Last week I was challenged by a colleague to share some insight into my work/life productivity. The questions I've answered came from Lifehacker.
In this post, I share everything from the apps and gadgets I use, my morning routine, how I make time for social media, and much much more.
I encourage you to answer these questions and post them so others can learn about your productivity methods, apply them, and work/live smarter.
Location: Washington County, Utah
Current Gig: Extension Professor
One word that best describes how you work: Prioritized
Current mobile device: iPhone 6+
Current computer: iMac 27” in my office, 13” MacBook Air in my Ogio messenger bag
What app/software/tools can't you live without? Why? I use every one of these apps every single day. They are apart of my daily communications with family, friends, and contacts. How many tools does a mechanic or carpenter use each day? These are just some of the tools in my toolbox.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Scheduling creative work during peak performance hours (for me 6:30-8:30AM), multitasking when driving, and delegating monotonous work. Waking up early, going to bed by 10:00PM
What's your favorite to-do list manager? I have been satisfied with Apple’s Reminders app. If I find something better I will use that. I've tried a lot of different things and keep going back to Reminders.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why? I would say my Fitbit, but I lost it 2 days ago and I seem to be surviving. However, all my running is now a waste. Since 2012, I've been using the LG HBS730 Bluetooth so I can still be connected while I drive. My commutes are 100x more productive because I can talk on the phone while on-the-go or listen to podcasts.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? Prioritizing my time for using social media to tell the story of my Extension work, grant writing, and blogging. I am just as busy as everyone else, I could easily say “I don’t have time,” but I believe if you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities.
What do you listen to while you work? Nothing. I need complete silence when I am writing or editing videos. I wear my Beats headphones so people in my office think I am on a conference call. Very few people realize how dehabilitating interruptions are to me, I am often interrupted for unimportant reasons and because that is the case I don’t work from my office very often, maybe 10-20 hours per week.
What are you currently reading? Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, Start With Why & Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, Digital Leader by Eric Qualman, The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? I grew up an introvert, really wasn’t getting me anywhere so I switched. Wouldn’t go back.
What's your sleep routine like? In bed by 10:00PM or sooner if I can help it. Awake by 5:00AM. Constantly woken up throughout the night. I have 3 sons, my youngest is teething.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _____________ answer these same questions. Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Alvin Toffler. Before I started listening to the podcasts of Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk I would have put them on the list too, but now I could pretty much answer these questions for them.
What's the best advice you've ever received? Plan your most creative work during peak performance hours. This is when your mind is sharpest. For me, this is early in the morning between 6:30-8:30AM after I have worked out for 45minutes to an hour and not been interrupted by email, text messages, or checked any social media. My mind is clear and focused to work on writing on learning something technical that I have planned to do the night before.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers? I’ve often been asked what a typical day looks like for me. I’d like to share some of my routines and rituals that might help others increase their productivity and make time for the things they feel are important.
I wake up and immediately stretch. I drink 25ml of ice water. I check my email and read Seth Godin's daily blog. I read a few verses of scripture, pray and meditate.
5:45 - 6:30AM
I tear it up in my private CrossFit gym with a few of my close friends. Running, plyometrics, olympic lifting, kettlebells...lots of kettlebells etc. I come home dripping sweat, but with a clear and focused mind.
6:30 - 8:30AM
This is my creative time. I line out my most technical work the night before and I jump right into it. I do this at my desk in complete silence. My wife and sons are all sleeping.
My sons wake up and come into my office to let me know they are awake. This ends creative time. I play with my boys and prepare them breakfast.
I give my boys a bath and get them ready for the day. I'll peak at my email sometime in the morning (I need to stop doing this). If I have an event in the evening I'll go to work later in the day and spend a longer morning with my family. If my schedule is open I'll stay home and write, work on my tenure documentation, or write a grant. I let most calls go to voicemail and I call people back when I am done writing or need to take a break. Picking up every phone call opens me up to distraction. I have to dictate my schedule, if I let other people do it for me then I won't get as much accomplished. I don’t have set hours for work or certain things that I must do everyday. I have to organize the flood of things that come my way via email, text, social media, phone calls and then prioritize them all. This takes time, but it also saves me time.
I prioritize everything, if I don't then everything will become a crisis and I will forget to do important things. I never want anyone to think I am a flake or scatterbrained. I believe that the way people work is a reflection of their integrity.
So what are my priorities?
Kids Bedtime: My wife and I have bedtime down to a routine with our boys. Read books, sing songs, prayer, hug & kiss. Go to sleep. It works 85% of the time. They normally don't fight it.
Family Time: When I get home from work I try to unplug and be with my family, I still peak at email though. I need to stop that, my wife doesn't like it when I do that. I play with my boys, give my wife a break. We ride bikes, visit friends, go shopping, play in the backyard, and build robots with the LEGO WeDo kit. I try to make an adventure of all the common things we have to do, whether it's going to the store to get eggs and milk or visiting the in-laws' farm.
Extended Family: I keep in touch with extended family over Facebook. I got most of my immediate family (parents/siblings) to use Snapchat so we can keep in touch more often. I text and call my wife throughout the day.
Work: I am always working. I love what I do (4-H) so it doesn't feel like work. I am always available for my clients and co-workers. They call and text me all the time and I don't mind it at all.
Service: I spend about 10-15 hours a week serving in my church, I'm the leader of the adult men in my congregation between the ages of 18-45. I teach lessons from scripture on Sundays, visit people who are sick, go to their houses to read scriptures and pray. I do my best to make sure all their spiritual and temporal needs are met. There are about 50.
Social Media: I don’t “make time,” it's just the way I communicate and tell the story of my work (marketing). In a single day I will have dozens of conversations with people on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Slack, and via texting. I don't get a whole lot of phone calls now that I think about it.
Blogging: This is my personal blog, I also blog for 4-H.org. I make sure I write 1 post per month for each. I use Apple’s Notes app to list ideas for blog topics as they come to me.
Twitter: I Tweet most of what I read. I use paper.li to curate and share it once a week. I use Diigo to curate by topic so I can reference the things I’ve read in a blog post or scholarly journal article. I use IFTTT recipes to help automate the curation process.
Personal Learning Network: I use Twitter as a personal learning network. I unfollow people who aren't active and sharing what I'm interested in. I only follow people I have common interests with who I think I can learn from.
Learning: I am always engrossed in 1-2 MOOCs via Coursera or edX. I feel it is so important to always be learning new skills and improving the ones I already have.
Note Taking: I use the Notes app on my iOS to record ideas that come to me as I’m on the go. I use the reminders app to keep track of my tasks. I calendar like nobody's business. If I don't calendar it I will forget. My wife has access to my calendar and blocks out time for me to tend our sons so she can work her business. I use LG HBS730 bluetooth wireless head set to access Siri while I'm driving or running. I record voice memos, notes, and calendar items through it.
Writing: I have a writing team, we meet over Google+ Hangouts and draft all our articles in Google Drive. We write about 3-4 articles a year. I will write another 1-3 articles on my own or with other collaborators. I have a hard time waiting for people to keep up, so I end up doing most of the writing. If someone is too slow I drop them as a co-author. I'm a nice guy, but when it comes to writing I'm pretty uptight. I never write about something unless I'm completely interested in it. I often write about something so I can learn about it.
Professional Development: If I'm not totally exhausted by 9pm I will stay up and listen to learn.extension.org archived webinars. While I listen I sketch, doodle, and write down innovative ideas or potential projects to implement. I review my notes I make to myself, I just ponder on what I can be doing that would be different.
Articles: I use Google Alerts for putting myself in the flow of information on topics that matter to me. I also subscribe to relevant newsletters and read from Feedly and Flipboard every other day. I get daily emails from Inc., Fast Company and LinkedIn Pulse. I subscribe to the STEM Connector daily email. I read and share.
Books: I read a book a month. I never read fiction. I never read self help. I read about anything by Seth Godin and Tim Ferrriss. I will read anything that challenges conventional wisdom (Mark Twain said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." I prefer real books, but often settle on an eBook via Kindle.
Magazines: I read every issue of Inc. and Fast Company front to cover. These are for growing businesses and entrepreneurs. I think of myself as an Extension entrepreneur so most of what they publish really applies to me.
News: I never scan the news just for the sake of scanning the news. The writers are not that good.
Television: I watch no TV unless I find a show I can learn from (I consume shows via Netflix & Amazon Instant Video). If I find something intriguing then I will spend 1-2 hours watching it a few nights a week before bed. I’ve watched all the seasons of 24, Prison Break, and Burn Notice - I have a lot in common with Jack, Michael, and Michael, they definitely have Maker skills and utilize all their resources. I’m watching White Collar right now. Documentaries help me fall asleep if I’m wound up.
Music/Radio: On drives to work (about 25 min one way), I never listen to the radio. I fluctuate between total silence, LDS conference talks, TED talks, or podcasts. I’ve been really into podcasts lately. On occasion if I'm really frustrated I'll blast The Killers. I figure I've got 25 minutes to relax and learn something relevant or random twice a day.
If you're curious about why I don't take lunch, how I get a TON of work done while I'm on the road, or anything else - just ask me in the comments below.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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