Another week, another time management case study. This week we have a special guest: Florian. This case study will show you how we helped a “creative thinking” type person (or commonly known as visionaries) to increase his personal productivity.
Florian is an online marketing director for a startup based in Europe. He really loves what he does for a living which is staying on top of online marketing trends and chasing the next big thing on the web. Some people describe him as a workaholic as he is infamous for never skipping a day and working late.
Different people prefer different ways of working. A lot of people like working within a framework whereas others like to be more free when they try to get things done. The latter group of people are what some call “creative” types – people that find it very difficult to stay within the lines. Florian is someone who fits in this category and he finds it very difficult to stay within a framework. He is very good in thinking ten steps ahead, but has problems making the first five and following up from there.
Florian didn’t come to us directly for help. It was one of his business partners, someone who is very Asian Efficient, who asked us to work with him to improve his personal and business productivity. Florian found it very difficult to pinpoint exactly what he needed to work on, so his business partner described to us what some of the obstacles were that needed to be addressed:
- He has no organization system nor any task management system.
- He is unreliable over email.
- The are no productive habits or rituals in his life.
- Knowing how to prioritize business objectives.
- No separation of personal and work space.
- Transitioning to a Mac setup.
Florian was aware of some of his leakages that prevented him from achieving peak performance:
- An irregular sleeping schedule.
- Going partying a lot and dealing with hangovers.
- Working on low-value tasks he didn’t want to deal with.
If you have read any of our other case studies, you’ve seen this amazing diagram before.
As you can see in the above diagram, the intersection of high value activities, strengths and wants is what we call leverage points. For anyone who wants to achieve peak performance in their daily lives, finding that area and using that day in, day out, is what will make you productive.
For Florian to find his leverage points, he needed to focus on them properly. The energy and passion that Florian puts in his work is what helps him get a lot of things done, but it’s the lack of priorities that makes him sometimes redirect that energy in the wrong direction. When you are always chasing the next big thing you tend to lose sight of what is most important right now.
What he lacked was the proper overall picture of what his high-value activities were and finding a way to delegate or outsource his low-value tasks. We recommended for him to work closely with his business partner to determine what the highest priorities are and then work on those one-by-one. A “silent cockpit”, designated time for focused work, needed to be made a priority every single day at the same time. Since he is working in a fast pace and fast changing environment, he needed to sit down with his business partner twice a day to determine what the highest priorities were.
The next missing piece was introducing rituals, habits and systems in his life (more about that later). Without them it is very easy to get sidetracked and get disorganized. Whenever you see people that you describe as “chaotic”, it is usually due to a lack of systems and routines in their lives. For people like Florian, the creative type, they naturally don’t like to work within a framework and this was a major challenge for us.
While having no current systems in his life, having one or a couple is better than having nothing. We introduced a couple frameworks to him, but made them very simple and flexible. It was “just good enough” for him to work with them while at the same time giving him the freedom to do this work. We showed him how to setup his task management system (a very simplified GTD) and stressing the importance of separation of work space and personal space.
Florian needed to address his bad habits:
- Sleeping. It turns out that Florian is nocturnal and prefers to work late in the hours and sleep during the day. We suggested to sleep and wake up around the same time every single day, as long as he aligns his working hours with his natural body rhythms.
- Nights out. Everyone needs to have a healthy balance of social energy. In order to prevent that from going out of hand, we recommended to go out no more than twice a week on fixed days and to drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks (if any) to prevent hangovers.
- Delegation. To prevent Florian from working on low-value tasks, we recommended to communicate more often with his business partner to determine what the highest priorities are and then to delegate the low-value tasks to someone else within the company. This would free up time for him to focus more on the more important things.
Rituals and Scheduling
With no rituals and routines in his life, this was the most eye-opening part of the consultation for Florian. We introduced our standard morning ritual to him that we have seen many people benefit from.
- Drink water (500 mL) first thing in the morning when you wake up.
- Have breakfast (preferably protein-rich).
- Do visualization exercises.
- Work on personal development.
- Do one MIT (most important task)
Before he started to work, we endorsed to go over a mini ritual that will help him prioritize on what needs to get done:
- Review long-term company goals.
- Assign 3 tasks to do.
- Note any low-value tasks that might be urgent and should be delegated.
His evening ritual:
- Review the day.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Go to sleep.
Florian had no personal organization to show for and we set him up by helping him transition from Windows to Mac (he ended buying a Macbook Pro). We set him up with our list of essential mac software and guided him on integrating them into his life:
- Omnifocus – task manager.
- Busycal – calendar.
- Apple Mail – email program.
However, there was an issue with his switch to the Mac: he really needed to use certain programs that were only available on Windows. Instead of recommending using Windows as a virtual machine, we said to purchase a remote server and run all programs on there because they are resource intensive and required a lot of bandwidth.
While we know from experience that creative types don’t like working with to do lists, we still recommended he got one. We helped him set up a very simple and basic Omnifocus workflow.
The same went for helping him managing emails. While our documented approach is very structural, Florian has been using this approach with a lot of success and continues to have inbox zero to show for.
The most important part of this consultation for Florian was to introduce systems and rituals into his life. Life can be very chaotic when there are none of them present.
Photo by pedrosimoes7.
I found the time management course to be very effective and useful for daily activities.
I’m curious if Florian kept up with Omni Focus. As a creative (who also doesn’t like to do lists), I think OF would have been gathering electronic dust after about a month.
Really curious what Florian thought of all the changes and how he is doing a few weeks/months later.
From my experience, I noticed that gtd and productivity newbies don’t excel at OmniFocus and other advanced task managers. Even Evernote is sometimes hard to implement.
Instead of pushing someone straight into OmniFocus I would recommend some simple task manager as Google task (flawless Google Calendar integration) or Wunderlist, with beautiful appealing design.
Gtd begginers should have as simple as possible setup, in order not to develop resentment to their setup, or end up not using it at all.
Start small, develop from there.
GTD and OmniFocus take discipline… or insistent business partners =)
We’ve got some articles on simpler task management tools coming up soon.
Your article simple task management with text editor pretty much rocks. Combined with Dropbox, its powerfull solution in sync.