Should You Automate Your Time Management and Productivity?
This week, I am answering a question about automating your productivity and time management.
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Hello and welcome to episode 166 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
These days we hear a lot about automation, AI and machine learning, but what does all this mean for our personal productivity and time management? And can the current state of automation work for us by helping us to improve our productivity and time management? That’s the question I am answering this week.
Now, before we get to the question, I just wanted to give you a heads up about a special offer I am running at the moment.
During my end of year break, I came to realise that the key to seamlessly being able to get your work done is a combination of good habits and workflows—or routines. I know this can sound a little boring—doing the same thing day after day—but it isn’t really about doing the same thing day after day. The tasks and projects you work on every day will be different, but what does make a significant difference to your ability to get your important work done is to develop a workflow that you habitually follow every day.
And that is what my Productivity Masterclass course is all about. It teaches you how to build you very own workflows so you have a structure designed to keep you focused on what’s important that you eventually unconsciously follow every day.
It is the key to building amazing productivity habits and goes a long way to putting you back in control of your time,
So for the next few days, I am offering 20% off my Productivity Masterclass: Building Your Very Own Workflows. It’s an amazing course and one I am sure you will get so much value from.
Full details of this course are in the show notes.
Okay, time for me to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Ruth. Ruth asks: Hi Carl, I read a lot about automation, AI and machine learning and it seems everyone is using it. But I don’t really know what it means or how to set it up and use it. Do you have any tips on getting the most out of this technology?
Hi Ruth. Thank you for your question.
Now the first thing we need to establish is that AI is a long way from being what a lot of people understand by the term “artificial intelligence”. It is not ‘real’ AI yet. All supposedly AI apps and tools are still based on basic algorithms and binary code. We are still a long way from achieving true artificial intelligence.
Machine learning is different to AI in that your device is watching what you regularly do and uses that information to present the best options for you. Machine learning is heavily used in your mobile devices these days and can be very useful.
However, the real problem with the current iteration of AI and machine learning is they will never know how you are feeling, what your current mood is, whether you had a fight with a coworker or how much sleep you got last night. Humans are not machines, we are emotional beings with varying levels of energy based on our sleep, mental wellbeing and the food we have eaten.
So what can you do to automate your work that does understand your current energy levels, mood and wellbeing? Well, that comes down to you and the workflows you set up.
One of the things I realised last year is when you develop your own workflows and use the technology we have today to do the organising for you, you develop systems that work for you and because you retain complete control over what is shown to you, you can take in account how you are feeling on any given day.
Let me give you an example. Many people have a morning routine. Now, morning routines are a great way to start the day with consistency and to build a great structure for your day. For some people, a morning routine may include exercise, for others, it might simply be a healthy breakfast and ten minutes of meditation. The beauty of starting building a workflow with a morning routine is that you can experiment a little with this.
If you are using a task manager, such as Apple’s Reminders, Microsoft’s ToDo or Todoist you can create a recurring set of tasks that pop up in your today view every day. What you want to be doing is making sure they pop up at the top of your list every day. To do that, all you need do is add a time to the task. Tasks with times will generally be at the top of your list.
If you are a Todoist user, I would recommend you use labels to denote your morning routines. You can then create a filter from that label to show you only the routines that are due today.
Now the goal here is not to rely on your task manager to remind you every day what you want to be doing for your morning routine. Hopefully, after a few weeks, you will automatically wake and begin your morning routine.
When I developed my morning routine, I had each part of the routine in Todoist, but as the weeks went by I soon no longer needed Todoist to remind me and I removed the tasks from Todoist. I now habitually start my morning routine the moment I get out of bed.
I have taken this automated workflow further now. I use my task manager to build a daily workflow that starts with my morning review—that’s a two-minute review of my tasks and appointments for the day and then I move into my important work for the day list and that is where I stay until the end of the day when I go through my closing down list that reminds me what tasks I should do to close down the day and prepare for tomorrow.
What you will find is that there are some things you need to do every day, others perhaps three times a week and some just once. So adding the appropriate dates to these and setting them to recurring when they need doing allows you to create your own automation.
Task managers are designed to show you what you need to see when you decide you need to see them. To do that you add dates and where necessary times and you can set these to recur.
Another way to create automation is in your calendar. Again, you set them up and make them recurring.
For example, you may decide you want to exercise four times per week. So you set a recurring event in your calendar to exercise. That could be Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Just put them in your calendar at the appropriate time and set them to recur.
The same can be for studying or taking a course. Decide when you want to do your study and put it in your calendar and set it to recur.
Doing things this way means you can easily change things around if you are not feeling too good, or for some reason or other things change and you are unable to follow your workflow.
I’ve found the best automations are the ones you set up for yourself. Doing it yourself allows you to mentally prepare for the task or event and as long as you have some self-discipline you will start to do it.
I’ve had a lot of problems with automation services such as IFTTT or Zapiers. These services can be used to join different apps together. For example, if you star an email in Gmail, it will be added to your task managers’ inbox. Or if you add a task with a date and time to your task manager it will be added to your calendar.
There’s a lot of little automations like this and in theory, they are great…when…