My love / hate relationship with weekly planning

May 5, 2020 in Focus, Life

I spend roughly two hours each week planning my personal life – usually on a Sunday evening.

I start with reminding myself what’s important. Luckily, I don’t have to try and figure this out (that would take longer than two hours!). I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about this, and have something I can refer to and review.

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Two proven ways to get important work done

November 5, 2019 in Focus, Life, Productivity, Work

It might be the most important thing you ever have to figure out for yourself. How do you get important work done?

It’s the key to living a full, productive, happy and balanced life. When you don’t have this figured out, you end up doing a lot of things, but actually achieving very little.

I’ve settled on a couple of strategies for helping me get important work done. Before I share them, I want to talk about The Eisenhower Matrix. It’s one of the most powerful frameworks I’ve found to think about where you spend your time.

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How to get back on track

October 8, 2019 in Focus, Life

When I woke up this morning, I found myself worrying about where I was in life.

It’s been a chaotic few months. We had a family holiday in Yorkshire. We’ve been doing a major house renovation, where we had to move out for 6 weeks. We moved back in now, but we’re still living in a partial building site. My daughter Fearne started school. And, I’m holding down a fairly ‘full on’ job in London.

I’ve found it a struggle to get, and stay in my groove. My environment has been all over the place, which makes it hard to stick to my habits and routines. It’s a reminder that these habits and routines are the foundation for how I organise my life and get things done.

As I sat there worrying and beating myself up, I remembered two things – which helped knock me out of it.

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How to be focused and effective at work

April 13, 2019 in Focus, Work

I recently started a new role at a games studio. This has meant I’ve had to get to grips with some strategies and systems for being focused and effective at work again.

The good news is that I’ve accumulated them over the last twenty years, so they are coming back to me quickly. But, I’ve also noticed some new ways to think about things. I wanted to get them all out of my head, in case others find them useful.

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Planning for the year ahead

December 18, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset

Planning for the year ahead

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t made any for the last few years, and I failed to keep most of the ones I made before that.

Instead, I prefer to be thinking about this stuff in a different, and ongoing way (more about that at the end of this post).

That said, there is something about one year coming to a close, and another starting. It feels like a good time to take stock of where you’re at. 

I’ve been doing that for the last couple of days, and wanted to share the process I’ve been going through.

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Three reasons morning routines don’t work (and how to stick to one you love)

August 30, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset, Productivity

Waking early and making good use of the early hours is the biggest life hack there is — no exception. It’s a competitive advantage that almost feels like you’re cheating. You’re getting stuff done whilst most other people are sleeping like babies!

But, it can be hard to find one you like doing and will stick to (these are linked).

In my experience, there are three things that are at the root of not sticking to a morning routine:

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Why weekly planning is so important (and how to do it)

July 9, 2018 in Focus, Life, Productivity

I was reminded this morning how powerful and important it is to block out time to plan the week ahead.

Over the last 5 weeks, I’ve fallen out of my weekly planning habit. I spent three weeks in Cyprus, so it wasn’t needed. It’s funny how going to the beach, swimming, eating and drinking beer seem to flow with each other nicely 😉

The following two weeks were unusual for me. I had a lot of days where I was looking after my daughter Fearne. I also had a bunch of other social commitments. I decided it wasn’t worth planning those two weeks out. Better to see the two weeks out and then get back to normal.

Today I’m getting back to normal. The first thing I did was sit down and go through my weekly planning process.

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How to be less busy, and have more impact

May 25, 2018 in Focus, Life, Productivity

I’ve been through a major shift in how I plan my days and get things done over the last few years.

I used to think a good day was getting as many things done as possible. I felt productive as I ploughed through my lists. But now I realise, I was actually just busy. I could get lots of things done, but my impact was inconsistent.

A better way of putting it is, I didn’t get the return on investment for the amount of time I put in, or the number of things I completed. Continue reading »

My favourite life changing books

February 12, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset, Money

I read a great article recently — If It’s Important, Learn It Repeatedly. It makes a good case for going back and re-reading important books.

So, I went back and read Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s one of my favorite books and it was even better the second time round. It gave me a renewed enthusiasm for doing deep work and some fresh ideas for how to go about it.

It got me thinking, what other books could I go back and read again?

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How to plan a killer week

January 10, 2018 in Focus, Life

Get more done, spend more time on what really matters and be happier. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t.

Planning the week ahead could be the one, single biggest thing you can do to get more done — and be happier. It’s usually the difference between a bad, or an awesome week.

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Can technology free us from technology?

December 20, 2017 in Focus, Life

I’ve been using Freedom for the last couple of weeks, with interesting results.

Freedom is an app that helps you control distractions by blocking the internet, apps and websites — or any combination of those. You can start a freedom session whenever you like, or schedule a session for the future. It supports recurring sessions too. You have complete control over how long you want sessions to be, and what distractions you want to block.

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Why you need to become a morning person

December 12, 2017 in Focus, Life, Mindset

I’ve written about morning routines, quite frankly, more than anyone should. That’s because I believe waking up early is about the most life changing thing you can do.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I consider successful and happy, get up early and follow some type of morning routine. I challenge you to think about this too. Look at well known people, colleagues and friends. I bet you come to the same conclusion.

But, I’m just not a morning person” you say. “I do my best work later in the day”.

I’m not buying it. For 99.9% of us, it’s much better to become a morning person.

Why? I think it boils down to these 3 things:

  • Getting up early sets a tone for the day. It builds positive momentum from the get go, which then flows into the rest of the day. When I get up early and do things that are important to me (without distractions), the rest of the day usually goes well. I feel satisfied at the end of the day. When I get up late, I almost always drift into bad habits and have a bad day. I know I didn’t make the best use of my time and wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
  • It allows you to make consistent progress on things that are important to you — whether that is exercise, writing, working on a personal project, reading etc. Morning routines build consistency, largely because of the lack of distractions (everyone else is asleep). Over time, that establishes habits.
  • Getting up early builds a certain strength in character and mindset. You start to feel stronger and more disciplined than others. That breeds confidence and influences how you attack the day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of watching others come into work, knowing you’ve already exercised, worked on a personal project, got ahead of your email and done a block of focused work. Not only are you ahead on output, you’re ahead on mindset.

Jocko Willink, sums it up more succinctly than me:

“Discipline equals freedom, and that discipline begins every morning when my alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.” Jocko Willink.

And for proof, he posts one of these every day:

If you’re not waking up early, how do you start?

Simple and small.

Go to bed a little earlier. Get up a little bit earlier (i.e. 30 mins), and do one or two things. Meditate for 5 mins and take a short walk. Read or work on a personal project. Whatever is important to you. Keep it simple, easy and small for at least 30 days.

Once you get to 30 days, extend the time and perhaps add something else in. The biggest mistake you can make is to go from simple, easy and small — to complicated, hard and big. And I guarantee, you will make that mistake. Learn from it. Go back to simple, easy and small and then layer in a little bit more for the next 30 days.

It sounds unambitious, but it’s the best and fastest path to a longer, more impressive morning routine. By starting simple, easy and small — you establish the habit of getting up early and doing important things. And that’s the key to it all.

I just switched up my morning routine (part of what inspired this post). Here’s what it looks like:

  • 04.30 — 05.15: GMB Elements
  • 05.15 — 05.30: read a chapter from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’
  • 05.30 — 06.30: write
  • 06.30 — 07.00: plan day

I’ve only done it a couple of times, and it’s feeling really good. It’s a good mix of exercise, working on myself, working on a skill and setting myself up for an awesome day. I should also note, I go to bed before 10PM so I can get up that early.

If you’re not waking up early — try it. I’m confident you won’t go back.

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