to-do list. Any practical tips, to when you're really feeling low on energy? I think I'm quite lucky for me in that if I'm feeling low on energy, I just won't to do the thing. This is nothing particularly urgent in my life. Even if I've got a video sponsored by SkillShare, I'll just release it a day later and no one cares and it's all good. Even if I need to release it a week later, all it takes in email. I'll be like, "Hey guys, I'm really sorry, I've been overwhelmed this week, mind if it comes out next week?" They're like, "Yeah, sure." There are so few things in life that can't be deferred if you're not feeling up for it, if you're not feeling like you have the energy. I find that if I feel like I don't have the energy consistently and it becomes a pattern, then that becomes a bit of a problem and I start thinking, "Okay, am I getting enough sleep? Am l eating well? Am I getting enough exercise." Usually by the time I've gone down that list, I realize, "Oh yeah, I only had three hours of sleep last night because I was reading a book until four in the morning. Okay, that's the problem." That would be a practical tip just like don't do it, if you do not have the energy. That's a good tip. Where do you find a productivity coach? You mentioned you're working with someone who's obviously helping you out a lot. That's probably a bit advance because you have to fork up some money for this. But I've made friends through Twitter. I think, by the way, everyone should be on Twitter. Twitter is a life changing platform, not as a way of following the news and getting angry, but as a way of connecting with people who care about the same things that you do. Like 70 percent of the people I follow on Twitter also care about mindful and meaningful productivity. One of them is a guy called Nat Eliason. He tweeted one time that he had been working with the productivity coach called Chris Box and I was like, "Damn, I want to get in touch with this Chris Box guy." So I send him a message on Twitter and be like, "Hey, can you be my productivity coach?" He was like, "Yeah, sure." I'm actually doing a YouTube live stream with him tomorrow where we're going to chat about the things that he's taught me as my productivity coach. You can always find it. Even if you Google productivity coach, you will find people. I think it's one of those things that, if you have the money for it, it's a total no-brainer because you have basically nothing to lose and you have potentially a lot to gain if you can actually level up your own productivity. Just a quick one on the review, the story review. What if people are at home, in their home offices don't feel like they're actually doing anything in a day or feel like their story is boring. What would you advise them? I actually had a coaching call with the guy who wrote that book last night. I was saying this to him, I was like, "Matthew, man, I feel I've just been sitting at home and I don't have any stories," and he was like, "Okay, you're not allowed to say that." The way you want to think of it is, if you had a gun to your head and you had to tell an entertaining story about something that happened today, what would you talk about and you're not allowed to say nothing at all. It might not be entertaining, but at least by thinking about it like that, you'll come up with something and it's totally fine. This guy says he's a professional storyteller and wins competitions about it. He says that 80 percent of his story entries don't end up being a story. But it's like when you go for a run or when you work out at the gym. Just getting into the habit is the most important thing. Then the goal already starts to come out. The more you start to do it, the more you realize that. This is a bit of a tangent, but that's fine. When it comes to storytelling, we all naturally think that a good story involves traveling or involves alcohol. I was doing a workshop about storytelling when it came to being a YouTuber, people were like, "Yeah, lockdown. I've just not been traveling and I've not been drinking therefore, what stories do I have in my life?" But actually, what Matthew writes in Storyworthy is, "No one wants to hear your travel stories and no one wants to hear your alcohol stories, unless, they are also drunkards or unless you're over 70. Because if you're over 70 years old, then an alcohol story is inherently interesting. Otherwise don't talk about those things." The things we want to hear about in stories are those little moments that involves some realization or some personal transformation. This guy Matthew writes a book, Storyworthy, he tells so many fantastic stories about these little moments with his kids. I'm just like, "Damn, that's so good." It's such a small moment that we can all relate to. Because the thing that makes a good story is it's relatability. You don't need to be on skydiving out of an airplane or jumping off a cliff, or have drunk 18 pints in an evening in London to have a good story. No one likes their stories anyway because they're not relatable. Whereas the vulnerability is the stuff in your own life. Anytime you realize something interesting, that could be a story. 7. Final Thoughts: All right. That's everything for today. Thank you so much for joining the class. I really hoped you learned some things that you can now take forward and apply to your own life. I get a lot of questions about how are you so productive? The real answer to that is because everything I do is fun and everything I do feels meaningful. There's almost nothing I do that I don't enjoy. Even when I was a student, where the stuff that I was doing wasn't necessarily inherently enjoyable, you can still make the stuff that you're doing more fun. That's something that I talk about a lot more in my productivity Skillshare class. There are sort of two parts to it. How do we make sure what we're doing is fun? How do we make sure that what we have to do is also fun, that we can add the fun to the things we have to do? Because some of us don't have the luxury to decide 100 percent how we spend our time. But we can always, for example, when it comes to studying for exams, turn it into a game, play the game with ourselves, color-code it, treat ourselves to a cup of tea or coffee when we do a Pomodoro session. There are these little things we can do to make life more fun. You can listen to instrumental music, I've got a nice playlist on Spotify that has Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Game of Throne soundtrack, which makes it feel more epic. All these things you can do to make life more fun. I think the true hack for productivity is just to enjoy what you're doing because if you do then, you'll just naturally be productive. I'd really love to see what you got out of this class today. If you wouldn't mind, if you could take a screenshot of your ideal ordinary week exercise or anything else, and if you want to post it down in the Project Gallery section, it would be really cool to see what you guys are getting up to. Thanks again for tuning in. To find out a lot more about exactly how I think about productivity and the principles, strategies, and tools that really helped me, you should definitely check out my Skillshare profile where I've got two classes on productivity as we speak.