Wednesday, April 10
Sometimes to get a task done you need to change your mindset, change your environment, go somewhere and shut off all the distractions... A friend of mine, Augusto Pinaud is doing his GTD (Getting Things Done) Weekly Review in Starbucks Cafe and as I've been struggling with my Weekly Review I decided to give it a try and do it in Starbucks. Here's how it went.
Check it out:
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Wednesday, March 13
I always wanted to go paperless but I never really took the plunge. Finally in January this year I decided to finally do it and I'm so glad I did. Now I have access to all of my documents from any device as I have everything stored in Evernote. And as Nozbe integrates with Evernote, I can also access them from within my task manager. In this episode I'll show you exactly what I did :-)
Check it out:
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Monday, March 11
My company is growing and together with my CTO and the rest of our team we just crafted a great 3-6 month plan of what we're going to do and goals we're going to accomplish. Everything sounds great and looks very promising... yet I need to make sure there isn't anything standing in our way... like myself. I can't be the bottleneck.
A little earlier, in the beginning of January I set out to write everything I wanted to accomplish this year. On a personal and business level. After a few hours of writing goals and planning strategy I had it all figured out. I was proud of myself and presented it to my wife. She responded quickly: "I'm proud of you, dear, but did you also plan to sleep this year or you just decided to postpone it for 2014?" At first I didn't get her joke... but then...
Tuesday, March 5
A few months ago I announced on this blog I was planning to record the video course: 10 steps to ultimate productivity!. It took me a little while to get the recording going but finally we started recording last week and yesterday we finished the recording process. It was a roller coaster of an experience... but definitely one of these moments you feel you're alive.
As I mentioned in my last post I was scared it wouldn't work. We had only a little over a week to record an 11-unit course (Intro + 10 steps) in 5 languages. It was the first time I hired a professional recording crew, it was the first time I had to use tools like tele-prompter and speak for almost 12 hours straight into the camera... and do it every day in a different language... and wearing make-up (crazy!). It was the first time I had to record myself speaking Japanese (luckily for me - Zofia, our Japanese "Happiness Officer", recorded most of the course in Japanese... which was a "first time" for her as well :-)
The "Resistance" was with me at all times
I wanted to give up several times while recording the course, here are a few examples:
Monday, February 18
This week I'm going to record my long-overdue "10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity Course" which consists of 1 intro step and 10 steps that will deal with many aspects of productivity][pr]. To make it more difficult for myself I'm going to record it in all languages I know: English, Polish, Spanish, German... and Japanese (for this last one I'll have a co-host :-) ... and I was supposed to have spent last week preparing for the recording when I had a very important family issue to sort out (good one, but a big one) and some other crisis along the way as well (and many [Nozbe-related decisions). It was all very stressful... and this past weekend I felt like canceling the whole recording when another road-block showed up...
Being scared and uncomfortable is a constant state when you're doing something meaningful
The last week was so stressful that I started questioning whether it all makes sense, if I should record this course... and if it's not too ambitious to do it in so many languages... and if it really helps anyone at all... and if it's worth the effort...
Sunday, February 10
A short follow up to my last interview blog post to inspire you even more that anyone can achieve almost anything :-)
A few months ago one of the productivity blogs posted an infographic of the top 10 productivity gurus on the Internet]td] and I made it to number 4 on the list with the influence score of 66 right behind great folks like Tim Ferriss (score 86), [David Allen (score 80) and [Craig Jarrow (score 76).
Although my ego felt really good about myself after this publication, one must not forget that this all only means I'm on the right track and I should keep on keepin' on. That's it, nothing more ;-)
Hope you follow the others from the list
This post is not about myself, but more about the company I'm privileged to be in. I totally recommend following these guys:
- Read the book "Four hour workweek" by Tim Ferriss
- Read the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen
- Subscribe to Craig's blog "Time Mamagement Ninja"
- Subscribe to Stever Robbins' "Get-it-done-guy podcast"
- Check out Tara Rodden Robinson (she's mentoring the GTD Study Group)
- and I plan to check out everyone else from this list...
Who isn't on the list and should be
Many of the interviewees of the Productive! Magazine were not included in the list (and they should have been...) like Michael Hyatt, Augusto Pinaud, Laura Stack, Graham Allcott, Jason Womack and many others... so just get the past issues of the magazine to learn all about them and what they are up to. They are the real gurus for me.
P.S. The title of the blog post is a pun (intended) to a movie I actually haven't seen... :-)
Question: Who's your guru? Why? Who inspires you regularly to really get it going?
Thursday, February 7
A few days ago Apple accepted our Nozbe iOS apps and I celebrated 6 years of running Nozbe][n1]. I can't believe how time flies. [I launched Nozbe on February 1st 2007 and although 6 years have passed, I feel like I'm just getting started! To celebrate this anniversary I wanted to write a lengthy blog post summarizing what happened in that time... but I decided to do it a little differently.
I'm very happy to report that the story of Nozbe has served as inspiration for many young entrepreneurs and startup founders who (like me) are dreaming of making a small dent in the universe by running an app that serves thousands (if not millions) of people all over the world.
That's why I'm quite often humbled to be asked for an interview - mostly in English (a few examples: Firepole Marketing, Startup Success Podcast, Productive Superdad, The Daily Saint]i4], Work Awesome, Daniel Gold or Take Permission Media) as well as in my mother tongue - Polish (like: MamStartup, Megafoni, Produktywnie, [Mediafun or [AK74).
That's why, to celebrate my 6th-year anniversary of running Nozbe and to create a resource where hopefully you can learn more about me, my story, the good, the bad and everything in between... I decided to publish this as an interview with myself. Enjoy! Here goes:
Monday, January 28
Each year we run a special Nozbe offer around Christmas/New Year's where our customers have a chance to "give productivity", meaning, to buy a Nozbe personal plan for someone for the next year. To essentially give them the tool that'll help them get things done and finally make these New Year's Resolutions happen. Many folks take us up on this offer... but some are skeptical about our intentions and question whether you can "give productivity".
Do you have to be designed to be productive or organized?
Let me start with a short personal story. My wife is an "organized" woman. She gets stuff done. Seriously. Wherever she works people praise her for her great work ethic, focus, effectiveness, organization... essentially for getting lots done.
Well, I wish I was like her right off the bat, let me tell you.
Wednesday, January 16
One of the keys to higher productivity][p] and one of the secrets of achieving success is the formation of good habits. Some habits we develop are conscious, other we just do without thinking too much about it. [This book by Charles Duhigg explains how they work... and how we can make good habits stick... and maybe even bend the bad ones to change to good ones in the end.
How I started running more consistently last year
I've been trying to run more regularly since 2009 but every time I managed to squeeze a run or even two in a week... I'd not run for another month... It was a constant roller-coaster. I couldn't get consistent with running. I knew the benefits, I knew how I'd feel after a good run... but somehow "I couldn't find time for it"...
Last year was different. I'll report on my running mileage a little later, but suffice to say I've been running at least once a week (usually two times) and from running 6km with a lot of effort, I just ran 12km at a very nice pace][i]. But that's not all. This last year I lost 7kg of body weight while gaining more muscles because [I'm now also exercising 2-3 times a week. What happened?
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
This year two of the most important contributors to productivity and personal development died. First it was Stephen Covey (the author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People") who passed away in July. Last week it was Zig Ziglar - a legendary motivational speaker and a person that influenced so many people with his character, integrity, values, advice and charisma. While I got to know the work of Stephen more than 10 years ago when I read his books, Zig appeared on my radar thanks to a comment one of my friends left on this blog. I'm so glad he did.
I didn't like Zig's Texan accent at first
When I started listening to Zig's podcast Inspiring words of encouragement I was immediately put off by Zig's strong Texan accent. I'm not English native so his accent was kind of strange and hard to listen to at first. Listening to what Zig is really saying convinced me to keep on getting new episodes and I really liked Zig's approach to selling, productivity, life and values... and God. After listening for a few months to Zig I decided to buy his book: Better Than Good - which I reviewed on this blog. Loved it and was ready for more Zig content so I bought his ultimate book about selling: The Secrets of Closing the Sale and I loved it, too. In the world of selling it's great to listen to someone teach you how to close a sale with integrity and ethics and not in a way to deceive anyone.
We are all in the business of selling
Zig's career begins with him being a salesman and only later in his career he moved on to pursue a speaker career in selling and personal development. What drove him there, he says, is that we are all in business of selling. We sell every day whether we realize this or not. We sell ideas to our spouses, we sell concepts to our children, we sell ourselves every single day. That's why his principles, based so much in selling, work in every day life.
Zig practiced what he preached
Zig was a loving family man. He was married to the same "red head" woman (as he'd call his wife) and just before his death they celebrated 66th wedding anniversary. His son Tom runs his company and his other children also help out. He wasn't just saying it's good to have a loving family. He was living it every single day.
Zig influenced many great people
Laura Stack who is a regular contributor to our Productive! Magazine and was on the cover of issue #9 said she decided to become a public speaker when she saw Zig on stage at the age of 14 (!). Seth Godin wrote a great thank you post last week (and this is how I first found out about Zig's passing). Many "online friends" of mine confessed their lives were greatly influenced by Zig.
Zig was an exception and he didn't like exceptions!
Zig's career was getting stronger with the years passing by. He was 60, 70 and 80 years old and his influence got stronger and he himself admitted "he was just getting started!". It's just amazing to see a person being so active in the years where "normal people" want to retire. After all, I "met" him (virtually) when he was 80 something and he influenced me a lot. He was an exception to the rule.
One of the things I remember he said was that we should stay out of making "exceptions" because they may start small as rare exceptions and turn to rules. He referred to situations like we "cross the street at red light this one time" - and then we start crossing the street more often at red. We shouldn't make exceptions and I try not to... but I fail many times I must admit.
Thank you Zig Ziglar!
I'm glad I got to learn from Zig and I keep on coming back to his books and courses. My friend Ivan compiled a list of great Zig's quotes and the one I keep coming to is this one:
"You can get anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."
Rest in peace Zig, hope you'll enjoy the peace you deserve and thanks so much for your inspiration and encouragement.
Did you hear about Zig Ziglar before? If so, how did he influence you? Which of his quote do you remember most?
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Back in 2008 when Nozbe was gaining traction I decided to prepare a 10 step productivity course which I delivered as a speech to a great group of Aula Polska in Warsaw. My friend, Maciek "Mediafun" recorded it (thank you!) and I recorded a series of screencasts and mixed it together for people to learn productivity principles and comprehend how to use Nozbe to help them get things done. This course has been viewed more than 100K times on YouTube to this date.
Preparing to launch The all-new course version 2012
Fast forward to today, I'm close to 6 years of running Nozbe with amazing success (thanks to my fantastic customers!), I've published 13 issues of the Productive! Magazine and close to 50 episodes of my Productive! Show and I'm more passionate about productivity than ever. And I've learned seriously a lot in these last years... and I decided it was time to update the course and release it again in a new format, with some great information and a lot more tips and tricks. The course will be released in November in a written format, as well as with an audio and video version. Each video of each step will be of ~ 6 minutes delivered in a pecha-kucha style by yours truly.
To give you a sneak peek, here's a short introduction to the course:
10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity - Introduction:
Welcome to my "10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity" course. Over the course of next 10 lessons I'll try to teach you everything I've learned so far that helps me stay productive, get a lot done and have a happy life.
My name is Michael Sliwinski, I'm the founder of Nozbe.com - one of the leading productivity applications on the Internet. Every day, thousands upon thousands of busy professionals and teams are getting things done using Nozbe's web application as well as our native apps for the Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android.
I'm also the editor of the Productive! Magazine - a completely free PDF and iPad magazine where I get a chance to interview some real overachievers and where many people wiser than me post fantastic articles. Be sure to check it out and read past issues. You'll be inspired.
I'm also running a video show where I try out new productivity techniques and record them so you can see what's new, what's helping me now and, equally important, what's not working for me at all. Each show is short and to the point.
As you can see, I'm passionate about personal and business productivity. I've been involved with this over the last decade and have been running Nozbe for around 6 years now. That's why I decided to build this course - to help you get inspired, get organized, get productive and get going!
Having said that, this course is not only about Nozbe - it's about developing your very own productivity system. I will be giving examples from Nozbe (as this is the tool I use and my productivity principles are deeply integrated there) but you can still participate and use other productivity apps as well.
Again, if you decide to use Nozbe, that's great, if you use a different tool, good for you - the most important thing is that you use something and get your productivity system in place. I might mention some other apps and systems throughout the course.
The course is laid out to 10 simple steps. Each step is not only written for you to read at your convenience but also recorded on video and audio and lasts a little over 6 minutes - so it's really short and to the point.
Step 1 in the course is about "Clearing your mind" and putting everything into your trusted system. We'll talk about Inboxes (and we all have a few of these!), and how to use them to make sure your mind is focused and nothing gets forgotten.
Step 2 is about organizing your tasks into projects. About dividing the big tasks into small, actionable steps to ensure you always get them done. You'll become a project management ninja after this lesson.
Step 3 is about defining your "next actions" - your priority tasks that need to be done next to keep your projects moving forward. You'll learn that sometimes it takes getting just one small task done to move the avalanche of a project forward and begin accomplishing your goals.
Step 4 is about being productive anywhere. Using your smartphone, tablet or even pen and paper (I know, it sounds old-school) just to move things forward. Today's era of technology enables us to get tasks done anywhere and have more free time later!
Step 5 is about collaborating. We live in a connected world and your colleagues as well as your close friends can help you get a lot more done. You'll learn how to share projects, delegate tasks and communicate through them effectively.
Step 6 is about working in contexts - it's a second, and very helpful layer of productivity where you divide tasks not only into projects, but into places these can be done in, tools these can be done with, and so on. Example: pull out all the phone calls you have to make and get them done!
Step 7 is about managing your reference material and documents. Store your notes and digitize as much content as you can to make sure to have it at hand when you're getting your tasks done. Lots of tricks and apps can help you with that.
Step 8 is about reviewing your recently set up productivity system. At least once a week you need to have a meeting with yourself and review your tasks, projects, lists and goals. Learn to start your next week fresh!
Step 9 is about Email and how to handle it. How to process it to zero (instead of checking it regularly), how to handle others' expectations when it comes to email, how to make sure you don't drown in the flood of email messages coming in.
Step 10 is where I help you how to start with everything you've learned so far. Where I add several tips and tricks that work for me and point you toward additional materials for inspiration and action.
Here they are - 10 steps to building powerful productivity habits that will help you achieve your goals, get more done, enjoy more free time with your family and friends and have a great life!
If you're ready, I encourage you to go to step one right away. You can get back to each lesson whenever you like. My goal is to inspire you and help you achieve your potential by sharing everything that's worked for me over the years. Let's get it all done!
That's the sneak peek :-) Want to be notified about this course? Subscribe to my blog or sign up for a Nozbe account or just follow me on Twitter - it's coming soon. Is there anything you think I should cover more in the course?
Monday, August 27, 2012
Last week we had a "Nozbe Team Meeting" in one of the most beautiful Poland's cities: Crocow (Kraków). We are a team of 12 now and we all work remotely. Some of us haven't seen each other ever before. We spent three intensive days mostly socializing and not working. We focused on talking about how we work and what we do and how we see the future of our product - Nozbe. Our strategy. Our values. And Getting Things Done with all that:
What it means to: "Simply Get It All Done"
Nozbe's tagline hasn't changed a lot since I launched it in 2007. It was "Simply Get Things Done", later "Simply Get It Done" and now "Simply Get Everything Done" or even "Simply Get It All Done". Anyway, it's been about "getting tasks done".
Why does it matter? How is it important? Well, this is critical. Nozbe is very often categorized as a "task manager" application that belongs to the "task mangers" or "project managers" category.
I embraced this categorization but I never liked it. I always insisted that Nozbe is not about "managing tasks" but about "getting tasks done" (and "simply" at that), meaning we are in business od "doing" and not "managing". And making it "simple".
A heated discussion about "most requested features"
Folks who use Nozbe know my firm stand (a strong no-no) on "sub-projects", "sub-tasks", or "prioritization". They know that I'm all for flat hierarchy (the flatter the better) and prioritizing by dragging and dropping stuff to the top or bottom of the list (instead of popular 1-3 priority system). I believe that simple solutions work even in complex situations.
We do support some sort of hierarchy (you can use "labels" to group projects together, you can use "contexts" to set up priorities and in new version of Nozbe you'll be able to add "checklists" to tasks if you really want a kind of sub-task experience) but we don't encourage it. And that's the difference. We want to be able to give our "advanced users" many advanced features but on the other hand we want to make sure we don't encourage too much fiddling with tasks for the rest of us.
Delfina, our Customer Happiness Officer (yes, that's her official title) together with the rest of our support gals, prepared a list of "most requested features" for us to talk about. It was a very heated discussion with developers saying what they think can and can't be done and support gals saying what (from the customers' standpoint) must and must not be done. It was a tough discussion but a very fruitful one. Because between the can-dos and no-can-dos and must-dos we realized we have to take our mission into consideration.
It was a great chance of reiterating our values about "doing stuff" vs "managing stuff". We were forced to think "out of the box" about what customers really needed and about what they said they wanted. From my standpoint (as CEO and founder) it was great to see the team embracing our values and analyzing each feature with these values in mind.
Suffice to say, it's not like we won't implement what customers are asking us to. We will, but not everything, and very often in a way they don't expect us to. Next month with new Nozbe Desktop and "rich comments" you'll see what I have in mind. We've analyzed features for at least 6 months ahead and we will roll them out, but we'll never compromise our values of "getting tasks done". Nozbe is not a "task manager" but rather a "task doer".
By designing our app we teach people productivity
It sounds like cliche, but it's true - the way we design the app is the way we "teach" our customers how to get things done. If we design it around lots of options and switches from the very beginning - they'll learn it like this. And it'll be hard for them to go back to "good habits" and "simple things that work".
As feature requests come in, we must never stop teaching our users getting back to their habits of "getting tasks done" and not that of "over-managing tasks". It's our responsibility. This is what Nozbe stands for and this is the source of our success. And it's our promise to our users and we have to make sure we never break that promise.
Seeing the team "feel" our mission is great!
It was just so cool to see my team embrace our values and take them as their own. As the founder, I always felt it was my responsibility to guard our values with my own chest. Now I see I don't have to. My responsibility is to lead my team and they'll guard our values as their own. Seeing this happen made me proud. Very proud indeed.
Do you see a difference in "getting tasks done" or just "managing tasks"? :-)
Friday, August 17, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
I've written time and time again on my blog about how I love the Pomodoro Technique (do something for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break) and recently, after reading "The Now Habit" I love the concept of an Unschedule calendar. In this post I'll show you how they work together beautifully to help me improve and get things done.
The basic concepts of "Unschedule" calendar
The idea is this:
- You divide your calendar into 30-minute-slots and leave them blank.
- You put "meetings" and all the calendar-like events that have to happen at certain time (I use "red" color for this)
- You put cool things you want to do (like training, watching youtube... small rewards you want to have - the cool stuff - I use "red" or "orange" for this)
- You leave everything else blank and fill it out once you've done with your next half-an-hour slot and you "check in" what you've done in the last half an hour.
So the concept is really cool - you only schedule the "cool stuff" and the "must-happen" stuff. And you fill out the blanks as they go.
This way you know how much "blanks" you have until next "must-be" thing happens and you can "schedule rewards" for yourself, like watching some cool youtube videos for 30 minutes or reading. Or gym.
Good rule of thumb: Schedule 2 hours of work and 30 minutes of "reward" - meaning - put a "reward" or "meeting" every 2 hours and leave the rest blank. Your work-day won't be boring and you'll get a lot more done in the 2-hour blocks you have.
The Pomodoro Techinque fits nicely with it
This fits perfectly as this technique means 25 minutes of "focused" work and 5 minutes of resting. I normally use a traditional "kitchen timer" as I like the "old-school" touch it brings to my home office. Although on my Mac I use a great new app called Tadam by a talented Polish developer. There are also "pomodoro" apps for the iPhone and iPad. Again, I prefer to use the old-school timer or the Mac app.
Together these techniques make me more productive... and fit!
Finally I manage to schedule "gym time" which was very hard for me before (I'm busy all of the time)... I just know I get to work 2 more hours and then I need to go to the gym, or run. Finally I'm actually doing workouts every single day. Same goes to reading. Apart from audio-reading (while running) I'm also catching up with blogs and old-school books as I schedule my reading time.
My work is more focused
I actually print an Unschedule calendar every week and put it on the wall and use a ballpoint pen in different colors to fill it up. This way I can see the blanks, I can see when I slack off... and when I had a great and productive day... and how much time I really have ahead of me each day.
Once half an hour is gone and I worked on something I put it in one or two words in BLUE color. If I slacked off, I use the BLACK color and write honestly what I've been doing... or not doing.
When you fall... you dust off every 30 minutes
The cool thing of the Unschedule is that even if I have a "slower slot" of time and I put "nothing" in black, I can dust off and try again in the next half-an-hour slot. I just don't have hours of a slow day anymore, because one view of my Unschedule calendar motivates me to shake things up and start getting things done.
Give it a try, you'll love it. Pomodoro and Unschedule work great together!
Have you ever tried either of these techniques? Do you like them? Did they work / or not / for you?