Time management and productivity is so important for Carl Puillein, and in this episode, he explains why. Carl is a renowned productivity and time management coach who has helped thousands of people around the world get better at managing their time and become more productive using technology they carry around with them every day. He coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses. Today, he joins Penny Zenker teaches us how we can manage our time efficiently in this digital age and shares some strategies and tools that he uses for getting through the day.
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Time Management And Productivity In This Digital Age With Carl Pullein
We are dedicated to bring you tools, tips and resources that are going to help you take back time. I know you can’t change the amount of time that you have but you can be smarter about the way that you work and more strategic. That’s why I have a great guest on the show to help you do that. Carl Pullein is an exact example of that because he’s dedicated his life to working in productivity, time management, goal setting and goal planning. He’s living in Korea, of all places, so we’ll learn a little bit more about that. He’s written three books on productivity and time management. He coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses. He is committed to you and your time management. Carl, welcome.
Thank you very much for having me on.
Tell me what is this passion, obsession, whatever you want to call it? Why is time management and productivity so important to you?
This started way back when I was in middle school. It wasn’t digital when I was at middle school. I’m too old for that, but it was a pen, paper and a ruler. I used to make this revision timetable for my exams. I used to love setting all out the times, everything was on there. I’d plan it out perfectly. The problem I had was I was terrible at doing revision and never followed through. I loved creating the schedules. When I was analyzing this, I thought that’s when the seed started. My parents bought me a Filofax.
I had a Filofax. I know we’re dating yourselves.
It was yuppie but it was gorgeous. I filled everything out. I gradually went on to Franklin Planner. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. Years ago, I got into understanding the actual time management part, not just the design and it was fantastic. That’s where the passion grew and it’s always been there. It came because I started my life in Korea years ago. Teaching was where it came from. I realized I could teach this. I’ve done 25 years of playing around with productivity, time management, and goal planning. It’s time I started teaching what I learned. That’s when they all started from.
Tell me, have you embraced fully the digital age? Do you do most of your time management planning digitally or do you still do some on paper?
I’m totally digital now. I have a love of fountain pens and so I can’t give that up completely. If I’m being honest, I’m using a pen once a week.
I’m asking you that because sometimes people feel that they have to switch to a certain mode. I still do a number of things for myself that aren’t digital. I do mind maps and I like to write them out. I do have some digital, but I also like to write out the way that I do my to-do list in this chunking method. What would you say about that to people who are one foot in and one foot out? Is that good or is that not good or what?
One thing I have learned is everybody is different. It’s more a case of the mood I’m in. Friday nights for me, I call it my self-development evening. At some point, I will sit down and catch up on a few YouTube videos I want to watch. Sometimes, I’m in the mood to take notes using this Baronfig. It’s a tiny little notebook but it’s perfect for fountain pens. I’ll start writing the stuff that I’m learning in these YouTube videos. It depends on the mood, but I would say 90% of the time, I open up Apple Notes and start typing. It’s a habit now.
What I want to highlight for people, at least this is my opinion and you said it, everyone is different. You have to find what works for you. Sometimes, I’d like to be more digital. There are certain things that work well for me on Excel but to-do lists or different types of lists, it doesn’t give me a proper overview because I have to keep scrolling. It doesn’t work for me. It creates more stress than it does relieve the stress. That’s an important thing for people is to realize and determine, give something enough of a chance, but to recognize what works and what doesn’t.
That’s a big problem for a lot of people now is they feel that they have to be digital. It’s not true. Bullet journaling, for example, is huge. I love that concept and I do love my technology as well so I tend to stick with the technology. There’s going to be a time when I’m going to give bullet journal in a real go and I will. I can imagine it being so much fun.
You can use your fountain pen.
I can, different colored inks.
It depends, for a creative mind who likes to use different colors. I’ve seen people do mind maps with different colors and different drawings and things. Since they’re more creative, it helps them to bring the two sides of their brain together. What’s your favorite thing to teach and what is it that you teach that makes the biggest impact for people?
The biggest thing that I teach and I would go through this with all my coaching clients and I’ve put it in a lot of my YouTube videos as well on my courses is what I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Method. This came about because for a whole year, I monitored how many tasks I could get done each day. Given that we are in a very distracting world these days, we talked about the digital things, they’re coming at us all the time. I know people will say, “Turn off notifications and get it right.” That’s not necessarily as easy as people might think.
I don’t know about that. I think that we make it hard.
Some people can do it. Text messaging to me, instant messaging is something that I need to know about immediately. I can let go of email, I don’t worry about that. I always do that every day at some point. It’s not when it comes in. I don’t have notifications for email, Facebook and Twitter, stuff like that. I don’t have it. Instant messaging is how my wife, my mother and my students would contact me in an emergency. I need to know. For everybody, it’s going to be different. I don’t like it when people say, “What you have to do is turn off notifications.” That sounds simple but everybody is different. It depends. Living in a foreign country from where my parents are, my mother needed me. I learned the lesson. Don’t send my mother a text message at 3:00 AM, her time.
She’ll be nervous that something happened.
She doesn’t turn on do-not-disturb at night, so it wakes her up. I’ve learned that lesson. I have to wait. Everyone is different in many cases. The 2+8 Prioritisation, I realized that realistically, you can get ten meaningful tasks done a day. This doesn’t include your routines like take out the garbage, walk the dog, two of which I make my objectives. If I don’t do anything else that day, as long as I do those two things, I had a good day. Those can be professional or personal objectives. After Christmas, we tend to gain a little bit of weight. January, I can guarantee the exercise is going to be on my objective for the day pretty much every day. I’ve got my weight back down.
That’s one of the two.
The other one could be write a blog post, record a podcast, do a video, or prepare an online course. It’s always something meaningful, not something that’s trivial. It’s not going to move my life forward.
To put it in my language and the more perspectives as to how people read this, they’ll understand it even better. It’s the strategic things that either must get done that day or are moving you forward strategically in what’s important in your business, correct?A big problem for a lot of people now is they feel that they have to be digital, which is not true. Click To Tweet
It’s the strategic thing is moving forward. It has to move you forward in a goal or professionally. Those are the objectives. That’s the criteria for the objective. The other eight tasks are normal day-to-day work but have to be done. I might have an important presentation to finish that would be one of the eight. It could be an objective if it was time-sensitive and had to be done that day, but I’m better organized in that. I got myself a bit of leeway on my presentation.
That’s a good representation of the 80/20. The 20% is on your strategic goals, giving you 80% to get the things done that have to get done. I don’t know what you think about the one thing. That’s BS, it’s not life. That’s your thing with the notifications.
The reality for me is that once I picked that one, I started doing that and making sure you do it the night before. If you do it in the morning, you’re missing out on the most effective time of the day for you. You do it before you finish. With my coaching clients, I say give yourself fifteen minutes before you close out the day. If they finish at 6:00, you’ve got 5:45, set an alarm on an Apple watch, on your computer, or on your phone, do the 2+8. You decide what you’re going to do tomorrow and then you can forget about it. There is another advantage here. It means that when you go home, you’re not thinking about can’t do this tomorrow because you’ve already done that. You know what you’re going to do tomorrow. You can go home, relax, enjoy your family time, enjoy your time with your friends or whatever.
When you wake up, you’re often running. You’re not spinning your wheels in the morning trying to figure out.
It’s been working for me fantastically for years now. I couldn’t go to bed without at least doing some of that. The two objectives at least.
It gets you really clear and focus. I love that I have something I call the 135, very similar in that nature. That’s important. For anybody who’s reading this, whatever the system is for you, it’s to plan it the night before, that’s what I’m hearing you say. At the night before, you’re getting a good night’s sleep and your mind is also thinking about what you’re doing in that time. You’re going to make that time even more effective and then you’ll get off and running first thing in the morning.
One other thing is it engages the subconscious mind as well, which is brilliant because most people don’t know about how powerful your subconscious mind is. When you go to bed, you have this big problem on your mind. You wake up, you’ve got the solution, you think, “Where did that come from?” It came from your subconscious mind.
When those two things you’re going to do, your subconscious mind is already doing it. It’s already getting that article ready.
That’s the most powerful thing that I’ve been doing. I now teach and coach that because it is so effective.
You said you’re 90% or whatever digital. What’s your favorite tool that helps you to organize or do what it is that makes things successful for you?
My life is run by an app called Todoist. I couldn’t live without Todoist. It’s horrible to think because if something ever happened to Todoist, I’m going to be lost. I wouldn’t be lost because one of the things I do know is that I could transport my system into another app if I had to. Fortunately, Todoist is definitely cash positive. They don’t have outstanding loans or anything like that. They’re a strong company. They’re doing amazing things. That is the app that is my go-to. I collect everything in there, it drops into the inbox. It’s so fast, so easy from my phone and on my computer. That basically organizes all my to-do’s.
When you say it drops into you, I don’t know that tool, I don’t use that one. For sure, there are a lot of people reading this who don’t know that. Is it email-based when you say drops into your inbox?
No, it’s an app that you have on your phone and your computer. When you tap to open the app, you’re there, your inbox, and you start typing. It’s fast to capture which is important.
If it’s something you have to quickly put on your Todoist and then go back to what you were doing, it helps you to quickly do that. Tell me some other things that features or reasons why you love Todoist?
One of the things that is on the surface, Todoist is very simple to use, which is good. It’s not a big steep learning curve. It’s got the power behind it to go as complex as you want it to be. I’m very much more into the minimalist side of productivity, so I’m keeping things simple. I have a lot of clients, the way they think in projects like projects labels, tags, and all sorts of things, Todoist can do all that for you, if you want to use that power. I personally don’t, but it depends on the processes you have, the way your brain is wired. I’m very much more big picture at viewing. I know a lot of people and work with a lot of people who likes to get into the way they have things detailed planned out, Todoist will do that for you. It has some very strong filters. I can pick. If I want to see a particular view, it could be my objectives for the next seven days if I’d already planned them. I can easily get that and show it in a field. It’s easy to create filters and stuff like that.
Can it manage a process?
No, that’s more likely the Kanban board. The rumors are the feature will be coming. The Kanban board, if you are that kind of person or thinking, I would recommend Trello because they work best the way they’re set up. Todoist is not like that. It’s more linear, it’s more lists but it works well for me.
Is there any other tool that you swear by?
If we were talking before, I would have said Evernote.
Have you moved away from Evernote?
Not entirely. Evernote is great on my desktop. It’s still solid, it’s brilliant but I’ve been having so many problems with it on my phone and my iPad. I’m using Apple Notes a lot more than I used to. Hopefully, I’m praying that that will be a temporary fix. I’ve been using Evernote for over ten years. Evernote is solid on my desktop and I still use it quite a bit on my desktop because I have a lot of templates that I use in there for planning and stuff. For quick notes like the notes for this, for example, will go straight into Apple Notes because it works on my phone and my iPad. I would say Evernote is still there. It’s still one of my go-to apps.
I like to ask because everybody’s different so each productivity and time management expert has a different way of thinking and has different tools. It might open people’s perspectives to check some new tools out. What’s your definition of productivity and why? I’ve gotten totally different answers from everyone.
For me, it’s getting what needs to be done, done so that you can spend more time doing the stuff that you want to do. That’s because I worked with a lot of senior executives and generally, they love their job particularly here in Korea, I worked with a lot of regular office workers, middle managers and so on. The look on their face on a Monday morning, it looks like to them it’s a daily drudge to earn some money. That’s not a good life. I understand we have to earn an income, we have to earn a living. If we can shorten that time so we can maximize the time and we can do the things we want to do like hang out with the people who want to do, read the books, create the stuff we want to create, that to me, is the definite. If you’ve got the time to do that then you are being very productive. That would be my definition of productivity. It’s being able to create the time to be able to do the things that you want to do.Productivity is being able to create the time to be able to do the things that you want to do. Click To Tweet
You mentioned books, tell me what are your top two books that have made an impact on you and why that is?
It’s got to be David Allen’s Getting Things Done because that is the bible. I read that about years ago and I still refer back to that when I start to feel a little bit, “Things are not quite feeling right.” I go back to that book. I also go back even further than that which is a book by Hyrum Smith, The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management. He was the guy who created the original Franklin Planner.
He wrote the intro to my book, so I’ve met Hyrum Smith.
You know Hyrum Smith then?
That’s an amazing book. That was my first real-time management book and I found it again on Kindle. I bought it on Kindle and I re-read it and I thought, “It’s still good.”
You should check out also his The 3 Gaps. Have you read that? It’s his latest book.
I haven’t. That’s the only one I’d read of his book.
Check it out. It’s based on the same principles but has some different ways of presenting it. It’s a good read.
That was the first.
What was it that changed for you by reading that book?
The biggest thing on both books, both Getting Things Done and Hyrum Smith’s book was writing it down. I believe that my brain had this unlimited capacity to remember everything. When I was at the supermarket, I always forgot to pick up the milk. Something as simple as that and you forget. I knew I needed milk but you only remember when you open the refrigerator door. It’s the lessons I learned from both books. There’s a wonderful example in Hyrum Smith’s book where somebody called him and said, “I’m not ready yet but can you get back to me in three months’ time?” He said, “Sure.” In his Franklin Planner, he wrote it down the exact time of the day. When he called back, “Do you remember I spoke to you three months ago on the second of February at 10:45 AM?” “I’m hiring you.” That story stuck in my head because I realized I have yet to write it down.
It creates more stress to keep it in our heads. For everybody who’s reading this, stop the stress, stop the tug of war with time and write it down, whatever the form is. That’s why there’s an app called Remember the Milk. It’s funny because that’s a great example that everybody has experienced. I wish we could continue chatting and sharing tips, but we’ll have to at least bring this to a close. Is there anything that we haven’t covered yet before I ask you to share the information that you feel stands out in your work that you want to share with the readers?
We covered it there. The biggest thing is have a place that you collect everything that comes to mind because you’ll never remember everything. Make sure you trust that place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a simple notebook or it’s an app or a simple notes app on your phone. Get into the habit of collecting your ideas, your tasks, and thoughts in there because you’ll never know. One of those ideas might turn into $1 billion business because the businesses have to start somewhere. It could be the next chapter of your life, but it can easily be lost as well, just like that.
When you record it, you have it to go back to.
You’ve got something, “I had the idea several months ago, now I’m ready to do something with it.” Fantastic. If you don’t write it down, you’ve lost it.
Before we go, that brings me up to a point, let’s say everything is written down, do you personally have a process where you go back and review ideas that you’ve captured and things like that so that you can remember, “This is important. I think I’m ready for this now?” What do you do with your old notes?
What usually happens is I find that my notes get linked together. I will have an idea, “I have an Apple Productivity Course and it’s very popular.” I thought, “Why don’t I do a Google one and a Microsoft one?” I had the Google idea but suddenly it starts to link together. I could create a series on something like Skillshare, where it’s a simple basic course to show people how to use those tools that come free with your computers and phones to build an effective productivity system. The first initial idea was, “Why don’t I do this with Google?” came years ago, but suddenly I looked and found the original note. I linked it with the Microsoft Note and thought that’s now in development. The original idea I had was years ago. Thank you, Evernote. I can’t let go of Evernote. Those ideas are in there and I know there’s a lot of ideas that I can pull out at any time to develop a new course, a new program or something.
That is the benefit of having it digitally. I use Evernote for capture too. It’s got a great search system. That’s the advantage as you go, “I had this thought a while ago, let me go and search it,” and then there it is.
That’s the big tip for me. Write it down. You’ll never know when it might come useful.
Thank you for the perfect thing to start with for people who are getting started or a reminder for people who may have gotten away from capture is doing that. Where can they find more information about you and also some of these courses that you’re talking about? I know that you’re all over YouTube too.
The best place to find me is through my website which is CarlPullein.com because you can get to my YouTube channel, podcast, blog, and all the online courses. All the stuff I do is on there. It’s very easy to find.
Thank you so much for being here. It was a great, successful session.
Thank you for having me.
It’s my pleasure. For our readers, thank you for being here because without you, we wouldn’t have this. It’s our dedication to bring you these tips, reminders and tools. There were a lot of good nuggets here especially on how to prioritize your day. Carl’s method of 2+8 or whatever format and system that you use but use that as an idea of balancing what’s important and what’s urgent. That’s going to help you during the day to be able to manage both of those and feel good at the end of the day. Thank you for being here. We’ll see you next time.
- Carl Pullein
- Time and Life Mastery
- Your Digital Life
- Getting Things Done
- The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management
- The 3 Gaps
- Remember the Milk
- YouTube – Carl Pullein’s channel
- Podcast – The Working With… Podcast
- Blog by Carl Pullein
About Carl Puillein
A renowned productivity and time management coach who has helped thousands of people around the world get better at managing their time and become more productive using technology they carry around with them everyday.
Carl has written three books on productivity and time management and coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses.
Carl’s passion and dedication to helping people become better at managing their time so they can focus on what is important to them is legendary and his presentations and workshops are highly interactive, entertaining and educational.
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