Productivity Habits That Stick: Using Time Theming | Mike Vardy | Skillshare

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Productivity Habits That Stick: Using Time Theming

teacher avatar Mike Vardy, Productivity Strategist & Productivityist Founder

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Create a Framework


    • 3.

      Build Awareness to Work Smarter


    • 4.

      Establish Habits that Stick


    • 5.

      Use Tools to Support Your Habits


    • 6.

      Case Study: Bring it all Together


    • 7.

      Put it into Action


    • 8.

      More Classes on Productivity


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About This Class

Learn time theming to build a productivity system that will last a lifetime.

Join Productivityist founder Mike Vardy as he shares how creating a simple, flexible, durable productivity system will transform the way you work. Whether you’re a freelancer balancing multiple gigs or a 9-5er with a calendar full of meetings, this class will give you the tools you need to create helpful habits for work and home that will actually stick. You’ll learn to:

  • Time-theme your days to work more efficiently
  • Create daily routines to simplify your workflow
  • Utilize tools like Todoist to support your daily goals

After taking this class, you’ll have an arsenal of strategies to personalize your productivity and ensure you're getting the right things done, freeing time and energy so you can focus on the things that matter.

Meet Your Teacher

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Mike Vardy

Productivity Strategist & Productivityist Founder


I'm a writer, productivity strategist, and the founder of Productivityist. I've served as the Managing Editor at Lifehack, and contributed articles on productivity to 99u, Lifehacker, The Next Web, SUCCESS Magazine, and The Huffington Post. I'm also the author of several books and the creator of TimeCrafting, a simple, durable, and flexible personal productivity approach. I've delivered talks on the topic of task and time management at events like New Media Expo, TEDx Victoria, South by Southwest, and creativeLIVE. I live in Victoria, BC, Canada with my incredible wife, daughter, and son.

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Mike Vardy and I am the Founder of Productivityist. I'm a productivityist strategist. I help people stop guessing and start going and move things forward in a positive direction efficiently and effectively. I'm passionate about productivity because I really want to help people get more of the right things done, and that's the key, the right things done. We spent a lot of time doing busy work and just checking off as many boxes as possible. My goal is to help people check off the right boxes. If you are curious at all about getting better with the things that really matter to you, the things that are going to have a lasting impact, getting more of the important things done as opposed to dealing with the urgent all the time, then this class is for you. We're going to dive into some simple email management tricks you can use. We're going to look at your calendar in a whole new way, and we're going to use my task management application of choice where your to-do list can live and breathe and thrive in that app you're [inaudible] to-do list. So the big project we're going to work on in this class is big in impact. It's not going to be terribly taxing for you because chances are you're already doing some of it, but we're going to put some structure into play by adding time-theming to the mix and theming your week. So what we're going to do is give each day an identifier. Something that you can anchor your mind to. In that way, you can actually tether tasks that are on your to-do list or your calendar to that day of the week, and allow you to move forward in a way that's going up that really allow you to have a real big impact in your work and in your life. Now, when you've finished this project, I'd love to see your results in the project gallery. We can learn a lot from each other, and that's a great place to share this stuff because everyone's going to have their own personalized themed week, and I think it's going to be great for us to all learn from each other. So without further ado, let's get started. I'm excited to bring this to you. I can't wait to share it with you. I love seeing the results that happen when people start to apply these simple and flexible, and durable tactics to their lives. Let's just get going, shall we? 2. Create a Framework: My thoughts behind productivity aren't just about efficiency and effectiveness or checking off as many boxes as you can in a given day, it's about intention plus attention. So we hear a lot about intentions and what do I intend to do? What are my intentions in my day, my week, my month, my year and so on? That's really important because those are going to be the things that you really want to do. Those are the things that are going to drive you, whether it's in work or in life. The other aspect of productivity is attention. So how do you pay attention to the things that are on your list? How do you pay attention to making sure that you're doing the right things at the right time? The problem with most people is that they're either doing one or the other and they're not marrying the two. So for example, you can have all the intentions in the world, but if you don't have a way to pay attention to them, then you're really not going to be moving anything forward. But if you're paying attention to everything that's going on around you, but you have no intentions to marry them too, then you're doing a lot of this busywork, a lot of checking off as many boxes as you can, getting home at the end of the day and saying, ''Okay, what did I do today?'' And not really remembering what you did and that had any lasting impact. So productivity is really intention plus attention. So productivity framework is something that you can create or have created for you that allows you to move things forward in an effective and efficient manner. Now if you're creative and you are taking this and you're saying to yourself, ''Well, I don't like to have any kind of framework, I like to work as I want to work, as the ideas come to me.'' That's not going to work for you over the long haul, because even if you have a slight framework, just something that gives you an overarching focus, which is part of the project that we're going to be doing, you at least have something that you can attach your mind to. So many people try to keep all their things up here, in their head, having a framework gives you something to look at so that you don't rely on this as a warehouse instead it could be a factory because that's what your mind is designed to be. Now let's be clear, having the tools to move your work forward, a productivity tool let's say, isn't exactly what we're looking at here entirely. Tools can help, but if you don't have the framework in place first, the approach before the app, then it's not going to really be all that helpful. I'm sure you've probably got the latest technology or the latest tool and you've said this is going to help me be more productive, but then you throw all your stuff in there and you're wondering why it's not working for you. Well, the reason is because you didn't have a framework in place in the first place. So that's where you need to start, approach first, app second. So a productivity framework should consist of these three things, have these three qualities. First off, it needs to be simple. You need to be able to move it between digital analog tools fairly simply plus you should be able to teach it to others, if you're working in a large team. Durability is another quality that you need and that means that it needs to be able to withstand the pressures that you throw at it. So again, I touched on the idea that if you have this tool and you just throw everything at it and it really all you've done is move the stuff from the, let's say the analog world to the digital world with no framework in place, then it's not really durable. All you've done is just basically moved it from one bucket to the other. A durable framework needs to be able to withstand whatever life throws at you. If you go on vacation, you come back from vacation, you've got a bunch of stuff in your To Do list. You shouldn't be panicked. You should be able to put it in that framework and know that it's going to withstand all the pressures on it. You want to know that it's rigid but flexible, it's got that durability and let's talk about flexibility now, because it's the third quality that a productivity framework should have. So again you should be able to move it within whatever app you choose, you should be able to write it down on a paper napkin or write it down in an Excel spreadsheet, and it should be usable no matter what job you're in. So, if you are a barista or you're a CEO, you should be able to work the system, work the framework and both of those areas, and it should be able to move on with you as you age. So my 11 year old daughter should be able to use that framework when she's in her 20s and her 30s and beyond. So again, you're looking for a simple flexible and durable framework and once you have that in place, you're off to the races. So once you set up your productivity framework, you should be able to use it if you follow those three qualities I mentioned, at home and at work. Your workday isn't the entire day, that's a mistake a lot of people make. They get to the office or they get to their desk and they say, ''Okay, now it's time to start my day.'' But there's those moments before you start your day. And there's the moments after you end your work day, that also you can apply this framework to. So you want to be able to have something that you can look at that gives your entire day, and puts your entire day in front of you. Because we live in an era where work and life are integrated, and what you want to have is this framework in place that allows you to shift easily or integrate as you need. And so what we're going to do is we're going to build this together, and the big project of theming your days is going to really allow you to do this. So, let's talk about something you can start using right now before you've even actually built your framework, it's going to allow you to know at least what you've done versus what you haven't done. It's really really simple. It's called The Strikethrough system, and what it is, is it's basically four different ways you can look at your list as you go through your list to decide what you've completed and what you haven't, and make decisions on what you might want to do next but also you could quickly look at let's say the sheet of paper and know what you haven't made a decision on. So let's get started with the Strikethrough system now. So there are three distinct lines that you're going to use to cross out items on your To Do list, even the one you're doing right now. Alright, so the first one is just a straight line and nothing feels better than crossing something out with just like a stroke of a line. And when you've done that, it literally means you've done that task. So I want you to grab maybe a preexisting notepad that you've been writing tasks down on or maybe just a list of things you've done today or a list of things you're going to do today, and you can start doing this right now. So anything that you've done, cross out with a line, that tells you that you've done the task. Now the second line is the arrow through, and what that is, is it tells you that you've moved it from the list that you're currently working on to a master task list. Whether that's an App like to do list, or whether it is a another larger paper planner, what that tells you is you haven't done it yet, but you've put it in a place where you'll pay attention to it later. So again that marriage of intention plus attention right there. Now the third line is a squiggle, which again feels good to do the old squiggly line. And what that is, is deleting it, you're trashing it, you're axing it, you're not going to do that thing. And why I think that's important is because my goal is to have you write down everything that comes out of your head. So no matter whether it's an inane silly idea that you might want to do or whether it's a task that you might consider doing somewhere down the line or even for that day, if you've got it written down in front of you, you don't have to try to remember it up here. So that squiggly line through just says I'm not going to do this thing. This allows you to quickly look at your list and know what you've done, what you've deferred for lack of a better term, what you've axed, what you've deleted, and what you haven't made a decision on yet. And if you do this, no matter what system you use, no matter what framework you use. You can have a clear idea of what you need to move forward with. And that's really really important. So we're going to focus on awareness next because it's one of the biggest building blocks of personal productivity because if you're not aware of what's going on and you're not aware of where your time's going, then you're not going to be moving things forward very effectively at all. 3. Build Awareness to Work Smarter: So, what is awareness? Well, awareness is knowing about your intentions and being in touch with your intentions, so that you can start to really pay more attention to them. So, it's really the key to marrying up those intentions and attention that I was talking about at the onset of the class. So, what you want to do is you want to foster awareness, and one of the ways you foster awareness is through the consistent use of your productivity framework. So, how do you stay aware? How do you build awareness? Well, the first thing is you can't be afraid to capture relentlessly. I have this quote I like to throw around, "Capture everything, regret nothing." A side story I'll share with you really quickly, a personal one, is that I have two children, and they were once very young children, and there's these little soap crayons that you used to be able to get for kids. I would actually use those more than my children would, because in the shower, I would capture ideas on the wall of the shower because that's when those ideas come to mind. There's actually scientific studies have shown that the dopamine levels are at rest because you're not really thinking about these things, and then that's when the best creative ideas come to mind. The whole key here is to make sure that you're capturing these ideas that come to your head, and then what you want to do is put them into your trusted system, the framework that you've built, because then when you need to look back and try to figure out what you might want to do, what your intentions are. Then, what will happen is, you'll have a place you can look to. So, if you want to go to Bali one day, but maybe not tomorrow or today, but maybe three years down the road, your brain isn't trying to remember, "What was that thing about Bali again? Where did I want to go?" No, it's already written down. As David Allen says, "You've closed that loop." So, to build awareness, to foster awareness, you need clarity, and the only way you can really get clarity of mind is to get as much out of your mind and into someplace that you trust as often as you can. Everything moves so fast. We have so much information coming at us all the time, and we're always on the go. So, maybe it's time to slow down, and the way that you can find yourself slowing down in a way that's effective is to literally grab a sheet of paper and start to just capture your thoughts, brainstorm, get those things that are going on in your head, and put them down on a sheet of paper, and give yourself some time to do that. The goal with productivity is to speed the right things up, so we can slow the write things down, and we need to do more of that. When you do that, you get more in touch with yourself. You can better connect with yourself because you're disconnected from all the stimuli around you. So, if your body clock isn't wired to get up first thing in the morning, don't try to change it. That's going to take more energy and time than you probably have. I mean, if you've taken that 25 minutes to be bored or do nothing, you want to be able to take that time. If you're spending that time and energy just trying to rewire your body, so that you're getting up at six or five in the morning, that's energy being wasted. Use that towards the stuff that's going to have a greater impact on your life and on the lives of others. So, if you've function better in the evening, structure your day as much as possible, so that you do that stuff in the evening. Remember, we have 24 hours in a day. So, when you've seen your days, and you're looking at your days you could say, "Okay, in the morning, I'm not a morning person. So, let me just do the basic low energy stuff in the morning. Do my job in the middle part of the day, like I normally would," and then the end of the day, do that stuff, that the creative stuff, because you're wired to go to bed at midnight or one in the morning. So, it's important to pay attention to your body clock, and then work with it instead of against it, because the last thing you want to fight as your body clock, because that's part of who you are. Don't try to fight that. It's one of the worst battles you can pick, and it's not one you can win very easily if at all. 4. Establish Habits that Stick: So, why do we want to talk about habits? Why am I going to focus on habits in this part of the class? Well, it's simple. Habits are bite-sized things that you can adopt that are going to allow you to build a better productivity framework and a better lifestyle in general over time. So, some of the best habits that are recommended we start with include the idea of time theming which is what we're doing with this project. So, the idea of giving yourself an overarching focus for every single day. I'm not a big believer in the scheduling every moment of the day component that a lot of productivity tacticians promote. The reason is because I call the About a Boy Syndrome. So basically, the movie About a Boy is, you got this Hugh Grant character who lived by routine. Everything was done in 15 minute increments. He had this thing locked down. Then what happened one day is this boy showed up and threw everything out of whack. That's what happens when you schedule your day or hyper schedule your day as I call it, is that you leave no room for the boy to show up, good or bad, great opportunities or bad opportunities or emergencies that show up. You run into this issue where if you hyper schedule your day, it ends up that you have to slide things to the next day, and the next day, and the next day and all of a sudden the things that are getting slid are those important things that you know are going to make a huge impact. So, time theming what that allows you to do is give yourself an overarching focus for the day. So, what happens there is you end up saying, instead of, "What do I do next," if you get pulled away to a meeting or by some phone call or a random email, you say, "What day is it?" Then if it's that day of the week, you look at the day and you see what theme that day has, and then you know what action, course of action you should be taking, what your overarching focus should be. So, that's a big one. Another one that I'm big on is scheduling and time chunks, and that's another type of time theming but it's done horizontally. So, this is probably closer to the schedule every moment of your day aspect. But what it is instead of saying I'm going to check email from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. or I'm going to answer this from 2:00 to 4:00, is you give yourself a broader focus. So, maybe from 9:00 a.m. to noon, you're going to focus on administrative work maybe based on your body clock, on your energy. Maybe that's when you want to do that stuff and maybe from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. it's going to be family time because your children are up at that time and you want to make sure you give them your attention. So, it's broader strokes of theming and I call this horizontal theming or time chunking. I think that's another habit you can adopt. Another one is stacking your habits. So, starting off with things like flossing your teeth. Flossing your teeth is a habit that a lot of people adopt and then they throw it away, and they're told every single time they should do it. I used to struggle with this a lot. Now, what's happened to me is, when I go to bed and I don't floss before I go to bed, t feels weird. I know I've missed something. So, having that habit in place allows me to know that there's something that I must do. It becomes ingrained and then you stack another habit on top of that, maybe moisturizing if that's something you want to do. I'm using the simple life stuff here but you can apply this to work stuff as well. Then once you stack habit upon habit, then you can start to put these into routines. Now, you've probably heard of the morning routine. I'm sure some of you have that. But how many of you have an evening routine? Like do you have an evening routine? I believe the evening routine is more critical than the morning routine, whether you're a night owl or an early riser. Let me explain why. Well, you want to start off the day in the best possible way. Remember in the last part where I talked about the guy who was checking email first thing in the morning, well that was because he didn't have a plan in place to do anything else other than that. So, by mapping out his day the night before, picking what I call his three absolutes, he was able to pick one of those and then do that before he moved into the other areas of his work, whether it's emails, phone calls, meetings whatever, he took care of that thing first. But he mapped it out the night before. He didn't have to think in the morning about what to do. It was already decided for him. That's what routines do you, especially morning and evening routines, they give you a framework, go figure, to work off of, and then you can fill in the rest of the day with all the dynamic stuff that happens. Now, having the right framework in place to build habits that will stick is key. I touched on the idea of not scheduling everything in your calendar a little bit earlier and there's a reason behind that, other than the fact that when you get distracted or disrupted and ultimately diverted, that you can go off course. The other thing is that the things that really matter that you want to put on your calendar, don't stand out. It's part of the overwhelming component of your day. Imagine looking at your calendar and maybe you do this already where you see just appointment after appointment, after appointment, after appointment. That's really what you're doing when you use your calendar as a to do list. You're basically making these constant agreements with yourself. Some of those you're going to have to break, whether you want to or not because we don't always have 100 percent control over our day. But if you want to use the calendar as a framework to support better habits, what you can do is put the right habits in your calendar. Now, I've got a great example for you. Exercise. I suck at the exercise habit. Now, I've tried several ways to keep the exercise habit going. First off, I put it in my to-do list application. So, I've actually had it in Todoist, which is the application I use and it was something that was in there consistently. But because there are so many other things in my Todoist, it was getting skipped over. It was that repeating task that I just said, "Oh, well, I'll do it whenever," and it kept getting missed. So, then what I did was I just said, "Okay, I want to exercise five days a week." So, I just put it as an all day activity on my calendar with the idea that, you know what, I will do it at some point. But guess what? Never happened. Exercise. So, what I did was I actually put it in my calendar at a specific consistent time, every single day. By putting exercise in consistent time for the days I wanted to exercise, I put myself in a position to be successful with keeping the habit and making it stick. You can do the same thing with meditation, yoga, maybe time you want to spend with your kids but there's other agreements that you're going to have in there as well with others that you make doctors appointments, dentist appointment, lawyers appointments, meetings you have at the office. Those things belong in your calendar but you don't want to overwhelm yourself and your calendar because there's nothing worse than looking at your calendar and seeing a full day and knowing already that you're going to run into issues with getting all the things you need and want to get done during that day. So, the thing is, if you have the right tool and the right way to pay attention to these intentions which are keeping these habits, you can really move things forward. So, if you're struggling with trying to figure out where you should put these habits, sure you can write them down on paper, you can do that letter to yourself like I do. But maybe you want to use your task management tool like Todoist to put these consistent habits in there. Maybe you create a project that's called habits or a label that says habits and that's the one you monitor. But by putting it in there consistently and it's a tool that you trust and you're going to consistently look at, the chances of those habits sticking and getting stronger improves day-by-day. 5. Use Tools to Support Your Habits: Before we dive in, I just want to stress that it's important that you don't get overwhelmed with the amount of tools you use. You don't need to have 20 To-do list applications that you try or five different calendar applications. In fact, we're going to focus on the most basic of tools in this session, we're going to focus on email, we're going to focus on your calendar, we're going to focus on Todoist as a task manager because that's the one I use, and how we can use it to build that framework. So, let's just dive right in. So, let's talk about email management first because that's going to be where a lot of your inputs and your information comes from, that's where overwhelm can really set in. Now, one of the things I want to dive in before I talk about the actual strategies that you can apply to, let's say, Gmail, which is what we're going to be using, is that you don't want to use your email application as a To-do list, and there's a big reason for that. Number one, it's not designed for that. Number two, you are going to get constant influxes of information from other people, so you can't get real focused work done that you've designed, it's always going to be interrupted by other people's things or other people's stuff. So, what I'm going to do is show you how to transition stuff from email into your To-do list application, and I'm also going to show you how to know when to respond to certain emails at certain times so you can set up a nice little framework that keeps your inbox clean and yet allows you to make decisions as to when you're going to deal with certain emails at certain times. So, what you're seeing now is a typical Google email or Gmail screen. This is my inbox. Now, I've only got a handful of emails in here and I hope you do, too. There's a reason for that. The reason you don't want to have a lot of emails in your inbox is that the inbox really doesn't tell you anything. You haven't categorized your email in any way, shape, or form so you'll end up scanning instead of actually executing when it comes to email. So, one of the biggest things I strongly encourage you to do is to get things out of your inbox and make a decision with it, kind of like we did with the strike-through system, but we're in the digital realm now, so you're going to have to do it a little bit differently. I'm telling you not to keep your email in your inbox. Well, where do you keep it then? Well, this is where you create several folders, and I've only created several as in five. You could see over here I've got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Now, it's important that you create a numerical indicator in front of them, so put like one is Monday if that's when you start your week or maybe you start your week at a different day, but sort them so that they're in order. What you do is when you look at your email and you decide you're not going to do anything with it, so let's say, I'm looking at this email from Pat Flynn and I want to look at it at a different day, I don't want to deal with it today, I want to look at it and say on Thursday. I just drag it over to the Thursday folder and it will go there. I see an email from Gary Vaynerchuk and I'm going to read that maybe on Wednesday, so I drag it to Wednesday. Now, if today is Wednesday, then you're going to want to drag it to, what, then you'll be dealing with it today. If it is Thursday and you're dragging it to Wednesday then you're going to deal with it the next week. So, this is a great way to organize your email in an effective, simple, flexible, and durable way so that way, you're not stuck wading through your inbox each and every day. Now, finally, I want to show you, if you've decided you want to take action on this later, how to move this to your task management application of choice? Now, many task management applications have emails that are associated with them, and Todoist is one of them, and that's the one I use. You could see I'm going to read all these emails at some point. So, I'm going to forward this to Todoist. Now, there are two ways that you can do this. Number one is you can forward the email to the email that Todoist has given you. There, I've created a Google contact called Todoist inbox and I can send it that way. If the other way you can do it is you could see there is a little box that's here, and now that I'm looking at a message that says, "Add to Todoist." So, if I click on that, I can actually add it to Todoist and I'll put, "Read Daily Rollup," and, of course, it's going to be when I'm in Reading mode and it will probably take me five minutes to read it, and I'm going to put it. We can see that @ symbol creates labels and the project symbol calls up my- the hashtag calls at my projects and it's going to be professional use. I could put the day on it, so if I'm going to read this let's say on a Thursday, and then I add the task and it shows up there. The bottom line is you've got two simple strategies that you can use to manage your email either work from within email and start to move things Monday to Friday like these numbered folders that I've created. The other thing you can do is move it to your task manager of choice, in this case, Todoist. So, now, let's dive into the calendar. The calendar is really important as an overall tool that you're going to use with productivity because it's a framework in and/of itself. So, what I want to do now is show you some calendar tactics in the digital space. We're going to use Google Calendar. You can use this in Outlook Calendar as well so no matter what I'm showing you here, you can apply these principles to a tool like BusyCal on the Mac or Outlook Calendar, and again, these will translate over to mobile as well. All right. So, what you see here now is my Google Calendar, and it looks very baring well, that's because I've turned everything off. But if I actually pull up things like my family, personal schedule, you could see all of a sudden I've got some appointments in here. So, I've got my exercise habit which I talked about and notice it's a consistent time if you go to the next week, and I've actually got it showing up every single day. Yeah, I'm leveling up starting in late October. Then I've got family time scheduled because that's when I want to spend time with my family, and you could see that this create nice little boundaries where I won't be working. But let's talk about creating that themed idea of your calendar. So, we want to create some daily themes. So, what you want to do is you want to go to Settings. So, if you go to Calendars, I can actually create a new one, and we're going to call this Mike's Daily Themes. So, I create the calendar. Now, as you can see, left-hand side here that it pops up as a new calendar. Now, I'm going to actually create my daily themes in here but I want to make it so that Mondays are my administrative day. So, I'm going to call this Administrative Day. What I want to do is I want to make it happen starting on the 31st of October. It's going to be an all-day event, and I'm going to make it repeat every Monday, never going to end, none of that stuff. I will make it red. There's no need to change anything else other than to make sure that you are available, make sure you're shown as available, but then further, make sure you change the calendar so it's not your default calendar. Make sure you change it to your daily theme calendar. That's why it's important to name it that way. Then you hit Save, and boom, there it is, Administrative Day. You could see that that's going to show up every single day. That's a Monday. You do this for every other day of the week that you have. So, Tuesday will be the same day, Wednesday, and that's going to show up right at the top of your calendar. So, that way you see it. So, the other thing you can do is you can have monthly themes. So, if I'm going to focus on my Skillshare class for this month then what I'm going to do is save for the month of October. You don't need to worry about syntax or anything like that. No one else is really going to see this but you. So, it's kind of like your general entry, you don't really need to. If you want to use shorthand or something like that you can. Make sure it goes for your monthly theme's calendar. I'm going to make it maybe a different color so it stands out. Make sure you're available. You don't want to be focusing on that and that alone. You want to be able to have other view a book with you, and then I hit Save, and there it is, bright's staring at me. I know what I need to work on this month and that's my overarching focus. The great thing about daily themes is that when you use daily themes like my administrative days, which you could see here, I can look at the administrative day and say, "Oh it's Monday, it's administrative day. Well, what tasks should I work on that are administrative? Well, what's my focus for this month? Oh, it's the Skillshare class. Okay, great. Let me look at all the administrative tasks that I need to do for the Skillshare class." So, you're giving yourself this nice path. So, in my over a decade of working in the productivity space, Todoist is the one tool that's really stuck with me for the longest time. I've tried a lot of different task management applications and that's really what Todoist is. It's a task management application that fits with the model that I'm talking about. It's simple, it looks clean, so it's not going to be overwhelming, which I really love about it. That's where I put all my tasks, where you can put all your tasks. It's flexible and that it works on the Web. It's Web-based but you can also use it locally on your Mac or on Windows machine as well as mobile apps which are great, and it's durable. Let's look at projects. So, the reason I like projects is because they are how we traditionally work, but I don't always like to work by projects. So, what I do is I have labels set up as well. You can see in the labels, I've got several different ones and they're categorized by five different categories. I'll get back to that in a second. But projects are tiered. You can actually indent your projects for levels. But what I recommend you do is you create several different roles for yourself. So, your top-level projects should be roles, so you could see mine are personal, productivityist, and professional. Underneath that, you place your other tiers of projects below that. Labels are where the real money is in Todoist though because that's how we tend to work, it's working by mode. Remember I talked about mode-based work in one of the introductory lessons. This allows me to work by the different types of modes. The filters, of course, combined time and labels and even projects. I don't recommend you to have too many filters. In fact, the way I like to kind of scale these are less filters, maybe a few more labels and then go nuts with the projects if you need to. But I love the fact that I could get my emails in here. I love the fact I can capture Websites into Todoist and I love the fact that I can really personalize Todoist to make it work for me. If you're going to start out with any labels, start off with those themed day labels that we're going to work on in the big project and then take it from there. So, I've shown you how to do this digitally but you don't need to take the framework and only use it in the digital space. In fact, when I show you how to do this in paper, good old-fashioned paper because it works there too, what you're seeing here is my actual To-Do list in the way I categorize this. So, that way, when I'm transferring it from the digital space, it can actually work on paper and vice versa. So, at the top, I put M-A-P-S, and it says, mode, action, project, and then the S, which I can't put in there right now, says, schedules. So, I can actually categorize it this way. It translates nicely to an app like Todoist because the mode is equal to the label, the action is equal to the task, the project is equal to, well, the project, and the schedule is equal to the date that you can put in Todoist. So, I'll put things in here like the mode would be let's say email, so that's the mode, and the action would be "Send Jenny" and you want to put that verb in there, "E-mail for X." Let's just put, "For X," in here. The project would be, let's say, "Coaching" because that's the project it falls under. I could put when I want to do that. Now, this is just my daily list. So, I don't have to put a schedule in there unless I want to do it in the morning. I may put AM or if I want to do it in the evening, I might put PM. What this does is it allows me to look at my tasks and group them by the different modes that they're in. So, if there is another admin task and I could say that that has to do with sign agreement because I have to do that and that's related to the podcast project as well, and I don't need to do that at a particular time of day. What I can do is I can then group my tasks by the Admin mode and I might do those on a Monday, let's say, or I could group them by the project, so I might do both projects, podcast project things. When I move these to Todoist or wherever I'm doing it really, I can actually move them and the label equals the email, the action equals the tasks, the project equals the project and the schedule equals the schedule. So, if you want to work strictly on paper, you can do this. If you want to work in Todoist, you can do it. But this is a simple framework as to how this works, and it allows me to work by three different categories. You'll never work by action, but you can work by mode, by project, or by schedule. 6. Case Study: Bring it all Together: So, during this entire class, I've talk about personalizing your productivity and personalizing your framework. Now, I'm going to show you how I did that with one student in particular. So, this student is a freelancer. He also has a nine to five job as well, but he works remotely. So, he's able to do things from home, which could be a challenge for a lot of people. He has no kids. He's in his late 20s, early 30s, and he really wants to have some healthy habits that stick. He's also a night owl like me. So, there's lots of he's trying to do and he's been managing his tasks with email for the longest time. He didn't have a framework in place. So, we started off by just having him build a framework like just the bare bones beginnings of it. So, what we did was we looked at his habits that he wanted to build. So, what I did was I introduced him to a task management application. In this case, it was to-do list. I said, "Let's get you on a list making frenzy here. So, let's get you dumping things out of your head and directly into the inbox of to-do list." That's what he did. Then, I had him go into his email application and rummage through his email to find things that had not been dealt with. So, what we did was we archived anything that had been dealt with, and he went through the horrific experience of looking at his oldest email, and realizing it had expired almost three years ago. So, we went through all of that process with him. Then, we moved the emails that he really wanted to take action on into to-do list and that was a really, really important step because now, he could see the integration between these things. Then, we took a look at his physical space, his desk, which was a mess. He had stuff everywhere, random notes with just phone numbers and passwords that he didn't know what they were for, and we dove into that. We provided the ability for him to write them down on a sheet of paper, going through that strike through system process that I've illustrated here before. But one of the things that we did do for that space that, really I think is important for anyone to do, is we bought a physical inbox. Like we went to an office supply store, and he did this, and got an actual physical inbox. So, that way, he had a place that he knew where all these physical goods had to go. So, now, he had a place for all the stuff. He had a place for his digital stuff and he had a place for his physical stuff. Then, we dove into what tasks he needed to create to build those healthy habits, and we started to add some labels and some modes to that into to-do list. So, we did that. We added why in the world he was doing this stuff, not so much the what, but the why behind it, and we started with those three words that I mentioned earlier. So, he wanted to be healthy, and he wanted to be happy, and he wanted to have some kind of stability, and those were three strong words for him. So, we started to attach those words to his tasks. That all of a sudden, translated to when he was capturing them on paper. So, he was writing things down, and trying to figure out if he should even complete them, and he was attaching those things. Will this make me happy? Is this a healthy choice for me both mentally, physically or otherwise? Is this something that's going to promote stability? So, we started doing that. From there, we went to theming his days, which took the longest for us to do because he had such a dynamic schedule that he couldn't wrap his head around, why theming his days was going to be the big game changer for him. Because what was happening is he was working in the today view, a lot into to-do list, and he was moving his emails around, but moving them generally to something he will deal with today or the next day. But once we started to theme his days, and I actually sat down with him, and work backwards from his certainties to his uncertainties, when it came to theming his days, he was able to figure out where to put stuff. So, he's getting more intentional with, when he should reply to that email? Should he put it in the Wednesday folder or the Friday folder? He knew based on his theme days which folders these belonged in. He started to look at when he was scheduling tasks into to-do list and putting them in the right spaces based on his themed days. So, all of a sudden, he went from somebody who is using email to organize his tasks, to random sheets of paper everywhere, to somebody who knew when he woke up in the morning, instead of saying, "What am I going to do today?" You'd say, "What day is it?" Then, he would start there, and work his way to his to-do list, and his calendar being free and clear. He only had a couple of appointments per day. He had more freedom, which gave him more time, which allowed him to slow down and create real impactful work. One of the things that didn't work were energy based modes. They just didn't work with him and I was surprised because he's a night owl and I thought that that would be an area that he would want to make sure that he focused on. But he was actually really good with the time based modes. That was just something that really resonated with him because he was all about trying to get as many of these little things done as possible throughout his day, so he could focus on his real deep creative freelance work later on. So, it's important for you to look at what types of modes are really going to work with you and let those stick. You have to try a few of them. But for him, it really wasn't energy based modes that worked all that much. Journaling, we tried to do freeform journaling. That's often what I recommend. He needed to have a template in place, which is actually freeing for him because he want to know what he did, what he didn't do, and he wrote down the three things that he wanted to do the next day. So, it is very categorical, very almost tactical in a way that worked for him, whereas someone might just want a free flow and say, "Hey, here's what I did at home. Here's what I did at work." So, the great thing is that he actually is journaling and that doesn't work for everybody either. The last thing that didn't really work for him was in to-do list, there are three different levels of priority. There's orange, yellow, and red. In this to-do list project that we share, which you could see here, there's two of us sharing it, this is how I worked with him, is that we renamed what each of those priority flags meant. So, instead of it being priority one, priority two, and priority three, the orange meant things that were really important for us to cover, and yellow meant things that are repeating. You can see here that anything yellow has got a repeating sign next to it. So, again, he could personalize this process and every student I've worked with on this, those flags means something different. They rarely mean priority one, priority two or priority three. So, the great thing about a framework is that you can actually change what it means to you and personalize it along the way, so that it works for you because that's ultimately who it's meant to serve. 7. Put it into Action: Okay. So, a quick reminder about what this big project is that we're going to be working on for this class. We're going to theme your week and what that means is we're going to basically give every single day an overarching focus so that your question when you're stuck or aren't sure what to do next isn't what do I do now? It's what day is it, because that's something you can answer pretty easily. So first off, what you want to do is look at your week as it stands now. So, it doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter what your job is I want you to look at your week now and assess it. Remember we're fostering awareness here. This is really your first big awareness exercise too because now you're really going to tap into what your week looks like today. Then you want to work backwards from your certainties. What I mean by that is what is certain every single week that happens? So, work from your certainties. If Monday is full of meetings for you, then guess what? Monday should be meeting day. Now, that doesn't mean you're going to schedule all your meetings on a Monday, but what it means is that you're going to do any kind of meeting prep, planning, research, or actual meetings stuff will generally happen on Monday. So, that means you're not going into the next meeting and going, "Oh, no I didn't prepare." No, you'll prepare and you'll prepare on a Monday. So, look at those certainties first and then fill in those blanks. So, let's say that Monday is your meeting day and Saturday is your family day and Sunday is your household chores day. Well, now you got Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to fill in. What you want to do now is look at your overarching responsibilities in your work and life to fill those days. So, you're not going to schedule Tuesday as an e-mail day because life's more than e-mail. But what you might want to do is make it a focus on communication. Which means that's when you'll probably return more phone calls or maybe you'll have that social dinner out with friends or maybe you will do a lot of those e-mail missions that you have in your task management app rather than those e-mail questions you get every time you open up your e-mail application. So, that to me is really key is give yourself a broad spectrum. So, instead of e-mail, call it communication. I want you to think about it this way. You ever been grocery shopping? Probably, you probably have. If you've done a meal plan. you're going to put Monday through Sunday as your meal plan but you would never shop by day of the week, right? You shop by the different categories in the grocery store. If you shop by day of the week making seven trips to the meat department and seven trips to the bakery would look ineffective, inefficient, and probably a little crazy. Well, by theming your days your grouping everything into those specific categories. So, you're going to be more effective, you're going to get into that state of flow and when you get to that state of flow you can really create amazing work. Finally, the real, real power in theming your week is the ability for you to delay on purpose. So, if I don't get all my podcast work done on a Wednesday, I'm not naturally moving it to the Thursday like you probably are right now or the next day or the next day. Instead, I'm deliberately delaying it to the following Wednesday. So, I give myself permission to delay, and I'm delaying responsibly. I'm doing it with. There's that magic word, intention. That's what you need to do and you need to stick with this week. Try it for one week but I encourage you to stick with it for the period of an entire month and over time your brain will be wired not to not know what to do when it wakes up in the morning along with you, it's going to know it's Tuesday, Tuesday means this. It's Saturday, Saturday means family and then your family all of a sudden is really, really happy that you're giving them your full attention. It's a really magical thing you can do. It's super simple. It allows for a great deal of flexibility and let's face it the days of the week are pretty static. They're not going to change all that much, so it's incredibly durable. Give this a try. Do it today and watch your productivity soar. Thanks so much for taking this class. I know I threw a lot at you during this class but it's a lot of powerful stuff and the great thing is that you can take bits and pieces and apply it as you see fit. You can come back and learn more later and apply it later if you want as well. Plus. You can learn from the project gallery that other people have put up their projects and maybe use some of their tactics as well. In fact, I look forward to seeing all of your projects in the project gallery to see how your theme weeks turned out. So, now it's time for you to go forth and put the personal back in your productivity. Let's marry your intentions with your attention. Let's get more aware, let's disconnect with all of the busy work and better connect with your personal work. Let's stop guessing and start going. Thanks for watching. 8. More Classes on Productivity: