Merry Christmas – food and productivity.


I hope you enjoyed this year with tidwows.

We are back next year to finish off with some more topics and some further news.

Stay tuned!

Have a fantastic Christmas, a Happy Holiday and a great Festive Season.

Be in the moment with your family, friends and don’t forget to be totally unorganised and take it easy 😉

And, just as an added bonus, please find a chart on food and productivity below – maybe just what you need during the festive season.

Have a good one,



Click to Enlarge Image

Productivity is Served: Get More Done When You Eat These Foods


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Productivity And Staying On Top Of Things (8)

To fishing this chapter/post, let’s look at the following:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Another master of self improvement and productivity is Stephen R. Covey who wrote the 7 habits of highly effective people (Covey, Stephen, R. (1998), The 7 habits of highly effective people, Fireside, New York). His seven habits form a basis for any productivity and personal development plan.

The first three habits focus on the move from dependency to independence, e.g. self mastery:

1) Be Proactive: Your actions determine your effectiveness in life. Follow through what you think and be responsible for any actions taken.

Getting things done – really – means to be proactive. Don’t wait around until life happens to you, as you are the one in the driver seat of your own life. Decide on the gear you want to put your life in, reverse (backwards), fast or slow. You can change it around but once you are in the driver seat, make sure you drive, take actions and be proactive. Make suggestions, learn and deliver. Build a reputations for your good work, most else will follow.

2) Begin with the End in Mind: Visualise where you want to be, create a mission statement and go towards that goal.

A very important habit. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Aim high, put your passion out there, what you want to achieve in life. This can be a family or a dream job, a challenge in sports or whatever drives you on. But by visualising this goal, you will be driving towards it, all the time. It will keep you on the road when all others are pulling over for a pit stop.

That is your purpose. Your 40,000 feet. Your reason to be here.

3) Put First things First: Prioritise your tasks by importance rather than urgency; propel towards your goals.

Prioritise your tasks. Get done what needs to get done first. Checking in for a flight in 3 weeks time is not as important as finishing the powerpoint for tomorrow’s meeting. Make sure the actions are aligned with your goals and objectives and drive you forward.

The next three habits are about Interdependence, e.g. working with others.

4) Think Win-Win: Strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in any relationship. Seek a long-term solution.

I am a firm believer of giving to others. I am here to help. My solutions I am selling are here to make the life of my opposite easier. That is what my life is about, winning for others that benefits myself. Win-Win. In anything I do. Any other combination will lead to dissatisfaction, bad karma and you not being happy in your job or achievement. If you make the other person loose for the advantage of yourself, you will not have a good life. It will backfire on you one day, and you put your reputation at stake.

5) Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood: Listen to the other person and have an open mind to whatever s/he says. This will create a caring and positive atmosphere to work in.

Again, this habit is essential. In sales, in management, in marketing, in consulting, in finance. Listen! Also applies to relationships with spouse, kids, and any family member. Listen and understand people’s needs, aims, feelings, goals, objectives. Try to understand no matter how different your opinions are. Try to walk in someone else’s shoes. Once you have taken in the input, make sure to be understood also.

6) Synergize: Combine team’s strengths to achieve more than you could achieve yourself.

Working in teams, trusting others and collaborate with people of different strengths will get you further. We all  have things we are less good at and things we are better at. Overall we need to make sure that the optimal output is the combination of the best people and skills.

Habit 7) is about Sharpen the Saw. Balance and renew your resources, do not waste energy (see next chapter). Work on a healthy and sustainable, long term lifestyle. Exercise, meditate and read good books. Service society for spiritual renewal.

Sometimes I think the seven habits sum up the most important things in life. They show what is necessary on a basic level and to be honest also what I have been saying in this book. It is about those basic things in life we need to value and cherish in order to strive above and beyond the competition. Or, if you do not have competition, above and beyond yourself and your own expectations if you wish.

I hope this concluded your first intro to a productive living. It is the start and some fundamental “how to” guides. For more in depth info, refer to the books by David Allen, Stephen Corvey or anyone else I mentioned. A little bit of searching across productivity forums, and discussions around these topics will help to get a different perspective.

Let me know what you think by emailing me or commenting below.

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Productivity And Staying On Top Of Things (7)

What else can you do with or without email to stay on top of things?

Let’s look at a another basic application: letting go.

Letting go and leaving things unfinished is another thing that I had to learn over the years. When I first started working I tried to finish all my emails, get back to everyone instantly etc. A colleague once said that she would expect everyone to get back to her within 24 hours. That is not going to happen. Whilst I type very quickly, I cannot and will not do all emails all the time. You need to learn to ignore unimportant ones, even delete ones that waste more time than they are worth. Or you file them in a folder “to do one day” or “Friday afternoon emails” to deal with them.

If you are trying to be nice to everybody and email everyone back, you soon end up creating a flood of emails coming in and will lose focus on what is important. And again, the latter is the most dangerous thing happening with emails. If emails are your main tool, you neglect phone calls and meetings, preparations for meetings etc. When you realise you make your day dependent on what is happening in your inbox, then you should realise that there is more out there than emails. Emails are solely a communication tool, nothing else. They are not the be and end all of business. It is still very important, more though in client facing and management jobs than other jobs, to meet people, listen to them and engage with them. Emails should really be secondary.

One needs to learn to leave at 6 pm or maybe a bit later and let go of unfinished work. You get into the office in the morning and the US might have sent you emails over night. You will always have unfinished emails and will never be on top of all emails. Just try to accept that and not letting it drive you mad. No one can expect you to work all through the night to stay on top of your emails!

And that is what I mean by email workflow before.

Let’s have a quick look again at todo lists.

Regarding to-do lists. GTD suggests having different ones for different locations, like offline, someday maybe list, calls etc. I like that system although I do not apply it religiously. Even iOS’s reminder function can be used with location. I do have a task in my Outlook with a list of things I can do offline for longer plane journeys. Or I have a list on my desk of calls I have to make that day. Often productivity gurus suggest using every minute of your time which I tend to disagree. If you are on your way to a meeting then it might be wise to chill out or relax on the way to focus better in the meeting rather than having a call with your boss about your pay rise.

On another note, using Evernote helps me. You can file all your notes, todo lists and articles you find important with different labels and searchable. One can easily search for keywords yet also sync the notes across devices. This way you have all your articles and todo lists ready to be reviewed offline, on a plane for instance, and in various notebooks. One of which can be a “articles to be read”, another “todo list for project X”. This of course is up to you.

Let’s reconvene next week for the last post on productivity principles.

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Productivity And Staying On Top Of Things (6)

We discussed inbox zero. There are other inbox and email tricks that work. A simple one is folders and rules.

Having folders or labels and automatic rules to move emails accordingly is key for an organised email system. Gmail now does that automatically, also offers you to unsubscribe from newsletters without opening your emails. Very good! A folder called “@action” gives you the option for emails that need your attention to be filed if you are checking that folder regularly. Adding the “@” makes it the first folder on your folder list too. Adding keywords into your emails like “WFR%”, a code for Waiting For Reply %, which is not a common combination in emails, allows for automatic filters for sent items. This could cover a whole chapter, but I used to add this code in “background colour” (invisible) to outgoing emails that I wanted to show up in my inbox.

This way I created a to-do list sending emails. Practically, if you want to have an email being flagged for follow up with Gmail for instance, you add a code like the one above which then allows for an automatic filter to move that email to the @action folder for instance as you need to follow up on that email. Their new ‘inbox’ concept allows for follow up scheduling, so Gmail is ahead of the game now.

There is plenty of advice on shortcuts and rules like that out there. However, newsletters are key to be moved instantly, or regular emails you want to read in your inbox being “marked read” the moment they arrive. Do not clutter your inbox with anything that is not very important, and if you do not read a newsletter, unsubscribe or spam it. No need to read everything coming your way. And you won’t have time for it either.

Focus. Focus and prioritisation is key to anything you do. At some point or another you would be overwhelmed by your tasks. This could be solely the emails coming your way or the tasks that land on your desk. You never know. However, by putting them in the right order, visually on a piece of paper or into your calendar or trusted system (2To or RTM = ‘Remember The Milk’ is recommended) does not matter. You decide. The challenge with most email programmes is that you can normally only sort by date or sender and there is no field for priority you can sort by. Gmail offers the “important marker” but you cannot filter by it and have different priorities, only “all important emails”. So you would need to find your own way of doing it.

By time of publishing the Gmail Inbox app will help organise your emails similar to described above and I have published an article on 2do before, my preferred todo app. Yet any decent app will do to keep your to-do list afloat.

I have also tried several email programmes that help you to achieve inbox zero, like the ones that remove emails for a week or day or two weeks and then they pop up again. There are more and more clever solutions out there, that allow for dismissing work around like the ones above. Guess programmers catch up with what we suggest.

What is your best practise around emails?

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Productivity And Staying On Top Of Things (5)

Did you meditate. Did you relax and try to focus?

Let’s have another look:

Focus on what you are doing in the now. That’s it. Don’t start writing an article whilst checking emails. That is distraction and gets nothing done. Just because your email has 100 unread items doesn’t mean you don’t do a good job; some of those are probably spam or rubbish anyway, so focus on the task ahead. This used to be easy right. When you were younger you only ever did one thing, then the next, then the next. Sometimes in quick succession when choosing toys. Your attention span got longer, but it is decreasing again as you get more new input at a faster speed.

When I notice my brain going into overdrive, I sit down and drain my brain. The weekly routine of writing everything down that comes to your mind and clearing all that is blocking your daily thinking is very helpful. It looks like you are unproductive but actually you are very productive. It helps you thinking. Stopping the blockage of unnecessary thoughts. It makes you more productive and efficient.

Having the 2 minute rule is fantastic too. Anything that takes 2 minutes, do it instantly. This way you get emails that just need a yes or no answer out of your way quickly. The danger with emails is that you are overwhelmed easily, or when you are part of a group of people you get replies to all. I personally only check emails every 30 minutes and only send them every 30 minutes too. This way if I send an angry email or one in error, I can easily change it as it is sitting in my outbox for 30 minutes. And I have less disturbance through incoming emails. The danger of course is that someone else gets in first with their opinion, whilst this is really up to our own ego. Sometimes, email threads are solved by the time I get to them. That’s a good thing I suppose.

Please note that Outlook 2011 for Mac doesn’t support this feature but Outlook for Windows does.

Whilst a lot of people are fans of “inbox zero” I like to keep action items that need urgent attention in my inbox. You can move every email to a task or calendar in outlook but you actually just create a to-do list somewhere else. Or you use Salesforce or any other CRM to manage your work load, yet I still keep copies of the most urgent things in my inbox. My golden rule is to keep an email in the inbox if I expect it to be dealt with within 5-10 working days. Anything above that will go to a folder or task item. I noticed that over the last few years people talk more and more about inbox zero, a concept I was introduced to over 10 years ago. However, it is getting more popular as people think they got all their work done. But really, they just postpone or schedule it, and whilst it makes you feel good, I am happy to have 10 emails in my inbox knowing this is my whole to-do list for the next few days. Again, the system you create needs to work for yourself and no one else.

Pick and choose the things that work for you.

Next week we explore more inbox and email tricks that help you stay productive.

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