Why You Should Never Schedule Anything at the Top of the Hour

As you probably know, a top productivity tip and regular habit of mine, is to write my to do list the night before. I consider it a roadmap for the following day. I don’t have to stick to that schedule exactly, but it gives me a path to follow.

Many of the highly-productive people I know do the same thing. However I’ve noticed they make one key mistake – they schedule tasks for the top of the hour. For example your to-do list might look something like:

  • 10am catch up on email
  • 11am call Donna

What’s wrong with that?

The problem is two fold.

First of all, as a total procrastinator I know all the tricks your mind will play on you in order to put things off. Scheduling things at the top of the hour is a classic one. Why? Because the second that clock ticks 10:01 and you haven’t checked your email, you start to think to yourself, “well now I’ve missed my opportunity! I’ll get to it in a minute”.  But then you never actually get back to that original task because your attention pulls you away.

The second issue is that when you schedule something for say 11am, people don’t actually start to get ready until 11am. I find that if I’ve scheduled a call with someone, if I make the call on time they often won’t answer, as they’re still going back to their desk or checking over their notes. The same is true of meetings. How many 2pm meetings actually start on time?

So what’s my solution?

I like to schedule appointments and tasks for 15 mins past the hour. This gives you 15 minute to prepare or get yourself set up for the time ahead. So if it’s a Skype call you’ve got time to login and check your audio is working at the top of the hour. If you’re scheduling a meeting these extra 15 minutes give people time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and get settled.

Go through your diary today and shake up your schedule! Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Turns out Magic Assistance Aren’t So Magical

When I first got into productivity I wasn’t that into the idea of outsourcing. I didn’t like the idea of giving up control over my work. However, once I gave in and tried it, I fell in love with outsourcing. So much so that I have written several posts about it, it’s one of my top productivity tips.

That being said, I recently had an experience that left me questioning my outsourcing beliefs. I have used several websites that outsource your to-do list like Fancy Hands, TaskRabbit, Zirtual & many more. My experience has always been generally positive. So when I heard of a new, similar company called Magic I thought I would give them a try.

The idea behind Magic is that you can use a virtual assistant to organize any task or issue you might have. All you pay is 53 cents per minute the assistant spends on the job. Seems simple enough, right?

As I’ve written about in my previous post I hosted my own Lights Camera Expert Live workshop recently and I decided to use Magic to help me organize the catering. Being the producer that I am, I had pretty much sorted everything myself already, I had downloaded the menus and decided what I wanted, at what time and for how many people. All they needed to do was put in the orders.

Magic assistants keep you up to date on their progress with your tasks, which is good. But in this case that didn’t really help very much. There seemed to be a bit of back and forth with one of the restaurants as the assistant had difficulty getting in touch with the person in charge. It happens, I get it. But what I didn’t understand was how they had managed to spend so much time on this job. Magic is not supposed to charge you for the time they spend waiting for someone to call them back, only the time they spend on the call.

So I was pretty shocked to find that they had racked up over 2 hours on this task, without any sort of conclusion in sight. When I asked for the time breakdown I discovered they had spent 40 minutes researching the websites of the restaurants I had picked. But why? I had already chosen from the menus and provided them with contact numbers so I still can’t figure out what exactly they were looking for on the websites.

Not wanting to be too pushy I decided to let this slide, hoping they would manage to sort it all soon. By the next day they had managed to rack up 4 and a half hours worth of time on this task, when they still hadn’t even booked anything. Completely fed up, I requested they end the job and decided to sort it myself. They did issue me a full refund after I complained but I still had the task to complete.

In the end I got someone else to  book the catering and it took her all of about half an hour, which is about the amount of time I would’ve spent on it too. It left me wondering whether I really needed to outsource the task at all. But I just didn’t want to do it! I still can’t figure out why it would have taken the Magic assistant four hours though.

Either way it taught me a valuable lesson, sometimes it is just better (and quicker) to do it yourself!

Have you had any outsourcing mishaps?

Start UnBatching Your Tasks

Every three months I do an accountability call with the students  from my Listful Thinking Masterclass. We discuss the ways they’ve implemented the course into their day to day lives, and we also talk about their latest ventures in productivity.

Recently, one of my students explained how, after being inspired by a LinkedIn article, he has started avoiding social media on Tuesday. Why Tuesdays? He just picked it and now Tuesdays  are his most productive day.

I really like this idea. I often promote the idea of batching tasks together. So the same way you wouldn’t do laundry one sock at a time you shouldn’t pay bills for instance one by one. Instead batching them together weekly is a much more effective use of your time! But I think the same principle can be applied to ‘unbatching’. Putting together tasks that you’re not going to do! Read more

Be Lazy and Get More Done

Laziness gets a bad rep. I may not be the kind of person to spend her entire day in her pajamas, but even I like to indulge in a bit of laziness every now and again.

“I will always choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

You know who said that?

Bill Gates! Even he approves of a bit of laziness. Read more

So What’s the Big Deal Over Dot Journaling?

Thanks to listproducer.com I’ve met a lot of people in the productivity community and the more people I meet the more I find we have in common. We tend to be stationary nerds, who love Marie Kondo and are always looking out for the best way to get organized. So it’s no surprise that the latest to-do trend, that combines a to-do list with a planner and a diary, has become a big success in the productivity community. I’m talking, of course, about dot journaling.

If you don’t know what that is, dot journaling is, simply put, making a lot of bullet point lists. (You’ll quickly find with dot journaling that there’s a lot of overly complex names for simple things.) While I normally think it’s better to keep your lists separate, dot journaling allows you to put all your long and short term goals, as well as daily tasks, into one notebook. And you use a code-type system to keep everything from getting muddled together. Read more