What’s the Best Planner To Make You More Productive?

image1 (1)Last Thursday I went back to Long Island, to the town I grew up in to attend a Listful Thinking event. It was at the library I went to as a child, where I first developed my love of reading. I remember joining a summer reading group there when I was a kid and getting a sticker for each book I completed. What a thrill!  So being there to speak about my book felt very much like an Oprah full circle moment.

My very first friend and neighbor Jackie is a librarian there and set up this event for me. While I was there I spoke to a women who was having issues with buying too many planners and not using them. (Sound familiar?)

image5Her friends all raved about how helpful the planners had been for them, but she just couldn’t get into them. So she assumed the problem was with her.

I asked her if she was having any organizational troubles, besides not using the planners, which she didn’t.

I imagine this may sound like something many of you can relate to, so I thought I would share with you what I told her – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Don’t try to force yourself into a system that doesn’t work for you. You have to find your own unique productivity style and be true to it.

image4It’s almost a psychological thing where we feel the act of buying a new planner/notepad/pen will make us more productive. But the truth is there isn’t any special planner or notepad that will change your life and make you more productive. There is a only the planner or notepad that suits you.

If that’s a simple steno pad or Post-It note then so be it. It’s more important to have a system that works for you. I write my work to-dos for the following day before I leave the office everyday. I do it on a simple steno pad. Where you write the to-dos matters less than the actual system you have for capturing them.

What planners have you tried that worked or didn’t work for you?

The Unusual Hobbies of Successful People

Sir_Richard_Branson_photo_by_Priory_StudiosSome people think you have to give up your hobbies to be productive – but that’s not the case. In fact, hobbies can help become even more productive, as I’ve written about before.

Did you know that many successful people have a hobby of some kind? I have a whole pinboard dedicated to celebrities who enjoy list making just like me. Other celebrities have some more unusual hobbies, here are some of my favorites:

Meryl Streep – She’s known for playing a wide variety of characters, but at home Meryl likes things a little more mundane. Rather than going out to fancy parties, she prefers to stay at home and knit. In an interview with The Record she explained – “I live a very unspectacular life. I love to sit on my chair in the living room and knit. Or I cook or read a book. I’m a very frugal person.” Knitting can be a very repetitive task, but that gives your mind a chance to wander and be more creative.

Stanley Kubrik – I’m always on the lookout for a good note pad, which is something Stanley and I have in common. Those who were closest to him often mentioned his love of stationery. He once apparently bought 100 bottles of brown ink because he heard they where going to discontinue the line. Collectors are often very organized people, they also understand the importance of research.

Sir Richard Branson – This famous entrepreneur is an avid list maker just like me. Many entrepreneurs like to unwind through exercise, but for most this is normally with a round of golf. Branson prefers a little more adventure and is often spotted kite-surfing. He enjoys it so much he has broken a couple of world records. Branson is the oldest person to kite-surf across the English channel in fact. Also in 2013, he organized the largest parade of kite-surfers to complete a one-mile course. Sports are a great hobby for keeping you healthy and helping you to understand the importance of perseverance. He’s also an amateur pilot which requires a lot of training and equipment. He apparently started a year ago after looking up the easiest plane to fly in, aviation headset reviews and how to get a license for it. He’s yet to pass!

What are some of your hobbies?

My Latest Productivity Killer: Periscope

periscope-logo-1920-800x450Smartphones are in many ways a productivity blessing. They provide you with instant access to hundreds of apps designed to help you get more out of your day. However, smartphones can also be a productivity curse. Because you also have access to hundreds of apps designed to get you addicted and take up all your time!

As much as I write about the importance of not being distracted – I too, sometimes get addicted to apps and get thrown off course.

The latest being Periscope.

The app allows you to live stream video from your phone from anywhere in the world. It’s very exciting for me, as a news producer, to think of all the possibilities. When I downloaded the app I had expected to watch a few videos of people going about their lives, but I quickly found myself becoming addicted.

Here are some of the things I’ve watched so far:

  • Pizza delivery guy arriving at a house in Utah
  • Kid playing super mario brothers for the first time
  • Pearl Jam tribute band
  • Guy hiking in Arizona
  • Person hanging out near the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Guy walking through the mall in NJ
  • Little girl learning to ride her bike for the first time
  • Guy who couldn’t sleep in the UK drawing
  • Newsroom tours in Waco, TX, Lexington, KY, Las Vegas, CNN
  • A puppy that is afraid of a cat in Alabama
  • Mother daughter dance at wedding
  • Malibu Beach sunset
  • Some nascar race
  • A firehandler on the beach in Florida
  • A cat yawning
  • A puppy eating
  • The MTV Movie Awards red carpet
  • Cherry blossoms in DC
  • Behind the scenes tour at The View

You can download the app here. Follow me — I’m @listproducer of course. Remember it is seriously addictive – so consider yourself warned!  So use is as a reward when you get something checked off your to-do list.  Then you can check out someone walking through Times Square or a Disney parade in real time.  Let me know what you think if you check it out.

I’m on the “So Money” Podcast

Take a listen to my So Money Podcast to (1)What do lists have to do with money — you might be thinking?  Well a lot actually.  If you’ve read my book Listful Thinking, you’ll know that I believe a list can be adapted to any situation. In particular, lists can be really helpful when your trying to stick to a budget and get a handle on your finances.

I met Farnoosh Torabi a few weeks ago and we connected immediately. She is also an avid list maker – she’s been making lists since middle school. Plus she used to be a TV producer and is an author too.  She asked me to be a guest on her daily podcast So Money!  I’m not into numbers so much but you’d be surprised how much a list can help you keep track of financial stuff.

In the podcast we discuss:

  • How using lists can help you lead your best life.
  • The idea of a permission list when it comes to budgeting and how it can help.
  • My biggest habit – besides list making – that helps keep my finances in check.

Listen to it here:

My Productivity Must Reads

My Productivity Book ListI always have an ongoing book list.  Books I love, books I’d like to read and books that lots of people suggest.  Mostly I keep the list in GoodReads or Evernote. Last week I was a guest at a book club because they were reading my book Listful Thinking.

It was great to hear how people are using lists in their everyday lives because of my book!  It’s really thrilling.  But someone asked me what some of my favorite productivity books are and I realized I’ve never listed it out here on this blog.

So here goes:

Checklist Manifesto (Dr. Atul Gwande) – Dr. Gwande is a surgeon who worked with the World Health Organization to get checklists into operating rooms.  Those checklists helped to cut down on mistakes made by the medical staff during surgeries.  In this book he explains how lists can be used as an effective strategy for any task whether it be getting more done at a meeting or brain surgery.  

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Laura Vanderkam) – Nobody likes waking up early. But the truth is doing things before work in the morning means there’s a higher chance you’ll actually get those things done and out of the way to feel much more accomplished and productive before you sit down at your desk.  This book gives you some great ideas and examples on how to do it.

Getting Things Done (David Allen) – To me, David Allen is the father of productivity and he always has amazing tricks to save you time.  I was fortunate enough to get his endorsement of my own book.  He just released a brand new version with updates — so be sure to check it out.

Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin) – Have you ever wished you were happier? I think a lot of people think about this but do nothing about it. Author Gretchen Rubin did something about it and spent a year focusing on ways to be happier. If you haven’t read it — you must. It’s funny, cute, insightful and thought provoking. And she loves lists and talks about using them to be happier!

Time Management from the Inside Out (Julie Morgenstern) – Julie’s productivity tips are well known, I regularly reference them on this blog. She wrote the foreword for Listful Thinking and revealed that as a former actress and creative person she really shied away from “being organized.”  She thought she would lose her edge but it turns out getting her act together really paid off in the end.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo) – Transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space with the incredible KonMari Method. Japan’s expert declutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo will help you tidy your rooms once and for all with her inspirational step-by-step method.  I’ve become completely obsessed with this book.

Things to Bring, S#!t to Do (Karen Rizzo) – As far as we’re aware we are not related, but since Karen’s first book is a memoir told entirely in lists, we may well be. There’s plenty of stuff for list makers to relate to in this book. From how our needs change over time, to that one thing that never gets done.

What’s on your must read list?