How to Organise your Workflow to Maximise Productivity | Ali Abdaal | Skillshare

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How to Organise your Workflow to Maximise Productivity

teacher avatar Ali Abdaal, Doctor + YouTuber

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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.

      Welcome to the Class


    • 2.

      The Pilot - Introduction


    • 3.

      Scheduling and Calendars


    • 4.

      The Power of To-Do Lists


    • 5.

      Exclusive Bonus Materials


    • 6.

      Projects and Areas of Focus


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Vision and Purpose


    • 9.

      The Plane - Introduction


    • 10.

      Hacking Motivation


    • 11.

      Overcoming Inertia


    • 12.

      Achieving Flow


    • 13.

      Distraction Management


    • 14.

      Pomodoro Technique


    • 15.

      Course Correcting


    • 16.

      Leveraging Artificial Deadlines


    • 17.

      The Reitoff Principle


    • 18.

      The Engineer - Introduction


    • 19.

      The Getting Things Done Methodology


    • 20.

      Digital Productivity


    • 21.

      Health and Wellbeing


    • 22.

      Daily Review - The Log Book


    • 23.

      Weekly Review - The Operating System


    • 24.

      Monthy Review - The Systems Check


    • 25.

      Annual Review - The Aircraft Inspection


    • 26.

      The Fun Factor


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About This Class

In this second class of my series on improving our personal productivity, I want to further explore the systems, workflows and organization techniques we can use maximise our output. 

My FREE Skillshare Bonus Resources
As I mentioned in the course, I’ve now made a bunch of free resources for all of my Skillshare classes, exclusively for my Skillshare students. They’re packed with additional course-related content for every class, and will help you refresh what you’ve learnt, as well as explore some of the other classes you haven’t taken yet. Check it out here.


I want to build upon the foundations that were laid down in the first course and explore the Pilot, Plane, Engineer analogy in more depth. I hope that through the concepts, principles and theories that were discussed in the first class, and the more practical advice offered in this class, you’ll be able to work towards living a happier, healthier and more productive life. 

Section One The Pilot

Following a brief recap of the Productivity equation from the first class, in the first section we’ll look at the role of the pilot and the importance of ‘Setting The Course’ which is fundamentally built around two key ideas of organisation and prioritisation. We’ll split this section into 3 main areas – short, medium and long term – and explore topics including scheduling, task management, areas of focus and goals as well as developing a vision and purpose. 

Section Two The Plane

The second section looks at the ‘The Plane’ – an area where we should be spending 80% of our time but also the area where many people struggle. In this section, we’ll explore ideas involving motivation, focus and consistency through the analogy of ‘taking off’ (getting started) and ‘staying on course’ (maintaining output and avoiding distractions). We’ll examine key techniques to help you manage your time and improve your productivity by making the Plane as effective and efficient as possible.

Section Three The Engineer

Finally, we turn to The Engineer – the section associated with optimisation and efficiency. The Engineer’s job is 3-fold: to figure out processes and systems to make the Plane (a) faster, (b) more fuel-efficient, (c) organised. In other words, this section will explore ways to increase our overall speed at doing things as well as design our systems in a way that means we use less energy and operate more effectively.

Who am I?

My name is Ali - I'm a doctor working in the UK, and on the side I make YouTube videos about medicine, tech and productivity. Productivity is probably the issue I get asked most often about on my YouTube channel and across social media. Through reading books, blog posts, articles as well as experimenting with numerous techniques myself over the years, I feel that I've developed a bit of knowledge about productivity and that's why I've decided to put together this extensive series of Skillshare classes to share my own knowledge in the realm of productivity and hopefully help us all work towards living happier, healthier and more productive lives.


Other Useful Links:

My website / blog -
My weekly podcast -
Weekly email newsletter -
Instagram -
Twitter -
Facebook -
My Equipment:

Camera Gear -
Keyboard - Wireless Coral mechanical keyboard (Cherry Blue) -
Favourite iPad Screen Protector - Paperlike -

Meet Your Teacher

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Ali Abdaal

Doctor + YouTuber

Top Teacher

Hi there,

I'm Ali, a YouTuber, podcaster, entrepreneur, and online teacher. I graduated from medical school at the University of Cambridge in 2018 and worked as a doctor for two years. Now, I live in London, spending my time making videos, doing podcasts and writing my first non-fiction book.

I started my YouTube journey in 2017, making videos about study techniques and my medical school experience. The channel grew dramatically over the next few years, and I started making videos about broader topics like productivity, wealth, and how to lead a happier, more fulfilled life. This journey on YouTube, along with my love of teaching, led me to where I am now with a wide range of courses on Skillshare.

If you'd like to find out more, please do follow my Skillshare profi... See full profile

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1. Welcome to the Class: When we're trying to be more productive, there is a mental model that I find very helpful, and that's the pilot, the plane, and the engineer. It's the three different modes that we have to be in, in different parts of the day, and then being more productive is just a matter of optimizing the pilot or the plane or the engineer. Working at which ones we need to work on and then improving those things. Hey, everyone, welcome to my second class about productivity. If you're new here, my name is Ali. I'm a doctor based in the UK, and on the side, I run a YouTube channel, a podcast, weekly e-mail, newsletter, a blog, and at the moment, three side businesses, and people often ask me, how are you so productive? In the first class, we talked about the productivity equation and the general underlying principles of productivity. But in this class, we're going to talk about this idea of the pilot, the plane, and the engineer, and I'm going to share various actionable strategies that I found helpful over the years to improve my productivity in these three different domains. If you want to learn how to be more productive, which I will define as doing the things we want to be doing efficiently while also having fun along the way. That's my model for it. If you want to learn how to be more productive, how to be a better pilot, plane, engineer, you should definitely join me on this class. I'll be sharing the theory and the practical insights that I've gained over the last many years of trying to juggle all of these different things at the same time. Along the way, we've got a load of exercises that you can do to help you be more productive from right now. Thank you for watching and hopefully, I'll see you on the other side. 2. The Pilot - Introduction: This is the section where we're talking about the role of the pilot, and I think we should be acting as the pilot. Maybe around 10 percent of the time, I've plugged this number out of thin air, but I think it's around about accurate; pilot 10 percent, plane 80 to 85 percent and engineer, maybe five to 10 percent. Those are the general proportions that I try to think of. The role of the pilot is to set the course for the plane. Now, the way that I think about this is that, there are very few moments in the day where we actually have some sense of clarity about what we need to do, what our purpose is. For me, that's usually first thing in the morning. I usually wake up. I will have a shower that gets me energized, make my morning cup of coffee. Then I will sit outside on the balcony or at my desk, or on the sofa depending on how lazy I'm feeling and I'll make a vague plan for the rest of the day. Normally, I do some journaling in day 1, I occasionally use the morning pages tactic, which involves just free hand typing out whatever you want. Technically, you're supposed to write it down, but I prefer typing it, and once I've gotten everything off my mind, I would look at my calendar, look at my to do lists more than that in a second, and I'll try and figure out what actually I need to do in the day, and so in the morning, I'm setting the intention for the rest of the day. That's what the role of the pilot is, the role of pilot is to make sure that the output that we are going to, output it's actually useful, i.e., it's in-line with what we need to be doing and what we want to be doing, and there's lots of different ways that we can think about that. To be honest, most people probably don't really have a problem with the pilot section if you're a beginner to the productivity realm, and this was certainly me a couple of years ago. Most of us have an issue with the plane aspect of it, and so if you don't care about the pilot at all, feel free to move on to the plane section of this class. But for me now honestly, the thing that I struggle with most is the pilot, making sure that the stuff that I'm getting done is the stuff that I need to be doing and want to be doing, and thirdly, that I'm leveraging my time and attention appropriately. For the lessons in this section, we're going to split up the role of the pilot into three parts. We're going to talk about the short-term, the medium-term, and long-term. This is related to an idea that David Allen introduced in his book of Getting Things Done, and that's the idea of horizons of focus. I think it's very worth understanding this concept of horizons of focus, and it's also very worth reading Getting Things Done, if you haven't read it already. It's literally the Bible on productivity, but essentially there are six different horizons. The first one is on the ground. We have calendars and actions. That's basically the groundwork, all the stuff we have to do. For me it's filling this class today, replying to five different e-mails, making sure go for lunch with a friend. It's like these ground-level tasks that we actually have to get done. Horizon 1 is projects and these are things that we're working on that usually require more than one step to get done. For example, this entire SkillShare class is a project, but filming specifically on this day in filming this one, individual video would be more like a ground-level task. Most people probably have between 30 and 100 active projects running at a given time. To give you an idea, a project can basically be anything. One of my project is to remodel the balcony of my house. Another project is to figure out what TV to buy for the living room and revamp the living room setup, another project is to get furniture for the spare bedroom that have just got, another project is this SkillShare class, another project is the next SkillShare class. Another project is a video that I'm working on that requires quite a lot of research about investing, so that's a project and so that's one level higher. It is one horizon higher than just the ground level of reply to this email and do this thing, write this script. Horizon 2, so ground level is horizon 1, horizon 2. Horizon 2 is areas of focus and responsibility. These aren't really projects because projects usually have a deadline or finishing time. These are essentially balls that we want to keep in the air basically throughout our whole life. In my context, that's things like the house. That would be one area. It would be things like my Youtube channel, that's another area. It would be things like my business on the side, a third area and before relationships, a general area that I want to keep up. If you're a parent, one of the areas might be Johnnie, that's the name of your son, and you have all the stuff associated with that. It's not quite a project, but often project will fit into one of these areas of responsibility. We've got ground level, we've got projects, we've got areas. Then horizon number 3 is goals and general objectives. These goals can be personal or they can be professional. Goals is a bit of a gray area. We'll talk more about that in the goals section in this class. But essentially we're asking ourselves like where do we actually want to be going, what's the point? Based on our goals, we might be generating projects accordingly. For example, one of my goals is to become a Gymshark athlete. To become a Gymshark athlete, I am an influencer working for Gymshark, the gym clothing brand. I'll need to get more hedge myself, start eating better, and start sharing more content online about fitness and health and all that stuff. While becoming a Gymshark athlete is a goal, it's not feasible for me to work towards becoming a Gymshark athlete because it's just way too many components, and so I will split that up into different projects, and those projects will have different actions, and then I'll know what I have to be doing together. Horizon Number 4 is the three to five-year vision. Again, bit of a gray area, I'm not too much of a fan of thinking so long-term, but we'll talk more about that in the later video, and then Horizon number 5 is principles and purpose, what are you on this earth to achieve, what do you want to get done? What value do you want to add to the world? What person do you want to be? The very high level overview of what do you want from your life, and so those are the six horizons of focus that David Allen talks about. I think even if we're not really going to use them, well, we are. We're going to use products and actions and areas and stuff. Even if we don't care about the more abstract ones, I think it's generally useful to understand them because in our role of being the pilot, we want to make sure that we're not just mindlessly going after task after task. We actually do want to step back a little bit and think about what's the point. Often I find especially when I'm talking to students, they're like, it can be very easy to get tunnel vision into a mode of thinking. Oh, I just have to prepare for this next exam and then this next assignment and this next essay and this next exam without really taking a step back and thinking, okay, why do I think all of this is necessary? What is the game that I'm playing? What are the victory conditions of that game? Am I enjoying the journey as I go along? I think it's helpful to understand this concepts. There's much more in the book Getting Things Done if you want to read more about those, and David Allen has loads of stuff on his blog, which will link in the video description where you can read more about these horizons of focus. In the next few videos, we're going to talk about the actionable components that you as the pilot in our productivity equation in our system, we as the pilot, we can take to become more productive in setting our short, medium and long-term direction as the pilot. Thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 3. Scheduling and Calendars: Let's start on the ground level of projects and actions that we need to get done. The main tip for productivity here is to schedule things or use a calendar appropriately. This is very basic. If you're already using a calendar and you're familiar with the art of scheduling, you don't need to watch this video because it'll be just repetition of stuff you already know. Although, feel free to watch anyway because maybe you'll pick up something new or interesting. Often we might have this misconception that if we set rules and schedules, then that's just not a fun way to work or that we're limiting our creativity and stuff like that. I've always found that if I want to be productive, if I want to get stuff done, then just scheduling stuff into my calendar makes such a big difference to my day and therefore to the rest of my life. In the previous class about productivity, which you might have seen, we talked about the myth of time and this idea of "I don't have time" and how that is a complete myth. I like to tell myself, I don't have time to go to the gym, but since becoming a productivity guru, I've stopped saying that because I now reframe it as I am choosing not to make the time to go to the gym. If you're saying to yourself, I don't have time to take singing lessons, I don't have time to learn the guitar, that's absolutely not true. You do have time. You're just choosing to do other things with that time because we all have the same 24 hours in the day. I think, firstly, it's helpful to reframe the time thing as I'm actively choosing not to make the time to do the thing. Which reinforces to us that we actually do have the power and this stuff is within our control. There's two components of using scheduling properly as a pilot. Firstly, it's understanding what we're actually spending our time on. We are notoriously bad at estimating how much time we actually spend on stuff. For example, there's this fun little study from 2013 that looked at my age group, so 25-34 years-olds, and they asked them to estimate how much TV they think they were watching each week. People thought they were watching 15 hours a week of TV. But when they actually measured their TV-watching habits, they were watching 28 hours. That's an absolutely huge discrepancy between what we think we do and what we actually do, and so one way of actually figuring out how much time you have is just write down what you're doing. You might like to check out a video by my friend and YouTuber colleague, Matt D'Avella. He's got a video where for 30 days he scheduled in his Google Calendar every single thing he was doing. That really helped him figure out where the hell his time was going. If you're tempted to say, "I don't have time to do stuff," then that's exercise number 1, actually see where your time is going. It's enormously helpful, but more importantly, we want to be scheduling stuff into our calendar, and I think probably the single biggest productivity tool, ignore [inaudible] , all that stuff, no one cares. Literally the single most important tool is to just have a calendar and use it appropriately. For me, my calendar basically dictates my life as soon as I have any inkling that some event is happening. Like my mom called me up last night and said, "This auntie from Birmingham is coming down next weekend for lunch." So immediately, I put that in my calendar because I know if it's not in my calendar, I'm not going to remember it. A standard principle in productivity and getting stuff done is understanding that our brain is for having ideas, not for storing them, and so if I'm storing these calendar events in my brain, stuff is going to slip through the cracks. If I'm thinking of stuff I need to get done and I'm not writing it down, stuff is going to slip through the cracks, so scheduling is super important. That's one aspect of A, it's scheduling important events in your life. I also like scheduling in social events. For example, this evening at 7:00 PM, my friend Sam is coming over and another friend Racer coming over to visit as well for a takeaway. In my calendar, I've got 7:00-11:00 PM hangout with Sam and Racer. Just because it gives me an idea of what's going on in my day. Whereas if I didn't have that and I just had in my head that, oh, yeah, at 7:00 PM I'm doing the same, I actually like in the morning when I'm being a pilot and setting my course, it would just be a lot of brain power for me to store all these events in my head. Using a calendar is so fundamentally important. As soon as you find an event, it just go straight into the calendar. Then the gaps in the calendar are where we can figure out what we want to do. In the morning when we're setting our course as being the pilot, that's when I like to create calendar events for stuff that I'm going to be doing that day. For example, today I had an orthodontist appointment from 2:30 up until about 4:00 PM, and so I put that in my calendar. Last night I messaged a friend of mine saying, "Do you want to grab lunch off after the gym?" So I scheduled into my calendar from 11:00- 2:00 PM. I was going to go gym and have lunch with this friend, which meant that I knew this morning, when I woke up at 8:00, 9:00 AM, that I had this two-hour window before going to the gym, and then from 4:00-7:00, because 7:00 is when Sam's coming over, I've got this other window of time where I can do something like filming this class. So I've created a calendar event for filming this Skillshare class. This might seem a little bit excessive, but in the very good book called Deep Work by Cal Newport, which is another staple in the field of productivity, he's got this quote about scheduling. He says that, "Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60 plus hour work week pursued without structure." What he's talking about here is this idea of time blocking, where you block off bits of time in your calendar for certain tasks. I think, if you're struggling with productivity in any sense, then this is just the way to go. I can agree with Cal Newport, I feel like I'm more than 50 percent more productive when I have time blocked and actively scheduled my day. That doesn't mean I can't change things as they go along. It just means that I have a default list of actions that I could be doing. Also in this book, Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, which is another very good productivity book, it talks about this idea of how if we don't have a default thing in our calendar, what it essentially means is that we are not actually doing anything with that time, and so someone might say, "Oh, I keep getting distracted." But if you don't have written down in your calendar what you're supposed to be doing anyway, you're not getting distracted from anything. You're just watching Netflix. For example, if I've got in my calendar 4:00-7:00 PM filmed Skillshare class about productivity and then I get distracted, at that point, my brain knows I'm getting distracted from doing this thing that I should be doing. Whereas if I have a complete gap in my calendar, 4:00-700 PM, and I end up just sitting on the sofa and browsing Instagram, I'm not actually distracting myself from anything because I haven't got written down what I should have been doing. I might be laboring the point a bit excessively, but this scheduling thing is just so important. What I do first thing in the morning, I like to schedule bits of my day and figure out when I'm going to do the stuff that actually needs to get done. Final point, like I said, the schedule doesn't have to be restrictive. It doesn't mean that I absolutely have to film this class from 4:00-7:00 PM. Let's say a friend just knocks on my door and says, "Hey, do you want to grab tea or something?" I'm not going to say no actually, because in my calendar I've got 4:00-7:00 PM time blocked. I'm going to be like, "Yeah, sure. Come on in." The point is, the schedule is flexible, but having that schedule is super important because it just gives us a default thing that we could be doing with our time. If you're wondering what app to use for calendars, it really doesn't matter. I use Fantastical personally, it's a bit expensive. It's got a subscription. You don't need that. The calendar app you use really doesn't matter as long as you're using some calendar app. The default Google or iOS calendar works fine. Google Calendar on the web, basically, all calendars apps are the same and they all work perfectly well. We just need to be using some calendar to schedule our time. Actionable task for this video, if you're not currently using a calendar, please download a calendar app and start using it. It takes a bit of practice, but I've been using my calendar religiously since 2013, and I don't know how I lived before without it. Now I literary schedule everything and it's great. Thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 4. The Power of To-Do Lists: In the last video, we talked about how having a calendar is the single most important productivity app. I would argue that the second most important productivity app is having some to-do list manager. If you want, you can use paper to-do lists, but the apps these days are just so good. It doesn't really matter what app you use, you can use Apple Reminders, you can use Google Keep, you can use To Do, you can use Todoist, you can use Things. I personally quite like using Things if I'm walking on personal stuff. I quite like using Todoist if it's more team-based stuff because it's more cross-platform, and again, I can use it with my team. But the main thing is we need to have some app to manage our projects and manage our actions or tasks for those projects. The reason this is in a pilot section is because the to-do list dictates what we're going to do for a given day, and so in the morning, I will have my coffee, do my shower, do my morning pages, and then figure out based on my project list, my task list, and my calendar what I need to get done that day, and again, going back to the previous video, I'm going to time block the various things that I need to do. There's a few things that I like to keep in mind when it comes to to-do lists. The first thing is that I don't actually think of it as a to-do list, I think of my whole thing as a might-do list. This is another tip from this book, Make Time, a very good book. I'll link a video description if you want to check it out. I think of my to-do list as a might-do list. It's a list of all my projects that I've got going and all the tasks associated with them that I've got going, and those are categorized into different areas of responsibility as we talked about in the horizon to focus video. But the reason it's a might-do list is because every day I have the option of what I want to get done from that list just based on how life is going, and what video need to come out, and whether I'm working that day, or whether I've got shift coming up, anything like that. Back in the day when I used to think of them as a to-do list, I would refrain from adding things to it, and creating a new project and stuff, because it would feel like it's weighing on me. But as soon as I start thinking of it as a might-do list, now suddenly I just add products to it all the time like anything I'm thinking of. Like yesterday, for example, I met up with a few friends for coffee in Cambridge, and one of them said that I should seriously consider taking salsa dancing lessons, and I was like, "Oh, that's sounds a great idea. I've always wanted to do that." I created a project in my to-do list manager of start taking salsa lessons. It's a might-do list, it's not a to-do list. That means that every day when I glance through my list of projects, I'll be able to see, what's the stuff that I want to get done today, and what's the stuff that I want to get done this week? I think that way of separating out a to-do list into either things to get done today, or things to get done this week, or just things to get done generally, those are the three levels of structure that I quite like. Because when it comes to the stuff I'm getting done today, that's the stuff I'm going to do today obviously. Then I have a next level, which is stuff I want to get done this week, and so I will usually consult my this week list to figure out what I need to do today, and then everything else on it is completely irrelevant because it can just be done at anytime. I've tried experimenting with more granular levels of detail in the past where I'll plan out what I'm doing today, and what I'm doing tomorrow, and what I'm doing the day after, but I always found that because life gets in the way, I was never really able to stick to my plan for what I'm going to get done tomorrow and the day after. Now each morning, I refresh my today list, and I just decide, here are the things I'm going to get done today, and I'll add stuff to the list for this week, and then I'll forget about everything else. It starts off as a might-do this, which is the list of absolutely everything, and then the to-do list is just the stuff that I'm doing today, and because I'm the pilot first thing in the morning, that is what I'm doing after having my coffee and after doing some journaling and figuring out, what are the bits that I actually want to get done today? Again, this takes a little bit of practice to start, actually consulting your to-do list and actually start using it as a way of living life. The whole way that I like to think about this productivity stuff is that only in the morning I'm going to be the pilot, and then the rest of the day, I want to be the plane, I want to be executing easily on the orders of the pilot. Because I think when it comes to productivity, one of the areas in which I used to struggle is when I didn't know what I needed to do, and so I'd get something done and then I'll be like, "Okay, what do I have to do next?" Then I'll have to go back into pilot mode and look in my list and be like, oh, and just that friction would mean that I end up just procrastinating the day away. But ever since I started literary deciding my to-do list and time looking first thing in the morning, being the pilot, I can now get so much more done because now I'm literally just executing on the orders that I've already said I'm going to do. I don't have to think about it anymore. That's one way of thinking about a to-do list. There's a few other ways of thinking about it which you might find helpful. There's one idea, again, from Make Time, which is all about the daily highlight. That is saying that every single day we're only going to have one, and only one highlight for the day. That highlight can be anything. It can be something you have to get done like finish essay that's due in tomorrow, or it can be something that's going to bring you joy, for example, hanging out with friends in the evening or something like that. But the point is, our day needs to have some highlight that we absolutely have to get done in that particular day, so that's one way of thinking about a to-do list. For me, when I'm deciding what I'm going to do in a day in my mind, or if I'm making a list on paper, I will write a little h, and I will say, one of these is the thing that absolutely has to get done, and everything else is optional. Very rarely do I have multiple things that absolutely have to get done on a given day, and so I'll try and give myself only a single daily highlight. The other strategy that we can use that some people find helpful is called E to the frog, and the frog is the unpleasant bit on your to-do list. The idea is that, you want to eat the frog first thing in the morning. As soon as you've done you being a pilot, the very first thing you want to get done is the frog, the thing that you've been putting off, the thing that's a little bit icky, the thing that you really don't want to do, because if you just bash through and tackle that first thing in the morning, then it'll get done, and then you'll be so happy for the rest of the day. Actually there's a quote from Mark Twain who this ideas is from, he says, "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing that's going to happen to you all day long." For me, the highlight of the day, the daily highlight is the task I absolutely have to get done, but the frog is the most unpleasant task of the day. Sometimes it's the same, but oftentimes they're not. Depending on home feeling, either I will tackle my daily highlight first thing, or I will tackle the frog. The frog is usually something like reply to this email because I have a real sense of [inaudible] when I'm having to reply to emails. No offense if anyone has tried to email me. Replying to an important email will be the very first thing on my list so I can eat the frog, and then I'll do my daily highlight. I'll schedule in my daily highlight to do at some point during the day. The final thing about to-do list is that, when we're setting our plan for the day, we don't want to overcome it, we don't want to do too many things. One way of thinking about this is the 1-3-5 rule, which is that you have one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks, and that adds up to nine, and there's still quite a lot of things to get done in a day, but it's very tempting. I'm certainly very tempted to be like, I'll film a video about this, film eight videos today, because filming a video only takes half an hour or so. If I film eight videos, I'll only take four hours. That was never ever, ever ends up happening. Usually I can just film one, maybe two videos in a day, because it's usually such a big mental endeavor to actually film the video. The 1-3-5 rule is helpful. But to be honest, what I'll just keep in mind is that I want my day to be relatively chill. I want to do high-leverage things, and that means filling up my today to-do list with a load of stuff that I can't be bothered with isn't particularly helpful. I try and keep the list small, I keep in mind the daily highlight, and I keep in mind the concept of eating the frog, and that is how I personally deal with to-do/might-do list. Action point, if you don't yet have a to-do list system setup, then please make one because it will change your life. It can be on paper if you like. I prefer to use apps. The one I'm using these days is Things which is Mac only, otherwise, literally any to-do list app works, they're all the same, they all basically do the same thing, so don't worry about the apps, the apps really trivial, fairly unimportant. But yeah, to-do list, super important, second only to a calendar. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 5. Exclusive Bonus Materials: Hello again, how's it going? I probably look a little bit older than when you're watching this class because I'm filming this after the fact. Because just to let you know, we have just added an enormous amount of totally free bonus material over to my website, which facilitates all of the different skill share classes that we have here on the platform. So if you head over to Ali, forward slash Skillshare, resources that lingual appear here and also down in the projects and resources section or wherever you happen to be seeing this Skillshare often changes the structure of the website, so it'll be linked somewhere on this page and also right here, so you can go to that URL and that will give you access to a bunch more bonus information relating to all of the different Skillshare classes. For some of those that might be Notion templates for some of them might be PDFs and worksheets and bonus material. It's all on the website, it's all completely free and you can check it out with that link. Anyway. I hope you enjoyed the class. I'd love it if you can leave a review if you haven't already and hopefully see you in the next one. Bye bye. 6. Projects and Areas of Focus: We're still in the pilot section where we're trying to set our course for the rest of the day, and we've talked about the short-termy things that we can be doing, which is scheduling and to-do lists. Let's talk, in this video, about projects and areas. Now, David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, which as I said is the Bible on productivity and what we should all be reading at some point in our lives, he defines a project as anything that has more than one task associated with it. For example, filming the Skillshare class is definitely a project because there are loads and loads of tasks associated with it. Also something like producing a certain YouTube video about how to get started with investing in the stock market. That would be a project because there are multiple tasks associated with it. Number 1, it involves writing, then editing, and then setting the script for review and then fact-checking and then filming the video and then editing the video then publishing the video; those are all multiple tasks within the same project. With that very broad definition of what a project is, most of us will have somewhere between 10 and 100, probably more towards the 100 section depending on how complicated you like to live your life. The main point in thinking in terms of projects is that it gives us a mindset shift because people who are less pro at productivity will think about doing a project, but that's not really a thing. If I were to think of, "I need to do this Skillshare class," it's never ever going to get done because it's actually got like 100 different steps, 100 different tasks within the project of doing the Skillshare class. Equally, something like study for my chemistry exam is a project, it's not a task. But if we think about doing studying for chemistry, it's not a thing we can wrap our minds around because it's a project, not a task. A task needs to be immediately actionable and ideally have some kind of deadline to it. Revised to chemistry exam would be a project, but revised Chapter 1, revised Chapter 2, revised Chapter 3, revised Chapter 4. Active recall, Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4. Spaced repetition, active recall, Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4; those are totally different tasks. So when we're making a plan for a given day, we want to be thinking about doing the tasks rather than doing the projects. It would be a lot easier for me to say, "I'm going to sit down and revise Chapter 1 in chemistry," than it is for me to say, "I'm going to sit down and revise chemistry." The more specific we can make our tasks, the more likely we are actually to get it done. For example, for filming the Skillshare class, the project is create Skillshare class about productivity, but the specific task for today is film the first five videos in that class, which is in the pilot section. I have been procrastinating, between you and me. I've been procrastinating from filming this class for the last three months. It's only today that I've decided to break it down into tasks rather than thinking of it as like a whole mountain that I have to climb that I've actually started to do it. The other main reason for having a long list of projects that we're working on is that when we are doing our engineering thingy, more on that later, essentially, what we have to do is we have to make sure that every single project has an appropriate next action because there's no point having a project on the project's list that doesn't have a next action because the action is the thing that we'll be doing with the task, not the project itself. Benefit number 3 of maintaining a project's list is that it helps use the concept of the slow burn, which is something that I learned in the Building a Second Brain online course by Tiago Forte. Link in the video description if you fancy checking that out. But essentially, there's two ways of thinking about getting stuff done: there is the heavy lift and then there is the slow burn. The heavy lift would be something like, "All right, you know, Ali, I'm going to sit down. I'm going to film all 18 videos in the Skillshare class in a single day. It's all going to get done." It's a very heavy lift. It requires a lot of work. But the slow burn is more like, "I've got these eight different projects on the go and, occasionally, over the course of days or weeks or even months, I'm just going to add stuff to them as and when I have ideas and I can slowly work on them." For example, right now we've got a project's list of like eight more Skillshare classes that we're working on, me and my team. For me, as I have random moments in the day, for example, if I'm at work and there's like a spare 20 minutes, I will open up Notion and I'll start adding more bits to one of them and it just helps slow burn. It means that when I get down to finalizing the structure of one of these classes and then getting down to filming it, then I can do the heavy lift, but, actually, the class has been cooking on the slow burner for the last three months. So it's a lot easier to do then than it is just doing the heavy lift. The benefit of maintaining this project's list is that, a, we can just slow burn stuff as we're going along, but it also means that we end up doing background processing on the projects. That's why I really like having a list of all my current video ideas because I will randomly find that while I'm in the shower or in the car or at the gym or whatever, I will just have an idea for one of them and I'll just be like, "Cool. I've had this idea, let me write it down in Notion in my relevant information section for the project." But if I didn't have an up-to-date project's list, I wouldn't be doing any background processing on them because I just wouldn't know what I have to get done. People who play postal chess often talk about this. They're like, you play postal chess, you receive a move from your opponent and you're like, okay, what's going on? When you're sleeping on it, your brain is doing background processing, and then the next morning the move comes to your head. As weird as it sounds, I've really found that to be true for my YouTube channel and for all the other projects that I'm working on as well. As long as I have them written down somewhere, at some point, I'll be doing some level of background processing on them, which is why I'm so bullish on everyone, just kind of having an up-to-date list of projects that you're working on. So up-to-date list of projects, project being defined as something that has more than one action and then making sure that every single project has a viable next action associated with it. In terms of apps because everyone loves talking about apps, like I said, the one that I use is Things, but basically, every single to-do list manager has some way of defining a project, and then you can break that project up into separate tasks. Again, it really doesn't matter which app you're using. Just to wrap up the next level up, as we talked about in our horizons of focus video, is the areas of focus or areas of responsibility. So often what I'll do is I will categorize my projects within areas and, again, Things and to-do list and stuff lets you do that kind of separation. For example, a project like get six-pack abs, which would be a project, would be under the health section of my life, or something like film Skillshare class would be a project, which would be under the business section, which would be the area. So areas of responsibility, a long list of projects which are mostly within those areas, and then a longer list of next action steps for each of those projects. Just having that lets you do slow-burning, it lets you do background processing, and it means that when we are being a pilot at the start of the day or when we're doing a weekly review, more than that later, we can look through our project's list and then we can close any open loops that's might be open and that needs closing. But we'll talk more about that in one of the future videos. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you in the next one. 7. Goals: Let's talk about goals which is another one of David Allen's horizons of focus. I'm not really a massive fan of goals, if I'm being honest. The traditional advice about goals is that you should have a list of goals and they should be S-M-A-R-T, smart and should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. I think that's what it stands for. I feel like goals were a bit pointless for a few different reasons. So firstly, a philosophical point like, "What is the point?" There is a nice quote that I like from one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, which is one of the ideals of the Knights Radiant, which is like this order of warriors and stuff and their mantra is "life before death, strength before weakness, and journey before destination." I really like that last one, journey before destination. I think when we have goals, it encourages too much of a reliance on the destination and a lot less focus on the journey and so that's one reason why I don't like goals. Secondly, I don't like goals because when you hit a goal, then what happens? You get a momentary burst of dopamine for like two seconds and then you're like, "Okay. Well, that's it." I guess I'll move on to the next goal. That's why I don't like setting goals for subscribers of views or revenue or anything like that because the goalpost just shifts. Then as soon as you hit it, you've got the hedonic adaptation; you adapt and then you end up just moving the goalpost even further along. But having said that, I'm open to changing my mind on the goal stance. When I was doing an interview with one of my new Internet friends, Noah Kagan, who I've long admired and listening to his podcast for ages, we talked about the three different types of goals. I think this might be a legit way of looking at the idea of goal-setting, so we will include that clip over here. I've observed three systems of setting goals, and I think each of them can work. So I think there's the object-oriented goal which is, "What is my objective?" I want a million subscribers. So for AppSumo, our company, we have a revenue goal. We want to get extra millions of $ in revenue this year. Very objective. You'd sometimes have to have a destination. Mexico, revenue goal. So then I think there are progress goals. Another example is my mailing list, so What's important about goals is they have to matter to you. So a progress goal is, "I don't care if I get one new active subscriber a month or 1,000. It doesn't change for me the value." So a progress goal to me is, "Is it progressing? If I get five, I'm happy if it's negative, I'm not." That's a progress goal. The last one is the system goal. A system goal is, "I'm going to go to the gym three times a week." That's it. That's my system. There's not a progress, but I will be there three times a week. So I think each of those goals work in different scenarios and different things. So I wouldn't say absolutely that their [inaudible] is wrong. In business, I think you have to know how things are progressing. We generally do our whole system in there we call it a GMO. But I think there's other goals where you don't want to have that. Because for me, like YouTube right now, I'm at 50,000 and if I said I want 100,000, honestly, you would kill my motivation, and I don't care if I get 100,000 or if I get 51,000. I'm just enjoying what I'm doing. So it's more of like, "I want to put out three videos a week or two videos" whatever that is. Each one is a different tool at a different time. Those were the three types of goals. I quite like the system goals and I quite like the progress goals. The system goals for me, I like to make three YouTube videos a week. That's what I care about. I don't look at the numbers behind it in the slightest and I try not to let them affect me. I quite like the progress goals as well which is like, "In general, it's nice that the YouTube channel is growing rather than declining." That is a goal, but the specific numerical aspect of it don't really matter to me in the slightest. The other thing about goals is that unlike setting goals where achieving those goals is within my control, like it's entirely within my control to release three YouTube videos every week because that's just based on me and my team and the effort that we're putting in. But if our goal was to produce three videos a week that have at least 100,000 views. That is now a goal that is outside of our control. We can produce three videos a week, but absolutely it's not within our control whether or not they get 100,000 views each. So I think having a numerical goal in that sense, at least for me personally. I'm not a fan of it because it encourages this sort of thinking where we're reliant on metrics and we're trying to work to hit something. In a way, our self-worth gets defined by an externality rather than by our internal processes. So yeah, people say that having goals is useful. Maybe for you having a goal will be helpful. I like what James Clear says about goals, obviously because I didn't have any original ideas. James Clear says that having a gold is fine provided you use that goal to set your direction. But then you want to completely forget about the goal. Like let's say my goal was to run a marathon. I would use that goal to set the direction and figure out what my daily plan is going to be for my training. But then I would forget about the fact that I'm trying to run a marathon and instead of focusing on the system of just progressively building up my running stamina every single day. There's another nice quote from a US football coach called Bill Walsh, which is that "The score takes care of itself." I think that as long as you're focusing on the right things. So for me in the context of videos, it's just churning out three videos a week and try to make them good. As long as I'm doing that, I actually don't need to worry about the numbers because the score will just by default take care of itself. So that's my thought on goals David Allen would probably disagree. He probably say, "You should have a lot of goals" But each of their own. Try it out. See if goals work for you. But if not, it's totally fine. I'll put some links in the video description to other resources that I found helpful in thinking about goals. In particular, I really like this blog post which we'll put over here from a guy called Jason Fried, who is one of the co-founders of Basecamp, which is a US software company. He talks about, I think it's called "I've never had a goal" That really resonated with me when I first read it. So that's my stance on goals, kind of helpful if you're trying to be a pilot, but maybe thinking more about progress and about system goals rather than numerical goals. Thank you for watching. I'll see you in the next video. 8. Vision and Purpose: All right. Final video in the pilot section and in this one we're talking about vision and purpose. Now this might seem a little bit too abstract, and I always used to think that, people would say, "What's your vision? What's your purpose in this world?" I used to be like, "Look man, come on. I'm just focused on getting through one day to the next." But I've got to admit, recently I've started to think a lot more about vision and purpose, because in a way, the pilot is not just responsible for setting the things that we're doing for a given day. The pilot is also generally responsible for making sure that the productivity that we're doing is genuinely useful over time, and because going back to our equation, productivity equals useful output divided by time multiplied by f, we want to make sure it's useful. We want to make sure the stuff that we're doing is actually in line with some kind of wider vision. I think often, one of the reasons why we are unproductive is because we don't see the bigger picture. Like it's really hard to convince a 12 year old secondary school student that, "You know, man, you've got to do your homework." They're like, "Why?" "Because it'll help you get better grades." "Why does that matter?" "Because then you'll get to a better university." "What does it matter?" "Because then you'll get a better job." "What does that matter?" "Because then you'll be happier." The causality starts to really break down the more, the further along that spectrum you go. So at some point we do want to be thinking about what is a wider vision? What's a wider purpose? Where do we get the meaning in life? Obviously, this is the million dollar question. People have tried answering it over the years, there's a very good book by Viktor Frankl. He was a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a concentration camp for a long time and he wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning, which is all about, well, how people found meaning in the most trying circumstances. Essentially, my understanding of his thesis is that he says that a lot of meaning comes from having responsibility or having responsibility towards something that's greater than ourselves. Apparently, parents get meaning from their children because the children are like a responsibility that they have to do. People get a sense of meaning by being part of the local church or by setting up a business or by being recognized for having responsibility at work, is all different sources of meaning in our life, so that's one way of thinking about the question. The other interesting way of thinking about this question is something called the odyssey plan. This is apparently an exercise that they give to Stanford Business School students. I discovered this from a video on my friend UnJaded Jade's YouTube channel, and I did this exercise and it really changed the way that I was thinking about my life. The idea of the odyssey plan is that you ask yourself three questions. The first question is, in five years time, what would my life look like if I continue down exactly the same path? And you'd write in detail, this day, five years from now, what are you doing? How are you spending your time? Who's in your life? What are you doing in your life? That thing. After you've written a few paragraphs about that, the next question is, now, imagine in five years time, what would your life look like if you took a completely different path? Write down in detail what that might look like. The final question in the odyssey plan is, in five years time, what would your life look like if money was no object, and if societal expectations didn't matter at all? Then you write down what your life looks like then. That was an interesting exercise for me because it made me realize that the path that I was on, when I did the exercise, which was December 2019, it made me realize that the path that I was on led to a point where, at the end of the outcome was, I imagined myself continuing to live in Cambridge and continuing to work part-time in medicine as an anesthetics trainee, and trying anesthetics registrar, doing teaching on the side. It just had a sense of, yeah, it just didn't seem particularly exciting. Without questioning that, before, for the last few years, I just assumed that that would be where my life would go, that I would end up living in Cambridge forever, and supervising at a college and that stuff. But I was only doing this exercise that made me realize that maybe this isn't quite the vision and purpose that I want for my life. I don't know, it might sound a little bit wishy-washy, it might sound a bit abstract, but I think it's very interesting. Every single person I know who has actually tried the odyssey plan exercise has found it to be eye-opening in some way or another. So that's another way of answering the question of vision and purpose. Another way is by doing the deathbed exercise, which is where you ask yourself, let's say I were to die one year from now, what would I do differently? Then you ask yourself, "What if I were to die two years from now? What if I were to die five years from now, 10 years from now?" I'm not a huge fan of the one year from now because the one year from now makes us focus on very short-term thinking. But I like thinking about it in terms of two years, five years, and 10 years. Because I think like, I'm 26 right now, if I were to die at the age of 28, then interesting. I probably wouldn't just piss away then the next two years, I probably want to do something somewhat productive, but that would give me some idea as to what I want my wider mission or purpose in life to actually be. Because otherwise, thinking about it in too long a time horizon, makes it really hard to actually think about. I quite like the two year variety of that question. A fourth way of thinking about this, people have tried to answer this question over the years, and I find that the more frames we have for answering it, the easier it becomes to actually think about it. Another way of thinking about it is by splitting life up into the only bits that matter, and I think those are four things: that's physical health, number 1, number 2, mental health/ happiness/ fulfillment as a bucket. Number 3, relationships, and number 4, money, material stuff, making sure we have food, making sure we have a house or a roof over our heads, that stuff. If we think about those four domains, one way of thinking about the mission and purpose in life is to optimize for those four and think, "Okay, how do I make sure that I'm 100 percent on all those four domains, physical health, mental health, relationships, and material stuff. Then once you've got that sorted, at that point, you can start thinking even harder. For me, ever since I first read the four hour workweek, when I think I was 17 years old, my guiding principle, my guiding Northstar, my guiding vision purpose has always been this idea of creating multiple streams of passive income with the ultimate goal of work being optional, and by the grace of God, I'm now at the point where work is optional and I don't have to go to work if I don't want to, and that's a really nice position to be. But it's also the Northstar that I've been chasing for the last eight years of my life, nine years of my life. So now I'm at that point, the next question I have to think is, okay, continuing to chase more sources of passive income probably isn't the path to leading a happy and meaningful and productive life. I now have to start thinking a lot more about what do I actually want to achieve? What value do I want to add to the world? What do we want to get done? Still haven't figured it out, it's a lifelong, ongoing endeavor. But given that, productivity is about useful output over time, and given that in 10 percent of the time, we're actually being the pilots, setting the course for our lives, and for the day. I think it is important that we occasionally take a step back and think, what is all of this in service of? What is the point of being productive? What is the point of studying for our exams? What is the point of trying to go to the gym? What are we actually optimizing for? What is the game that we're playing, and what are the victory conditions of that game? Just a few thoughts there, haven't figured it out. I don't think anyone really has, but hopefully that's helpful. So yeah, thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 9. The Plane - Introduction: All right, so we've talked about the role of the pilots, which going back to our productivity equation, productivity equals useful upper divided by time multiplied by F. The pilot is the thing that sets the useful aspect of it, and maybe we should spend around about 10 percent of our time being the pilot, figuring out our course, planning out our day, planning out a week, planning out a month and year, making sure our product list is up-to-date. All that good stuff. Let's now talk about the plane. The plane is probably the most important part because we are the plane, probably around 85 percent of the time is what I would tentatively suggest. As we know by now, the job of the plane is to simply execute on the orders of the pilot. We do not want to think too hard about what we're doing when we're the plane, because hopefully we've already established that in the morning when we've done our piloting, we've set our course for the day. But unfortunately, while the plane is making up the bulk of our time, the plane is also usually the bit where most people struggle when it comes to productivity. The plane has three functions. The plane needs to take off safely. The plane needs to stay the course and not get distracted along the way, and the plane needs to land safely as well. The landing one is a little bit less important, but taking off and staying the course are the two fundamental features or functions or things the plane has to do. Unfortunately, those are also the two things that most people struggle with the most. Taking off, for example, is always an issue because we feel we don't have the motivation to take off, and then staying the course and not getting distracted is always an issue because we have our phones that get in the way and distract us and I always get e-mails being like, oh, how do you stay focused and how do you not get distracted? Those are the two important things that most people struggle with in terms of productivity. It's a constant struggle. I also still struggle to get started. I still struggle to not get distracted partly, one way of doing that is while I'm filming this, I've actually got phone underneath me, which is filming an Instagram live, which helps keep me motivated to actually continue filming this class, even though at the moment I just want to go and do wee wee. Anyway, in this section of the course, we're going to talk about techniques, actionable strategies, actionable practical advice, and how we can become more effective planes, and how we can take off and not get distracted and land appropriately in a more safe and interesting fashion. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you next video. 10. Hacking Motivation: When we're trying to be the plane, the biggest issue most of us have is that we have trouble taking off. We have trouble sitting down and actually doing the work that we have to get done. There's a few different reasons for this. The first one is that we misunderstand the concept of motivation and what motivation is. Often, the way we think about it is that we need motivation to get something done. But that's actually the exact opposite of how motivation works. The way it works, as Jeff Haden talks about in The Motivation Myth and as I've talked about in a previous Scotia class and YouTube video, which I'll be linking down in the video description, essentially, the way it works is that we do something and then we get a small success, and then that leads to the motivation to continue doing the thing. Action leads to success, which leads to motivation, which sustains action rather than motivation leads to action and whatever. So we have motivation the wrong way around. Step one of taking off appropriately is understanding that this whole motivation thing is a little bit screwed up. In an ideal world, we would just get the thing done. You know the slogan for Nike, "Just do it." We would just do it in an absolutely ideal world. But unfortunately, in the real world, we still struggle with motivation. Usually, the thing that we struggle with motivation for is that we struggle to find the motivation when the thing that we're doing has a long-term benefit but has a short-term pain. Our brain is always going to try and minimize short-term pains because evolutionarily, that was how we succeeded and survived and stuff, by avoiding pain in the short term, but evolutionarily, we didn't really need to thrive in the long term in terms of our career and work and professional relationships and stuff like that, and so we need to hack our brains to actually do the thing. There's a few different ways that we can access that, but instead of me just talking about it, I'm just going to insert the bit from the previous video where I have talked about it with a diagram and everything. If you've seen my previous class about productivity or you understand the concepts that motivation is a myth and all the different areas in which we can target motivation to increase our chances of taking off, then feel free to skip this video because this is just repetition. But in case you haven't seen it, in case you're not familiar with this general concept, here is me talking about motivation from the past. Let's say we want to free, like for me i, the thing that I struggle with is going to the gym. But for a lot of students who tend to be most of my audience, it tends to be sitting down to study for the exam. You will start with a thought. The thought would be something like I should study. That would be the thought that crosses into a mind, and at some point, we would get potentially the action which is actually studying and sitting down and opening the books or using Anki or using the retrospective revision timetable. I've got a whole kilocycles on, and it's actually about how to study for exams, link in the video description, you can check it out, it's very good, I've say so myself anyway. We start off with the thought of I should study, and then at some point, we might get to the action of actually studying. Partly the whole point of the productivity thing, unlike watching a class like this, is you want to get from the thought to the action, ideally, without too much problem in between. But actually, the thing that loads of a struggle with, and I did a polar my Instagram story where I asked what are your productivity was, and 2,000 people reply to this poll, and at least half the answers was something to do with, I really struggled to get started, I really struggled to find the motivation to do the thing that I know I should do. But we know we should study, but the actual studying, we tend not to do. So I thought, well, there's a few different reasons for it, but the word motivation comes into here now, and the word motivation comes in between the thought and the action. Motivation would be the middleman. What is motivation? Motivation is the feeling of wanting to do something like, I feel like studying. So we've got, I should study, then the motivation bit is I feel like studying, and then the studying, then the option B is actually doing the studying, and actually more actually is probably I feel like studying right now. We will study when we feel like it, we'll watch Netflix when we feel like it, we'll place boards are hanging out, hanging out with friends or watch videos on YouTube when we feel like it, but that's where the motivation comes in. We think we have to feel like doing the thing before we do the thing. Thought goes to motivation, which goes to action, is the traditional procrastinators, non-productive person's view of the motivation equation. But the whole point of this class is to make us more productive, going back to our actual productivity equation, productivity equals useful output over time multiplied by the fun factor. But in order to actually get the output bit, we actually have to get started, and that is where the motivation equation comes in, and that's where we have a problem going back to our pilot plane and engineer analogy, it's all very well, being a pilot and studying my course that today I'm going to get five of my subject of chemistry done. Well today I'm going to prepare for that physiology supervision that I'm giving this to this day. It's all very well studying that course at the pilot. But then as the actual plane, we all struggle to take off, we struggle to actually get the plane off the ground, actually sit down and do the work. Because we think about motivation in this way, and this is the wrong way to think about motivation. This is a myth, motivation is a myth. Instead, in an ideal world, what would actually happen is that we would have thought, I should study, and that would directly lead to the action regardless of how we are feeling. Motivation is fundamentally a feeling, and relying on our feelings as a way of setting a course in life and getting what we need to done is a recipe for disaster because feelings are temporary, feelings are fleeting, feelings don't last very long. The transient, take all the synonyms for fleeting that you want. Feelings are temporary, they're unreliable. Our feelings change moment-to-moment depending on the time of day, depending on the time of month, depending on the time of year, depending on what's going on, analyze feelings are not a reliable way to get anything done. Instead, we should just have a thought and we should go to action, and some people might describe that thing as discipline. When you have discipline, you go directly from thought to action regardless of how you're feeling. If we want to be more productive, this is the secret. If there is a secret of getting started with anything, it's recognizing that motivation is a myth. We don't need motivation, all we need is the thought and the action, and through discipline, through willpower, whatever you want to call it, from the thought will lead to the action. Now, there's a great post on a random website called a whisk domination. I haven't read much of the stuff on his website, I've tried, but it's not really my thing, but they've got a fantastic post called, "Screw motivation, what you need is discipline." This was a post that I read years and years ago, and when I first came across this, it genuinely blew my mind because it was the first time I'd seen the motivation equation in this context, that motivation is the thing in between thought and action, and actually we should just use discipline to go all the way. They say on the website, which is I'll paraphrase the quote. They say that motivation relies on the erroneous assumption that we need to feel like doing the thing that we're doing before we actually do it. They also say on the website, a three-year-old does what it feels like doing. An adult does what? An adult knows it should or an adult does his duty or her duty. A three-year-old does what they feel like an adult does what they need to do. When we're thinking about productivity and when we're thinking about getting stuff done, we want to act like the adults here. We don't want to be a slave to our three-year-old self. I think Tim Urban, the guy behind you, wait, but why blog has a good mental model for this? He's got a very good talk about the procrastinators dilemma and inside the mind of a master procrastinator, and he talks about how in our minds we've got this three-year-old little baby that's like, whaling for attention and relying on its feelings, and I need to feel like doing this thing, otherwise I'm not going to do it, and the main reason why we love watching stuff about improving your productivity, the objective is to quash that three-year-old so that it's irrelevant, and actually we do what the adults inside us wants us to do, which is the thought of I should study or for me, I should go to the gym. I personally don't really have any problems with studying because I quite enjoy it. That ties into our whole fun thing, the fun factor, the fun factor bleeds into all aspects of the productivity equation. Because if we can enjoy what we're doing, we don't need motivation for it anymore. Like when was the last time you said I need motivation to watch Netflix. You really don't. We need to do motivation, and in fact, like usually we only need motivation to do the things that are short-term, painful and long-term useful. Yeah, so for me it's things like going to the gym, short-term pain, long-term useful stretching, short-term pain, long-term useful, eating healthily, learning how to cook, these things where it's potentially unpleasant in the moment, but I know it's going to lead to greater rewards further down the line. There's a few different problems for this, and understanding where these problems are allows us to target the interventions, to hack our motivation. We talked about the theory of it and that's not going to into some practical tips. Essentially, these two aspects of the equation that we can target. There is the action itself, and then there's the outcome. Usually, the problem with things that require motivation is usually that the outcome is a long time in the future. We don't have a very good feedback loop. If, for example, I went to the gym one day and immediately I saw an increase in the size of my biceps, I would be going to the gym every day. We all would, because the feedback loop is immediate, we get that reward, we get that dopamine hit, and as the author of the motivation myth, which is a very good book, says, success leads to motivation, which leads to success, which leads to motivation. We start off with these little successes and that makes us become more motivated. If we see the success of I live, I did a bicep curl and like I said, increased in size unlike yes, I automatically look better. Then of course I'd be doing bicep curls all day everyday because I I can see the successes. But usually we need motivation for the things where the feedback loop is significantly longer, for example, like healthy eating, it's so hard to lose weight because we don't see, we deprive yourself of that McDonald's drive-thru is something that I struggle with a lot. Backward middles was open, prior to the lockdown, depending on when you're watching this. We would deprive ourselves of the chips and immediately we would lose weight. If the feedback loop without tight knowing we'd have a problem with keeping weight down, but we do because the feedback loop is too long. I've run it on long enough. Basically, there's a few different ways we can target the motivation myth. Number 1 is focusing on the action, number 2 is focusing on the outcome. Now, let's think about the action, and I think there are two ways of dealing with this. Way number one is to make the action more pleasurable. We said that we don't struggle with motivation to watch Netflix. What is it about Netflix that means we don't need motivation to watch it. Well, it's fun, we enjoy watching Netflix. Why do I not struggle with the motivation to study? Because it's fun. I enjoy studying. So if we can make the action more fun or more pleasurable, as I'm going to write down over here, making the action more pleasurable makes us more likely to do the thing. This is pretty standard stuff. If you enjoy doing something, then you'll just be far more likely to do it. For me, the ways that I hack my brain into thinking that I'm enjoying something is by genuinely making it more fun for myself. For example, when I'm studying, I make sure I've got my Spotify's study with me, playlist in my headphones or my airports are in the background or whatever, and yes, the evidence does say that probably studying with music is slightly sub-optimal compared to studying in silence, but studying with music. I've got, concerning hotbeds or like the parts of the Caribbean seem to, like the interstellar soundtrack banging in my headphones. That just makes it like four times more fun to study, and therefore, I'm more than happy to take that slight hits of efficiency and optimization of my studying and memory and stuff because it's made it fun, it makes it more pleasurable. It means I'm more likely to do it equally for me when I go to the gym, the reason that I fairly regularly go to the gym is because I've made it fun, and the way I've made it fun is by firstly turning it into a game where I track my workouts and every week or try and do better than I did the week before, it turns it into a personal game with myself. I'm not competing against anyone else, I don't really care what that dude over there is benching. What I care about is getting slightly better than the week before, and as soon as I started just tracking the numbers of my gym workouts, suddenly it just gave me the motivation to go to the gym far more often because it became a game, equally when it comes to studying for exams. I turned studying into exams, a game that I'm playing with myself. That sounded a bit weird. The game that I'm playing with myself, but I'm in friendly competition with my friends. Friendly competition in that it's just kind of interesting, kind of like playing a board game. Exams are like playing a board game in that you're competing against your friends but a friendly way. So I treat exams like I'm playing a game with myself. I'm trying to get the best mark I can. It's interesting to see what Paul, Jake, Amalia, Catherine or Collen got just because it's kind of fun. So all these things are making it more pleasurable. Step number one is, if you're struggling with a motivation to do anything and this is a problem in your life think very hard about how you can make the action more pleasurable. Make it fun for yourself. Again, using the example of studying, which is something we all struggle with, I go to different libraries and different coffee shops around Cambridge and I give myself a budget of 20-30£ a day. Feel free to adjust that depending on how much cash you have. In terms of the amount of money I'm allowed to burn on just buying lattes, because ordering a latte every two hours makes it more pleasurable to study. Taking an Instagram photo from above for the gram makes it more pleasurable. All these things and making studying more pleasurable anyway. We talked about more pleasurable. The other thing we can target is we can make the consequences of inaction more painful. What does this mean? So we've all had this thought when we've got an assignment or an essay, or a piece of homework or some presentation at work. We've got that due the following day. We know that if we don't get it done by tomorrow, bad things are going to happen. We might fail our exams we might have to have a meeting with our headmaster, our boss is going to shout to us, whatever context you're living in. We all know what it's like to have a deadline that we're working towards. Usually we get the thing done if we have a deadline. The reason we get the thing done is because at that point, the consequences of not doing the thing outweigh the pain of actually doing the thing in the first place. Thinking about how we can hack the motivation equation, we need to figure out ways in which to make not doing the action more painful. For example, one really easy way of doing this that almost no one does, but that everyone who tries says it works absolutely wonders is by putting money on the line, we all hate losing money. There's so much psychological evidence. In fact, we don't even need psychology evidence. We all hate losing money. The pain of losing a $100-100£ is far worse than the joy of gaining a 100£ because of the utility function, because of how our brains work, we all hate losing money. There are websites like or things like that where you can literally put money on the line and if you don't do the thing, then that money disappears. Either it gets donated to charity or it gets donated to the Ku Klux Klan. There's all different things that we can give our money to that we really don't want our money to go towards charity fair enough. Putting money on the line is a really easy way of doing it. If I really cared about going to the gym, what I could do and what would absolutely work wonders is, I could say to my house maid Molly, I could say Molly, here's a check for 5000£. If there is a single day this week for the next year that I don't go to the gym unless I have a very good reason you can cash that check and do whatever you want with the money. All of a sudden, I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I'm making the consequences of inaction very painful. I know that if there is a single day where I don't go to the gym without a very good reason, Molly's going to cash that check and I'm going to use 5000£. That's a lot of money for me that's a lot of money for anyone. So that would be a very easy way to hack the motivation equation and so you watching this, if you really struggling with motivation, if you're really saying to yourself and to others that I don't have the motivation to study why not put money on the line? This is an interesting question because if we think about this, think about it right now, would you really put, half of your life savings on the line in return for making sure you do the thing? Probably not and it probably feels a quite an uncomfortable thing to do. Even thinking about writing your check for 5000£, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Even though I know it would make me get the work done. The reason it's making me feel uncomfortable, is probably because I actually don't want to go to the gym that much. I might tell myself I should go to the gym. But actually fundamentally I don't want to, and it doesn't actually align with my goals for life to tell Molly that unless I go to the gym every single day you can keep the 5000£. There's different ways of doing this is different websites. I'll put some links in the project and resources section, but this is a very easy way to hack our brains into being motivated to do stuff by making the consequences of inaction more painful. Okay, two more things. There are two things that we can effect with the outcome. Firstly, we can shorten the feedback loop. That's the example that I took of going to the gym. If suddenly we became much more hinchey the feedback loop would be very short and we would enjoy going to the gym. We, as humans, we love short feedback loops like that's why playing sports is very pleasurable. Because as soon as you've done the action, you see the feedback, you see what's going on. You see this squash ball bouncing off a wall, you think, oh, that was a good shot, that was a bad shot and you adjust it. We love learning, that's how brains are wired. Anything we can do to shorten feedback loops is going to make us more motivated to do the thing. Like I said, the way that I do this practically speaking is that everything that I need to do that I don't want to do, I turn it into a game. For example, with the gym, the feedback loop is no longer how big are my biceps getting. The feedback loop is have I lifted more weight than I did last week? That's a short feedback loop. I really try and bench, what I'm I benching these days like 70 kilograms. The following week, if I can get 72.5 kilograms, that will be a dopamine hit, I'll release some endorphins, I'll feel good about myself. It's a short feedback loop and therefore I'm more likely to do it. Whatever you are struggling with motivation wise to think hard about how do you shorten the feedback loop? The problem with studying for exams, right? Is that let's say were 15 and doing O levels of GCSEs or whatever. You're thinking, well, I need to do this work because I need to get good grades, much GCSEs, because then ultimately that'll help me get into better University, which I guess will help me get better life outcomes will make me happier in the long run. Those assumptions break down at various intervals. But the point is, it's a very long feedback loop, especially if we're like really young in secondary school. It's really hard as an 11-year-old in the seventh grade, in year seven in the UK to really get motivated to do your homework. Because the thing you're optimizing for is five years into the future. Ultimately, it's all about your O level results, right? That feedback loop is way too long. If you can turn it into a game, make it more fun, make it more interesting in some way that shortens the feedback loop that hacks this motivation equation. Finally, another thing that hacks it is making the outcome more salient. What do I mean by that? Salience is just like making the outcome more clear in our minds. That's partly why I think students enjoy watching study with me videos or enjoy watching YouTubers who are at the universities that they want to go to. When I used to make blogs about life as a Cambridge University Medical Student, loads of people who wanted to be in that position would watch those videos and feel motivated, feel inspired. I think the reason for that is that it's increasing the salience of the outcome. If I was a 15-year-old wanting to study medicine at Cambridge and I saw an 18-year-old YouTuber talking about what it's like studying medicine at Cambridge, it would make the outcome much more clear in my mind. I could use that as motivation, coming back to motivation, I could use that as motivation to help me do my homework because I'd know what it's like. I'd see the life of a Cambridge medical student and think this is what I want. Equally for me, I don't struggle with this thing anymore because there isn't really a lifestyle that I aspire to as such. But for me, the thing that I struggle with is eating healthily and going to the gym. So watching the YouTube would like Alex Costa who looks great, like men's fashion advice is amazing. His hair's really nice, really toned, good-looking guy, watching Alex Costa motivates me to work out more because I see what a six pack looks like and think, damn, it would be nice to have that six-pack and therefore increases the salience of the outcome. It makes me more likely to go to the gym. Now all of these tactics are all based around trying to hack motivation. But as I said, the ideal scenario is that we don't need the motivation in the first place. We scrub the word motivation from our vocabulary and we just rely on discipline. We have the thought and we do the action. In an ideal world, I would not need motivation. I wouldn't need to watch Alex Costa videos or follow Gym Shark Instagram accounts. I wouldn't need that to go to the gym in an ideal world. But I'm only human and we're not perfect. I'm trying to get better at this. It's a muscle that we can all get better at really trying to scrub the word motivation from our vocabulary and instead relying on discipline to just get us through, we have the thought, we do the action. It's kind of like going to work. I don't need the motivation to go to work. Sometimes I'll be honest with you, even though I'm a doctor, I wake up in the morning and I'm like, oh, I really can't be bothered to go to work today. But do I require myself to feel like going to work before going to work? Absolutely not. I'm a professional I do the job. I get up, I go to work, whether or not I feel like it. I think if for me, if I can treat my physical health and eating healthy and going to the gym and taking care of my posture. If I can treat those things with the same level of professionalism that I bring to going to work or writing my weekly email newsletter, then my life would become ten times better and that would compound so much over the long term. We all need to treat our own interests with as much professionalism as we treat the interests of other people. That was why motivation is a myth. So those are some general tips for taking off the dealing with motivation kind of related to Newton's first law, which is that an object at rest will continue to stay at rest and an object moving at a constant velocity will continue to move at a constant velocity unless acted on by an external imbalanced force. The main thing is that if we can just take off, then we are allowing Newton's First Law to work in our favor. Once we have momentum, once we're moving forward, we will just continue to move forward. Which is why the hardest part about being productive is actually just getting started at doing the thing. There's a few different ways we can hack our brains into kind of thinking that we're just going to get started. One way is to make it action more pleasurable or to shorten the feedback loop. Another thing we can do that I quite like is the five-minute rule where I just convince myself that I'm only going to work on the thing for five minutes. Actually earlier today when filming this class, I told myself, all I'm going to do is film the intro and I'll just take five minutes. Here we are three hours later filming the same class because I managed to hack my brain into being productive by just focusing on the starting point. All right, so those are some general thoughts on how to deal with the motivation aspect of it. As we've established, motivation is a myth. Action leads to success, which leads to motivation. Motivation does not lead to action. That's the wrong way of thinking about it. Thanks for watching. I'll see you in the next video. 11. Overcoming Inertia: Having established the fact that motivation is a myth, which is a repetition of a previous class, and as we talked about in the previous class, one of the most important laws of productivity is Newton's first law, which is actually a physics law, but actually a plus to productivity as well. Newton's first law states that: An object at rest will continue to stay at rest, and an object traveling at a constant velocity will continue to travel at that constant velocity, unless acted on by an external, imbalanced force. What Newton is saying is that if you are stationary, you will continue to stay in stationary. But if you're moving, then you actually don't need any extra force to continue moving, you will just keep on moving. The main thing we actually need to do is we just need to get started at doing the thing. We just need a plane to take off and then the laws of physics, the law of Newton's first law will carry us forward. So a big part of being more productive involves hacking our brains somehow to just get started at doing the task. There's a few different strategies for doing this. I think I've talked about some of these in a previous class, but I'm going to say them again. If you know these already and you don't struggle with taking off, then don't worry, feel free to skip this video. No point in watching it. But essentially the three things that I do are the two-minute rule, the five-minute rule, and environment design. The two-minute rule is from David Allen's book, "Getting Things Done," and that basically says that if something is going to take less than two minutes, then just do it now. Washing up this coffee mug is going to take less than two minutes, so I should just do it now, and I would, but I'm in the middle of filming this video right now. I think the more we apply the two-minute rule to our lives, the more all these little things around our house just get completely sorted. Like replying to an e-mail, if it's going to take less than two minutes, there's no point in me adding it to my to-do list because it's just clogging up space on my to-do list. I'm just going to do it right now. It'll take two minutes and then I'll be so much happier. The more we can apply the two-minute rule to our lives, the less random crap we actually have to deal with when we're trying to do something productive and just generally more useful. That was tip number 1. Tip number 2 is something that I call the five-minute rule. That is where, if I'm struggling with getting started with something, like filming the Skillshare class, I would tell myself, "I'm just going to do it for five minutes." If I tell myself that and just do the thing for five minutes, more often than not, I will just continue doing the thing because that's how Newton's first law works. Once we're moving, we will just continue to stay moving. When we say I struggle with procrastination, usually what we mean is I struggle with getting started. So if we can just target all of our willpower, all of our discipline, all of our interventions at just getting started by things like the five-minute rule, then procrastination becomes completely eliminated and we can become productivity grease monkeys if that's what you want to do. Finally, the third point is about environment design. There's a quote that I like, which I think I came up with, which is that friction is the most powerful force in the universe. If there's any friction to doing the thing that you need to get done, it's basically not going to happen. For example, if I need to sit down and work but my desk is untidy, I'm basically not going to sit down and work. I need to design my environment in a way that's friction free. For example, setting up this camera. Before I went to the gym earlier today, in the morning, when I was being a pilot, I planned to film these videos between 4:00 and 7:00 PM, but I recognized, using the principle of environment design, that I should set up the camera, the light, and the microphone, and the recorder and everything. I should have it all ready so that as soon as I get back from the gym, I can just sit down and start filming because if I didn't have any of this stuff ready, if I would've had to set up the camera, the lights, and everything, I would not be sitting here filming this right now because the friction to sitting down and doing the work was just too great. Equally, for things like procrastination, I usually have the guitar sitting next to the sofa so that if I want to procrastinate, it's easier for me to just pick up the guitar than it is to pick up my phone or do something unproductive. The principle of environment design is useful because we can design our environment in a way that reduces friction and when we reduce friction, we reduce the activation energy that we need to put in to get started at doing something. Then once we get started, more often than not, we'll just continue doing the thing. So two-minute rule, five-minute rule, and environment design. Just some general ideas on how we can combat this issue of getting started with doing stuff. If you guys watching this have any extra tips, do please stick them in the class discussion section. This is the bit that we all struggle with. The motivation aspect and the procrastination aspect. Whatever strategies we can use to overcome that, life will just become a lot easier and we'll all become more productive, which is why we're here watching this class. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 12. Achieving Flow: We've talked about being the plane, and when we're the plane, we want to start by taking off, which involves managing motivation and just talking ourselves into getting started with doing the thing. Now we're going to talk about staying the course. One of the most important ways in which we can stay the course, is if we can get into what's called the flow state. The idea comes from a guy called Mihalyl, I'm not even going to try and pronounce the second name, but he's written a book all about the flow state. He's got this interesting diagram, which talks about how we get into flow, and we've got this graph of low to high ability and low to high challenge. If something is low ability and not much of a challenge, we're going to feel apathetic towards it, we might feel sad or depressed. Equally, if something's low ability and high challenge, we're either going to feel worry or anxiety towards it. But the interesting stuff happens when something is high ability, as in it requires a lot of us, but it's also a challenge. We can rise to that challenge, that's when we get to this key thing called the flow state. Ready to get into the flow state, we want to find something that's enough of a challenge for us, but that our abilities can also handle, and that's what's ultimately going to make us more focused and happy. If we get into the flow state, it's one of those things where the research shows that actually it's a really psychologically fulfilling and satisfying state to be in. Therefore, we circumvent all of the issues we have around distractions and procrastination, because if we're in the flow state, we won't want to break off low state concentration to check our phone for notifications or to watch Netflix. The problem we usually get is that when we're not in the flow state, that's when we're doing something that's a bit too relaxing or a bit too boring. At that point, we start feeling the need to check our phones or to reply to a message or whatever. One of the problems with a flow state is that it's totally tried to get into it, it's not 100 percent guaranteed. In fact, there's a good quote from a guy called Steven Kotler who wrote a book about peak performance. He says, "As much as we've learned about its biological correlates and mental benefits, flow is still a happy accident when it happens. All we can do is make ourselves more accident prone." There's no firm 100 percent guaranteed way to achieve flow, but there are seven techniques that we can use to increase the odds that we'll slip into the flow state. Often when we're slipping into flow, we actually don't notice consciously that we're slipping into flow. We look up and suddenly three hours have gone by, and we've just been so focused on this thing that we've been doing, and that's such a satisfying feeling. First thing, we want to manage external distractions, and research suggests that in order to get into flow state, we want to remove all external sources of distraction. It's really hard to get into flow when you're being interrupted every 30 seconds by something or another. There's a whole lesson in this class about specifically how to manage external distractions, but one of the obvious thing is put our phone away, this is like the easiest thing for me. The phone and notifications are what I'm going to get distracted by. What I do is, I chunk my phone onto the sofa when I'm doing something, and I fully recognize that there's unlikely to be a life-changing, life emergency call that I'm going to absolutely desperately need to take. If there is I just have it on the Do Not Disturb Mode anyway, where if someone phones me twice in a row, then I'll get the phone call. Usually the vast majority of the time, it is not a life or death situation we have to deal with, it's just a case of chucking a phone away and managing that external distraction. Secondly, to improve our chances of getting into flow, we want to try and manage internal distractions as well, and this can be just as bad if not worse, than the external distractions. Those are things like stress and anxiety and worries, and this random thought of something that I had to do. There's a few different ways of getting this. Usually I found that in the past when I've had lots of internal distractions, it's been when I haven't had either a clear journaling practice in the morning, or when I haven't written down stuff on a to-do list. Because, as David Allen constantly reminds us, our mind is for having ideas, not for storing them. I find that for me when I'm in this mode where I'm storing lots of stuff in my mind, and I haven't externalized it to some external system, like a notepad or journal or an app, then I'll find myself more distracted by these internal things that, I have to do this, I am worried about that or whatever. Some people say as well, that meditation helps with this thing, I don't meditate much myself at all. But it's something I'm trying to look into because I've seen so much evidence about the benefits of meditation. One of the main things people say is that it can help us manage our internal distractions, and therefore help us accidentally enter this flow state more often. Thirdly, as much as possible, we want to work on one task at a time. We discussed in the previous class about the myth of multitasking, how it's not really a thing and we're far more likely to get into the flow state if we can just focus on one thing at a time, rather than switching between apps, switching between different contexts. Because there is a lot of research about the attentional residue, that if we switch contexts to something or another, there's a little bit of our attention that stays focused on the thing that we've just switched away from, and that's not what we want if we want to try and enter the flow state. There's another tactic that we can use, and that involves setting up a mental cue. Now, because our brain is a pattern recognition machine, and it responds a lot to conditioning, stimulus, and then reward. What we want to do is, we want to try and create an environment whereby we've got a mental cue for us to enter into that flow state more often. If I'm sitting down to do something that's going to be difficult and require high-ability, i.e picked to enter into this flow state, what I'll do is I'll make myself a cup of coffee before, and make sure that my desk is completely clean. Then what I'll often do is switch my desk to standing mode. So that combination of clean desk, cup of coffee, and standing mode, makes me far more likely to enter the flow state. If you don't have a standing desk, you don't need one. It's just that everyone has these different mental triggers that help us get into our flow states more often. Point number 5, we want to choose challenging but not impossible tasks. Going back to Mihalyl's diagram, we've got high ability, high challenge will give us flow state. But if it's too challenging to the point where we actually can't get it done, at that point is going to feel very demoralizing, demotivating. For me, I'm not going to get into flow state if I try and lift 200 kilograms, the bench press when I'm at the gym, it's just not going to happen. Equally, I'm not going to get into the flow state if I'm trying to learn the piano, and I attempt one of Beethoven's concertos or something stupid like that. Instead, I'm going to get into flow state when I'm attempting something that is just challenging enough to be interesting, but not so challenging that it's like super hot and de-motivating. Point number six, we can work at our biological peak time. There's some evidence, it's not fully established, but there is some evidence about this idea of different chronotypes, that some people are more likely to be early birds, some are more likely to be night owls. I'll put a link in the products and resources sections to a little quiz that you can do to help figure out what your chronotype is. For me, I find that I'm not very focused, like super early in the morning. Even though I'd love to be one of those people that sleep super early, wake up at 4:00 in the morning and do a workout and then focus, that hasn't worked for me historically. I feel like if I actually want to get stuff done, I should just go with my natural biological clock, which usually involves waking up somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, having a fairly chill hour, doing my coffee, my morning pages, whatever, and then starting to get into flow from around 10:00 or 11:00 onwards. Usually I'll work for a few hours, and then try do a work out in the middle of the day, and then I'll have another period of deep work in the afternoon to the evening time. I find that in the evening usually I'm not that focused, so I try and do activities that don't require me to enter this flow state as much, like replying to emails, for example. The main point here is that to maximize your chances of getting into the flow state, you want to work to your own biological clock. Like I said, there's a link in the description below, like a quiz thing that you can take to see what yours is going to be. There's another thing I found helpful and that is listening to the right music, so I have a study with me playlist which is full of instrumental songs from films and TV shows and games. I find that it's a lot easier for me to get into focus when I've got the Lord of the Rings soundtrack banging in my ears, or like the inception soundtrack or like World of Warcraft soundtrack. All of that stuff without lyrics, really helps me get into that state of flow much better. Some people say that music with lyrics, like rap music or whatever, helps them get into flow. Maybe that'll work for you, the evidence says that if you trying to optimize your memory for remembering things, you probably don't want to listen to music at all. But if you do then, music without lyrics is better than music with lyrics, because the theory is that music with lyrics interferes with the phonological loop, which is an aspect of working memory, and that interferes with our attention. It's hard to focus on words if we also have lyrics in the background, that's partly why I like instrumental music, but that's another thing that really helps me to get into flow. Finally, to boost the chances of getting into flow, we can strategically consume caffeine if we are susceptible to it. There is some research that says that about 200 milligrams of caffeine, so about one or two cups of coffee, has been shown to improve your chances of getting into flow and improve performance, at various mental and physical tasks. I personally find the coffee helps quite a lot. Those were eight techniques for getting into the flow state, like I said at the start, it's not like 100 percent guaranteed every time. But the main thing is that we want to stack the deck in our favor so that when we're sitting down to do a heavy lift, or to do something important, we're more likely to get into the flow state, because then we're more likely as our plane to stay the course and to not get distracted by externalities. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 13. Distraction Management: We're continuing our section about flow, how to make our plane not get distracted and stay on course. In this video, we're talking about distraction management. Now, this is, apart from getting started and taking off, distraction management is one of the things that literally everyone struggles with. But I think there's a few different things going on when we get distracted. Partly, I think some of us like to tell ourselves a cute sounding story of, "Look at me, I get distracted so much." In a way, we use the fact that we get distracted too much, almost as a badge of honor and be like, "Oh, my God. I could literally be doing anything and I just get distracted with my phone." I think there is an element of signaling associated with us. Maybe you do it slightly. I know I certainly do it. When I procrastinate, in a way, part of me is viewing it as a badge of honor. I can tell my friends, I'm cool. That's one side of it. We can't get over that. We just have to stop signaling and stop thinking it's cool to be distracted. Just like society as a whole needs to stop thinking it's cool to be busy all the time, or frazzled all the time, or so stressed all the time. It's mostly about the story that we tell ourselves about them and I think there are rarely any actual cases where we do get distracted when we're not telling ourselves a story about how we're getting distracted. Let's put that aside. Let's say we actually have sincere reasons for getting distracted. I think one of the most common reasons why we get distracted, for example, let's take me, I've had this camera setup for the last three hours and I've gotten distracted by something or another from filming this particular video. Firstly, it was because someone came over to have lunch and it are like, "Okay. Cool. We're going to have lunch." Then it was another friend was going to come over and I might as well wait for the friend to come over, and then I can film. Then it was some dude who came over to my place to help design the bedrooms. That was reasonable. He came over for a bit, offered him tea, coffee. Then it was just sitting in front of the camera for the last half an hour or so, just browsing random articles on the Internet, because in a way, I was procrastinating from getting started at doing this thing. Now that I've gotten started, I'm hoping I won't continue to be distracted. But the point I want to make about this is that when we have a strong reason, a strong why behind what we're doing, we tend not to get distracted from it. With filming this class, for example, I actually don't really need to film it today. I could film it two weeks from now and it wouldn't really change anything. I've just set myself this arbitrary deadline of, I want to have all these videos filmed by the end of the day. This is not very strong "motivation" for me to film the class. It's not a very clear why. There's too much optionality involved. Equally, if we're getting distracted from studying for our exams, often it might be because the long-term goal associated with doing well in our exams is just way too far in the future. There's no short-term feedback loop that's encouraging us to do the things, we don't have a very clear why. Partly, the way to avoid destruction is to take a step back from it and not worry about being distracted in the moment. But instead, figuring out a way of how we can make the thing that we're doing more enjoyable so that we're less prone to get distracted from it, but also how we can make it more important to us and that's to do with the pilot. If the pilot has set the right course for us, for the right reasons, we are less likely to be distracted. But let's say we've done all that,. Let's say we've gotten rid of the signaling aspect of it and we have done our best to have a good reason, a good why as to why we have to do the thing, or potentially, even, it's an exam that we have no choice but to take because we're in medical school and that's what we signed up for, and we're paying loads of money for it. Whatever story we tell ourselves, we don't really have a choice. It's not what we are going to be choosing today with our time, it's what we have to do anyway. Let's put those things aside and let's talk about some tips for managing distractions when we're actually doing the task, when we are trying to keep our plane on course. Basically, the most common form of destruction is digital distraction. We tend these days to not really be distracted by non-digital things. We tend not to be distracted by, it's a very pretty sound of the birds outside. Why didn't I go and listen in like that? That tends to be not what we have a problem with. We tend to get distracted by our phones and by going on random websites on the Internet. In fact, there's a fun little study from Florida State University where they showed the power of a single notification on your phone is equivalent to a text message or a phone call at getting us distracted from what we need to do. So recognizing that it's digital distractions that are stopping our plane from staying on course, what we want to do is we want to increase the friction to getting distracted. We want to make it as annoying as possible for us to distract ourselves to death. This is an idea based around the theory around building effective and healthy habits from the book The Power of Habit and also James Claire's Atomic Habits. If we want to build good habits, we should reduce the friction to doing the habit, and if we want to overcome bad habits, we need to increase the friction. Right now, my phone is across the table and I don't have it on do not disturb mode. Usually, when I'm trying to do anything productive, I will have my phone on do not disturb mode. I will press the little moon icon, and then I won't get notifications. Sometimes if I'm desperate, I will put it on airplane mode and I will chuck my phone away, and I won't even think about it because now, A, I'm keeping it out of sight and out of mind. Therefore, I'm less likely to be distracted from it. But B, I've also increased the amount of friction by chucking it away. Now, next time I want to check my phone, it's not a case of just reaching across and picking it up. It's a case of being like, "Okay. Let me lean over." Even a small action like that, even increasing the friction a little bit does wonders in stopping me from getting distracted with my phone. For some of us, this might be impractical. Let's say we are at work and we just keep on getting interrupted by our colleagues, there's other things we can do about that. Most people say that get some noise canceling headphones. When you put your headphones on, it's like a signal to your colleagues that, please don't interrupt me. I'm working right now, or you can set times on your calendar for "deep work" where your colleagues know not to interrupt you. But usually, I find that in most people who watch my stuff, it's less a problem of being distracted by other people wanting our attention and more because our phone and our computer wants our attention. Here are three actionable things you can do right now to reduce the chances of getting distracted with your phone. Firstly, what you can do is, you can rearrange the apps on your home screen. What I do is that on my home screen, I have only apps that are productive. Things that I want to be doing. I count Audible as being productive. I can't listening to a podcast as being productive. I count Kindle as being productive. I count writing notes as being productive. But on the second page, that's where I have things like Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube, and Facebook. Those infinity pools that I'm prone to be distracted by. Therefore, the default screen when I swipe to unlock and open my phone, is not a screen that has notifications from Twitter and Instagram on it. That's the second screen. So I have to actively make a choice to move to the second screen to go on those apps. I know some people who do it on page number 6 and on iPhones, it's weird because you can't actually speed to page number 6. You have to scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll. By the time you do that, it gives your brain enough time to realize, "Hang on. What am I doing? I should probably not be doing this." Another thing you can do is you can bury social media apps in folders. I tried this at one point. I didn't find it particularly helpful because if I want to go on Twitter, I would just swipe down, search Twitter, and then I would find it. But what you can do is, if you're not that keen on using Spotlight search, you can bury it within folders, which reduces the odds of you looking at notification and thinking, this is good. Obviously, you can also turn all your notifications off, all the relevant notifications. I only get a handful of notifications on my apple watch. I get no social media notifications on it because it's just always distracting. I've turned off different categories of notifications on my phone so that I only really see the stuff that I want to see. There's another thing that you can do if you're really desperate to not get distracted and that is set your phone to grayscale mode. This is an option in the accessibility settings of most phones and you can just google how to set grayscale on iPhone or how to set grayscale on Android, and you'll find instructions. Angus, one of the guys on my team, does this with his phone and he found that it reduced his screen time usage by about 50 percent, because when stuff is in grayscale, like black and white, it's just a lot less appealing going through Instagram and scrolling through Snapchat and stuff like that. That's one relatively easy way of getting rid of the desire we have to lose ourselves in those infinity pools. But all that's well and good. Basically to not get distracted from our firm, we just need to chuck it away and stick it on do not disturb mode. If someone needs to contact us in an emergency, usually, the first call goes to voicemail, but the second call comes through. So if they phone twice in a row, a phone call can still get through, if you're going to be one of those people that says, "But what if there's a life-threatening emergency and somebody needs to contact me?" They'll be able to contact you when your phone is on do not disturb mode, provided they ring you twice. But otherwise, yeah, I've basically never had a life threatening emergency phone call and I've gotten distracted with my phone a zillion times a day. I think it's one of those things that we make a big deal of that's actually not two important in real life. When it comes to getting distracted on our computers, easy things that we can do, number 1, turn Wi-Fi off so we're not allowed to go on the Internet if you're doing something offline like filming a course like this one. Alternatively, if you have to be on the Internet, you can use Chrome extensions like self-control that block social media websites if that's what you struggle with. In fact, the one thing that I found actually helped me almost cut my distraction basically by about 90 percent, is that I just got rid of social media sites or the sites I was getting distracted from from my bookmarks bar, because I remember when I was studying for university exams, normally in my bookmarks bar, I would have Twitter, Hacker New, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube. I just removed those bookmarks in the run-up to exams, and I found that when it wasn't easy for me to click on Reddit, I would have to actively think, "I want to on Reddit at this point." I realized that actually I don't want to go on Reddit at this point. I realized that most of my distraction from Reddit was purely the fact that it was available and I could click on it. So even just doing something simple, that slightly adds friction to the thing you want to stop yourself getting distracted from doing, just adding a small amount of friction really makes all the difference. That's the whole message of this video. Distraction management is, A, about mastering our own internal impulses and not being a little bitch who gets distracted by clicking on Reddit, like I do all the time. But secondly, it's about recognizing that the more friction we can add to the distracting activities, the less likely we are to do them. Hopefully that was semi-useful. Thank you for watching. I'll see you in the next video. 14. Pomodoro Technique: Welcome back. There is another very classic technique in the destruction management literature, and that's called The Pomodoro Technique. You've probably come across it if you're entered this productivity stuff, that you work for 25 minutes and then you have a five-minute break. Then you just repeat this process over and over again. That means that it's a short enough amount of time that if we feel like getting distracted, we can just look at the timer and think, "Oh, I've only got seven minutes to go. I can manage seven minutes. I'm not a little bitch," and you can just get through the work then. If you need it to be longer, the idea's 25 minutes, five minutes, but you can make it 40 minutes and 10 minutes if you want. Just change the system to suit you. But the idea behind the Pomodoro method is that you set this timer for a certain amount of time. I like 25 minutes and then you purely focus for those 25 minutes and then in the five-minute break, you can do whatever the hell you want. Then once you've done four Pomodoro sessions, you can then take a half an hour break. In fact, this is what a lot of my friends and I used to do when we were studying for our university exams. We would all go to the Emmanuel College Library for the most part at Cambridge, and each will be doing different subjects, or doing our own thing, but we'd be sitting on the same table and one person would be the timekeeper. When you tap on the table once, that meant the time was starting. When he tap a second time, that means the timer stopped. Then when you tap twice, that meant the five-minute break stopped and your time was going to restart. Doing it with friends just made it a lot easier to focus for those short bursts of time. I think also the nice thing about 25 minutes is that, this is Parkinson's Law in action, that work expands to fill the time that we allocate to it. If we're actually trying to be productive, then giving ourselves less time is probably better than giving ourselves more time. Filming these videos for example, I got up at nine o'clock in the morning today, and it's currently 06:17 PM and basically, I only started filming at 06:00 PM. I spent nine hours in the day procrastinating from filming this class, just because I've given myself the whole day to do it and inevitably, that meant I was going to put it off until the evening. Probably, I should have done something Pomodoro-like just to do this class. But actually, again, now that I've gone and started filming it, I'm going to continue doing. I still have a problem with this, I should have recognized that it's actually just getting started, that's the problem and I should have used my toolbox of techniques like the five-minute rule telling myself, I'm only going to do it for five minutes. I should have used something like that just to get started because now, I'm in the flow of it. I'm not really going get distracted because I love the sound of my own voice. Pomodoro technique is another thing that you can do and I think doing it with friends is an even better way of focusing on whatever thing you're focusing on. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 15. Course Correcting: Final tip for staying on course is the idea of course correction. Now, if you're in airplane and you veer off course, you don't want to continue to veer off course. Continuing to veer off course, that's a problem. If you find yourself veering off course, you can just course correct and get back onto the right track. I think, when it comes to productivity and when it comes to studying, we're very self-critical in that we find ourselves getting distracted and we think, oh, crap, I've just wasted 20 minutes browsing Reddit, you know what, the whole day is a write-off. I might as well just, I don't know, watch YouTube videos for another five hours, but actually, the whole day doesn't have to be a write-off. The only reason the whole day has become a write-off is because we think that, oh, I've gone slightly off course, now, it's a lost course and there's no way I can get back on track. But obviously, it's common sense, this is not how life works. You can get distracted for a few minutes and then you can simply choose to go back on task if that's what you want to do. It's like when people are following a diet or a workout plan. There's a big problem with people having a moment of weakness and getting a McDonald's drive-thru. This is something that happens to me quite a lot. I have a moment of weakness. I get a McDonald's drive-thru and at that point, I have a choice. I've eaten the McDonald's drive-thru. I'm feeling guilty. I'm feeling terrible. At that point, I can choose to continue down the spiral of death and eat dessert, drink a huge can of Coke, not do anything useful, play PlayStation all night, or I can think, you know what, I've had a moment of weakness. That's fine. I'm just going to get back on course, go to the gym, finish my work, save the day almost like, I've gotten something useful out of the day even though I have gone off course temporarily. That's another reason why we like this pilot plane engineer analogy because if you're on a plane, for example, it would be utterly ridiculous for your pilot to say, oh, guys, we've gone two degrees off course. Well, I guess, it's a lost course, we're going to divert off completely. You'd expect your pilot to say, we've gone two degrees off course, therefore, we're going to change a little bit and get back on track. That's what we want to be doing when we're trying to stay the course and not get distracted. If we do get distracted, we don't beat ourselves up about it because we are only human after all and to be human is to err, as someone famous said, and then we can just correct the course and get back on track. That's how I think about it. Even if I get distracted from filming this video or from studying for my exam or whatever, I'll be like, cool, you're distracted, fair enough; no judgment here. I'll just get back on track. Overall, that makes me 10 times more productive than I would be if the instance I got distracted, I then told myself a story and entered to the spiral of doom. Hopefully, that was helpful. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 16. Leveraging Artificial Deadlines: All right. We've talked about taking off and how to do that effectively. We've talked about staying the course and how to avoid distraction management. The final aspect of being the plane is to land safely. This is where the analogy starts to break down a little bit because to be honest, the main things that people struggle with is taking off and staying the course. The way I think about it is that I also want to have a decent method for landing appropriately. There's a couple of techniques that I use for this. The first one is this idea of leveraging artificial deadlines. We talked about it in the previous class as well, and I mentioned it in the Pomodoro method section. Basically the idea is that because of Parkinson's Law, which is that work expands to fill the time that we allocate to it, we actually want to give ourselves fake deadlines to work to. For example, right now, I'm leveraging an artificial deadline. I don't 100 percent need to film this course today, this class, because there's no actual deadline. But I've given myself this artificial deadline that I'm going to finish these videos by the end of the day. That means I'm more likely to pump out content. Then when I finish the videos, I'm going to treat myself to a takeaway and that'll be like me landing effectively. I think this deadline thing that is interesting because there's a very good book by a guy called Peter Thiel, called Zero to One. Peter Thiel is like a famous startup investor, type guy, who was one of the founders of PayPal. I think he's one of the investors in Palantir, something like that. Anyway, he's written this book, which is about how companies succeed. He talks about this idea of how some people would have like a 10-year plan for themselves or for their business. He would challenge them like it's a good thought experiment to think about your 10-year plan and think, "Okay, why can't I just do this in the next six months? Or how would I do this in the next six months?" It's just an interesting way of thinking about it because then it just forces you to reevaluate a lot of the assumptions that you previously held about how long stuff actually takes. Recently one of the illustrations for me for this was, again, going back to the matter game of these courses. Normally it takes a few months from idea to release for a skill short class. This one we've had in the works for the last like eight or nine months and we spend ages planning it out and then spend a few days filming it. Then we take a few days to edit it, and then it gets released [inaudible] But a few days ago, a friend of mine was visiting Cambridge and we were having takeaway and talking. We both had an interest in Stoicism, the school of ancient Greek philosophy. We were talking about it, and he's into making content about stoicism and I'm big into stoicism. We just had the idea, like 10:00 PM that night. I'd be like, "Hey, it would be cool to make a skill short class, where we talk about our experiences of stoicism and how it's changed our lives and made a lives more happier and more tranquil and more productive." He was like, "This is a good idea." My friend was only there for one more day in Cambridge. He was going back to London and so we thought, "Why don't we plan the class tonight in the next half an hour. Then you just come back to my place tomorrow morning and we can just film it in the same day." Like overall, we took about half an hour to an hour of planning and then maybe four hours to film it. In that five hours, we have filmed an entire skill short class, which personally, I think it's pretty good. Depending on when you're watching this, you might find it on the profile link somewhere here. But it was really good skill short class and we made it like within five hours basically from beginning to end. Whereas this productivity course has taken months and months of preparation and planning. It probably didn't need to. Like if me and my team had set more of a legitimate artificial deadline, if we told ourselves that, "Okay guys, we're going to start this class, and we're going to get it out by tomorrow." We probably would have done it. It might have been a bit ambitious, but it would have been fun or interesting, or would've been cool to get a skill short class out in one day. That has been another reminder to me about the power of artificial deadlines at the time. Going back to the stoicism class example, I was very tempted to say, "Okay, well I guess we should probably plan this out a bit more and then we can go back and forth over Notion or a Google Doc and then we can have a cool about it next week. Then maybe in a month's time, you can come over to Cambridge and we can fill the class." But I had this idea of no, this is a dangerous way of thinking. To be productive and to be efficient is to not fall into these utterly stupid and destructive patterns of thinking where we think that stuff has to take a lot longer than it actually does. If you imagine writing an essay or writing a thesis, we think, "Well, I guess this will take a year." If you think it'll take a year, it's going to take a year. But if you think, "I reckon I could get this done by the end of the week." You'll get it done by the end of the week. This is the power of artificial deadlines, can't overstate the importance of it. But I think that probably goes in the plane section because being able to land appropriately and effectively is also part of being a plane. In terms of practical tips for leveraging artificial deadlines, one technique that Angus, one of my team members used at university to write loads of essays, is that he just trained his brain to think that the deadline for the essay was five days before the actual deadline for the essay. The more he trained his brain to do this, he would put in his calendar the deadline for the essay. Because he was quite prone to falling into Parkinson's Law, this was a very easy way for him to combat that natural inclination to just take way too long with doing something. The other way you can leverage artificial deadlines is you can literally put money on the line. We've talked about this in a previous video about motivation. But if you actually need to get something done, like right now, if I actually needed to get the skill short class done and I find myself getting distracted and not doing it properly, I could go to my housemates Shane and say, "Shane, if I don't get this class done by the end of the day, I pledge to you that I'm going to give you 5,000 pounds and you can do whatever you want with it." That would be a pretty good incentive for me to actually end up filming this class and getting everything done on time. Those are a couple of ways of doing the artificial deadlines thing. I think often when it comes to putting money on the line where we're all very reluctant to do it. The fact that we're reluctant to it probably tells us that our motivation for doing the things isn't strong enough. We don't have a strong enough. Why? Because we are not willing to put our money where our mouth is. We just came to be like, "Oh, lol, I get distracted. Anti cool." Which is a problem that I fall into as well. Yes, hopefully those tips were helpful. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 17. The Reitoff Principle: Final aspect of landing the plane appropriately, is something that I like to call The Reitoff Principle. Backstory for this is that when I was at university, I had lots of friends who were super into going out, binge drinking, and going to a nightclub. They'd go out on a Saturday night. I'd often hear them say, "Oh, Sunday is a complete write-off." They've written off Sunday because they know they're not going to get anything done on the Sunday. I used to suddenly judge them and think, you guys are waste men. What losers. Wasting a whole day of their lives. Don't they realize we only have 10,00 days to live or whatever the number was. But another thing that we can learn something from these alcoholics, and that's the idea that when you write the day off, it gives you the space to then enjoy yourself without the mental burden. If you're watching this, you're probably a productivity nerd like me. Without the mental burden of feeling guilty that we're not being productive. One problem that I often have, which is why this is part in the section about landing the plane is that when I'm not being productive, I feel guilty about it. I struggle to enjoy TV shows and video games and stuff because in the back of my mind, there's this thing of I should be filming a video instead or I should be doing something more useful with my time. I think because I've got this natural inclination to feel guilty, I actually end up not enjoying myself as much because, for example, I'd be sitting on the sofa and thinking, oh, well, I probably should do something productive. Therefore, it would be stupid for me to watch a Netflix show or something like that. Then I'll just end up scrolling through Instagram on my phone for an hour, and objectively, I would have had more fun playing video games or watching a TV show, but that felt too unproductive and therefore I'm just going to scroll through Instagram, wasting even more time. The thing that I found that helps me get around this, is The Reitoff Principle. That if I get home one evening and I'm tired, or even at the start of the day if I'm just tired and not really feeling up to work and I don't have any significant impending deadlines, I will just write the day off, like my alcoholic friends used to do for the day after they got smashed and went to a club. They would write the day off. So I would write the day off, and I call it having a write-off day. Then as soon as I make that commitment to myself, I find a weight lifted off my proverbial shoulders or rather a proverbial weight lifted off my shoulders. Then I can be free to enjoy the whole day without that nagging guilty feeling that I have to be productive. Since I started doing this, I think I started doing this last year or two years ago, that's really boosted my own productivity because I know that at any point I have the freedom to just declare it a write-off day. Write the rest of the day off, and then it's going to be absolutely fine and the work can always wait. As I like to say, if it's worth doing today, it'll be worth doing tomorrow. I tell myself that, write the rest of the day off, and then I can actually enjoy myself. I think this is a big part of maintaining sanity, maintaining mental health, not burning out, having write-off days occasionally. So I tend to have a write-off day once every two weeks on average, but I'm working to increase that number up to once or maybe twice a week. Trying to get to a point where maybe I don't work on weekends, but I enjoy the work, I enjoy filming videos, so it doesn't really feel like work. Anyway, that was just a quick thing about how to land your plane effectively. It's okay to have a write-off day, it's okay to be completely unproductive provided you're being intentional about it, and you're not wasting time on Instagram when actually the thing you want to do, is you want to be doing something else. So hopefully that was helpful. Thank you for watching. I will see you in the next video. 18. The Engineer - Introduction: All right, welcome back to the class. We've talked about the pilot, which is all about setting the course and we've talked about the plane, which is all about executing on the orders of the pilot, taking off appropriately, not getting distracted, not veering off course or if we're veering off course, then correcting back to the right course and then landing the plane effectively using things like artificial deadlines and the write-off principle. Now we're talking about the engineer and this is my favorite section because the engineer is when we get to talk about tools and systems and productivity apps because the role of the engineer is three-fold and that is to make the plane faster, to make the plane fuel efficient, and to keep the plane organized. Those are the three things speed, efficiency and organization. Is there an acronym for that speed? OSE, ESO, SEO. That works. SEO normally stands with search engine optimization, but we can call it speed, efficiency, and organization. Those are the three roles of the engineer. Translating that into real life, making a plane faster is about getting our stuff done quicker because productivity equation, useful output over time divided by the fun factor. If we can reduce the time it takes for us to do our productive things, then we are inherently being more productive and that is what we're all here for. We've signed up to become more productive so doing stuff faster is a big part of just being more productive. Secondly, efficiently and by that I kind of mean fuel efficiency. Like if you're a plane, you want to efficiently use the fuel to do useful movement. If you're wasting fuel, going round and round and round, unless you're stuck in a holding pattern, you're wasting a lot of fuel and you're not being very efficient and so for me in real life, that means that I want my system to not require too much mental bandwidth in my part like I should be able to sustain the system and keep things organized without having to use too much brain power. I want to reduce the friction to doing helpful things so that it's less effort to sit down and do some work. Part of the efficiency thing as well is also I want to sleep well, I want to eat well, I want to exercise. I want to keep my body functioning in a reasonable fashion so that it's more efficient at getting stuff done, living a happy, healthy, productive life. Finally, organization. Basically any system that we have will tend towards entropy, it will tend towards chaos. The job of the engineer is to tweak the system just to keep things organized. That involves things like maintaining a to-do list and a project list and in most things like doing a weekly and monthly review. It involves just tidying up the bits of the system, making sure we don't have stuff slipping through the cracks, and making sure that the system just doesn't descend into chaos over time. If we were to put numbers to this, we talked about how we should, in my opinion, we should be the pilot maybe about 10 percent of the time. We should be the plane, maybe 80 to 85 percent of the time and then the final five to 10 percent, I think that adds up, is engineer time. In this section of the class, we're going to discuss some strategies that I personally find helpful to make my pilot and my plane more SOE, speed, faster, more efficient, and more organized so let's dive into it. 19. The Getting Things Done Methodology: [MUSIC] All right, so the first thing in our engineer section, and you remember the job of the engineer is to speed efficiency and organization. The first thing I want to talk about is Getting Things Done. Which is a productivity methodology named after a book written by a guy called David Allen. Getting Things Done is seen as the Bible on productivity. We're just going to do a very quick introduction to it here. I recommend you read the book. It's an amazing book. It is the single book that has most transformed my own productivity and there are millions of people around the world who say exactly the same thing. If you're into productivity, you have to read Getting Things Done. There is just no substitute for it. I'll do a dedicated, Skillshare class about it if people are interested because I think it's very interesting. But there is a five-step process to Getting Things Done which we're going to talk about now. Firstly, what's the point? The idea behind Getting Things done is, the more you get into the world of work, like actual work, the more you realize we all have all of these different commitments. We have this different to do's, we have all these things on our calendar. We have all these areas of our life that we want to sustain. We also don't just want to be effective at work, we want to be effective at home, and at school, and at university, with our friends. We've got all of these things in our life to track and organize. Often, we're storing all of these things that in our head, and therefore we get frazzled, and we become overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we have to do. Getting Things Done or GTD for short, gives us a system for organizing all of these commitments in our life, and of getting them done effectively. David Allen's main point is that there's two realms in which we want to organize this. We want to organize them horizontally and also vertically. Horizontally, means that across all of the things that we're involved in, we want to keep them fairly tidy. Like we want our work life to be fairly tidy where we know what we have to do. We want a home left to be fairly tidy. We want our relationships to be fairly tidy. We want our kids to be fairly tidy. We don't want to have like work or work life, which is super organized, and then suddenly we're at home, and our to-do list is all over the place, and we don't know what's going on. We want to maintain horizontal coherence across the board, but also we want to be thinking vertically and keep things tidy vertically. Vertically means within a given project or a given area, we want to efficiently and effectively get stuff done that moves us towards our particular goals for those. That's a little bit abstract. Initially, there's a lot more in the book about it if you want to read it. But there's basically a five-step process to GTD and that's capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. C-C-O-R-E; capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. Let's start with capture. Basically, the main idea from Getting Things Done is that our mind is for having ideas, not for storing them. A big reason as to why lots of us are less productive, or feeling overwhelmed, or feeling stressed is because we are using our brain as a to-do list. We don't really have a dedicated system in which to offload ideas and offload things that we have to do. The main point in step 1, capture is that any open-loop in our mind, anything we have to do, anything that's on our mind, we write it down and put it somewhere. With me, for example, I'm completely obsessed with capture. I think for me it's been the single most important thing that's made me more productive and less stressed in general. Which is that the instant I have an idea for something I need to do, or something I need to remember, or something just no idea, I will write it down somewhere. Now usually, I use the app Things on my iPhone to write this down. Doesn't really matter what app you use. You can use a To-do list, if it's an idea for a video I'll put it in Notion, if I'm driving I'll put it Drafts. I've got lots of videos on my YouTube channel where I talk more about the capture habit. Essentially, the way it works is that anytime I'm finding my brain trying to remember something that, yeah, I should reply to that person's email, which is an idea I might have while doing the groceries, I have a bit of an allergic reaction because I think, no, no, there is no way this is staying in my head because I'm just going to forget about it because I'm a total dumb ass, and I don't trust my brain to remember anything, and so I will always write it down. That's the first step. David Allen says that a big part of why we're all very stressed about everything, and we have overwhelmed by all the stuff we have to do, is because we don't have a centralized, trustworthy system. We might use a to-do list, but often we don't use our to-do list for 100 percent of the things we actually have to do. We would maybe use our to-do list for 70 percent of them, but when it comes to, it's my mom's birthday next week and I should get her a birthday card and a present. Information like that, we would just store in our heads. Whereas what David Allen is saying is that every single thing in your life you want to capture and you want to offload into an external system, an app, or a note paper, or whatever you want to do. Once you have 100 percent coverage, that means you can now trust your system rather than relying on system plus brain. Capture is number 1 of the process. Number 2 is clarify. Now, clarify is really interesting. Again, we can go on about this stuff for ages. I've got so much to say about GTD, but that's for a future Skillshare class. The idea behind clarify is that often procrastination and lack of productivity comes from not having a clearly defined next step. When it comes to writing to-do lists, we are all notoriously bad at actually clarifying what each step means. For example, on my to-do list if I was doing this not well like how he used to do it. I'll probably have website redesign on my to-do list. What the hell does that mean? Or for example, Skillshare class about productivity. What does that mean? When I come to looking at that project or that task, it's not very well-defined, and so the idea of clarify is we want to convert all of our to-do lists into action words. For example, website redesign is a multi-step process where the first part is probably develop mood board on Pinterest using web design inspiration. Where I collect on my website inspiration, stick in a Pinterest board. Step 2 would probably be create mock-up in Sketch, which is a web design app, showing structure of website. Those are very, very specific things which are within the general project of website redesign, which is the sort of thing you can't really work with. Step 1, capture everything, but step 2, clarify and make sure we've got a specifically defined next action that we want to be doing. Then we have step 3, which is organize. The idea is basically we want to put stuff where it needs to go. If we have reference materials for an email, we want to put it in the right folder in Evernote or Notion, or whatever you want to use. I use Notion personally and If we've got these items on our to-do list, we want to organize them into projects and areas, and then we probably want to organize them by priority and deadlines. We want to add these bits of metadata like due date, and who it involves, and what the deadline is, stuff like that. We want to add those things. It takes a little bit longer, but it keeps a whole system organized as a whole, and that is one of the most important jobs of the engineer. Step number 4 in GTD is reflect or review. That's when we come into doing things like weekly reviews, monthly reviews, and stuff like that. More on that in a later video in this class. Finally, step 5 is engage, which is to actually do the thing, look through our list which is now 100 percent covered across the board. We don't have any information in our heads that is keeping us up at night. Everything is in our system, and then we're choosing to do the things that are going to make us the most effective. That's just a very quick whistle-stop tour through the five-step structure of GTD, capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. A hundred percent recommend you should read the book. I'm going to do loads of more videos about it. We're going to do a more Skillshare class about it. Depending on when you're watching this, it might already be out, so look in my profile and look at that class. Genuinely, discovering GTD has been the single biggest change to my productivity in my life. I think I first read it in my first or second year of university, and I thought, damn, I've been hearing about this book for so long. I can't believe I hadn't read it before. Literally, everyone I know who's into productivity also swears by GTD because it's literally the Bible. You've got to read the book if you care about productivity. As an actionable point, honestly, I think the single biggest thing you can do right now is to take out a piece of paper or go on your to-do list app on the computer, or Apple notes, or whatever you want to use, and literally just write down a list of every single thing that is on your mind as like a to-do list. It can be anything like, figure out furniture for my balcony, or figure out website re-architecture, or buy flowers for my mom or send a thank you card to a friend for dinner, or anything that you've got on your mind when you try and capture and put on this piece of paper or on this list. Most people will have between 30 and 100 things if you're a normal person. Every time I do this, I mean, anytime I do like an online course about productivity, this is something they always talk about, and I'm always like, okay, I'm going to do it. Even though I'm obsessed with capture, I still have so many open loops, so many things that I've been thinking about, I've just been weighing on the mind. As soon as I get them onto my system, suddenly I feel a sense of relief. That is your homework from this video. Make a list, capture every single thing that's on your mind right now. Stick it into an external system, a to-do list manager, or a notes app of your choice. It really doesn't matter which one, and I promise you, you will feel a sense of relief. That is step number 1 of our engineer doing its job. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 20. Digital Productivity: Welcome back. We talked about the role of the engineer, we've talked about getting things done, let's now talk about the idea of digital productivity. Again, this is one of my favorite bits about productivity because it involves tools and apps and improving our workflow. We talked about one of the central roles of the engineering making us more productive is increasing our speed efficiency in a organization. When it comes to speed, usually most of us, most of our productivity relies on using a computer or a device in some capacity. Usually we're talking about digital productivity. This doesn't really quite apply if you're, I don't know, studying for an exam using pen and paper or if you're an artist or something in order to be more productive. It doesn't quite apply to those, but for 90 percent of us and in most of our lives, it is actually digital productivity that we need to improve at. There are a defined set of things you can do as an engineer to just automatically improve your productivity. I think the easiest way to go through this is this website called You can go to I like to get it for free. Thank you to my Internet friend, James Stewart for making this. It's very cool. Students, if you're a student, follow this link to try it out free of charge. There we go. It's actually just built on a notion page, but it coaches you through what digital productivity means. Here they talk about, number 1, digital fluency, number 2, task management, number 3, knowledge management, and number 4, advanced topics. In this video and in this bit, it's mostly the digital fluency and task management that I want to focus on. Knowledge management is advanced and the advanced topics we actually don't care about right now because we are trying to improve our productivity. I'll start here. This is a guided guide. Let's start with digital fluency, because I think this is something that everyone can improve on wherever you are. This is the format for this, touch typing, keyboard shortcuts, e-mail, Inbox Zero. If you can do all of these things, then your productivity is just going to basically double when you're using a computer. What is digital fluency? Digital fluency means being able to comfortably work with documents, e-mails, information, and more. If, for example, you're my mum and you're trying to learn how to be more productive, the single biggest thing you can do to improve your productivity would be to become more digitally fluent. If you're one those people who thinks, "Oh, well, I'm not really a fun of computers. I last updated my MacOS in 2007, etc." Again, you could also probably benefit from digital fluency because they're relatively quick hacks apart from the touch typing one which takes a bit of practice, but they're relatively quick things which are one-off investments in investment of time and effort and they pay dividends over the long term. Most knowledge workers spend multiple hours a day using computers, feeling comfortable with their operation is essential to being productive because we use computers so often, it's one area where small optimizations can lead to huge improvements. You might already feel comfortable, but we've included a few uncommon applications that can seriously improve your productivity. This is what we like. You'll be ready to move past digital fluency when you comfortably and routinely hit Inbox Zero. This will require you to have regularly use a reference/notes app, a calendar, a task manager, and a read-later app. Step 1, can you type without looking at the keyboard? Yes, but I'd like to type faster. No, I hunt and peck for each letter. Honestly, for me the single biggest thing that's boosted my productivity other than reading and getting things done, it's just getting good at typing. The fact that I can type pretty fast means I'm twice as productive as most of my friends when I'm doing tasks on a computer, or else being equal. I have a video on my YouTube channel called eight tips for typing faster, which will give you more information about that. But this is just to let you know that improving your typing speed is a very useful thing you can do when you're in your 5-10 percent of engineering time. Even just practicing on like 10FastFingers, or Keybr, or TypeRacer. Any of these websites for just 10 minutes a day, will massively improve your typing speed, and that will transform your own digital productivity. It is just like amazing how much of a difference being able to type fast makes to absolutely everything that we do. Secondly, they talk about keyboard shortcuts. Do you use keyboard shortcuts on a daily basis? Yes, you use them every day. I know what they are, but don't really use them. No, what are keyboard shortcuts? Keyboard shortcuts is another absolutely huge thing. Anytime you're hunting around in menus or in docs or anything with a mouse, that is inherently unproductive, we can save so much time by using keyboard shortcuts and by using apps like Alfred and Spotlight and I think Windows has one called Walks or something like that. All these launcher apps that let us type out the things that we are trying to get to rather than having to hunt running click for them. Again, I've got a YouTube video explaining this. I'm not going to do here. But I'll link those in the video description. You can check it out on how I personally love the app, Alfred, for accessing my productivity when I'm on my Mac, because it just lets me launch stuff so much quicker than using my mouse. In fact, for me, anytime I use the mouse other than to scroll, part of me thinks, "Okay, there is a more efficient way to do this," especially if I'm looking through a menu, or looking through finder, or looking through Google Drive. All of these clicks are so unproductive. The more we can use keyboard shortcuts, the more we can boost our own digital productivity. Secondly, we talked about task manager. I like to do as things one list, etc. It really doesn't matter which apps you use. The point is, like we talked about in the previous video, we want to have a central location where we capture all of our open loops. One of the things about digital productivity is that anytime we get an e-mail which requires us to action something, we don't really want to use our e-mail inbox as a to-do list and a calendar and a reference note staying under a magazine feed, we want to use our e-mail purely for processing information and then we want to chuck it out into an external system. If they're actionable things, they absolutely have to go in a task manager. Being effective at using a task manager like things, or to do as to whatever, is a huge important part of digital productivity. Again, if you go on this website, they'll guide you through how to set this up properly. Next, calendar apps. Calendar's are super useful. We all should be using a calendar for everything. For me, if I ever have an appointment even if it's something like we're going to my aunties house for lunch in two weeks time on Sunday, I will put it into my calendar because my calendar dictates my life. At the start of every day when I'm being departed, the first thing I look at is basically my calendar to see what things I have already pre-committed to for the day. Next, we've got, do you use something like Evernote, OneNote, or the notes app on your phone for handling notes and other reference materials. Yes, regularly. Yes, but it's not reorganized. Yes, but I don't use it often. No, I don't use one. Most people that I know fall under the category of yes, I have Evernote, but I don't really use it very often. Again, if we go on this website,, it's free. It gives you advice on how to use a reference manager like Evernote or OneNote or Notion more effectively. Next, do you use a read later app like Instapaper or Pocket. Finally, are you confident with Inbox Zero, i.e, at the end of each day or a few times each day, you don't have e-mails in your inbox. I think this is another absolutely huge thing that people underappreciate. Most people that I know, their inbox is like of 13,000 unread e-mails and there's user and used inbox as a to-do list. That's not really the way to be productive. Arguably, I think getting to Inbox Zero and having an efficient workflow for doing that is another hugely important part of being the engineer. If there's interest, we're going to do another whole skill share class about digital fluency and digital productivity just because there's so much to dive into with all of these apps. In this class, I just wanted to give you an overview and I wanted to signpost you to this Again, it's free. to get the free link for it. It's free. I don't make any money from this. It's not a kickback system, anything like that, but it's a very good way of boosting your own digital fluency and your own digital productivity. You can check that out and that is your homework for this project. If you want to see a dedicated class, skill share class about digital productivity and all the different apps I use and why I use them, that's another one that we're planning. I think that's probably going to be the third productivity class in this series. Let me know in the comments down below if you want to see that. But otherwise, your homework is to go on and follow it through and see what easy tricks you can make to your workflow to make it a little bit more productive as the engineer. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 21. Health and Wellbeing: All right. Welcome back. We've noted out a little bit about getting things done and about digital productivity, both of which are huge, enormous topics that we could spend like literally five hours each on going over. So we're not going to do that in this class because this is more of an overview. So you've been signed posted to resources about that. Let's talk about health and well-being. This is a bit weird to put in a productivity class, but as we talked about, the role of the engineer is speed, organization, and efficiency. Part of the efficiency is the fuel efficiency, making our biological machine work a little bit better. In this video, I'm just going to share some quick tips that I found helpful over the years about the sleep, nutrition and exercise. Firstly, let's talk about sleep. Basically, we all know that sleep is super, super, super important, and there's a very good book by a guy called Matthew Walker called Why We Sleep, which was doing the rounds on 2017. When I read that book, I tweaked a few things to my sleep routine, which I think really helped. I'm not going to go over the evidence itself in this video because I guess you guys just want the efficient recommendation. Number one, the single biggest thing for me is that I no longer take my phone into bed with me. I have a wireless charger on the dressing table which is across the room from me, and so at night, the first thing I do is I set my phone to do not disturb, so that I don't get woken up by notifications in the middle of the night unless it's an emergency, in which case phone calls will get through anyway. Secondly, I will set the alarm on my phone, which means that in order to like, when I wake up in the morning, I have to physically get out of bed to turn the alarm off. I set the alarm and I'll leave my phone over there and then I'll get into bed. For me, the only thing I have on my bedside table as a fan and my kindle. Which means that if I really can't sleep, then I can read a book on Kindle. I have the Kindle oasis, which has like a warm light and it's dimmable, so it means that I can read in a very dim, warm light, which doesn't interfere with my sleep too much. That's been probably the single biggest improvement in my own sleep. It's made me more productive. Secondly, blackout curtains. Basically any amount of light, the research so shows, reduces the quality of our sleep, wherever the light is coming from, even if the little bit of a street light peeping through a windows. So if you can invest in some blackout curtains, they're very cheap to find, and close your door. You basically want to be sleeping in as close to complete and utter darkness as possible. I've certainly found that when, for example, if I don't close my curtains properly or if there's light coming in through the door or anything like that or there's like a phone that's lighting up in the room, I find that the quality of my sleep gets reduced. I use this hour off smart ring thing to even track that. Blackout curtains are another huge thing that we can do for our sleep to make it more effective. Thirdly, I try and avoid blue light exposure. So blue light is the light that comes from all of our screens and the light that comes from the sun. Basically blue light from the sun makes our body realized that it's the morning, and when that goes away it winds our bodies down ready to sleep. This is based on the circadian rhythms of our biological clock. But because we have all these devices, those all emit blue light. So this is a blue light. This is blue light. My phone over there is a blue light. What I do is that a few hours before bed, I would try and limit my blue light exposure. Obviously, the best way of doing that is to turn off the devices several hours before bed. That's like an ideal which I never actually hit. Instead, what I do is I have these dimmable lamps around the house and I always make sure that they're set to an orangey type of glow or like a yellow color. A relaxing thing rather than them being bright and white. Those are the Philips hue light bulbs, but you can get cheaper ones. Basically, when the sunsets, I make all of these go yellow and that's fine. Secondly, I have a night shift set on my phone or my laptop. I used to use Flux, which I think is available for Windows, which makes the screen basically go yellow. It's less good for watching stuff, which is why I tend not to what stuff in the evenings, but it also limits your blue light exposure. Recently, I've also got these kind of blue light blocking glasses thingies that stay on top of my glasses. Anecdotally, it seems to make a difference and seems to make my sleep better. Finally, another thing I found really helpful for my sleep is that I looked at the research about caffeine, which again Matthew Walker talks about in the book, Why We Sleep. It shows that caffeine stays in our system for like 12 hours. So if we drink coffee even at like 4 PM, the caffeine is going to be in our system until way into the night. Usually what I try and do is I will stop drinking any coffee or any caffeine after 2 PM. Sometimes that doesn't work. Sometimes I'll treat myself to a coffee at like 5 PM, or treat myself to a coke with caffeine in it at 8 PM and I will always regret it because I always struggle to go to sleep in those evenings. The last time I'll have coffee is around about 2 PM, and then beyond that if I want a drink a hot drink, I'll drink a decaffeinated tea or a herbal tea that doesn't have caffeine in it, because caffeine just makes such a difference. Again, anecdotally I found that on days where I limit my caffeine intake in the evenings, my sleep gets better. So that was sleep. Let's now talk about nutrition. As we know, nutrition is super important for our lives. In fact, if we care about productivity, the World Health Organization has done research and they suggested that inadequate nutrition reduces productivity by 20 percent. Those are the numbers that we like. When it comes to nutrition, I'm not really want to practice what I preach, so I'm not going to give you a whole thing about nutrition. There's loads of YouTube videos talking about this. The main thing that I found for me that boost my productivity is drinking more water. I have this water bottle, which is like a transparent water bottle that I keep on my desk that has one of those straws in it. Because I have it on my desk, it's very easy for me to entertain my mouth by just sipping from the water bottle. I find that on days where I'm well-hydrated, I kind of feel less hungry and therefore I'm less likely to order takeaway. I also end up going to the toilet more, which is a natural break and it lets me kind of browse Twitter for a few minutes, let's me reset and then I can get back to work. But also generally kind of makes me feel better, so I'm big on drinking lots of water. People say you shouldn't eat too many processed foods, you shouldn't eat too much takeaway. I eat the processed food, I eat the takeaway, so I'm not really want to preach about that, but the water thing has been a real game changer for me. If you care more about nutrition and how it relates to productivity, I'm sure there are tons of YouTube videos that you can find. One of my favorite channels for this is Pick Up Limes. Her videos are amazing and they're all about nutritious, healthy, and very pretty looking meals. Finally, we have exercise. Again, we have a lot of studies that show that people's productivity increases when they exercise regularly. If you want to be effective in your work and in your personal life, you also want to be an effective human, you'd want to be exciting. It's good for all of these things. As we all know, it's fairly commonsense. For me, I use exercise in two ways. Either in the morning, if I can get to the gym in the morning, then I really feel like I've won the day already. I go to quite a nice fancy gym if I say so myself. If I go to the gym in the morning, I'll have a shower at the gym. It's nicer than the shower at my house. I'll treat myself to a coffee and then I'll do a little bit of writing in the gym's restaurant. Just like a generally very nice start to the day. I'll be honest, usually I don't manage to go to the gym in the mornings because I can't bring myself to do it. But on the days that I do, I find myself just being more productive generally. Secondly, what I use exercise for, it's a good way to get out of a slump. Let's say I have done some work and it's now 3 PM and I'm like I cant do anything. Or it's 5 PM or 6 PM, at that point I will often recognize that if I continue to sit at home I'm actually not going to do anything useful at all. I'm just going to waste the time away. I'm going to put my air-pods in, listen to an audio-book, and go to the gym. Then when I'm at the gym, I'll do my workout or whatever. In my head, I consider that just showing up to the gym, that is a win in my book. I don't need to even work out very hard or very intensely, I just need to show up to the gym. Once I've done that, then I get the endorphin release. I take it off in my notion, gym tracker. Then when I got home I find that either I've got loads of energy, in which case I'll do some more work, I'll be productive if that's what I want. Or I'll find that I'm super, super tired, in which case I will write off. The rest of the day is in the write off principle and then I'll just read a book. Then I find that on days where I've gone to the gym in the afternoon or evening, I'll find it easier to get to sleep at night as well because my body is a bit more tired. That's kind of how I use exercise, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening. But often I find it helpful as a way of combating the natural slump that happens when our productivity levels wax and wane over time. Those are just some ideas on how to improve our sleep, nutrition, and exercise. I'm not an expert in any of these topics, but those are some tricks that have worked for me. As I mentioned, the sleep things, the four chains to sleep, have been the most important ones for me personally. Hopefully you found that helpful. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 22. Daily Review - The Log Book: Welcome back. We are still on that Engineer's section, which just to recap, is 5-10 percent of our time, and we're spending that time trying to improve our speed, efficiency, and organization of our system as a whole, to make ourselves happier, healthier, and more productive. In this video, we're talking about the idea of a daily review. Now, this is a very good book, it's called Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky; how to focus on what matters every day. They have this four-part framework for making time for what matters. Basically, their whole thing is; number 1, highlights, the pilot thing where you figure out what you're going to do. Number 2, laser, where you're going to just stay laser-focused on it. Number 3, energize, they talk a lot more about sleep and caffeine and stuff in here, which is quite good. Then number 4 is reflect. The idea is that if we want to actually take a productivity seriously, one thing that basically no one does, which everyone should do, is actually reflect on the day and figure out whether the stuff that we did actually helped us be more productive. In this book for example, they have a reflect templates, and basically it looks something like this. We've got at the top, today's highlight, and then you write down what today's highlight is, the one thing that you're going to do today. We talk more about setting a daily highlight in the pilot section. Did I make time for it? Yes or no. At the end of every day, you answer that question, did I make time for my daily highlight? Yes or no. We've got laser, which is from 1-10 and you circle how much you focused that day. We've got energize, which was your energy levels, tactics I tried today and how did it go. The idea behind this book is that there's like 100 different productivity tactics, and this daily review is just one of them. The idea is that you try different things and see whether they worked for you. But to do that, it makes sense to have a way of measuring and therefore managing the stuff that we tried. Because you can try putting your phone to grayscale, but if it doesn't actually work, then what's the point? You're just putting effort in grayscale for no reason. You can try putting your phone on airplane mode. If it doesn't work, what's the point? The point of this section is that it lets us reflect at the end of every day to see whether the stuff that we've tried has actually been effective. We've got a list for tactics to try tomorrow, and a moment I'm grateful for, which just generally encourages gratitude. This is one way of doing a daily reflection template. For me, I tend to do a notion because I love notion for everything. I'll show you what my template looks like. I've got this daily journal templates, which I think I alluded to in the pilot section. We've got these things that I'm looking at in the morning. I try and do this every day. Usually I don't do everyday, but I find that on the days where I do do it, I actually have improved focusing clarity and stuff so I was going to try and make it a point to do. But then at night, I've got like a few of these questions that I asked myself. For me personally, I don't really struggle with productivity so my questions aren't based around productivity like these ones are. But I think just having a general daily review practice is just a generally helpful thing. On my list I've got three wins, three wins for the day. One thing that I learned is to breakthrough idea, I'll talk more about that in our future class. One thing I could have done to make today better and how can I apply it tomorrow? Am I resisting something? Favorite thing of my day, short story of a moment today. This is from a book called Storyworthy by a guy called Matthew Dicks, and the idea is that the end of each day you ask yourself, "What was the most story worthy moment that happened to me today?" That becomes a way of A, reflecting on our day, but also it becomes a way of reminding ourselves and not losing the memories we have of life. I was doing this religiously for about three months and I look back on those days and I'm like, I actually remember most of these days. Whereas for then the last two months, I haven't been doing it religiously, and so I feel like I've lost those memories because I don't really have a way of getting them back. Experiments/hypothesis from today, sometimes that bit out. I try doing experiment that I tried doing yoga in the morning or I tried doing meditation in the morning, here's how it went. What can I do tomorrow that has high leverage? High/boundless upside and low downside. Request for the subconscious mind to sleep on. I don't this everyday. I don't fill it all out every day, sometimes I'm just on my phone before bed, before putting my phone away obviously. I'll just fill out a few of these things. But it's one of the things that again, anytime I do the nightly reflection, I always come up with interesting insights or make some breakthroughs. It's just like a generally good thing, and I try and make myself do it everyday. Generally, the idea behind a daily review is that you want to reflect on your day, be grateful for stuff because gratitude is always good, and you want to see if any of the tactics that you tried have actually helped. Then that generally helps us move us in the right direction. It's just like having a log when you go to the gym. I used to go to the gym for years and I never used to track my numbers. But then a few years ago, I started tracking my numbers and making sure I was going higher every time. Then I became exponentially more dench because now I was tracking the numbers. I think as soon as you start tracking these things, then you can work on improving them, and then you can see what works for you and what doesn't. That was the theory behind doing this daily reflective practice. We have a bit in the Project and Resources section. The homework from this exercise is to do your own daily reflection. Honestly, if you're trying to be more productive, I think the way these guys do it in this book is best. I'll put the template and the questions down in the project and resources section so you can try that. The idea is that we want to be doing this every day as much as we can because then it becomes a habit. Then this is one of the few things that measurably improve our productivity. Because it's all very well and good to be like, "Hey guys, I want to learn these productivity hacks and whatever." But so few of us actually bother to check whether they work. We just get this initial burst of dopamine release, and we're like, I feel good because I've read a productivity article or watched one of Thomas Frank's videos. Then we tend not to apply it, and then we also tend not to measure whether it's been effective. So something to try, let me know how it goes in the discussion section. Thank you for watching and I'll see you in the next video. 23. Weekly Review - The Operating System: Welcome back to the engineer section. We've talked about how the daily review is like your daily log book. In this video, we're going to talk about the weekly review, and the weekly review is probably the single most important part of it and I like to think of the weekly review as basically the operating system for my life. The main point here is that whichever productivity system we're using, whether we're using To Do List or Notion or thing, or OmniFocus, whichever app we're using, whichever system we're using, we are just getting things done or a different one. If we don't occasionally tighten the system up, is going to descend into chaos. The point of our weekly review is to make sure our system is organized and nothing is really slipping through the cracks. It's not so much about looking at the granular what to do today things, which is what the daily review log book is for, it's more for like looking at the system as a whole, seeing what projects we're generally working on, are we taking the right steps to get there, and just generally reflecting on a week as a whole. In fact, in David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, he talks about how the weekly review is the master key for "GTD" or Getting Things Done. He says that it's the single most critical habit for us to develop to capture open loops and to maintain and organize all of our different projects so that we can keep in mind like water, and I really like that way of thinking about it "like a mind like water". Your mind is like the surface of a water, stuff goes into it, but ultimately the surface of the water is not very disturbed. You've got this tranquility. It's not like a torrent Tsunami type thing, which our minds can often feel like when we're overwhelmed and stressed. You might have come across a guy called Tiago Forte who runs a productivity block, and is my personal productivity guru. He also calls the weekly review the single most important aspect of personal productivity, and the way that he describes it, is that he says the weekly review is the operating system that gives us the context for the hundreds of different tasks and projects that we're doing for the week. In a way, every single aspect of our daily life feeds into the weekly review. I've talked a lot about weekly reviews. What does it actually look like in practice? This is where it starts to get a bit personalized because your weekly review setup will probably evolve over time and will be suited in an ideal world to what you personally need to do. I'll show you a few different ways of doing it and you can try these out and see which of these work for you. The main thing is that at some point during the week, we want to be doing a weekly review. It doesn't really matter how we do it, as long as when we're doing a weekly review we are getting the things done that we need to get done in a weekly review. Let's start with the weekly review from getting things done. This is David Allen's trademark or registered copyright, whatever that means, the GTD weekly review, and he splits it up into three parts. Get clear, get current, and get creative. In get clear, basically we want to clear out all of our various inboxes. The way he's doing it here is number 1, collect loose papers and materials, gather all the accumulated business cards, receipts, and miscellaneous paper-based materials into your in-tray. David Allen was from an era where you work in offices and have like a paper in-tray. I don't really have a paper in-tray. I made one in my drawers by my desk just in case I ever get any letters, but I don't really do letters. I don't need a business cards. Most of my stuff is paperless, this doesn't really apply to me. But in Getting Things Done, he still says that everyone should have an in-tray whether or not you use a lot of paper. I have the very first drawer of my desk setup as my in-tray and anytime I get a letter, it just goes into that, and I make sure when I do my weekly reviews I'm not missing out any letters that Majesty's Revenue and Customs have sent me asking for taxes or anything like that. Just having that in-tray makes my system waterproof when it comes to paperwork. Secondly, he says get in to zero. Process completely all outstanding payment materials, journal and meeting notes, voicemails, dictation, and e-mails. Most of this, again, is a relic of the corporate era, which if you're watching this, maybe you're working in a cooperation and this is relevant to you. Basically, for me the main one is e-mails, and I will link in the project and real resources section to a blog post by Tiago Forte called I think One Touch to Inbox Zero. Basically, the idea is we want to be maintaining Inbox Zero as much as possible. The general idea behind that is that when we have Inbox Zero for the most part, we want our e-mail inbox to be empty and we want to touch every e-mail only once. The idea is that depending on what we need to do with that e-mail, we will do something with it and get it out of our inbox because we do not want stuff clogging up our inbox. Because if it's in our inbox, it's like it's clogging up our mind. We want our e-mail to be like a holding zone, not a permanent storage zone. For example, if it's an action, then I will usually e-mail it into things or to do list depending on which app I'm using. Then I will put a label of action and then it goes away from my inbox when it comes to e-mails. If its reference information, I'll usually save it to Evernote or notion. If it's a calendar event, then I'll put it into my calendar and archive the e-mail. If it's like a newsletter or something that I want to read later, I will save it to Instapaper or Pocket, maybe the read it later app. The point is, I want to touch every e-mail only once because touching e-mails multiple times it's not very efficient and not very productive. I want to send it into a dedicated app that manages the particular action that's needed, and the idea behind that is that it's all about actionability. How actionable is this information? Let me get it out of my inbox and into something else. Part of David Allen's weekly review is getting our inbox down to zero, and then once our inboxes are zero, we can then think about organizing the information, but capturing is the first step of the five-step GTD approach. More details in the previous video if you haven't seen it yet. Then he also says empty your head. Put in writing and process any uncaptured new projects, action items waiting for someday maybes, etc. A few buzzwords there that he talks more about in the book. But basically the idea is at some point we want to think, "Okay, is there anything that's currently on my mind that should instead be in Evernote or a Notion or in my Task Manager or in my read later app, or whatever." That's step 1, get clear. Step 2 is get current, where you review your action lists, review your calendar, review upcoming calendar, review waiting for list, review project and outcome lesson, review any relevant check lists. Basically, we're looking through our task managers, we're looking through our project, and we're taking off things that we've done and we're making sure that every single thing that we've got on our list is an actionable point. It's not something stupid like remodeled balcony because that's like a huge thing which doesn't have a clearly defined next action. We want to make sure that every single project has a clearly defined next action. For example, purchase furniture for balcony from August would be a reasonable task, assuming I've already figured out what I want to buy it, and if I haven't then figure out what I want to buy or browse Argos and brainstorm idea for balcony furniture would be the next action points. Then off we've got a third one which is get creative where we've review or someday maybe list. In every task manager you can have a someday maybe list there. This is a list of stuff that I might want to do someday, but actually I don't need to do it right now. It's useful to review that once a week just so it's top of our mind. Then he ends with be creative and courageous. Any new, wonderful, hare-brained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas to add into your system. Last time when I did my weekly review, I had just been listening to the Wheel of Time fantasy series and I had the idea, it would be really cool to learn sword fighting, and so during my weekly review, I was like, "Oh, you know what, let me add sword fighting to my someday maybe list as a project," and now it's in there. Now, when I look through my products list I'll be like, "Oh, I learned sword fighting," and at some point, it someday maybe, I don't need to do it in the near future. But at some point I can look at that and think, maybe I'll figure out how to take a sword fighting lesson because that might be fun. But the point is it's now in my system, it's not in my head. I'm not relying on my brain to remember it. This is one way to do a weekly review. I'll be honest, I don't really use this method because I think it's way too cumbersome. The first few times I tried this after I read Getting Things Done, it would take me so long to empty my inbox that I just wouldn't get to doing all the rest of it. These days the one that I do is on notion. It's under my LifeOS and it has another template and it's the weekly review templates. This for example, is what mine looks like on days where, it's usually on a Saturday that I do my weekly review, and this is if I'm at home here on a Saturday, usually I'm not home. But if I'm, then I will try and do this weekly review. It's based on process review and reflect, clear desk presses Gmail inboxes, process action inboxes, process voice notes, process physical notebooks, process physical in-tray, process Evernote inbox, process things inbox, and empty trash. That takes a long time usually. I only really end up doing this once every few months, and so I always have all of this stuff that accumulates. But at the end of it I always feel I'm really glad I did that. I always think I wish I did my weekly review a bit more often. This takes a long time. On average, these processing actually bits take me about 40 minutes, then I review my lists. This is just a case of going through my projects list on things, which is my to-do list manager and looking at our upcoming videos and reviews and e-mail, newsletters, or notion just to make sure I've got everything I need to for those, and there is a clearly defined next action of everything. Then review calendar where I would look at my calendar and see if there's anything interesting coming up for the week, and finally, I'll do a bit of reflection. What went well this week? What could be adjusted? How I'm I feeling and any new ideas? I like the any new ideas one, because on the very few occasions where I actually get through the whole system, inevitably I would have come up with some new ideas or insights while I'm going through the system and then I can write it down. But again, I didn't do this weekly review very often because it just takes way too long. The third way of doing the weekly review is the one that I actually do the most often, and this is Tiago Fortes one touch guy to do weekly review, how I go from chaos to clarity in 30 minutes, and basically you can read this blog post, it's on the website. Basically he's got the sticky note and I think this is really clever. It's just five things. E-mail, calendar, downloads folder, notes, and tasks. E-mail, this is also based on going to Inbox Zero. It is very helpful to go through our e-mails and just make sure we have got a task created for everything that needs actioning and we've gotten rid of everything that doesn't need to be in our inbox. Basically, by the end of the weekly review nothing should be in our inbox, it should be somewhere else. E-mail is number 1. Calendar, go through the calendar, make sure you've got everything sorted for next week. Desktop and downloads. I always have random crap that accumulates on my desktop and in my downloads folder. Some of the time when I'm doing this, I would think, "You know what, I should go through and clear this list." If it's reference material, it'll go into Evernote or notion. If I don't need it at all, I will stick in the bin. Usually I find all these random downloads and random video files are taking up loads of space and slowing my computer down, so I'll get rid of those. Then we have notes. For example, I will look through my physical notebook to see if there's anything I captured that day. I'll look through my drafts inbox. Draft is a note-taking app that I use to quick capture, and I'll look through that and just make sure there's nothing that needs actioning there. I'll look through my Evernote inbox, which is sometimes used for quick capturing, and also look through my notion inbox. I use these three apps, notes, drafts, and notion, and I always think it would be nice if it was just one app. But hey, they all have the pros and cons. If you need to do this, you certainly don't need to use three apps that do basically the same thing. Just pick one and stick to it, do whatever works for you. But the point is, we want to look through the list of stuff that we have captured during the week, and we want to do something with it and make sure we have actioned the things that need actioning or created them into tasks or projects as needed. Finally, tasks. Through doing the previous four steps, we probably would have created random tasks in our tasks inbox. For example, let me show you one, and we're going to see my inbox and things. Fix Instagram video for LM, that stands for liberty medics. Message Justin for his e-mail to share and make notion page for Justin Guitar collaboration. Yeah, this is tough, this in my inbox. When I'm in my weekly review, I will put it into projects on the side or into one of my areas and just make sure that there is a clearly defined next action for each one. Inevitably, anytime I do this weekly review where I go through my e-mail inbox, I will end up with at least a dozen different tasks that I have to do. They all go into my inbox in things and then I can do stuff with them. This is the point of the weekly review that it doesn't take very long, it takes maybe half an hour if you have a lot of stuff to get through this light version of it. But spending that half an hour, that very small percentage of our overall work time in the week, lets us get our entire house in order. It makes sure nothing slips through the cracks and it makes sure that we are doing the right things and that we know we're doing the right things and that we're not forgetting anything. As Tiago says, as David Allen says, and as I say, if you consider me your productivity guru or whatever, the weekly review is the single most important part of a productivity system and if you can do the weekly review effectively, you will be so much more effective at every single thing else that you do. There are so few people I know, I get hundreds of messages every month from people saying, Ali, how do I be more productive? I guarantee that almost no one who sends those messages is actually doing a weekly review. Because if you do a weekly review, it's like if you're into Naruto, you've activated your sharing on and suddenly you can see everything and you have clarity. The weekly review is that rare time in the week where I end up with clarity about what the hell I'm doing. In pilot mode, I can then use my weekly review to figure out what I'm doing for the next week, and that helps me set the course. Then the following week, I can just look at my project list, which is what I'm going to be maintaining in my weekly review and each day I can decide, okay, what are the things I need to do today when I'm in pilot mode, then I'll go into plain mode and execute on the orders of the pilot. Then at the end of the day, I'll do a little bit of engineering to trick the system to keep it organized. That's a weekly review. I'll put a lot of links in the project and resources section for you to read more about the power of weekly reviews and why they're the best thing ever. I guarantee if you start doing weekly review, it will be the single biggest change you can make to your personal productivity. That's your homework for this product. Do a weekly review, process all of your empty inboxes, review your task list, and then reflect on what went wrong or what went well during the week. Process, review, reflect something like other. Hopefully that's helpful and let me know how it goes. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 24. Monthy Review - The Systems Check: All right, so we talked about the daily review and the weekly review. Let's now go even more nerdy and talk about the monthly review, the monthly review is like a systems check for your aircraft. The idea is that on a monthly review, you zoom even further out and you just generally look at your project list and you're areas and your goals and objectives, and see are we generally heading in the right direction. There's a few different things you can do in your monthly review. I don't do them solo because I just never get around to it. But I often tend to do a monthly review if there's a consultant or coach that I'm working with, usually for the YouTube stuff. So for example, there's a lady called Laura, who once a month, I have a two hour phone call with and we just go over how the YouTube videos performed that month and what's on the agenda videos wise, but also take a step back and be like, "Okay, what about the business as a whole? Like the website, Twitter, Instagram, podcast, YouTube channel, all that stuff." So it takes us about two hours to get through that. We review the month and we plan out what we're doing for next month. A lot of people, if you're watching this, you probably are not in that position where you're hiring a coach, such consultant to talk you through what your business is doing for the next month. But I think generally, it's helpful to know about the idea of a monthly review because weekly review is very much focused on what's going on in the week and annual review, which is what we're going to talk about next, is it comes around once a year. It's very broad, very abstract, etc. I think just having a thing on your calendar once a month where you think I should probably do a monthly review, but you just have a look through your project list and see if there's anything interesting you can start working on. Usually if I'm sitting down to do a monthly review, I will look in my task manager in things or in notion. I was doing this notion. Let me show you a notion what it looks like. I have this dreams folder which is basically mirrored in things because I switched between the two apps because I care about apps a lot. I look through this list and I think, "Okay, is there anything I could be doing here?" Become a gymshark athlete. Is there anything that I could be doing to make me more work towards that? How's that going? I'm going to the gym fairly regularly, not eating as well as I could, but hey, that's fine. Learn performance hypnosis. I haven't actually done anything about that in a while. So why don't I reach out to this guy who I know from the Internet who teaches performance hypnosis. So I'll create a task to send him an e-mail. I'll be like, "Okay, cool, we're making progress in that front." Busk on the London underground. At the moment, I'm working on building up my set list and I want to have a list of 15 songs that I can play guitar and sing at the same time. I think I've got 12 on the list at the moment, so I need to add three more songs and practice the rest so I know what's going on there. Learn concept art. I've always wanted to be a concept artists then I think, What am I doing with that? I have asked my assistant to look up art lessons so I can start taking art lessons so we're making progress towards that. This is the stuff that a monthly review is useful for. I wouldn't bother doing this every week because these maybe this is my bucket list, this is my long-term goals even though I don't really believe in goals, but it's a bucket list of things I'd like to do at some point. The monthly review is a good chance for me to review these and just make sure I'm actually making progress towards the things that I want to make progress on and get married, have a kid, launch a stationary brand and perfect pitch, write a book, build a real estate empire. All of these things is useful to review once a month just to see, am I doing the right things? So engineering of polity. I put them in the engineer's section because I consider that the monthly review like a system check where I can just zoom out. Is the aircraft, is my life functioning as it should be? So do what you want for the month review is just a useful thing to have in your calendar, but it is not as important as the weekly review. The weekly review is the single most important one out of all of these, the monthly review is just an extra bonus. So homework for now, create a calendar event two weeks from now, that reminds you to do a monthly review. Maybe just like, I don't know, at 10 o'clock in the morning on the weekend, two weeks from now. You just think back, let's do a monthly review. Let's look back on the month. Let's look at my project list. Hopefully we're maintaining a project list because it's useful to have to see, are we going generally heading in the right direction? Hopefully that was helpful. Thank you for watching. I'll see you in the next video. 25. Annual Review - The Aircraft Inspection: Finally, we have the annual review. This one is like the aircraft inspection, happens once a year. Maybe you can do an annual review twice a year as well. I tend to do it once a year, and I've been doing it every year since 2017, so in 2017, 2018, 2019. I really wish I had been doing this basically since I discovered the Internet, because it would have been so interesting to look back on my annual reviews every year. But basically, the idea of an annual review is to really zoom proper far out and just take stock of the year as a whole. I'll show you my template of how I do it and what my annual review for 2019 look like. Again, there are loads of different ways of doing an annual review, and it's one of those ones where having a template probably doesn't really help because every year you're going to want to do it slightly differently. But it's just a quick one. It helps me be more. So stuff I'm grateful for, experiences, people, accomplishment, things, and game changers. Yeah, experiences, people, accomplishments. Stuff I discovered this year, all of these various things. Life lessons, 15 different things. Stuff to work on for next year: life, medicine, side hustles. Some of these are happening as we speak. Bucket list, this is where I look through my bucket list and add anything to it that is interesting. Just some thoughts of how you might do another annual review. I'll show you how Tiago Forte does his annual review because we love that guy. This is what Tiago's annual review looks like. It's a little bit much in my opinion, but this is one way of doing it. Gratitude list, experiences, people, accomplishments, learnings, events, circumstances, things. Questions from last year. List your three top wins for the year. The three biggest lessons you've learned this year. What are the risk you took? What was your most loving service? What is your unfinished business from the year? What are you most happy about completing? Who were the three people that have the greatest impact on your life this year? What was your biggest surprise? What complement would you have liked to receive or given? What else do you need to do or say to be complete with this year? What one word or phrase best sums up and describes your experiences this year? What's stories from last year are you letting go of? Questions about next year. Main goals and projects. This is a very elaborate way of doing it, and again, I'll link to his blog post where he explains this more in-depth. The point is, it doesn't really matter how you do an annual review. You probably won't be doing it for a while because depending on when you're watching this, may be the year isn't over, but hopefully that kind of give you a little bit of an idea of how I do mine. I'll put a link to my YouTube video where I talked in a lot more detail about my annual review and where I share the notion template for that if you're interested. But, yeah, annual review kind of an aircraft inspection, but as we said, the weekly review is the single most important one, the daily reviews helpful, the monthly review and the annual review are very much optional extras that you don't need to do. It's not really going to change your life that much, but they're nice and it's good to reflect back on and do all of that stuff. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you in the next video. 26. The Fun Factor: All right, everyone. Thank you for getting to the end of this class about productivity. The pilot, the plane, and the engineer. We've talked about some of the different methods that we can be a better pilots, ie, that 10 percent of the time that we spent setting the course. We've talked about some ways that we can be a better plane. That 80-85 percent of the time that we spent executing on the orders of the pilot, and the struggles that we all struggle with when it comes to taking off, staying the course, and then landing appropriately. We talked about some of the different ways we can be a better engineer. Remember, the job of the engineer is to increase speed, efficiency, and organization of the system as a whole. We've talked about how we can do that by following, getting things done by David Allen, by getting better at digital productivity, and by doing things like the weekly review, most importantly, but also the daily, monthly, and annual reviews. Before ending, I just want to talk about a final thing, which is the fun factor. Now, if we go back to the productivity equation, it's that productivity equals useful output over time multiplied by f, f being the fun factor. The thing that I always come back to anytime people ask me, "How are you so productive?" It's just infinitely easier to be productive when you're having fun doing the things that you're doing. Also, if you're doing stuff but you're not having fun doing it, what's the point? I get that there are some things in life where we just have to do it. Like we don't have a choice but to do this thing which we don't necessarily enjoy. But for almost everything, I found in my experience, when I'm not enjoying it, but I have to do it anyway, then I might as well start to enjoy it. I've often found that having more fun is often more down to the story that I tell myself about the thing, rather than about the thing itself. Actually, this is a stoicism principle that applies to all aspects of life. Check up my Stoicism Class for more information about that. But if it's something we have to do, then we should enjoy it because we might as well, and there's various things we can do to make it more fun. We can just tweet the story, we're telling ourselves. Every time we don't have to do it, we're not enjoying it, then why are we doing it? Best case scenario, it's something that we're having fun with and is working towards our goals, or however you want to describe it, of living a happy, healthy, meaningful, and fulfilled and productive life. Just a final reminder on that front for whatever it's worth. Homework from this video will be to just try and enjoy more of the things that you're doing. Try, because this is the one life that we have. At the end of the day, who cares if we're being productive, if we're not also enjoying the journey. As Brandon Sanderson says in The Stormlight Archive, "Journey before destination." As Miley Cyrus famously says in The Climb, "Ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waiting on the other side, it's the climb." So with that, we will bring this class to a close. Thank you for watching, and I will see you in the next one. Bye, bye.