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#9 (June, July, August 2011) www.ProductiveMagazine.com
More articles on:
4Starting your day productively
4Making meetings really work
4Living more while needing less
and Finding Time
• Laura Stack • Al Pittampali • Chris Edgar • Graham Allcott • Francis Wade • Art Carden • Leo Babauta • Mike Vardy • Michael Sliwinski •
From the Editor
By Michael Sliwinski, Editor
t’s the end of August and we’re de-
livering (as promised) the issue #9 of
your favorite productivity magazine.
We’re slowly making sure the magazine
is getting more regular and hopefully #10
will appear on your iPad (or computer)
right in time for October. Unsurprisingly
this issue is about accountability and
keeping promises. Let’s keep ours.
Meet Laura Stack
Laura, the Productivity Pro®, is the frst
woman to be featured on the cover of
our magazine, and she’s a fantastic per-
son. She’s a regular contributor and has
been active in the “productivity indus-
try” for almost two decades. That’s a lot
for a person who’s barely in her forties.
us to be accountable to ourselves by
digging out our inner productivity, and
Mike Vardy, as always, fnishes up with
a humorist approach to productivity, ex-
plaining his conversion to Eventualism.
Promise me to share
this magazine :–)
No, you don’t have to do that. Howev-
er I’d appreciate it very much if you sent
this magazine to your friends and fami-
ly and recommend our iPad app to your
Editor in Chief
! Links: MichaelonTwitter|MichaelSliwinski’sBlog
We had a great chat, and I learned
a lot from her. We obviously share the
same passion for productivity and the
great Zig Ziglar has been an inspiration
for both of us, too. We’ll also dive into
the principles behind Laura’s latest book,
“SuperCompetent” as she explains how
everyone can get a grade A on the com-
petence and productivity real–life test.
One of the keys to this is... you guessed
The main theme of the magazine is re-
inforced with other articles from our great
contributors: Art Carden reviews his new
favorite book “The Promise Doctrine”
Francis Wade explains how we should
move to Time Management 2.0, Graham
Allcott and yours truly give you two dif-
ferent (yet somehow similar) ways to ap-
proach your morning, Leo Babauta ex-
plains his minimalist mindset (a recent
inspiration of mine), Chris Edgar wants
Your Online tool for Getting Things Done
– available in your computer browser,
mobile phone and on your iPhone.
Marc Orchant (1957–2007)
is dedicated to the memory
of a productivity guru, great
blogger and a very close friend,
Marc Orchant who passed away
All articles are copyright © by their respective authors.
Productive!Magazine is copyright © by Michael Sliwinski.
Getting Things Done
are the registered
trademarks of the David Allen Company.
On Being Super Competent: Making Time
Interview with Laura Stack
Why you need to kill your weekly staf meetings
3 Keys To Developing Inner Productivity
Morning Pages: A simple technique
to turbo–charge your creativity
Time Management Training in the World 2.0
Prepare your next day in the evening
Review of The Promise Doctrine
Live more, need less
Productive! Show Videos
How I Became Eventually Productive
Meet the Productivity Pro®
who’s been studying,
researching and speaking
on personal productivity
exclusively since 1992.
It’s her business, life, passion
and what she’s all about.
Interview with Laura Stack, the Productivity Pro®
and that’s pretty much it. So, if I’m not
talking to clients, if I’m not researching,
if I’m not writing, if I’m not standing on
a platform then I’m not doing my job.
MS: In my case it was really hard, I start-
ed Nozbe – as a one–man–shop. It’s a prob-
lem because you are used to doing every-
thing. And then at some point you have
to just fgure it out, you’re not really good
at all this and you need help.
LS: Yes. And transitioning from actually
doing a lot of the work yourself to lead-
ing your company and managing other
people is a huge shift for many entre-
preneurs, and its a shift that indeed many
people don’t make. And they still, years
later, are spending midnights assembling
marketing materials, doing $10–20 an
hour work instead of doing the $250 an
hour work and really moving their com-
MS: And as for your career, how do you switch
between client work and speaking?
LS: I’m mostly a professional speaker.
That’s my passion, that’s my love, I like
to get on the platform. About half of my
speaking is at conferences doing key-
notes and break out sessions, the oth-
er half is more in the trenches training in
corporations doing half day and full day
workshops and seminars.
The book writing, all of the work with
newsletters, and all my social media is
ultimately moving me towards speaking,
training, and consulting engagements,
because that’s what I love the most and
that’s where the majority of our revenues
as a company come from.
Michael Sliwinski: You say productivity
is your passion. Why productivity?
Laura Stack: Well, I admittedly have al-
ways been fascinated by human perfor-
mance, potentials, and time manage-
ment. I saw Zig Ziglar when I was 14 and
I knew back then that I wanted to be
a speaker. I was in one of the strange
families, where my mother would actu-
ally send me to motivation conferences.
My father was an instructor at the Air
Force Academy. He had a Ph.D in phi-
losophy and my mother had a degree in
psychology. I’ve skipped several years
of school, I did my undergraduate in col-
lege in 2.5 years and I had my MBA
when I was 21. I had the record, at that
time, at the University of Colorado for
the youngest MBA.
I’ve always been driven this way and it
was a very natural progression for me to
get involved in the personal productivity
industry. I worked as a trainer in a cor-
porate setting for a few years and I de-
cided I needed to open my own com-
pany so I opened my doors in 1992.
I’ve been speaking professionally now
for 19 years.
MS: Your newest book, which I highly rec-
ommend is: “SuperCompetent”.
LS: Thanks, this is my 4th book. My frst,
“Leave the Offce Earlier” came out in
2004 and then “Find More Time: How to
Get Things Done at Home” was done in
2006. Then I wrote “The Exhaustion
Cure” in 2008 because the readers were
saying, “how do I get the energy to be
productive”? And then “SuperCompe-
tent” came out in August 2010. My next,
“What to Do When There’s Too Much to
Do” will hit stores in May 2012.
MS: So, in “SuperCompetent” you are talk-
ing of six keys that help you be competent,
to achieve your goals: Activity, Availabil-
ity, Attention, Accessibility, Accountabil-
ity and Attitude.
LS: So, SuperCompetent is kind of
a summary of the work I’ve been doing
for the past 19 years and I have found
six basic things to be true of people who
perform at their productive best.
It all starts with activity. Basically,
knowing what you should be working
on. And this seems kind of like common
sense, but I think it is true for so many
of us that have a hundred and seven-
teen things to do everyday and we of-
ten pick incorrectly what it is that we
should be doing.
So, that’s the frst key. What are the
activities that need to fll your day?
MS: It’s like with this ladder that you climb
up the wrong wall. You climb very nicely,
but that’s not the wall you should be climb-
LS: Sure. We get so occupied by other
things that we first have to get back
down to the core of what am I supposed
to be doing? Why am I here? What is
the ultimate responsibility that I have?
In my company for example, as the
president of The Productivity Pro, I’m re-
sponsible for building my brand, and for
speaking and bringing in the business,
I saw Zig Ziglar
when I was 14
and I knew back
then that I wanted
to be a speaker.
I’m mostly a professional speaker.
That’s my passion, that’s my love,
I like to get on the platform.
I’m now also the president 2011–2012
for the National Speakers Association.
My business all rotates around profes-
MS: So being a Zig Ziglar with very nice
hair and make–up?
LS: Oh, thank you, that’s sweet. You
know Zig Ziglar is a personal hero of
mine. I’m 42 and though I’ve been in
this business for many years, I feel like
I’ve just started. I have so much excite-
ment and enthusiasm still about pro-
ductivity and it’s such an exciting top-
ic and luckily one that is still very much
MS: Oh, increasingly so, because of the pace
that everyone is running at right now.
LS: You know, that’s fabulous and that’s
where a lot of people get their motiva-
tion. Fundamentally, the principles, the
foundations of productivity have never
changed. In “SuperCompetent” I’ve re-
ally tried to reinforce evergreen truths.
Facebook is the
You have to know what it is you have to
work on. You have to make time for it.
You have to focus on it. You have to be
organized around it, and always be ac-
countable for your results, trying to im-
prove and never giving up. That’s it.
MS: From one of our previous interviewees
– Michael Hyatt, I learned a lot about ac-
countability and responsiveness. He said,
always, that his key to success was that he
was always quick to respond to people.
LS: It’s hard to do... I know what you are
saying. Accountability to me, I defne
a bit differently, in terms of teams, keep-
ing your commitments, in doing what
you said you would do, meeting your
deadlines, and always looking for more
effcient ways to do things. It’s kind of
a state of mind.
MS: Yes, and the other thing is Attention –
people lose it on Facebook for example.
LS: Oh, Facebook is the new water–cool-
er. Oh, we can talk about how we make
connections, I mean you can spend
whole day updating your profles and
you know everything about the web...
but how is that really contributing to your
revenue? Entrepreneurs need to put the
Facebook in a box and recognize that it
is just one more distraction if you are not
careful. It’s self control and self disci-
pline. So, while I would say it is impor-
tant to be responsive I really think we
have to control our obsessive compul-
sive email disorder :–)
possible to compartmentalize while the
kids are home, because I see a lot of
parents sort of half way paying attention
to their children, still really working, or
they slip back into the offce a little bit.
So again, these are personal boundar-
ies that we have to decide what they are
for ourselves and then choose not to
break them. And that comes down to
MS: This problem is especially difcult for
us, because we love our work so much,
that we have to really set up our bound-
aries for ourselves.
LS: My husband and I, for example, have
a date night. We try to go out every Sat-
urday night, and grandma comes over
or my daughter, who is 16, can babysit,
but it is on the schedule. See, if your
workout time isn’t on the schedule, your
date time isn’t on the schedule, your
Sunday with the family isn’t on the
schedule, you allow your life to evolve
kind of willy–nilly and you don’t get all
those elements in. It took me 255 pag-
es in the book “SuperCompetent” to ex-
plain these very easy 6 things, but that’s
fundamentally what we have to do.
I fy over 100,000 miles a year. It’s a job
hazard of a professional speaker: I do
travel. I try to be careful about being
home at night. You know, fy out, spend
a night, wake up, give a presentation in
the morning, and fy home.
MS: Tell me, how is your work–life bal-
ance? I mean, you have three kids and
a husband, how did you manage to run
a successful company for so many years
and then have it work with you and the
LS: Again it comes down to really un-
derstanding what am I trying to create
in whole context of where I spend my
time. The biggest thing in my life to me
is to be a mother and a wife and if I fail
there I fail everywhere. My kids are 10,
11, and 16, and I’m just like everyone
else, trying to run a house and I’m mar-
ried and I’m in business. For example at
the beginning of each year I block out 4
weeks of vacation on the calendar and
it’s non–negotiable. It’s hard if you don’t
create the boundaries for yourself frst.
You know, people just say “I just don’t
have time”, well nobody really has time.
You have to make time. Fortunately, we
also work from home, and my husband
works for the company as well, so he’s
here when I’m on the road.
MS: You’ve been in business for so many
years and still 24 hours is 24 hours. I mean
there is no way to bend it.
LS: It doesn’t change and for me pro-
ductivity is all about love. It’s fguring out
how to love your work, your family, and
to get it all done. And I think you can
have it all, just not all at the same time.
I really try to force myself as much as
You know, people just
say “I just don’t have
time”, well nobody
really has time. You
have to make time.
...transitioning from actually doing
a lot of the work yourself to leading your
company (...) is a huge shift for many
entrepreneurs, and its a shift that
indeed many people don’t make...
f essi onal speaker
Nati onal Speakers
Laura Stack !
MS: So you frst saw Zig Ziglar when you were
14, and when did you frst talk to him?
LS: When I joined the National Speak-
ers Association. Zig Ziglar is a member,
so I was so thrilled of course to meet
him and explain how important he was
in the role of getting me into this crazy
business of speaking and so I have had
the honor and the opportunity of seeing
him on many occasions now.
MS: Your future right now is the presi-
dency of the National Speakers Associ-
ation, more speaking engagements...
and a new book?
LS: Sure. I write a book every two years.
So I have a new one that I’m working
on. I’m always writing. I give about 80
speaking engagements a year, so I learn
a lot in the trenches, on the road, talk-
ing to people, learning and hearing
what’s on their minds. I’m always trying
to be fresh and relevant. So, yes, you
will see a new one from me in 2012 and
I will continue my message of produc-
tivity. I can’t imagine anything that would
pull me away from that right now. At
least in the very near future, I imagine
I will be doing exactly the same thing
I’m doing now. a
! Links: LauraonTwitter|LauraonFacebook|Laura’sWebSite:TheProductivityPro
Nozbe web app syncs with native iPad and iPhone apps... and Evernote!
...just like your favorite
Productive! Magazine – like Wired Magazine
now also available as a native iPad app!
Why you need to kill your
weekly staf meetings
Whether you’re a huge corporation, small business,
or an entrepreneur – killing old processes, traditions,
and rituals that have outlived their usefulness is a mark of
a leaderand a pragmatist, someone who is concerned with
increasing productivity and eliminating waste.
is like washing your dishes with Evian
water, it’ll work but it’s really expensive,
and somewhat absurd. Think about it:
20 people at $100/hr, comes out to
$2000 in a conservative estimate. With
so many other communication options
available, people abhor the idea of be-
ing herded into a room just to be force
fed information they could have gotten
through less intrusive means.
To socialize and network with
our colleagues. Let’s face it,
we’re social creatures, we love
to fnd any excuse we can to connect
with others and meetings are one of
them. Unfortunately, you may want to
slow down and chat, but that doesn’t
mean everyone else does. It’s not fair
to hold others who have more pressing
things to do hostage, just because you
want to socialize.
So how do we kill the weekly
meeting and not only survive,
but thrive? Here are 3 things
you can do.
Force individuals to make deci-
sions, not meetings. One indi-
vidual should take responsibili-
ty for a decision. Sure, she can consult
with people individually if she needs in-
put, but she ultimately needs to make
the decision herself. Now, if a meeting
is necessary to get buy–in from the
group, alter a decision, or coordinate
the resulting action plan, go ahead and
By Al Pittampali
hen Jack Welch stepped into
his role as CEO of General
Electric, he noticed a foot high
stack of papers on his desk upon arriv-
al every morning. It was an overnight
worldwide sales and inventory report that
was assembled daily by a small team.
It showed how much (down to the unit)
was in each one of his warehouses all
over the world.
One day he asked his staff, “Why am
I getting this report”? “I’m not sure, that’s
just the way we do things around here”
they replied. So Jack killed the report.
There is no process that needs to be
considered for the chopping block more
than regularly scheduled staff meetings.
Just do a twitter search for #meetings
and you’ll see the tweets of some pret-
ty miserable people stuck inside meet-
ings, searching for the answer to an ob-
vious question: “Why am I here? What’s
Why do we have staff meetings? Let’s
explore the 3 most common purposes
of regularly scheduled staff meetings,
and why they may have outlived their
To make decisions and resolve is-
sues. If you’re trying to make
a decision inside of a meeting,
good luck. Large groups are great at dis-
agreeing, but horrible at agreeing. Dem-
ocratic decision making with a large
group of people is almost always a rec-
ipe for disaster, and can cause stress
and anguish for all. And even if there
aren’t any issues to discuss, having
a regularly scheduled meeting guaran-
tees you’ll invent some.
To get critical info to your staf.
Using a meeting to communicate
information and announcements
Al Pittampalli !
! Links: AlonTwitter|Al’sBlog|Al’sBook:“ModernMeetingManifesto”
Democratic decision making with a large
group of people is almost always a recipe
for disaster, and can cause stress and
anguish for all.
Use email, audio, or even video
to communicate info. Let people
consume this info on their own
time. They’ll thank you. Here’s the deal
though, we have to create a sacred pact,
you’ll agree to cancel the weekly meet-
ings, but all must read the memo.
Schedule a dedicated social event
instead. Camaraderie, network-
ing, and team bonding are criti-
cally important. But doing it under the
guise of a meeting is silly, misleading,
and ineffective. Not only is it a bad way
to get things done, but it’s a bad way to
socialize. If you want to have a social
gathering, do it. Just make it short, make
it voluntary and make it fun.
So, here’s my challenge to you: kill
your regularly scheduled meeting tradi-
tion for a month. If you miss it, you can
blame me. But once you realize you
don’t miss it, let it die... forever. a
3 Keys To Developing
Why are people still hungry for productivity advice,
even with so many ideas and techniques out there?
I suspect one reason is that most approaches
don’t address one of the biggest obstacles to working
efciently – our own minds.
By Chris Edgar
s I’ll bet you know frsthand, it’s
hard to get much done when our
minds keep drifting off into the
past or the possible future – replaying
arguments with loved ones, worrying
about the size of the bonus we’ll receive
this year, and so on. The usual “tips and
tricks” – effcient ways to organize email,
make to–do lists, hold shorter meetings,
and so on – can be useful, but they won’t
do much to help us get more done if we
can’t focus our attention.
The good news is that what I call “in-
ner productivity” – the mental and emo-
tional state we need to work at peak ef-
fciency – can be cultivated.
As you practice this exercise over time,
you may find that, when distracting
thoughts arise in your work, you begin
naturally, unconsciously bringing your
attention back into your body and thus
into the present.
Another common reason we fnd our at-
tention foating away from our tasks is
that we aren’t working with a clear, com-
pelling goal in mind. Perhaps there’s no
grand vision behind what we’re doing –
we’re only working to pay the bills, or
we just feel like “we’ve got to do some-
thing”. Or, although we have a defnite
goal – maybe, for instance, buying a big-
ger house – that goal comes from a de-
sire to meet others’expectations, and
doesn’t deeply move us.
In these situations, I’ve found, it’s help-
ful to connect with our desire to contrib-
ute to and serve others. A yoga tech-
nique often called “breathing into your
heart” is a wonderful way to do this. Ac-
cording to yoga, there’s an energetic
center in the heart area called the “heart
chakra”. When we “open” the heart
chakra by breathing into it, we feel our
sense of compassion for others, and our
desire to give to the world.
To breathe into your heart, clasp your
hands behind your back at the level of
your heart, and stretch out your arms.
Then, breathe deeply so your upper
chest rises and falls with the breath.
(You may even be able to do this without
getting out of your chair.) Feel the warmth
and openness in your heart area, and no-
tice any tension melting away.
Many methods for doing this have been
around in the East for thousands of years,
but are just beginning to enter the “main-
stream” in the West. I’ll describe what I see
as the three basic elements of inner pro-
ductivity – Attention, Intention, and Foun-
dation – and some exercises for devel-
oping them within ourselves.
We’re most effcient, and produce our
best work, when our task has our full at-
tention. Often, our awareness is only
partly focused on our project, and the
rest of it is lost in memories and possi-
How can we build our capacity to hold
our attention on our work? One helpful
technique, which comes from medita-
tion practice, is to notice the sensations
you’re feeling in your body – whether
it’s a warmth, tingling, tension, or some-
A great way to start doing this is to
train your awareness on part of your
body that’s in contact with an object,
such as your feet on the foor or your
back against your chair. Focus your at-
tention on the pressure of the object
Although our thoughts are often lost
in the past or future, the sensations in
our bodies are always happening right
now, and thus focusing on them helps
to bring our attention back into the pres-
ent and onto the task in front of us.
An important, but often overlooked, fac-
tor in our productivity is how comfort-
able we feel with ourselves. If we’re con-
stantly afraid of making a mistake in our
work, as if a setback could destroy us,
we’ll over–think and second–guess ev-
erything we do, and we won’t make the
kind of progress we want.
According to yoga, there’s another en-
ergetic center at the base of the spine
called the “root chakra”. Breathing into
the root chakra gives us a sense of
grounded–ness and stability. Doing this
can be very useful when you’re feeling
anxious at work.
To breathe into the root chakra, put
your attention on the base of your spine,
where the spine meets the pelvis. If fo-
cusing on that area is diffcult, place your
hand on your lower back, and concen-
trate on the sensation of pressure there.
With your attention on the base of your
spine, take a few deep breaths. When
you do this, you’ll likely feel a deep–seat-
ed sense of solidity, and that paralyzing
worry will start to fade. a
We’re most efcient,
and produce our
best work, when
our task has our
An important, but often overlooked,
factor in our productivity is how comfortable
we feel with ourselves.
ing, speaking, and
Christopher Edgar !
! Links: ChristopheronTwitter|Christopher’sWebSite
A simple technique to turbo–charge
your creativity and get your day of
to the best possible start
A few years ago I had the pleasure of being
given a copy of Julia Cameron’s book,
“The Artist’s Way”. It had a transformative
efect on me, and removed my long–standing
songwriters’ block. One of the tools in the book,
the Morning Pages, is something I still use
occasionally today (although I do wish I was
more disciplined with it and used it every
day as Julia prescribes).
By Graham Allcott
t’s a great technique, not just for
artists, but really for anyone who
needs to create value out of infor-
mation, be creative, avoid procrastina-
tion, or just work out what the hell is
buggi ng you at the back of your
It works like this: take 3 pages of A4
paper and a pen. Note: the techies and
iPhone app freaks amongst you will try
to fnd a more elegant solution. Don’t.
The primitive nature of the tools are part
of why this works!
to the page. Getting started. This acts
as a ritual to show you that you have the
motivation to start.
Secondly, it allows your mind the time
to blurt out all the gunk and release it –
all the worries or anger, ideas or excite-
ment that might otherwise preoccupy
you all day are gone, and you feel much
Thirdly, you’d be amazed what you
fnd going on in there when you really
listen to the voice inside your mind. You’ll
fnd amazing creative ideas you never
knew you had in you and you’ll find
things you might have been stressed
about that you can easily address.
In the information–overload culture we
live in, we so rarely spend time listening
to ourselves, and valuing our own
thoughts and instincts. The Morning
Pages is a really simple tool to help us
do just that. a
OK, it’s early in the
poured your cofee.
Sit down with the
pen and paper
Any artist will tell
you the hardest
part of creativity
is showing up to
Graham Allcott !
! Links: GrahamonTwitter|Graham’sThinkProductive!
OK, it’s early in the morning. You’ve
poured your coffee. Sit down with the pen
and paper and write. Write whatever
comes to mind. Don’t stop writing until
you have flled 3 sides of A4. That’s it.
This is an exercise on listening to your
mind. Some may fnd this is a gentle form
of meditation and since I’m no expert on
that, I’ll just say that it’s probably true.
If you can’t think of what to write, you
must continue the rhythm of the writing
anyway. Just write “I can’t think of any-
thing to write” over and over again until
something else arrives in your mind.
Once your 3 pages of A4 paper are
done (which in my experience usually
takes about 20 minutes), you put them
somewhere no–one else will read them.
I personally also developed a little add–
on task to this: My mind often blurts out
new ideas or actions that are not in my
system so I use it as a place to capture
and collect these, marking them with
a star, and then at the end of my 3 pag-
es I just run through and transfer any
starred items into my GTD system.
This sounds so simple,
so why is it so powerful?
Well, frst of all, any artist will tell you the
hardest part of creativity is showing up
Training in the
Back in the mid 1990’s, before the frst PDA was introduced,
professionals used multi–tabbed organizers like DayTimers.
They showed the world that their owners were serious about
productivity. Today, there’s hardly a paper diary to be seen,
and instead we have smartphones. Unfortunately 62% of
their owners admit to using them to play games: the most
popular category of applications. Furthermore, in the same
study, productivity was cited as only the 10th most popular
use, at a mere 22% of users.
ject wrote books and taught seminars that
gave precise practices to follow, and new
jargon to use. The sometimes unspoken
but clear message was “follow my rules,
or else you will fail”. Some of these reci-
pes were quite good, and “Getting Things
Done” by David Allen, is one of the very
best cookbooks in the bunch.
In our brave new world, new technol-
ogy is driving new habits. The tail is now
frmly wagging the dog.
Your father’s time management sys-
tem may have only been about his hab-
its and practices, but in today’s world
your system is likely to also be about:
! your choice of gadget (smartphone,
cellphone or none at all)
! the software you use to manage your
email (Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus
Notes, Yahoo Mail, etc.)
! the web services you employ (Nozbe,
Remember the Milk, OmniFocus, etc.)
! the capture software you prefer (Ever-
note, OneNote, etc.)
! the number of channels through which
you receive messages (email, Twitter,
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instant Message,
phone, etc.) – the sheer volume of mes-
sages you receive daily that place a de-
mand on your time
For many of us in corporations, our
choices tend to be driven by some guy
or gal in IT who sets software policies
and limits individual choices. Changing
companies can be cause for a complete
change in individual systems, and some-
times not for the better. Just ask Apple
users who join companies where the iMac
is “not supported” and therefore forbid-
den. Obviously, the old approach of giv-
ing out strict instructions and detailed rec-
ipes is coming to an end.
Introducing Time Management 2.0
If Time Management 1.0 was all about
following other people’s recipes, and
those recipes have stopped working, then
By Francis Wade
owadays, when we claim to be
more productive, we indicate our
ability to tweet from trains, read
email on beaches and surf the internet
while lying in bed. The most productive
person has the most extreme stories.
Many can’t complete a meeting or con-
versation without giving in to the “Black-
berry Itch:” the thought that something
better is happening in cyberspace that is
more interesting, and we might be miss-
ing it, so let’s check.
How did this happen? When did great-
er convenience become equated with
“enhanced productivity”? Where did
these new habits come from? Should
smartphones be taken away? Is it too
late to save companies from widespread
attempts to save time that only make
Getting Left Behind
The good old days were much simpler.
Back then, we were encouraged to think
about time management and personal pro-
ductivity in terms of habits and practices,
without bringing in technology at all. Those
who knew a thing or two about the sub-
you and I must fnd a way to take care of
ourselves. We must own and take charge
of our own time management systems in
a way that is new.
In the world of video gaming, the most
exciting new games, like Little Big Plan-
et, actually teach users how to create
their own characters, contests, worlds,
weapons, skills and more. Software com-
panies like Media Molecule have found
innovative ways to teach their users how
to pull off these tricks, and have been
surprised by some who have gone fur-
ther than they ever anticipated. In a note-
worthy example, one gamer created a vir-
tual, working computer within a game.
In Time Management 2.0, I’m among
a handful of writers who are trying to
make the same thing happen. How can
you and I, as users, learn how to craft our
very own time management systems that
are custom built for our lives, as if we
were learning to develop our own per-
sonal recipes for our favorite dishes?
Fortunately, (and maybe surprisingly,)
there are a LOT of people who are com-
ing up with their own systems, even if they
don’t ever name them. If you are reading
this edition of Productive! Magazine and
were able to set the time aside to get to
this point, then I imagine that you are us-
ing a time management system that works
pretty well in some ways!
I also imagine that your system is
unique, idiosyncratic and “all yours”. You
put it together over several years, pulling
together a mix of habits, gadgets, soft-
ware and other components, using a pro-
cess of trial and error. Perhaps you used
hints from a variety of sources to arrive
at something that works for you.
If I were to give you a book, or put you
in a time management class it’s likely that
you would do the same. Take bits and
pieces, and use them to modify your sys-
tem. You are VERY unlikely to drop your
current system all at once, and pick up
a new one after just a few hours. As you
might expect, the research that’s been
done points to this phenomena in all ar-
eas of adult learning the involve behav-
While some feel guilty at this fact and
blame themselves for being bad students,
the next best step is not to try harder to
drop our current system. It’s better to ac-
cept our genius for adaptation, and to
work with it, not against it. While some
would interpret the lack of uniform be-
havior as a failure of the instructor and
his/her method, I think it’s a valuable clue.
It tells us how to help people develop
their own systems by giving them some
“self–programming skills”. This clue, and
others like it, is the starting point for the
process used in Time Management 2.0:
1. Each of us has a unique system, and
if you want to improve it, start by un-
derstanding how it works, or doesn’t
2. Use this understanding to paint a pic-
ture of the desired end–result using
sound design principles.
3. List the habits, practices, gadgets, soft-
ware, etc. that need to change to fll
4. Use a calendar to spread the changes
you want to make over time.
5. Focus on no more than one or two
changes at a time, and once the de-
sired level of mastery is accomplished,
move on to another.
These 5 steps can be undertaken by
any professional at any level of time man-
agement skill, and the process can be
repeated whenever an upgrade is desired,
or being contemplated.
When I upgraded my system from one
that’s PDA–based to one that’s based on
a smartphone, I was able to use this pro-
cess to make some critical choices be-
fore making the purchase. These steps
also explain why traditional Time Man-
agement books and training have not
been successful with more people. They
assume time management training to be
a one–time event for a particular kind of
person, in a particular kind of life situa-
tion that never changes.
If anything, the recession has taught
us that those who stay stuck are doomed.
Being fexible is the key to survival and
success, and the rate at which life is
changing is forcing us to adapt new prac-
tices at a faster rate than ever before.
Anyone who isn’t continuously upgrad-
ing their skills in this area is likely to be
left behind, and the new training must
equip us with what we really want to
learn: how to help ourselves. a
In our brave new world, new technology is driving new habits.
The tail is now frmly wagging the dog.
i n t he Car i bbean,
Francis Wade !
! Links: FrancisonTwitter|FrancisTimeManagement2.0blog
Prepare your next
day in the evening
There are just a few productivity tips that
always work. If you follow them, improvement
is guaranteed. It always astounds me when
I test these out and see immediate results.
One of these tips is to prepare your next day
in the evening before going to sleep. Sounds
easy and trivial. But it’s really powerful.
By Michael Sliwinski
It takes only 5 minutes to create
a to–do list for tomorrow
That’s it. Just in the evening review your
day, decide what’s REALLY important
that needs to be done tomorrow and
write these tasks down on a piece of pa-
per. Limit yourself to 3–4 tasks that need
to be completed as soon as possible.
Don’t open your Nozbe or other task
manager – put these 3–4 tasks on piece
of paper next to your computer.
Close your email programs and other
apps, including most (if not all) of your
browser windows. The next day when
you walk to your computer you’ll have
the task list next to it. You’ll open your MichaelSliwinskiis
Producti ve! Show.
Michael Sliwinski !
! Links: MichaelonTwitter|Productive!Magazine|Productive!Show
My last 2 weeks have been
That’s right. For the last two weeks I’ve
been religiously, every day, compiling my
lists of tasks “for tomorrow” and each
day was just perfect. I feel I’ve done so
much! The thing is – we’re just humans
and we tend to be side–tracked by oth-
er people, projects, and events. Howev-
er, with the golden list “for tomorrow” I’m
guaranteed I’m going to get the big things
done before I enter the reaction mode of
email, social networks, and responding
to the other folks from my company.
Added bonus – your mind
is working when you sleep
That’s another thing – some tasks I set
out to do the next day were quite com-
plicated, but since I had defned them
in the evening, my mind was working on
them while I was sleeping... and when
I woke up I suddenly had most the an-
swers and never felt “stuck”. I don’t have
any scientifc evidence for that but only
a gut feeling that’s how it works. My last
two weeks proved me right. Trust me.
Don’t go to sleep without
a plan for tomorrow
That’s the key to my everyday produc-
tivity. A small trick that gets a job
computer and you’ll know exactly what
to do. It’s that easy.
I know it’s still hard to withstand all
the temptations to check email, Face-
book, Twitter... but don’t go that way...
just proceed to complete the tasks
you’ve set out to do.
After that you’ll have a really good day
Once these tasks are done, you can pro-
ceed to email and other activities. You
can open your task manager to check
other tasks and manage your projects.
You can quickly check off the things
you’ve done in the morning with a feel-
ing of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Now the day starts and you have a head–
start on completing the most important
actions for today.
The next day when you walk to your computer
you’ll have the task list next to it. You’ll open
your computer and you’ll know exactly what
to do. It’s that easy.
Review of the
I frst heard Jason Womack on
a “Productivity Show” pod-
cast in 2006, when he was still
with the David Allen Company.
Jason is one of my favorite
thinkers on productivity, and
“The Promise Doctrine”, which
is co–authored with his father,
is his long–awaited (by me,
anyway) book on productivity.
It brings a lot to the table and
will make a fne complement
to the productivity bookshelf
of people who are already fa-
miliar with other productivity
thinkers like David Allen (Get-
ting Things Done), Tim Ferriss
(The Four–Hour Workweek), and
Steven Covey (The Seven Habits
of Highly Successful People).
A guidebook and system
for consistently delivering
on your promises!
– by Craig P. and Jason W. Womack.
Elements of the Promise Doctrine”
(promise, perform, hurdles, renegotiate,
trust, celebrate) and then fold–out pag-
es discussing each of these elements.
The fold–out pages are especially in-
teresting in terms of book formatting,
but they capture the essentials of what
they are trying to communicate about
each element in single (large) pages. De-
sign–wise, I found these a little diffcult
to handle (the stiff foldouts in the latter
part of the book make it diffcult to thumb
through from front to back).
Refect for a moment on how much
more productive you and the organiza-
tions with which you interact could be if
there were a near–certain expectation
that what people (including you) prom-
ised would be delivered on time, every
time. I’m sure you would be much more
productive and likely much happier. You
wouldn’t bind yourself up in unproduc-
tive commitments and relationship–dam-
aging, or trust–eroding strings of broken
promises. Craig and Jason Womack of-
fer a simple handbook that can help you
avoid this through well–managed com-
By Art Carden
efore I dive into the book itself,
a brief digression is in order. One
of the most important principles
in economics is that trade creates wealth.
It allows us to specialize and to use our
time and energy in ways that are more
productive–i.e., that allow us to achieve
more of our goals. The publication infor-
mation is telling about the myth that trad-
ing with poorer people around the world
will bankrupt Americans: “Conceived,
written and designed in the United States
of America. Printed in China”. Interna-
tional trade allows Americans to special-
ize in advanced thinking on personal pro-
ductivity, and we’re all richer for it.
The short lesson in economics aside,
the book’s central theme (unsurprising-
ly) deals with making good on your prom-
ises. Indeed, I was surprised (and hum-
bled) to fnd myself quoted in the preface
regarding the ideal for promise–making
and promise–keeping: deliver more than
what is asked for before the deadline.
As devotees of organizational systems
know, we have more options and op-
portunities today than anyone who has
ever come before us. It’s a dizzying and
wonderful time to be alive. Nonetheless,
we have to constantly adapt our orga-
nizational systems to these changing
possibilities and opportunities.
The book begins with a Foreword by
author Marshall Goldsmith, who points
out that good promise–making and prom-
ise–keeping is an important part of good
business ethics. The ability to make wise
promises like this is a skill that can be
learned from practice, repetition, failure,
and reassessment. Is it easy to say “yes”
to every request? It is. But it isn’t wise.
The Promise Doctrine is a quick read
that isn’t designed to be read, ingested,
and discarded. It’s essentially a work-
book. There are regular exercises and
assessments throughout, and it coach-
es the reader through various steps
along the way with lots of white space,
bold headings, and offset questions and
statements that make it easy to skim.
Their “one central principle” is simple
to remember but deceptively diffcult to
practice: “Do what you’re going to do,
when you say you’re going to do it” (p.
11). They express this in a specifc prac-
tice on page 13: “Make important prom-
ises, and keep them”. Once again, it’s
easy to say and very hard to do. Often,
we get ourselves in trouble when we
make short–run concessions with long–
run consequences we don’t fully appre-
ciate. I, for one, do this far too often, and
I would suspect that if you’re reading
this you do the same.
Exercises and implementation begin
in earnest in chapter 3 and an instruc-
tion on p. 17 to “carry this book with you
for at least the next 14 days” because
“every page of ‘The Promise Doctrine’
provides tools, prompts, and guides that
clear the path for promise making and
promise keeping”. They make good on
the promise, as the rest of the book con-
sists mostly of exercises and “The Six
Rhodes Col l ege i n
Art Carden !
! Links: ArtonTwitter|ArtCarden’spage
“Do what you’re
going to do,
when you say you’re
going to do it”
“The Six Elements of the Promise Doctrine”
(promise, perform, hurdles, renegotiate,
trust and celebrate)
By Leo Babauta
hat does it mean to focus on
living? It’s a shift from caring
about possessions and status
and goals and beautiful things… to car-
ing about actual life. Life includes: taking
long walks, creating things, having con-
versations with friends, snuggling with my
wife, playing with my kids, eating simple
food, going outside, and getting active.
Live more, need less
The more I focus on living, the less it seems I need.
Why do I need to shop when I already
have everything I need – I can spend time
with someone or create, and I need very
little to do that.
That’s living... not shopping, or watch-
ing TV, or eating loads of greasy and sweet
food not for sustenance but pleasure, or
being on the Internet, or ordering things
online, or trying to get popular. Those
things aren’t living – they’re consumerist
pastimes that tend to get us caught up in
over–consumption and mindlessness.
When I focus on living, all those other
fake needs become less important. Why
do I need television when I can go outside
and explore, or get active, or take a walk
He’s a wri t er and
Leo Babauta !
! Links: LeoonTwitter|Leo’sBlog:ZenHabits|Leo’sBlog:Minimalist
with a friend? Why do I need to shop when
I already have everything I need – I can
spend time with someone or create, and
I need very little to do that.
These things I do now – they require al-
most nothing. I can live, and need little.
And needing little but getting lots of
satisfaction… that’s immensely reward-
ing. It’s an economy of resources that
I’ve never experienced before.
These days, I need nothing but my
loved ones, a text editor, a way to post
what I create, a good book, simple plant–
based food, a few clothes for warmth,
and the outdoors. a
David Allen, Constant
Improvement and Cool Ofces
David Allen on Getting
Things Done ad 2011
– rooftops of Warsaw
By Michael Sliwinski
Areas of Constant
here are the
(and very short)
videos to help,
to get even
Productive! Show Videos
! Links: Hopeyouenjoyedtheseshortproductivityvideos.Clickheretobrowseallepisodearchive.
You see, I was so
I was watching
How I Became
I’ve never had the opportunity to tell the story
of how I eventually became an Eventualist before,
but when Shenee Howard asked me to tell a story
for her “EightThirtyFive Initiative” I only hesitated
because the word “initiative” was mentioned.
I eventually got past that, and decided to ofer up
my origin story... an origin story that is rivalled
only by the story of the word origin itself.
By Mike Vardy
Back in 2007, I was addicted
to productivity porn
It sounds far less sinister than it is, main-
ly because I wasn’t addicted to actual
porn. But let me assure you, productiv-
ity porn is a problem that is sweeping
the globe, and I had fallen victim to it.
I was all about getting more productive
with my work. I was trying every system
out there, from good old–fashioned pa-
per and pen to the most complex produc-
tivity software. I was getting really good
at learning about how to be more produc-
tive, but was making little progress on ac-
tually becoming more productive.
Mike Vardy !
It was during an episode of The Col-
bert Report that I had an epiphany. I re-
alized that my bio on my Eventualism
blog says that I had the epiphany while
I was showering. This is also true. You
see, I was so obsessed with productiv-
ity that I was watching television while
showering. I was living on the edge, both
in terms of handling my time and han-
dling my electronics.
What Stephen was saying
resonated with me
Much like he had been persecuted by
what was being done by “the left” I was
being persecuted by what I had “left” to
be done. My mind was blown – as I’m
sure that last sentence blew yours.
I came to the realization that, much like
government, things could be done in
such a slow and eventual manner that
it would barely be noticed at all. Espe-
cially if one was able to spin it in the right
(or “left” way. Not only was I clean in
body thanks to my shower, but I was
clean in mind thanks to that golden mo-
ment that Colbert had bestowed upon
me. I was no longer ignorant. I call that
shower my “golden shower”.
Without diving into the depths of hard-
core productivity I would never have been
able to develop the methodology, ideol-
ogy, and philosophy known as Eventual-
ism – not even eventually. I strongly be-
lieve that you have to know your enemy
so expertly in order to fght back against
it. The power that comes from knowing
the opposite of what you’re saying is the
frst step toward believing in the oppo-
site of what you’re saying.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking
to it… eventually. a
! Links: MikeonTwitter|Mike’sBlog:Eventualism|Mike’sPodcast:ProductiVardy
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