184 FS Goals and Productivity

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03:10 - Goal Setting and Planning

  • “Where do I want to be in five years?”
  • “Where do I want to be next year?”
  • “Where do I want to be in 90 days?”

11:18 - Managing Execution; Prioritization

26:52 - Mastermind Groups

30:35 - Email

48:39 - Bookkeeping

50:32 - S.M.A.R.T. Goals


Hot Pot (Reuven)INBOX PAUSE (Jonathan)Calendly (Jonathan)BusyCal (Chuck)Basecamp (Chuck)Star Wars (Chuck)Freelance Remote Conf (Chuck)


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To sign up, go to freelancersshow.com/nird, and enter ‘freelancer’ into the contact form for a discount.]**[If you're someone who runs your own service-based business, then spending less time on pesky admin tasks means having more time to focus on your clients’ work which is why you need to give FreshBooks a try. FreshBooks is the invoicing solution that makes it incredibly simple to create and send invoices, track your time and manage your expenses. It allows you to quickly see and track the status of your invoice expenses and projects, and allows you to keep track of your expense sheets in FreshBooks. For your free 30-day trial, go to Freshbooks.com/freelancers and enter the Freelancers’ Show in the ‘How did you hear about us’ section when signing up.]**[This week’s episode of the Freelancers’ Show is brought to you by Earth Class Mail. Earth Class Mail moves your snail mail into the cloud giving you instant access 24/7 and integrates with the tools and services you use everyday. It’s crazy that we’ve moved everything we do for the business over to the digital world but still need to pick up, sort and manage physical mail. With earth class mail, you can get all your mails scanned and accessible online 24/7. You can search your mail, send invoices over to your accounting software, sync important documents into cloud storage, deposits checks and really just make running your business a whole lot easier. You also get real professional address to share publicly with customers, business partners and investors, and you’ll never need to worry about someone showing up at your door if you run your business from home. Visit freelancersshow.com/mail and you’ll get your first month of service free when you sign up.] **CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 184 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hey everyone. CHUCK: Jonathan Stark. JONATHAN: Hello. CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. And this week we’re going to be talking about goal setting. So do you guys have big plans for next year? JONATHAN: I have plans [chuckles]. REUVEN: You're one step ahead of most of the pack. JONATHAN: Yeah. CHUCK: That’s right. [Crosstalk] Next year I’m going to grow up. REUVEN: Oh no no no no no. That’s not my plan. [Chuckles] JONATHAN: My long term goal is to be able to run my entire business from just my phone. CHUCK: Oh, there you go. JONATHAN: No computer. But that won’t be 2016. CHUCK: So this is a process that I tend to go through every year, and I’m curious; is this something that you do on a regular basis – set goals or set some kind of performance target or things like that? JONATHAN: I haven’t done it in a while. I haven’t done it in too long. When I first went out of my own, which was like 2006 – so it’s that 9 years ago, I guess; just come up on the beginning of my tenth year – I had some pretty clear goals because it was like ‘ok, I’m quitting my job. I need to be able to make X dollars’ and etcetera, etcetera, pay the mortgage and all that. And I think probably like a lot of people who first make the jump, I got to a point of stability and then just, heads down, did the work, and then a few events kind of happened to me along the way where publishers approached me about writing books, and then I leveled up my business accidentally as a result of the books being well received. That actually covers quite a bit of years, that little scenario I just painted. So this year, by starting a new business, the coaching stuff, I am back to that feeling of a fresh business and it’s a little bit – it feels a little bit easier to set goals for some of these and I don’t know why. But those are the goals I've set for 2016 – to sort of like financial and client count goals, product count goals, and that sort of thing for – to reach by the end of 2016. CHUCK: How about you Reuven? REUVEN: I've never really been that good at setting goals, let alone living up to them. But last year, strangely enough around this time, my Mastermind [inaudible] decide that we would set goals for 2015. And I think it was very useful because I see now where things worked and where things didn’t and what I need to concentrate on. And I think it’s a very useful exercise. And so I had them thinking a bit about what to do in the coming year. But I also definitely think that to some degree, it’s a luxury to be able to do that. And I don’t say people shouldn’t set goals until they reach a certain point, but I feel like for a long time my goal was just get enough work to pay all the bills and make sure that we’re stable. And now – I got to mention that before the podcast, I’m doing mostly training. And I've got training lined up basically 10, 11 months in advance now. And so I feel like wow, now I can sit back and say ‘well, what do I want to do with the time that’s remaining?’ because I typically teach about 3 or 4 days a week. And I feel a sense of freedom that wow, I can really set the agenda of what I want to do and then follow up and try to improve on that each successive year. CHUCK: That’s interesting. I took a different approach and I’m going to be working through the – this is still a work in progress, but mostly what I did first was I just wrote down my long term goals, sort of where I want to wind up. And those actually wound up being pretty general, so I have things in here like ‘be able to retire when I decide I want to retire’; so when I need to have enough in the bank or in retirement accounts, retire. I want to teach my kids to be entrepreneurs. I’d like to go to heaven – so just some pretty general long term way out there things. I want to have a certain quality of life with my wife and kids. And after watching my dad go through a lot of health problems – he’s had two hip surgeries, one of them went bad. He's got [inaudible] type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, which was caused by the diabetes. He had open heart surgery a week or so ago. He's in kidney failure, and a lot of those stem from his – the way that he took care of himself, and I’m realizing that I don’t want that; I want something a little bit better, and so I want to be that happy active dad and eventually, grandpa. And so looking at that, then I broke it down and I said ‘ok, well, in order to be where I want to be, then where do I want to be in, say, 5 years?’ and so I said ‘ok, well, in 5 years I’d like to have paid off the house, be completely debt free. I’d like to be able to take the family on a vacation every year, take my wife on a vacation every year, have the business making a certain amount of money, and be able to get off of all of my diabetes medicine’. And so by narrowing it down to 5 years, I moved on to one year, and this is next year. I've got pretty specific goals about – or at least targets, things that I want to accomplish next year such as I want to double the net income I get from my business. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to double the gross income from the business, but it may well mean that depending on how it affects the expenses that I have to put out in order to do that. I want to launch a few new products, so I have three as my number. I want to grow the email list for the podcast and other things to 40,000 subscribers. I want to have an emergency fund in the bank. And I want to bring two new shows into DevChat.tv that are not shows that I actually produce. And so I've got these specific business goals, and then I have other things for the family such as spending time with the kids, and I have 30 minutes one-on-one time. So it’s very specific every week – take my wife out at least twice a month. I want to set up a podcast with my son and produce at least 30 episodes next year, and I want to take my wife on a trip. So I've got these things that I’m working toward for the year, and then I've broken that down to 90-day goals, and so that gets much more specific. So I've got some email campaigns I’m going to put together to grow the email list and on and on and on. And then I review that every week and decide what the next couple of weeks’ worth of work will look like in order to get that done. So it was a long spiel. REUVEN: I’m impressed. I’m really impressed. My goal is to get my mailing list up to 5,000 people, not in terms of who and what and when, which I think is actually quite admirable because even though I might have a small of number of, I think, specific goals, [inaudible] little bit, I think you are describing a number of different kinds of goals. Some of them are – so how much income you want, some of them are how you want to – it’s like how do you want to get money, how do you want to spend money, and how do you want to spend time. And I was just thinking in terms of products and services and directions that I want to go in. And I think, really, what you were saying is – I don’t know if it’s necessarily a replacement for what I've been thinking, but it’s good food for thought and is no less important in terms of goal setting. CHUCK: Yeah. One of my mentors actually asked ‘what needs to happen by the end of next year in order for you not to be a failure? What one thing?’ And that really made me think ‘ok’ – because I've got – I don’t know – if I look at my 90-day list, I've probably got 30 goals on here and it’s just a lot of things to do. And I’m trying to make sure that I get them all scheduled in. But I've also focused in on ‘ok, what are the one or two things that I just – I absolutely have to do that I’m going to – I’m really going to focus on to getting done this year?’ And the one – after seeing my dad go through what he went through with the open heart surgery and everything else and falling down – it was a week last week; I’ll just tell you. I had to take him to the doctor a couple of times because my mom couldn’t because she teaches school. And just watching him suffer through some of the things he has to suffer through to get well again, I’m just – my big goal next year is to lose about 40 pounds and to get my diabetes fully under control, to the point where I'm talking to my doctor about whether or not I can quit certain medications. And that’s the big thing. And then if there's another big thing, it’s growing that email list because I think that will cause a lot of these other things in the business to happen. And those are the big ones. Those are the ones that I’m really focused on. The other ones are definitely things I want to happen, and I’m definitely going to work for them, but I’m prioritizing the things that get me to those other goals. JONATHAN: Right. And do you find that having set those sort of lofty goals, let’s call them, helps you – since you’ve done it, which sounds like it was relatively recent, have you found that it helps you prioritize other things instead of it just feeling like this giant hive of bees flying around your head of things you probably should do? CHUCK: That’s kind of the other end, I think, in the way that you manage your execution. I don’t look at these lists everyday. The list that I’m looking at everyday – I look at, at least, the 90-day every week because those are the things that I need to get done. And then every month I make sure I look at the year’s goals and make sure I’m still on track. But the 90-day goals help me with some of that stuff, because it’s like ‘ok, how am I doing with this? Well, I didn’t spend time with the kids last week, so I need to spend more time with them this week’ or whatever. So I schedule it in, but what I've been doing is I look at the 90-day goals, and then I've split my time up into sprints. So I've got 2-week sprints. This one’s a 3-week sprint because I want to start the next sprint on the new year, and there are holidays in the middle of this sprint. And that’s a development term if you're not familiar with it, but it’s essentially a time period in which you get a certain amount of work done. And so this current sprint I’m working on getting some email sequences together and things like that, but I've actually put some of these other things into my schedule. So I've got the 30 minutes with each child that I’m planning on spending. I haven’t been deliberate about scheduling it in this week because Christmas, and so I figured I’ll just make sure that I get 30 minutes some time on the 25th or 26th with each kid. REUVEN: [Crosstalk] If they’ve been good. CHUCK: What was that? REUVEN: If they’ve been good. CHUCK: If they’ve been good? That’s right. Otherwise, just get a lump of coat. So I’m scheduling time to take my wife out. I’m scheduling time to spend working on the podcast that my son and I are going to do together. And so I put it into my calendar, and that way I know that it’s going to happen because I will stick to my calendar. JONATHAN: So that’s interesting because it’s easy for people to – I think it’s easy – people are listening to this and they say ‘oh, I should do that, too’, and they get to sit down and make a list as long as my arm of stuff that they want to achieve. And let’s even say that they know how to get from point A, where they currently are, to point B, which is their goal. Presumably, everybody’s busy; they feel like they're already maxed out time-wise, so it’s implied, I think, in what you're saying that you're cutting out other stuff. So what are we talking about showers here [chuckles] or are we talking about, you know, Facebook? CHUCK: Yeah. So some of it is Facebook and some of it is – I spent a lot of time playing games on my phone, and I found that I do that a whole lot less because I’m moving from one task to the next from my calendar. But it hasn’t been deliberate, like ‘oh, I’m going to quit playing around on my phone’. Instead, it’s been more deliberate about ‘this half hour is dedicated to doing this job’. And by doing that and then having the next half hour scheduled for the next job – when I schedule in lunch and I schedule in my workouts, and I schedule in all the other stuff, but by having that, then I just – I’m able to prioritize the things that I need to get done or want to get done because I’m basically giving them a time slot and dedicating that time to it, and I just have to deal with the fact that I’m not going to be able to get the other stuff done. So I’m forced to prioritize. And if something important comes up, I shift my day the next day. And I don’t feel terrible about that. For example, on Thursday I had 3 or 4 different things I needed to do. My dad called me up and said ‘I need to go to dialysis and I need somebody to pick me up when I’m done’. And for me, that’s an hour on the road driving over to the doctor’s office, picking him up, driving him home and then driving back here. And so I just move those two things up to the next available spots, move the stuff out of those spots over, and then whatever fell off, fell off, and I was just forced to prioritize it that way. But the nice thing was that then at the end of the day, because my – I schedule the time out until 6 pm, at 6 pm I’m done and I go and I hang out with my family. And then I don’t worry about it because I've done everything I can up to that point to meet each of these goals. JONATHAN: Yeah. I’m a big fan of scheduling stuff into my calendar. I think it’s the difference between getting stuff done and having a To Do list that just turns into a giant attic, like a garage full of junk that you just sit down and you read through this giant list of 50 things that are on your To Do list and you get to the bottom of it and you're like ‘I’m not going to do any of these things. Right now I’ll check Facebook or I’ll do something that’s not even on this list that maybe is beneficial but I haven’t explicitly mapped that out anywhere’, and therefore you feel like a failure when you're done with it because you really have done nothing on your list. So I’m a huge fan of the – what's his name, David Allen: Getting Things Done – and keeping a very short To Do list and being honest with yourself, like ‘look, if this thing on my To Do list is older than a week, I’m not going to do it; I’m not’. So I’ll either put it in my calendar for a Wednesday at 3:00, I’m going to do this thing, or I’ll just move it to my Maybe Someday list where it dies. CHUCK: Yeah. And that’s what I manage – I manage a backlog. So I dump all the stuff in there that I got to do, and then I’ll pull stuff out of it. And sometimes it’s like ‘oh, I've got to get this other thing and this other thing done’, and so they supersede whatever is in that list. But yeah, if it’s not on my calendar, it’s not going to happen. JONATHAN: Right. And to be realistic, for people who are listening to this, they're probably thinking ‘oh well, as soon as I start to get off of that, I’ll just start deleting things, I’ll spend my whole day, move my calendar around’, and to help [inaudible] that I do this thing where on Thursdays, I've got a block of four and a half hours that’s just literally labeled ‘Catch Up’. And so it’s blocked out in my calendar so that I can’t schedule something into it, but then, just like you described with having to drive your father, is something comes up, which things do, then you’ve got this – I've got this four and half hour block where anything that I didn’t do on Wednesday that I was supposed to do, I can actually catch up with. And the only reason I didn’t do it on Friday is because I have phone calls scheduled like morning until night on Friday, otherwise I would put it there. CHUCK: Yeah, I think that’s what I would put something like that – Friday afternoon. REUVEN: It’s embarrassing to agree to which you described my To Do list [chuckles]. Although I feel better knowing that it’s not just me because I say ‘oh, I really should to do this. I really should do this. I really should do this’, and I do go through it and deal with the To Do list, but it’s not nearly as organized or prioritized. I guess it is prioritized to some degree, but I think the key word to use there was realistic, and I tend to be extremely unrealistic about how long things will take. I've gotten better over the years, but unrealistic. So I will say ‘oh, today I’ll get these 10 things done’, and any normal human looking at that would think that it was like a sad joke that I’m going to get 2 of those done or 3 of those done, that would be a tremendous day. And so I end up over-scheduling, and not sleeping, and not seeing my family as much as I want, and I think probably then – actually, the [inaudible] way to this conversation, I should probably set my number one goal will say ‘you know what, I've got enough work. I’m happy with it. I should get more sleep and I should see my family more’ as opposed to running a non-stop work treadmill that I've been doing for so, so many years, and which has become the norm. CHUCK: Yeah. The one thing that I would say related to that is you said that you have this list of things that you ought to do, and when I move things from my Ought To Do list to my Going To Do calendar and say I’m going to do it, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when I’m going to get it done. And the other thing is by putting it on this calendar, you are forced to prioritize it or you're forced to give an unrealistic expectation to how long it’s going to take. But I tend to put things in and give it a little bit of room so that I know that I can get it done in the time that I've allotted for it, and that way I can sit down and just knock it out. REUVEN: You said something very interesting just here because I – first, I have to call my bank about something. It’s nothing urgent; I just need to do it the next 4 or 5 weeks. So I put it on my calendar for last week – I think it was last Wednesday: Call bank. But I didn’t set it for a particular time slot. I just put it on a day where I will actually call the bank. And so, it sounds that what you're saying is the key to it is to say ‘ok, this is going to take half an hour. Let’s assume worst case, it’ll take an hour’. I just schedule it for a particular – not just day, but particular hour in which to do it, and that forces me to then prioritize because I can’t do more than one thing in that hour, two things in that hour. CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing is that without – I have this similar thing where I had to call the insurance company and set up the automatic payments for my new insurance plan because thanks ObamaCare. And anyway, so I call – I set that in my calendar for a half hour, and it turned out to take a half hour, but the thing I had right after it was something that I was completely comfortable moving into another spot the next day. And that worked out pretty nicely, too. But if I hadn’t put it in my calendar, I don’t know when I would’ve gotten to it. And the thing is it’s something that I knew I needed to get to, but I don’t know if I would’ve remembered to do it. I set it in my calendar and I set a reminder, so I get a reminder on my phone, I get a reminder on my computer, I get a reminder on my iPad, I get a reminder on my watch. And so I don’t miss it. JONATHAN: There's something, for me, there's a big psychological difference when you put something in the calendar at a specific time. It forces you to consider how long it’s going to take you. And that makes all the difference for me because you – before, I used to do – prior to me doing this, I would keep stuff that I could do whenever like call the bank about a non-urgent thing, basically, what would end up happening is I would put it on my To Do list which is where I keep undated things, and I would never do it until it was urgent. So typically, what I do now is I’ll take it – let’s say, there's a December 31st deadline for something, and I put it in [inaudible] – ‘oh, sometime before the end of the year I need to do this’ instead of that I’ll take it and put it right before the deadline so that it doesn’t even come back up on my radar until it’s urgent. And not like I don’t make it ridiculously eleventh hour, but I’ll say I’ll put a – let’s just say it’s some tax filing thing I have to do before the end of the year – I’ll put that on the last Monday of December, and then I’ll put a 7-day – remind me 7 days before this, and it’s going to remind me everyday leading up to that, and it just nags me. It’s like your significant other nagging you to do this thing, only it’s worse because it’s you. And by the time it shows up, if you haven’t done it yet, then you're like ‘I am a loser if I don’t do this right now’. It’s like drop everything and do this because it’s about to become an emergency or some fee from the government or whatever. So now – I use to only put dated commitments in my calendar, but now I put – basically, I date my own commitments – that sounds weird. So what stuff that doesn’t necessarily have a deadline but I do want to get done, I make a promise to myself that I commit to do it on this particular time – day and time. You know when I started doing this actually? I started doing this when I signed up for Calendly, which is a – it’s a piece of scheduling software. It’s an online software as a service thing that allows other people to pick a time in your calendar when they want to meet for like half an hour, an hour, whatever. And I realized that once I did that, there were dozen – maybe a dozen people just filling up my calendar. Somebody would just – somebody would email ‘hey, I’d like to talk about coaching’ and I’d be like ‘here’s a link, pick a time in my calendar’. And if I didn’t – and people could – leads, which are important things to follow up on, would literally fill up my week. And I was like I need to block out time for me to do stuff that’s on my To Do list. So that when I block out a big chunk of Thursday as my catch up, I’d block out a big chunk of Wednesday for writing and I've got meetings all over the place. And once I did that, I noticed that I became a lot more effective. REUVEN: Yeah. I, for years, for too many years, I was doing consulting and I was charging by the hour, and so I would say ‘well, I could do this, I could do this’, I would decide – I would fill in some things. But if I wasn’t going on site to work with a client, and if it didn’t seem that urgent, I would say ‘well, I’ll just find time to work on things’. And I definitely think one of the benefits that I've had with switching to the training, which I said before is like a productized consulting, so I know that those hours and days are scheduled; and I always do full days. So I know exactly what days are full and so I know I can’t schedule other things on those days. And that has definitely – and so this is like a step toward what you guys are describing. And I can already feel, in the last 6 months of doing this, a tremendous relief because it means I’m not wondering what I’m going to be doing that day, and I do have that sense of accomplishment. So now, I guess the next step is to [inaudible] it down, make it more finely granular, and do that same thing for non-training, non-day-long things. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the sense of control and relief that you guys are describing will actually happen too. CHUCK: Yeah. I can tell you that last week, with everything that went on with my dad and everything, it was just – I felt like I got more done last week than I otherwise could have. And it was just that sense of when I had to get stuff done, I got it done. And I tend to delete it off my calendar when I complete it, and that way I can go back through it at the end of the week and move stuff to the next week if I didn’t get to it. JONATHAN: Oh, that’s funny. I was going to ask about how you – because there – the problem with the calendar, there are not a lot of To Do list features in the calendar, so how do you done something – what if you don’t want to delete your history of things you did? So I do this thing where I put in – I put the word ‘Done’ in front of the thing after I did it, so I can go back and look. CHUCK: I can do that. JONATHAN: Yeah, but they're not – most of them are not repeating events. CHUCK: Yeah. If they're repeating events – and even then, I just ‘ok, delete just this one’. But yeah, I just delete them [chuckles] and I don’t have to think about them anymore. JONATHAN: Yeah. It depends on the thing because here’s my problem is that I wake up in the middle of the night and be like ‘oh my god, did I call that guy back?’ and I’ll go in my calendar and there’d be no record of it, and I just won’t know. It’s terrible. It’s like existential crisis. So I have to leave certain – there are certain things I find not – I never thought about it until now we’re talking about it, but there are certain things that I leave in there as a marker that I completed it so I don’t freak out. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s interesting. For me, if it’s not there, of course then it’s ‘did it ever make it in?’ but I haven’t run into that yet. But yeah, I just can’t tap the benefits enough of putting it in the calendar. It’s just makes a ton of difference for me. JONATHAN: So there's another big factor here that I think has affected Chuck and I in terms of setting goals. I started out in the beginning saying I haven’t done a good job setting goals in the last couple of years. And a major thing that changed for me was that I’m part of a really active Mastermind now, and there are – people will – it’ll come up casually in general like ‘oh, I’m planning to do this next year’ or we just execute this awesome thing, the obvious next – we’d be crazy if we didn’t do this and this and this, or I’d be crazy if I didn’t follow up with this and this. And so there are other – being a solo consultant, I never have those kinds of conversations. I previously never had those kinds of conversations, so it was never said out loud. So now that I’m saying it out loud, and in fact, when people at the end of the year in the Mastermind does basically what this show is about like ‘ok, everybody, what are your goals for next year? What are our group goals for next year? What do we want to see this Mastermind go next year?’ [Inaudible] more thinking about it and it’s – when just enough accountability to spur me to action. So if people are listening to this and they're a solo operator, some kind of lone wolf, and they're thinking ‘man, this all sounds great, but I know I’ll never stick to it’, then what you need is to apply a little bit of accountability and that means having another person involved somehow. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s true. It’s much easier to set goals for yourself than – and not do them, than set goals in front of other people. My Mastermind is going to be doing that. I think this coming week we’re going to be going over goals for the coming year. And part of the idea is also to hold everyone’s feet to the fire and say ‘well, this is what you said last year. How are you going to make sure that this year’s goals are a little more realistic and that you're going to achieve them?’ JONATHAN: Yeah, totally, because you don’t want to defeat the whole – if you end up just blowing them all, then it’s almost negative. It has this reverse effect where this downward spiral kind of thing. So keeping it realistic, and I think Chuck said this one thing – or actually everybody said it so far – it’s like ‘look, what's the one thing that I need to get done today? I've got 5 things on my calendar for today; they're all important, but what's the one that I have to do?’ and that’s actually – I don’t know where – I don’t know if that’s a Merlin Mann thing or if it’s a David Allen thing, but if you look at your list as stuff to do for the day and it’s like do the most – do the – not the biggest one, but the most banked for the buck one first, and then no matter what happens you got that behind you and it creates this momentum into the other things. So I find my temptation is to do the small stuff is ‘ah, this is easy, I’ll do this. I’ll do this. I’ll do this. I’ll do this’, and you put off the big one, but that rolls over and rolls over and rolls over and it creates more and more cognitive load on your – just like emotional weight and it drags you down. So when you're – Chuck, you said something about having that sort of concept on a 90-day timeframe; I think it’s useful there and it’s also useful – or an annual, like what's the one thing – you'll be a failure if you don’t do this one thing next year. I think it works on the day level too where you say ‘look, the biggest best most relief I’m going to get is if I do this big hunk of thing that I've been putting off’, do that first before you check email or anything. Just too bad everybody, I’m doing this thing, then check –. The worst thing you can do is check email first thing in the morning because then you just – [crosstalk]. CHUCK: Oh, I schedule that, too. JONATHAN: Smart, yeah. I've got mine set up so it only comes in every 2 hours, so I can – you know what, I should set it so the first one is at 11. I’m going to do that actually so that the first email batch comes in at 11 instead of what I have now, which I think is 9. REUVEN: That’s something that I've heard over the years is it’s smart to do to only check your email a few times a day, and I got to admit – I’ll use the excuses thing, but my clients want to be in touch with you all the time – but I’m going to admit it. I’m just addicted to it. For so, so many years now, I've always been checking my mail and checking my mail, and there's always this stuff and ‘oh, it’s so interesting’ and ‘oh, I should respond’. And I've seen a growing number of people I know and respect even putting in their email signatures ‘I only check email twice a day, three times a day’, so you don’t get a response right away – ‘don’t bug me’, basically. And I can imagine that’s huge productivity help. And at the same time, I feel like over the last week or so, I've been traveling, I've been working hard, and I have all these mails that’s already built up and that is with me reading and responding to the mail, it haven’t helped me if I let it go for a long time. CHUCK: Yeah. My thing is though is that I find that probably half of the email that I wind up sorting through is stuff that I could either put off or not read ever. So I just schedule a half hour and then I work through my inbox; I've got SaneBox plugged into this thing, so I work through my inbox and then I work through my Sane later. And yeah, if it’s something I can answer later, a lot of times I’ll put it off, and if it’s something that I need to answer specifically, then I’ll put it in my calendar. And what that does is then I have – I know I have the time to answer the things that are important, and the things that are ‘oh well, that’s good to know’ like the reports from the CI server for my projects or the bugger reports that I get from Honeybadger or some of these other things. It’s like ‘ok, I know that happened. I’ll put it in Trello for the developer, and then I’ll move along’, and that way I’m able to get through it, and so yeah, I just have a half hour. If I don’t get all the way through it, odds are I can probably get through most of the rest of it the next day because it comes and goes. So yeah, that’s a half hour to just sort through it, and then the important stuff will get a 15 or 30-minute appointment on my calendar if I need to reply to it. JONATHAN: Yup. Yeah, that’s pure GTD where you just open up your inbox, you start at the top – I use the arrow keys – I just arrow my way down; anything that’s like what Chuck just described where it’s like server report or something like that – it’s not spam, but I don’t need to read it, and I just X, X, X, X, X all the way down and I’ll open up my email, there’d be 75 emails in there. I’ll go down, I’ll X up the stuff that I can immediately archive, and now I’m down to 20. And then I’ll go through, and I’ll spam anything or unsubscribe from anything that shouldn’t be there, which is usually a couple. And then I’ll be left with two kinds of email. One is leads for work which is stuff that the only place I get it is email. And then there’ll be stuff that’s like correspondence from existing or past customers, and same thing; it’s like if I can immediately deal with it like in less than a minute, I will fire up a reply –. CHUCK: Yup. That’s what I do, too. [Crosstalk] JONATHAN: Yup. If I can’t, I will create a To Do for it in the link to the email in my To Do programs so that when I get to my To Dos, I’ll say ‘ok, respond to Bob’ and there's a link right there, I click on it, goes right to the Gmail message, and then I could schedule into my calendar, whatever, do my To Do – it’s a To Do. You don’t want this gigantic list whether it’s in your To Dos or your inbox because reading the damn thing create – it’s like you have to – it’s like a computer has to set up all these memory, like I have to allocate all these memory just to read the thing, the list, not even the individual messages. So you need to just have a mode where you're in triage mode – I think he calls it – where you triage [inaudible] stuff immediately and you only answer the things that you – you only act on the things that literally would take you less time to act on the than to put them in your To Do list. And you just sort everything else away or archive it, really. And it’s great; it’s amazing. It allows me to go through – I get – I don’t know how many emails I get; over a hundred, for sure, everyday, and I should – I hasten to add that most of my client communication now is happening in Slack, so there's almost never anything urgent to my email, which I think is important to recognize. I don’t have to look at my email every 2 seconds; every time it beeps, I don’t have to look at it because nothing urgent is going to be there. I've trained all of my customers, all of my colleagues, if you have something urgent, you’ve got a special channel, not your inbox. Because any idiot on the internet can email you, so I don’t want anything urgent there because it’s just going to be messed up with all these other junk. So with all of my clients, we’re in some private channel that not any idiot can get in touch with me, and that’s where the urgent communications happen. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s very smart. That’s very very smart. And that changes things significantly because if I know like why am I checking my email aside from addiction? JONATHAN: Just in case, because there might be an emergency. REUVEN: Exactly, exactly, because you never know. And of course, then I have one – let’s say once every 2 or 3 days, there is that email that comes from someone where I have to deal with it right away and I say ‘aah, you see? Good thing I was checking it’. But as you point out, if I were to, say – on Slack more regularly, and I said to them ‘use that channel for urgent communication’, then that would work out much better. JONATHAN: Right. And that will happen automatically if you start telling you only check your email once a day because they’ll know it’s a bad way to get a hold of you. CHUCK: Well, the other thing is well they legitimately know the difference if you answer it an hour later. JONATHAN: That’s another thing. How many times – I can’t tell you how many times an urgent, all caps urgent subject line has shown up and I didn’t check it for 2 hours, and oh, it magically fixed itself somehow even though I didn’t jump on it. It happens all the time. CHUCK: Or I reply to the client and I say ‘ok, I’m on it’. It’s after I've gone and picked up the kids from school and come home and played with them for a little while and then recorded the podcast and then I checked my email after that, and they sent it at 9 in the morning, and it’s like ‘oh, ok. I’m on it now’ and they're like ‘great’. And if I had sent the email at 10am, they would have been ‘great’, and it didn’t really impact their business; it didn’t really impact our relationship. I saw it within a reasonable amount of time to their thinking, and that just worked out. I rarely see anything that comes into my inbox that is ‘drop everything, I got to fix this right away’. JONATHAN: Yeah. If you really step back, that’s my exact finding. That’s my finding as well is if you step back from it and you disconnect yourself from the reactionary fire putting out mode and you really just chill, it’s almost – there is like – honestly, no one should be sending you emails that are that urgent. They should either text me, Slack me, call me; it is not – email is not the place for that. Years ago, I used to just sit within my inbox all day just waiting for stuff to come in. I’m just going to be triaging all day. I’d be doing whatever I was doing and triage my email at the same time. And it’s a recipe for disaster. Not to make this an email show, but what we’re talking about here is finding the time to achieve these goals that you – you set these goals and where are you magically going to find the time? Well, one of the places you are going to find the time is not hanging out in your inbox anymore because that is very – it’s almost all very low value communication or stuff that you can put off to a time when after the big thing you need to do for the day. CHUCK: The other thing that I want to throw in there is that I have gotten, I think, one email where there was like a security issue on the server so I really did have to drop everything and go fix it. And under those circumstances, I just – the first thing I do is go into my calendar and shove everything off a few hours and then go assess the situation because I know I’m at least going to spend an hour or so figuring the thing out. And then in that way, I've given myself the space and I know that there's a plan for the other stuff later on. JONATHAN: Yup. I've got two other interesting email approaches that have come across over the years, and Reuven, I think one of these will be especially hilarious to you. One is to set up an autoresponder when you know you're going to be not – you're going to be away from your inbox for whatever reason, whether you're traveling for business or not, you're not just going to be answering your email. The autoresponder says something like ‘I received your email. It’s automatically sent to archive. I’ll be back on January 1st. If this is important, please resend your email after that date’. CHUCK: Yeey! [Laughter] JONATHAN: Because I’m deleting everything in my inbox that would come in over vacation, because that’s not vacation if you come back to 7500 emails [chuckles]. And another one – I don’t remember who – I've read that online somewhere; I don’t think I know the person that came up with that one, but I also was at a conference recently – Allan Branch from LessAccounting. He says when somebody sends him requests, he just deletes it immediately. And if they really want it, they’ll email him again. CHUCK: I love those emails. ‘So, quick question’, 6 paragraphs. JONATHAN: Delete. CHUCK: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ll usually give them the courtesy of replying and going ‘this isn't a quick question, and I don’t know if I have time to reply. So if you can boil it down to the essential question and something I can answer in 5 minutes, you'll probably get a response’. And I think I have that in TextExpander somewhere. JONATHAN: Yeah. Our friend Kurt Elster would reply with a single line that says ‘you can book an hour with me on [inaudible][laughter]’. REUVEN: Oh my god. CHUCK: Go Kurt! Now, that’s awesome. REUVEN: But true. CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: My father – and obviously, this is a different sort of medium – my father said years ago that he had a colleague, friend and colleague, who never kept the carbon copies, the actual physical carbon copies – that’s what CC stand for, kids [chuckles]. CHUCK: That still doesn’t help. They have no idea what you're talking about. Keep talking, that’s fine. REUVEN: [Inaudible] anyway. So he never kept the copies of any correspondence because he figured if it was really important, the other person would keep a copy. JONATHAN: Nice. [Crosstalk] It reminds me of 37signals where they said for years; they're like ‘we don’t keep a new feature list. We don’t need to because everybody – the ones that are most important, we remember because everyone’s constantly bugging us about them. So why keep this long tail of stuff one person requested 6 months ago’. It kind of reminds me of a similar thing. It’s like the actual urgent stuff bubbles back up. REUVEN: Right. Oh definitely, it’s interesting I hadn’t thought in terms of personal productivity over the coming year, but that’s somewhere where I’m so bad that like there's nowhere to go but up. And some of these ideas are very useful and good. CHUCK: Well, the thing is that we’re talking about productivity. We initially started out talking about goals, but the thing is that unless – if you set these goals and you never look at them again, they're not going to do you any good. And if you set these goals and you look at them periodically and you're not making a plan to achieve them, they're not going to do you any good. And so the execution is really the powerful part. The inspiration you get from the goals, and that being able to remember how it felt to think about these things – all year long next year, I’m going to be thinking about yeah, I don’t want to go down the road Dad went down, so I’m going to get into shape. I don’t want to deal with the health issues that my grandpa went through, so I’m going to get into shape and get that determination and get that feeling back, but then it’s going to be, ok, so I’m going to plan and I’m going to execute so that I can achieve this goal because it’s important to me. But without the plan, without the execution, without knowing how I’m going to move ahead on this stuff, I just don’t see how I can possibly succeed especially on some of these goals are a little bit harder to hit. JONATHAN: Yeah. So it boils down to finding the time, and hence, the email conversation because emails are the biggest time sucker ever invented. CHUCK: Well, then I have never found time. Like walking down the sidewalk, people just don’t [chuckles] and leave it on the sidewalk. If I want to ‘find time’, I have got to go make room on my schedule. It’s the only way that it happens. And that’s why I keep going back to the calendar because if I don’t do that, it won’t happen. JONATHAN: Ditto. And think about it, dear freelancer, if you're listening to this show and you're thinking ‘oh, you know, well, I don’t really want to clutter up my calendar with all that stuff’. It’s like think about things you put in your calendar now today, and they're probably mostly appointments with clients or that sort of thing, and you do them. You know they're coming, you prepare for them, you do them. I even put preparations in the half hour before the meeting. So I don’t want to just jump into the meeting, so I’ll put in 30 minutes or 15 minutes of prep before a particular important client meeting or whatever. But if you think about the way you're calendar works now, I’m assuming most people are more or less doing everything that’s in their calendar; they just don’t have enough stuff in their calendar. If you look at a week view and there's a few hours blocked out here and there, and the rest of it is going to be filled in with these – sort of thinking like ‘oh, I’ll be doing billable work the rest of the time’. It’s like ‘ok, but when really?’ So if I would back – when I did use to bill by the hour, I tracked my hours in my calendar. So instead of keeping a timesheet, I would go into – at the time, it was iCal and I had all the keyboard commands memorized so I could just like boom boom boom boom, I’m on the keyboard creating a new event, move it back to when I started, stretch it open to the point where the amount of time that I worked and put in a – I would put in all caps ‘Billable’, and then I would say ‘da da da da da’ and it’ll be like the task that I did. And this was before Github and all that if it would – if this was at the time, I probably would’ve put in the commit for whatever code that I wrote. And if you – it was ridiculous to look – you look back in my calendar, it was wall to wall events. Like for Monday morning to Friday afternoon, it was wall to wall packed, 100% full. And then you look at my next week and it'd be empty. There would be like the weekly meeting on a Wednesday, empty. And to leave all of that, you can’t put in individual like I did this in the future at this time, really, if you're from an hours tracking standpoint, like ‘oh, I optimized the database until next Wednesday at 3’. I recognize that that’s too specific. But to just leave the future to that undefined compared to how defined your week actually is when you look back in your history, it’s absurd when you look at it like that. You should at least block out like ‘ok, Tuesdays going to be a solid dev day. I’m not going to check email once, and I’m just going to set expectations. Everybody knows I don’t check email on Tuesday’ or whatever it is. So you can get in the zone, do your dev, and maybe you break up that 8 hours into 16, 17, 20, 25 different commits where hours entries – if you're tracking hours like a mental patient [chuckles]. Ok fine, but at least block it out so that it gives you a – it gives me a sense of confidence, predictability; it lets me know – and again, I've got people scheduling stuff into my calendar. People – I give the general public permission to schedule things into my calendar. So if I had that old school one meeting on a Wednesday and the rest of the week was white, then I’d be dead. I would never get anything done because people would be taking up my hours and there’d be nothing blocked out for me. CHUCK: Yup. One other thing that I ran into in getting to this and getting to the place where I’m at now is that for a long time, I was like ‘well, I don’t even have to make a plan to manage my time’. And that’s just a vicious cycle. If you're saying ‘I don’t have time to come up with something like this’, we’re talking to you. So go in and yeah, just take some time. One thing that I heard – I was listening to The Eventual Millionaire – I don’t remember who it was that they were talking to, but they were specifically talking about delegating, and they said that it is worth spending 30 times the amount of time it takes you to do a task to teach somebody else to do it, because even if you only do that task once a week, from then for a year, you’ve saved 50 times that amount of time. So you get 20x back. And so if you're doing something like this and you're working on the important high leverage stuff, that 80-20 stuff, you're working on that 20% that really matters, you're going to have it pay off. And so even if you're feeling like ‘I just don’t have time to sit down and figure this out’, just set out some guidelines kind of what from what Jonathan and I and Reuven have been talking about, and try and find a system and a routine that will work for you so that you can just get a better handle on the way you spend your time, because I guarantee you that it will pay off in dividends that you can’t even imagine because then you're being deliberate in doing the things that really matter. JONATHAN: Yeah, stuff like bookkeeping is a great example of people feeling like they're saving a couple of bucks by having – by doing their own bookkeeping; that’s just crazy. Just pay someone to do your bookkeeping. I know people who pay people to go through their inbox. CHUCK: I've considered that. JONATHAN: I know someone if you're looking for somebody [chuckles]. CHUCK: I have somebody. I just need to turn him on to it if I really want to. JONATHAN: There you go. REUVEN: Bookkeeping is a great example because I know that if I were to do it myself, I would do it more [inaudible] and worse and cost myself way more money than if the case for someone else doing it for me. [Crosstalk] so right, applying that logic to other parts of my life is a good idea. CHUCK: Well, I want to point out that it depends a little bit on how long it takes. But even then, just to not have to worry about it, then save yourself that time. Because we're talking about half an hour a week or a couple of hours a month, even. You teach somebody to do it or pay somebody that already knows how to do it and you’ve gained yourself 24 hours in a year. REUVEN: Yeah. I bring – I have a drawer in my office; a small drawer, but a drawer that’s labeled ‘Accountant’. And so all receipts, all statements, all anything that goes to the accountant goes into that drawer, and then at the – and one month toward the beginning of the next, basically around the first week of the month, I take the drawer, empty it into a plastic bag and drop it off to the bookkeeper at my accountant’s office. And if things – if she has questions, she asks me. And I’m convinced – I cannot believe how much time I used to spend, even just like stapling it to a nice piece of paper for it to be nice and organized. And I just throw it in a bag and let her organize it. And if they have not raised my rates [inaudible][chuckles]. JONATHAN: Exactly. CHUCK: Alright, anything else we should talk about with goals before we start heading to picks? JONATHAN: They're good. I have them [chuckles]. CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing is though is make them specific. You hear a lot about S.M.A.R.T. goals – I don’t think we have time to go into it, but if you're really hitting those things, so instead of I want to be a better dad, one of the things I have in there is I’m going to spend 30 minutes with each of my children every week one-on-one. And so that’s something that I can measure. I know I have to do it every week, and it’s specific and it gets me to the place where I want to be at. And so I have an actual plan instead of just a vague understanding of somewhere that I eventually want to be at. JONATHAN: It need to be something [crosstalk] calendar. REUVEN: That’s really lovely. CHUCK: I mean, if it’s a Saturday morning and they want to watch a cartoon on my iPad with me, I’m fine. But I’m going to do something that get to pick, that they want to do with me for a half hour. REUVEN: Very nice. CHUCK: And it’s the same thing with these other goals. So I’m working on these email campaigns, and so I know what I want to go into them, I know exactly how I want people to be able to subscribe to them, and I want to have them done by the end of the year. And so again, it’s this ‘I know when I’m done, and I know when I need to have it done. And I know what I need to accomplish in that time’. Yeah, the longer term ones, I found you have to make them a little more general, but then it’s like ‘ok, how do I get there? What are the measurements to really make sense there?’ Anyway, let’s go and do picks. Reuven, you have some picks? REUVEN: I’m trying to think actually if I – I have a goal of better picks [laughter]. So I don’t really [inaudible] traveling so much. You know what, I’ll do a very current pick for where I am. So I’m currently in Beijing, and I went out and had a hot pot last night with [inaudible] Beijing Linux User Group, definitely a lot of fun. I would say if you've never had it before, oh my god, it’s so good. This is like – I called my wife, I said ‘we must make this at home. This is really amazing and delicious’. So not necessarily business related unless you want to bring your business associates to a hot pot place, but boy oh boy, definitely worth trying. CHUCK: There's a hot pot place out here in Provo and it’s fun. You just order whatever the heck you want in it then – yeah, it’s good stuff. REUVEN: And I was impressed like – I had it, I guess a few years ago, and they had a gas burner on the table in front of you, and I thought to myself ‘no way would this be legal outside of China that have lots of tables with lots of gas burners going in front of them’. And so the place I was out tonight is a little more – or last night; it’s hard to tell time anymore – but had a – you know those magnetic induction stoves? So the table had that built in so everyone had a little induction burner in front of them for the pot. CHUCK: Oh, cool. REUVEN: Anyway, I’ll have a business related pick back next week. CHUCK: Can you get a hot pot induction burner table at Ikea? REUVEN: [Chuckles] Yeah. It’s called Sven. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Everything’s called Sven, right? [Inaudible] CHUCK: Alright, Jonathan, what are your picks? JONATHAN: Well, in the spirit of the episode, I’m going to pick two that I've probably picked before, but I think they are so relevant that I can’t resist. So the first one is Inbox Pause, which is a plugin for Gmail. So it’s Gmail only, unfortunately, that does that thing that I said where it batches all of your email into – it just only – it comes in, it comes in, it comes in, and as it comes in it puts it in this hidden folder and every – periodically, whenever you tell it to, it then moves all of that stuff into your inbox and marks it as Unread. So the beauty of this is that no matter how many devices you have, it works everywhere. So you don’t have to configure it on every single – on your phone, on your watch, on your other phone, on your iPad, on your computer, and your other computer. It just – on the server, it just moves everything immediately. It sets up a rule that moves everything into this other folder and is marked Unread and then it moves it out later. So it works globally and it’s absolutely fantastic and life-altering and I highly recommend you use it. And it’s super expensive: zero dollars. So it’s free so there's really no reason not to try it. CHUCK: And I think I might have to use that. JONATHAN: It’s a killer. And in fact, I can – there are some days when it’d be the weekend maybe or – I know what it was; I recently had to reissue a whole bunch of SSL certificates and I needed to get the confirmation emails immediately so that I could continue the process so I un-paused my inbox, and I forgot to re-pause it. And then later in the day, I was like ‘why do I feel so agitated?’ I’m like in the worst mood, and I realized it was because my email was coming in constantly. It affects my mood to the point where I noticed it when it’s turned off. You need to try this. The other thing I mentioned already is Calendly. There's some other ones like Scheduled to or something. CHUCK: ScheduleOnce. JONATHAN: ScheduleOnce, yeah. I’m not a fan of ScheduleOnce. It’s not mobile friendly and I'm – or at least it wasn’t the last time I saw it. Calendly is the same thing, though, if you're familiar with that. And it’s I think a little bit nicer looking if you care about that sort of thing. And since I’m sending it to customers, I do kind of care about that. It’s not just a tool I’m using for myself. And what it allows you to do is set up a range of different kinds of appointments – 15-minute appointment, an hour appointment, different lengths and different rules around each one like there needs to be at least 15 minutes free in your calendar before a two-hour meeting or whatever. And it’s very easy to use, but it’s also highly configurable. And you can link it up to your Google Calendar or I believe there's Outlook support; I think those are the only two that are supported. And you just – you can set – somebody says you know that email dance when they say ‘oh yeah, I love to talk. Suggest a few times’, and you look at your calendar and you suggest a few times and you send it back and they're like ‘no, none of those are good. How about these?’ and they have to look at their calendar and they send [inaudible] so it goes back and forth forever. So instead of that, I can say ‘well, we can go back and forth over email or you can just click this link and pick a time in my calendar’. And then there's no back and forth whatsoever. They can see your calendar to infinity so they can scroll forward far enough to find the time that works for them and it just massively truncates that back and forth. And furthermore, you can have almost like a Thank You page or a confirmation page that’s customizable, so for people who apply to my coaching program, I just say ‘fill up this application’. At the end of the application, it forwards them to the Calendly link, they pick an hour long meeting in my calendar, and then after that they're forwarded to a payment link if they want to make payment right then. So you can create this little chain of events. It’s really, really nice; simple and powerful. CHUCK: Yeah. I use Calendly for the 15-minute calls that I do with listeners: freelancersshow.com/15minute. So if you're interested in that – and yeah, it’s in Calendly and you get 15 minutes on my schedule when I haven’t booked up my calendar, so you're usually not able to book within a week because I fill all the space around the appointments that were booked the week before. But yeah, plus one on that pick. JONATHAN: Yeah. That’s it for me. CHUCK: I've got a couple of picks here. One is BusyCal which is my calendar tool of choice. And I use that for that kind of stuff. I also use Basecamp to communicate with Mandy and Gerald who are my VAs, for a lack of a better term. Mandy is the producer of these shows. She does a terrific job. But I communicate with her through, basically, through Skype and then I put tasks into Basecamp, and that works out really nicely and that’s also my attic, as Jonathan put it. So that’s if I'm sitting down and just making a list of things I need to do in order to achieve what I want to get done in 90 days, then I drop it all in there. And then as other stuff comes up, I’ll either put it in there or put it in my calendar. And then I just move stuff into my calendar when I do my weekly planning. And sometimes I think of things when I’m doing the weekly planning that I didn’t put into Basecamp so it never winds up there. Anyway, so Basecamp, BusyCal, and of course, I’m going tonight to see Star Wars. So my life will be more awesome, I guess, in a galaxy far, far away. Anyway, I’m super excited. So yeah, those are my picks. Oh, one other thing I wanted to bring up before we wrap up the show is that I am putting on Freelance Remote Conf. Yeeey! We have illustrious speakers such as Reuven and Jonathan and several others. I think the last person I confirmed was Brennan Dunn. He’s going to be talking about pricing; should be excellent. It’s going to be at the end of February. I do have a call for proposals open if you want to speak, and that is at freelanceremoteconf.com. Also, early bird tickets are available through part of January. I think it’s the 24th or something. So if you want to get 50% off, you can get them now or you can wait and you can pay me more money later. But anyway, that’s where you get the tickets as well is freelanceremoteconf.com. I guess that’s it. Catch you all next week.[Hosting and bandwidth is provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more.]**

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