In this episode, Tim Sweet is joined by special guest Sarah Elder. Sarah is the director of strategic initiatives at a battery storage energy company called Enfinite and the founder of Prep Your Professional Designation (PYPD). Sarah shares her insights on productivity, focus, and the importance of effective task management. The conversation centers around the challenges of staying focused in a world filled with distractions and the impact of ADHD on productivity. Sarah emphasizes the critical step of capturing tasks efficiently and using a reliable system for organization. She also introduces Todoist, a task management app that she finds highly effective due to its easy capture features and flexibility.
About Sarah Elder
Sarah Elder is the director of strategic initiatives at Enfinite, a battery storage energy company. She is also the founder of Prep Your Professional Designation (PYPD), a startup aimed at helping professionals manage various aspects of their professional development. Sarah's expertise lies in productivity, task management, and leveraging technology to enhance efficiency in both professional and personal spheres.Resources discussed in this episode:
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One thing I learned is that writing anything down, everything down, is the most important step. Capturing has to just be easy and efficient. And it has to be somewhere that you can find it again. Quick scraps of paper, dangerous, easy to lose. A notebook that you'll stick with forever, like glue, also a great solution. It doesn't have to be your phone because that comes with other risks. Then, the second half is using what you've captured, processing it, tracking it, working with it.
I'd like to ask you some questions. Do you consider yourself the kind of person that gets things done? Are you able to take a vision and transform that into action? Are you able to align others towards that vision and get them moving to create something truly remarkable? If any of these describe you, then you, my friend, are a leader, and this show is all about and all for you. This is episode 18. Welcome to the Sweet on Leadership podcast.
Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. Welcome back to Sweet on Leadership. I'm Tim Sweet. And today I am joined by a real special individual. This is my friend, Sarah Elder. Sarah's coming to us today to talk about, well talk about remaining focused, and I think it's an area that she's got so much to offer. She's a very interesting individual. I want you to hear all about her. But for right now, let me just say Hi, Sarah.
Hey, Tim, how's it going?
It's good. Sarah, maybe you can talk a little bit about all the cool stuff that you're involved in right now?
Oh, yeah, I have a few things on the go. I started a new job recently at a battery storage energy company called Enfinite, where I'm the director of strategic initiatives. And on the side, I have a startup called PYPD, Prep Your Professional Designation, which is focused on helping professionals manage many aspects of their professional development.
Anybody out there that's in engineering, or any of especially, you know, APEGA, or any of those organizations? Check out PYPD because if you're dealing with engineers and training GIOS and training, it is a fantastic resource.
Yeah, that's who we're helping right now. And we're excited to bring it to other designations, hopefully next year. But our engineers are our bread and butter niche that we're trying to help right now.
Right on, if you are an engineer or have an engineer you love, check out the show notes, we'll make sure we link to it. And that's how you and I met was through PYPD which is, which is great. But today, we're here to talk about something else that you introduced me to, we're gonna get a little bit into an app called Todoist. But before we get there, let's talk about the reason why tools like Todoist actually exist. So, what do we see today that we didn't see 10 years ago?
Definitely, people are more distracted. You know, there's more distractions than ever right in front of our faces. We were talking about a pretty cool stat, well, not a cool stat and the unfortunate stat that 60 some percent of people, what was it 60% of people, when they're watching TV, have a second screen in front of them?
That's right. Yeah, and we're seeing some other things come up. I mean, over the last 10 years, they say that we've seen an increase from declared adult ADHD from just over 6% to now just over 10%. And that may not seem extreme, but that's 8 million people in the US are declared and 139 million worldwide that are identifying in that way. Think about the level of whether or not you agree with the need to be diagnosed or whatnot. It's just the fact that we've got people out there that are coming to the table saying, You know what, I have a different way of thinking.
Yeah, yeah, I'm one of those 8 million as well. A lot of women are now being diagnosed with ADHD later in life. And that's actually how I came to love to do it so much. It's the culmination of a decade of trying to figure out how to just get anything done. How to make any progress. And yeah, I'm sure we'll talk a lot about that.
Absolutely. And I mean, and whether or not that's the case for you, dear listener, we all can go through periods where we feel anxiety, we may not be meeting the goals that we set out for ourselves, we may find that through the course of the day, we're forgetting to do something, or we're just handling a lot of complexity. If you're bothered when you let somebody down or you don't follow through on a promise. I mean, that, to me is debilitating. I absolutely hate if that happens, and just that we could be missing important things. We may not be prioritizing things the way that we should in our lives. So, I think for all these reasons, we can have a lot of pressure building up in our lives, we can have a lot of self-criticism and things going on. And what if you had a tool where you could step around that, and develop a system, as you say, to make life just that much easier. And with so much distraction in the world, that's not going away. I mean, I think that's one of the things we can say for sure, and for certain, it's not going away. So, we have to utilize the best tools that we've got at our disposal. So, perhaps you can tell us what did it mean to you, to have a system emerge for yourself what's the journey toward a system.
So, I actually got the benefit of not being diagnosed with ADHD. And there is a lot of downsides that came with that. But we're going to talk about the upside, which is how I came to find Todoist. And that's when you have ADHD, one of the hardest parts is a severe lack of working memory, and as well as executive dysfunction. So, working memory is being able to remember something someone just told you a couple of action items from a meeting or those chores that somebody asked you to do downstairs, just remembering that can be almost impossible sometimes. And then the executive dysfunction is being able to execute tasks. And that's the main part of the brain that's actually impacted by ADHD is, is the executive dysfunction. And so it makes it just being able to do something, harder. And so when you're constantly trying to overcome that, if you're not using any tools to help you, you're kind of just out on your own, with an unreliable brain and an unreliable system. And so that's like the ADHD perspective on it. But that applies to pretty much everybody, we can't remember everything, we have more going on in our lives, we have more complicated lives than ever, because we have so many opportunities in this modern world. And so, because I didn't know that I had ADHD, I unfortunately was quite hard on myself. I thought I was lazy. I thought I was stupid, totally incompetent. And I was always trying to better myself and overcome that, without realizing that there was some other solutions that would have really helped me. Instead, I had to develop my own tools and develop my own system. One thing I learned is that writing anything down, everything down is the most important step. Capturing has to just be easy and efficient. And it has to be somewhere that you can find it again. Quick scraps of paper, dangerous, easy to lose. A notebook that you'll stick with forever, like glue, also a great solution. It doesn't have to be your phone, because that comes with other risks. Then the second half is using what you've captured, processing it, tracking it, working with it. I can stop there before I get too far down the rabbit hole. But those are kind of the two pieces that led me here, is capturing all the things that I'm going to forget. And then making it easier to action them and easier to keep track of them.
I'm quite a number of years ahead of you on this planet. But over the course of COVID, I mean, we were looking into our children's situation. And I thought it was only fair that I go in and get tested. And when I talked to a psychiatrist, his point was, you know, I'm either on the cusp or whatever, he said, look, you know, 10 years ago, we wouldn't have diagnosed you. But now I can give you a diagnosis if you want. But do, you know, you are also just a very random, very fast thinker. Is it something that he would permit, in my case, say we should medicate he was like, not in this case, there was an anxiety issue that I needed to deal with coming through COVID and having a knee replacement, doing all those kinds of things, something that, that counselling, and everything helped me with greatly, and I was thankful to have access to that support. When it came to looking at my own struggles, if I can share is that you know, I came through always being a very random thinker, always being intensely interested in different things and switching hobbies and really diving deep on things. And when Wikipedia came out way back in the day, ah, man, for me that was just information crack. Like I love rambling from subject to subject and learning about things. In the same way, I like rambling from people to people and learning about people. But I was very, like always, lots and lots of input coming at me. And I remember it wasn't until my university days that I got really adept at taking notes and using a day timer, you know, in a paper scheduler and things, and even now, I mean if I'm in a meeting, I'm a rapid note taker like I just have to get through it. And then I have to process it to the point where and I've had this experience you know sticky notes for me other than being in a facilitation or something are deadly because I would write things down on them, I'd stick them somewhere, and I'd forget about them. And I needed to have that single source of record that I could go through. And as I went through and tried different products and whatnot, you know, this is a podcast so people won't be able to see behind me. But I had a large file structure on my wall that I would meet with a client, it's private feelings and thoughts, I would tear out a page, so I didn't carry it with me, and I put it in their file. When it worked. When it didn't work, my padfolio got full of random pages that I then had to sit and sort, which was just awful. I didn't like that at all, it would get away on me. And now I'm using something called ROCKETBOOK, which everything is digitized. And I get to wash the book with this special link that goes away. So, I feel also more ecological. But it forces me to process. And I love it. I think it's one of the best tools that I've run across because I didn't want to another thing I had to plug in. But really that writing everything down and processing step was such a game changer for me, professionally, and in university and just learning, allowing me to really capture sequential and random thoughts, you know. So, yeah, I can definitely relate to that. I can also relate to the feelings of self-criticism, and you know, being hard on oneself, because perhaps you didn't think like others. But in my days, as a chef, I had one chef that called me a splat learner. He says you don't learn like like cutting the tomato open; you throw it against the wall, and it looks like chaos to everybody else. The flip side is I'm a strong discerner. So, I can walk into a business, and I can see what's going on. And I know this about you, too. Like you've got a high discerning, you're able to process a lot of chaotic data quickly. So we've got these superpowers, but they come at a cost.
There is a cost.
Right? There's a cost. So, if we're going to run real fast, we may have to wear a uniform that doesn't burn up or something.
Yeah, and you need really good shoes.
Yeah. Okay, great. Let's seek to help people that are listening, that may feel to various degrees, that they've got the tiger by the tail, they are dealing with a lot of inflammation and distraction. So, tell us about, you went from a list and being able to process that list. What was next for you? What's the next stage of evolution?
I would have started with just like paper lists, like before fighting to do it. Because I think everybody starts there at some point. You're just gonna write everything down. And I iterated through doing calendars, Google Keep, paper notebooks, paper calendars, kind of a bit of everything. And it got me through university, I never really found any digital tools that I would stick with. Because that's part of it, too, is that there's part novelty, it's part procrastination, like productive procrastination, where you are working on your systems, instead of working on your work. I did a lot of that, oh if I just find a new planner that had the right, you know, columns, or if I just color-coded everything a little bit better. And spending time rewriting lists in different organizations, and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. And that was what really started to get me is that I'm spending too much time on aesthetics. I'm spending too much time reorganizing, and I'm still just not getting anything done. That's like a hard reality to face. Is that like you are just procrastinating when you're trying to work on these things.
Oh, yeah. I remember trying to bullet journal. And it was just like, yeah, it was, it was just the worst.
And I wouldn't say I'm done yet, which is one of the reasons why Todoist was so interesting for me, is that I try something, and it works. But if I set it down, and I can't get it into a habit, it's not gonna stick, right?
Yeah, I had that same thing. And I so I went down the rabbit hole that ADHD folks and many people will understand. And I looked at every tool, I looked at every option, and I compare it to every feature, and I was like, What do I need a tool to do for me to stick with it? So, I decided I needed Easy, easy, easy capture, capturing has to be the easiest part of this process. If it's even an extra half-second, it's gone. And I have to spend a minute trying to remember what it was and it's just there's like these micro taxes to my time as someone with ADHD is micro taxed constantly. If I'm leaving the door and I have to go upstairs three times to go and get stuff. It takes me 10 minutes to get out the door and you know, someone else two minutes so it's trying to reduce those moments all day. And the second part was something that was very flexible, so that I could change it around as things evolve. I could play with it, some aesthetic parts that I can play with, but not too much. So, there's enough flexibility that I can play with different systems, I've changed how I organize my Todoist several times, in really good ways as I've evolved as my life has changed. But then, you know, you can really only change a couple of colours and a couple of view layouts, you can't waste much time on. And that was really a big part for me is stopping, forcing myself to stop.
I, we’ll get into me a little bit later. But I think I'm hearing a lot of myself in this story in the struggle. So, you had this element of finding something that was not so much aesthetic, was not so infinitely, well you stopped searching.
I stopped searching. I did the big search.
And something, yeah, did the big search, picked something, and then decided to get good at that something rather than good at the search. And I can relate to that 100%. And I mean, hey, in my time on this planet, and in this role, there's been no shortage of you should do it this ways. Right? That's a strange thing to pluralize. So again, having a system that works, and is reasonably adaptable for our intricacies, but manages the big thing is important. Okay, so take us a little deeper into what you look for, what's the next layer down. So, you found the system. We've said it a bunch of times, but this again, is called Todoist, which is T-O-D-O-I-S-T. And you can find it at the App Store. And I'm sure you can find it online.
Actually, I'll plug that as one of the parts that of the things that I look for. It's got great mobile, it's got great desktop, and it's got great web. So, I can use it everywhere all the time. And it's got good widgets for quick entry on your phone. So, that was really important to me, too. And then like I can just see, I can have my to-do list on my phone, I guess as a widget as well. I'm not sure what's available on Apple, but I think they have widgets as well.
No, it's they do have widgets. And we'll get into this a little bit more. But there's some functionality that I found really compelling, and especially in a team environment and a home environment. Okay, yeah, so, Todoist.
Yeah, some other parts that I loved, I really appreciated, aside from being able to capture everywhere, it's actually the way that they enable the capture with natural language processing. So, that means while I'm entering a task or a note because sometimes I use it for quick notes of things I want to remember, but it's the fastest way for me to capture them. So, I don't mind bastardizing my system a little bit to just get it into the any of the system. Because there's a couple of problems. And I'll talk about that as well. You can tag to your projects and add tags, without clicking any buttons. So, as you're typing, if I want to assign a task to a specific project, how it's organized, I just have to add a quick little hashtag, and then the project name, and it'll kind of automatically fill that. And it can recognize dates, and times and reminders. So, if I want to start a new habit, and I say, every day at 10 am, remind me to get up and get water and take a five-minute break. It'll set a daily reminder at 10 am. And make a task every day. It's just like really quick to make those things happen and make changes as your day changes or as you're kind of working with with your list. So, I liked that quick, easy, you'll see that everything I'm trying to do is I'm just reducing friction. Anything that makes working with it faster, easier, smoother is so good for me. The other part that I alluded to earlier is that I don't keep absolutely everything in Todoist. Because another realization is something I had to admit that there's just not one app that does everything. I have not found the Holy Grail. Some people have their own holy grails that they've built in really custom apps. I thought that for me to get there, I would be spending the rest of my time making it pretty, making it work, iterating, iterating instead of doing work. Life tasks live in Todoist, my thoughts and quick ideas live there. But my notes live in Notion, my calendar lives in Google Calendar. I let those things live in the places that do them best instead of trying to wrap it all into one because that just turns into too much work and distracts me from the real important that I'm trying to get to.
Well right now I'm using notes on the iPhone for my notes and on my–
–on my Mac.
On, you know, sorry, I'm gonna interrupt. One thing that's great about that is this. There's no formatting. You can't waste time. Header sections, pretty fonts, colour, nope, it's just the text. And that's like the beauty is in that simplicity.
And I'm just gonna stop there but the note just so we're we got a good game plan going forward. Anybody who knows me? Don't worry about interrupting because we are one brain at this time, and it's like we are two hemispheres banging together here, and that's okay with me. So get it out, while it's there, because otherwise it's gone. And I'm still learning like I'm a baby when it comes to Todoist. But the calendar integration is important. I have yet explored a Slack integration. But that's where we gestate and develop ideas is in Slack. Because I want something that's team ready, which is actually I'll just mention it now, which is the other functionality about Todoist that I really like and that is that other people can, we can share tasks well, shares, not so much how I like to own it, we can pass tasks, back and forth, and people can task me and I love having contractors who are, are higher in the tenacious genius in hiring the wandering genius, they are tasking me with stuff because that helps me augment my weaknesses and my blind spots. I really like being managed at a certain level when it comes to really highly like execution pieces. So, I'm super happy for the person who helps me do writing or the person who's who's helping me with social media.
Yeah, I like the team features as well. And they employ a principle that I think is really important to note for team-based task management. And that is a single owner, you cannot assign a task and Todoist with more than one person attached to it. And that is a really important principle of if it's assigned to more than one person, it's assigned to no one, because that creates ambiguity and enough fog, that that thing doesn't get done, or it doesn't get done fast enough, or doesn't get done, right. Oh, I thought that was with you, Oh, I thought you were going to do this thing. And suddenly that thing didn't get done. So, it forces you to assign it to one person.
I love that too. Because it means you know, hot potato, this is yours now.
Hot potato, it’s with you, it gives that accountability.
Yeah, pass the ball, pass it fully, pass the baton, pass it fully. It is their time now, until such time as they say it's no longer their time. And that's okay. But then they have to assign ownership to the next person.
Exactly, subtasks. You know, there's all kinds of ways to do that.
But when we talk about collaboration, and really having everybody involved and knowing when to pass something off, it's great to have a system that allows us to do that. And also to know who around us has what skills, has what perspective, so that we can farm work out appropriately, right, farm in farm out and be like, I need you to do this now. And so for real dynamic teams, where they're highly collaborative, but also have people that want to own their little win. It's funny, because I just spent three days with a team talking about this, how do we chunk things down to a point where the people that feel like they need to be strong closers can maybe not wait for the grand reveal at the end for the home run of the entire project being done, but can find meaning every single step along the way that they're involved in. It's so much more rewarding for most people to be able to say, I know that we're not all the way down the path. But I did that. That was my section. And I've worked it. And now I've given it to the next person, I'm ready to take the next piece of work, right? It's extremely, extremely motivating. Awesome. So, we've got the integration, we have the baton pass element to it, and the single owner element.
So, we've got everything in our system. And now we've got to work with it.
We've got to work with it. So, I've got a suggestion here. What if we were to task people that are listening today? To pause this podcast? And go out and get it?
And maybe even try it a little bit before they, it's dangerous for a podcast to say, you know, come back and join us for part two. But I'm tempted to say let's all now go and get it.
Okay, here, I can come up with a quick little exercise they'll take but I gotta give them a five-minute exercise because, you know, otherwise they’ll–
Get ready everybody, here's your five-minute exercise.
Okay. Make an account, log in, set up one project, one new project on the free version, you'll get five. So, pick something kind of general. Whatever is the most important thing in your life right now, that's giving you actually or the thing that's stressing you out the most. Make a project called that. You can change it later. And then just enter a couple of tasks. Put a couple of things in there that are on your mind that are on your to-do list already. And play around with that like the natural language processing a little bit, see what it can kind of do. Try and type some dates for when some things are due.
Try using the voice feature which I love.
Oh gosh, everyone uses that.
Instead of my keyboard, I use my microphone and say and I dictate the task and the duration and the date.
Oh, perfect, I'm gonna start doing that. I'm getting really into like voice notes to myself and things like that, anyways.
Okay, so they're gonna go on, they're gonna create, create a–
What level, project, and make a task.
Make a project. Put in at least like three or five tasks. And if you like, put a couple other things, anything else that kind of came to mind while you were doing this, put those in too but put them in your inbox, that's the default place. And then we'll come back and talk about how to kind of strategically process everything that's in your inbox and how to handle things that are already in a project.
All right, so hit pause, download Todoist, create an account, one project, four to five sub-tasks. And then we're gonna come back.
Right, let's do it.
All right. Hey, Team break.
Well, welcome back. By this time, you've downloaded the app, you've either the first time or the second time you were asked to do it, you've gone in, and you've applied to the app, at least one project, and identified a handful of tasks. So, Sarah, what do we do next?
Okay, what we're going to do next is organize our project a little bit, which is how we're going to explore some of the features, then we're going to talk about different ways to view everything that you have. And then we're going to go and talk about my favourite strategy for processing everything that you're capturing and making these systems work really well. But you kind of have to understand how the tool works to realize the beauty in those later systems. So, you're gonna circle that way.
Right on that's about what's about to happen. Now, I haven't included this caveat before, but I'm going to include it now. And that is neither Sarah or I am paid or compensated by Todoist. This is fan wisdom. Here, this is legitimate in the street reviews. So, Todoist will probably be informed that we're we've done this podcast after the fact. But we don't represent the company. So, just an important little caveat there. All right. Back to you, Sarah.
All right. Now let's get this kit. I guess I should say I do have a referral link. But other than that, it doesn't actually make me any money to say this. But if anyone does ever upgrade, then I would maybe get something from that. But yeah.
Fantastic. Well, that referral link. Now you all know the deal. It'll be in the show notes.
If anyone ever even uses it, I'll just put that money back towards my premium for Todoist. And use it forever.
Whoa, all right.
Give it to me as a credit. Okay, once you have a task in there or a couple of tasks, you want to be able to organize them. So, within your project, I'm going to walk you through a couple of the features that there are, the first thing is sections. So, this is within a project a way for you to organize. If you want to limit the number of projects that you have, you can use sections as individual projects. That is I think best in the Kanban view where you can see them kind of in their own mini-lists. The Kanban view can also be used as sort of a Productivity Process where things go through stages, not started, in progress type of thing. I don't choose to do it that way, but you could if that interests you. The next really flexible piece is the labels. These are processed through the natural language processing with an @ sign. And I've used them a couple of different ways. Since the app only has five projects, when you're on the free version. I used to use the labels to be my projects, like my sub-projects. So I would tag it like to, you know, I would take it to PYPD, I would tag it to a home project, something like that to keep them organized. I also like to use the labels as indicators for how much time a task might take actually, I probably won't need to do that anymore. Because now to do is has durations, if you're setting the date, on a task, you can set how long it will take you. That's actually a brand new.
I love that functionality. Yeah.
They’re always pushing new stuff. It's actually awesome.
This company is really on top of there.
They’re so on top of it. One time they pushed something new. And I noticed like a typo or link was taking me somewhere strange. And I just threw them the feedback and they fixed it within the hour.
One note for people who are my mentees and coaching clients, I like to use the project breakdown in terms of what's my role, right? So, I have a different project for every one of my coaching clients. But I also have a different project for every one of my leadership areas. Right? So for my own business, I have to have a finance leadership component. So, that's one of the buckets. So to me, it made sense to say anywhere that I've got an explicit type of leadership or I have to be you know, it's a sort of a dedication to it. That's distinct from others, then I have that in there. So, if it's a project, I'm running with a team, it gets its own line. If it's client, it gets its own line. If it's something a function in my business, it gets its own line. That worked really well for me by role. What's my role? Also, dance dad is in there.
I quite like the role-based as well. That's a nice way of looking at it. I also use the tags as like in progress and waiting, my favourite is next action. So, I always know what the next thing I should do when I go visit a project that I maybe haven't worked on in a minute. I can remember where I was at, a little bookmark.
I'm using the rules in the project level, but then the tags, it's getting down to a sort of subsections. I'm still learning though. So yeah, don't follow my method necessarily.
Yeah, there's a lot to it. So yeah, once you've kind of played around, and you have some sites and dates, some maybe, some times, maybe a few labels, you'll want to be able to see, especially once you have more than one project, you want to get a view of everything that's going on, or you want to be able to maybe see really specific things. The next kind of set of features are the default views that Todoist offers, and then your ability to create custom filters. The default view that I live by is my today view, I'm always just caring about what is happening today. This is where you can play with your view as well about you can group by tags or labels, you can group by project, you can group by the date it was added, all kinds of things. And then you can also sort and then filter things out. So, it gives you that power to really see and organize what you're looking at all day. I like to put my daytime tasks, I order that project to be at the top, so that I can really go through my day in order and I don't necessarily have to see everything at the same time. Tim, we were talking about this earlier, it can be overwhelming to see absolutely everything that you need to do, when in reality, sometimes all I need to see is what do I need to do this morning? What do I need to do this afternoon, what is next? It's a lot to look at everything that you do in a day, because we do a lot in a day, we get a lot done. So, today is one of my favourites, upcoming, is that a good way for planning and seeing how much you've already put in every day coming up in the next little while. I actually made my own filtered view called upcoming as well where I just filter out my daytime tasks. So, I can see how much of my personal time is scheduled or I'm committing away to the work that I'm trying to do. Those filters are really powerful, though. And you can create all kinds of views for anything. So, all of those tags, all of your projects can be used to filter and create really custom systems. So, right now in my system, I'm living by that next actions tag. So if I run out of to-do items, I can go and look and I've got next actions at my day job and next actions in personal and next actions in PYPD. And then I have one that's like for shopping, just a filtered view of anything I need to go and buy without having to have a whole project dedicated to it. You can customize the systems to your what your life looks like, and how you want to see and view and work with them.
It's a good time to remind people that one of the reasons why you're down to this level of granularity or this level of capture. Same as I am, it's that I deal with those fleeting thoughts, you know, that 10-second rule of it's in my brain, I'm thinking about it, if I don't write it down, if I don't capture it somewhere, and I don't capture it, well, then it's gone. And I have to then stress that I forgot something or that, you know, I should have remembered that or that kind of thing. So, again, it's this, this ability to get in and process that thought quickly, to classify it, put it where it belongs, delegate it to yourself later, if you don't need to think about it right now. It's so important, so that you know that it's somewhere that it's going to come up reliably when you need to deal with it by priority or by time.
That's it. That's exactly it. Let's talk about processing because you reminded me of my other favourite tool. And one of the original reasons I started using Todoist is that it has P1, P2, P3, P4. Priority 1, 2, 3, 4. That custom field that will naturally process as well through that natural language processing, which is born from the Eisenhower matrix. Are you familiar with that one, Tim? I'm sure you are.
I'm sorry to disappoint you that I cannot recite it. I am familiar with it. But–
You’ll know, you’ll remember.
I'm sure yeah.
The Eisenhower matrix is just a little two by two and the axes are urgent and important.
Oh gosh, okay. Of course, I always think of it as Covey's quadrants. That is the Eisenhower matrix.
That’s the Eisenhower matrix. So, if something is urgent and important, it's P one. You should do it, do it right away. That might be mean scheduling it to do it today or do it tomorrow, but you should do it. If it's urgent but not important, ideally delegate it. But you may just have to do it as well. If you don't have anyone, you can delegate or ask for help with that. If it's important but not urgent, schedule it, put it in the calendar, put a date against it, so that it will get done before it becomes urgent. The toughest one, not urgent, not important, delete, get rid of it, you probably don't need to do it. And it's very hard to say, that's not important or urgent, and I'm not going to do it. Some things you can just, you know, maybe it will be important later or urgent later, you can set them aside. And it's good to have a place to set them and be able to revisit and look at them. But ideally, you are deleting some things that you just don't need to do.
Oh, yeah. Well, that's so important when you're talking about, one of the first things I do with clients is, is they need to have capacity in order to improve, they need to have capacity, if they're working on their career, or if they're working on their leadership style, or they're reorganizing their team or whatever we're doing. You need to have capacity so that you can perform that improvement. And we talk about what are the things you think you need to be doing, but really, perhaps are somebody else's responsibility. Perhaps you really just hate doing them, perhaps they're not getting you anywhere. And it's just, you're doing them because you've always done them. But it's, you know, we do it because we've always done it that way. Or perhaps they're just like, you know, in quadrant four, total waste of time or quadrant three, something that is, you know, a pressure to be in and we just need to stop. Meetings are a good example of this. If somebody can't tell you why you're at a meeting, and you're just there because you were invited, probably a great hour to win back to go and work to reorganize your day. Justify why you want me here and why you can't tell me what you need from me and a memo or an email. Or pass me task on Todoist. So, *drum noises*. I can see you how working that through is a great way to do it. What is the shortcut? Or what's the what's the label for priority? I'm trying to remember?
Just P. P and the number and it'll recognize it.
P and the number. Okay, yeah, so.
Yeah, another and is a quick way. And so we're talking about processing, I think we should talk about getting things done. The–
Sure, before we do though, can you just share for us, so because people are gonna be listening to this primarily. If you were going to talk us through what you enter in order to have it language processed. What information would you be giving to Todoist?
Yeah, let's pick a task that I need to enter. What do I need to do that I haven't written down?
You're gonna get an oil change for your car.
Better yet, I need to schedule my bike for tune-up before the winter.
There you go, better yet, okay.
Better yet. Okay, so I'm going to enter this task. And since I'm a pro, I'm going to do all my tagging at the front, sometimes I do it at the end, because you're like, gonna write down the thing first. So, I'm gonna put hashtag personal and put it on my personal project, then I'm going to tie @ next action. That's a label that I have for me. I'm going to put this as P3, it is important, but it's not urgent, it can wait a little bit, then I'm going to type out the task, which is, I'm going to make it it's an actionable task. You can write tasks in different ways. Call bike shop, and Schedule a tune-up. And I'm busy for the next couple of days. But I've got some free time on Sunday. So, now all I'm going to type is S-U-N, Sun. It's going to recognize that and highlight that and put it on Sunday. The you know what, I have a meeting in the morning. So, I'm also going to put a time. I'm going to put Sunday, I'm going to put 11 am. And it automatically puts it to the time. And if I've set up that calendar integration, then it would sync to my Google calendar from that project. But we didn't talk too much about that.
So once again, that would be hashtag personal, @ sign next action. P–
I did P3.
P3, call bike shop? Sun, S-U-N, 11 am. You have a fully formed task item? And I can say that if you do this even I've been using it with Siri. Siri, I'll say Hey, Siri, and I always say please Siri, could you please create a Todois task? Now if you don't say Todoist task, it's going to create a task in their task thing. So, I say can you please create it Todoist task? Oh, she's talking to me right now off-camera.
She's trying to do it. She’s trying to help ya.
She’s trying to do it. And–
–And you would say Sunday, 11 am, call the bike shop.
I would actually say hashtag personal, @ next action. And, you know, P1, or P3, call bike shop. She's still talking to me. Sorry, I've got to turn her off. But she's so eager to help. Thanks, Siri.
Yeah, and she just does it. Schedules it.
Sorry. I feel bad now turning her off. Anyway, so yeah, so again, the nomenclature, hashtag personal, @ sign next action, P3, call bike shop, Sun, 11 am. And kaboom, it's in.
It’s there. So, what all of those pieces are called in that system that I was mentioning, getting things done. That is context, once you have fully contextualized a task, it will get done. There's no choice. There we go, context brings calm, that's beautiful. That's the shirt Tim is wearing right now is this context brings calm. You give everything context. Now it's, you can rest easy. It's out of your brain, it is scheduled or it's in the waiting place where it should be. And it won't get forgotten, it won't get missed, at some point, you will come back to it. So, giving it that context is important. But you don't have to. That's the other nice thing. That's why I mentioned puts a couple of things in your inbox, you don't have to give it all the context right away. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't necessarily know everything that I'm doing Sunday, I don't know if I'm actually free at 11 am. I might not like to do that all right away, but I just need to get it in. You need to schedule some time that's the other half of what makes this work. Schedule a bit of time to go through your inbox, go through your projects, and find any actions that are need to be scheduled. I do that in a couple of ways. Daily, get today that today view to zero. That way, the next day, you're not starting with a bunch of things that are out of order that aren't necessarily going to get done that day that you now have to give context to give new context to. Just make sure that today is at zero, you don't have to do everything. That's okay. Sometimes they don't get everything done, just make sure to move them at the end of the day to make tomorrow, successful. And then once a week, ideally, once a week, you go through everything. You go through your inbox and give everything context that you just captured through the week that you didn't give any context to and go through your projects and find anything that needs to be done anything that's become urgent, all of a sudden, or anything that's been flagged as a next action, you're like, Okay, I gotta get on this, or anything that you might have missed, or you've been ignoring. The thing is that once it's written down, you can't ignore it anymore. Tim, you talked earlier about building capacity, you can't build capacity, you can't have capacity without understanding the state. So, getting everything into one place, and being able to understand that is the first step in building capacity. You can't cut what you don't know. Or you might cut and it might not be enough.
We're at very different stages of our life. I mean, I have three kids. And so there's always an unknown coming. There's enough surprises. There's enough surprises running a family, running a dynamic business, having clients that call in with ad hoc needs and are in some sort of crisis. And that's fine, right? There's lots of that. And what I find this helps me do is then move things, knowing that I can pick them up again later. Where should people go Sarah, if they want to get started?
A great place to get started is on Todoist’s site, they have a whole page dedicated to productivity methods, a blog, it has all the information on getting things started, the Eisenhower matrix, eating the frog, the Pomodoro Technique, honestly, all of my favourite systems that can help you be more productive and set up these systems within Todoist itself. So, if they want to just explore using it beyond the basic features, this is a great place to go and explore that.
Fantastic. Okay. I think that's a great place for us to wrap it up. Let's meet offline, we're going to talk about what could be the next level of this build. But in the meantime, let's encourage people to, if you haven't already, go out and give Todoist a try. Follow Sarah's instructions in terms of how to set it up. And then we can take it to a next level when we have Sarah back again to talk about this, or PYPD, or just being an all-around cool person. All right? Thank you so much for joining me, Sarah.
Thanks so much for having me, Tim.
All the best.
Thank you so much for listening to Sweet on Leadership. If you found today's podcast valuable consider visiting our website and signing up for the companion newsletter. You can find the link in the show notes. If like us, you think it's important to bring new ideas and skills into the practice of leadership. Please give us positive rating and review on Apple Podcasts. This helps us spread the word to other committed leaders. And you can spread the word too by sharing this with your friends, teams and colleagues. Thanks again for listening. And be sure to tune in in two weeks' time for another episode of Sweet on Leadership. In the meantime, I'm your host, Tim Sweet, encouraging you to keep on leading.
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