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Productive Interview Series: Andy Mitchell

Productive Interview Series: Andy Mitchell

Productive Interview Series is a quick four questions interview, targets on productive people who have been changing their work/life style with life hacks and self-development tips. The following are the answers from Andy Mitchell, author of GTDGmail.

Andy Mitchell

    Who are you?

    I am Andy Mitchell, best known as the humble author of GTDGmail and Bumble Search. I also go by other such titles as Engineer of Systems and Tinkerer of Businesses.

    I am a Brit, but a Brit who in the past two years has spent nearly as much time out of my country as in it. Thus all common stereotypes – be they tea at four, a penchant for colonising small countries, a passion for top hats and fopsy politeness, or indeed, tap dancing chimney sweeps – can be neatly sidestepped.

    What cannot be sidestepped is my personal organisation.
    I am disorganised.
    As with all problems, admitting it to myself was the hardest part. Since my ‘awakening’ several months ago, I have been enthusiastically – bordering on obsessively – attempting to reduce the overload. Wherever possible I have tried to share my progress with others.
    Which brings us neatly to this interview…

    What have you done to increase your productivity?

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    I gave myself a pretty rigorous interrogation, and eventually confessed my true working practices. If you read no more of this interview, I heartily recommend you at least work out your own ‘style’. In productivity, one size certainly does not fit all.

    Build a Framework…

    • Simple. Structured.
      I follow simple guidelines. Complex rules and massively long lists on ‘how to be productive’ are precisely the kind of clutter I try to avoid.

      If I use any software tools I only pick those that are straightforward. If I have to read a manual, or feel overwhelmed by the functionality, I get really rather angry. Your tools should be working for you.

    • Lay the Foundations
      The single greatest productivity aide I employ is to know what I am going to do next at any given place (a similar concept to David Allen’s Contexts and Next Actions).

      In particular, I like to decide what I am going to do the next morning, before I go to sleep. Otherwise, I wake up with all the mental acuity of Herman Munster and spend an hour scratching my head and wondering what I should do first.

      Forward planning is also great for getting more done – a.k.a. doing a better job. Take these two examples for planning to visit the gym:

      • I will go to the gym today
      • I will go to the gym at 8pm and do 30 minutes of running and 3 chest sets

      The first example means I may make it to the gym and will probably just have a nice chat and a sauna when I get there.
      The second example means I will go to the gym, and when I am there I am certain to have a great workout.

    Clear the Clutter…

    • Be regular and keep your system clean
      It is a fact everyone knows: spend just five minutes each day tidying and it will never get on top of you. So why do we not do it?
      In my case, it was “only five minutes? that can wait until tomorrow…”.

      My solution was simply to ‘get tough’.
      I picked the same time each day for a tidy up and stuck to it. In case I am too busy, I also picked a back up time (I am second-to-none when it comes to deluding myself that I’m too busy to do something).

      ‘Setting a time’ is a basic psychological trick, but it is certainly effective. Since removing the stress of clutter – both mental and physical – the sky has been bluer, the air fresher, and small children wave at me as I float past.

      Tidy Ups
      Typical tidy ups include condensing scattered notes into my wiki, tearing up finished hand-written diagrams and ideas, responding to outstanding emails and dumping any tasks/ideas that are still in my mind.

    • Decide what you least want to do. Do it
      If there was a task I did not like, I would find other tasks to justify not doing it. The very essence of procrastination!

      The problem is that the boring task would linger over me like an executioner raising his axe. It was stopping me fully concentrating on any other tasks. It was causing me to worry about not having done it.

      Tackling what you dislike is the not-too-distant cousin of David Allen’s two minute rule: you are clearing the niggles so you can focus on the tasks that matter.

    And for Extra Merit…

    • The Mega Mini Challenge
      I am most likely to procrastinate when there is no pressure; and for me, there can be no pressure unless there is a deadline in a few hours.

      Therefore, mundane daily events have to become deadlines. Lunch cannot be taken until X is done. The call of nature cannot be answered until Y is satisfied.
      It certainly sparks focus, not to mention weight loss and exemplary bladder control…

    • Embrace Procrastination (if you can’t beat it, join it!)
      So, you want to see if there is a new post on Lifehack.org? Then check it!
      (Bear with me, this is not an attempt at subliminal advertising…)

      Quite simply, if you deny yourself you will just become obsessed with it, and then you are no better off than if you had just checked it in the first place.
      The trick is to only spend a few minutes or less doing it… little & often!

      An excellent idea is to try one of the many personal timers that are available, and monitor your work habits. (I personally like the web-based SlimTimer). Record the bits where you are not working as you should. Do this for no more than two days – otherwise you will get bored and not do it properly.
      You may even find you waste far less time than you imagined – and thus your stress levels will come down even more.

    What is your best life hack?

    My favourite life hack – which has little to do with productivity – is the gym.

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    I have been engaging in a somewhat self-inflicting relationship with my local gym for many years; but it is only recently that I have come to appreciate the positive effect it has (beyond giving me the excuse to squeeze one extra bacon sandwich into my daily ritual).
    The biology is fairly straightforward – you train, you get endorphins, you burn fat and you feel accomplishment. This all leads to a nice sensation of confidence and control that lasts for several days.

    It is the last two – confidence and control – that make all the difference. They enable me to enthusiastically bluster through tasks and overcome even the stuff I have been putting off.
    Sadly, I only notice this when I have not been getting my daily dose. Without exercise, I get overwhelmed more easily and procrastinate more readily. And I do not get my bacon sandwich. Which makes me very angry indeed… (There is a distinct possibility that all of the above is hokum, and my complete productive existence is indeed tied to nothing more than a sandwich… the shame!).

    What are your favorite posts at lifehack.org?

    That would be “On Ho’ohiki: Keeping your Promises“.

    A short, sweet and perfectly accurate framework on the best way to remedy a broken promise. I particularly like the honesty – it does not encourage you to cover up your mistake but to actively address it.

    Previous Productive Interview was: Patrick Rhone

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    Last Updated on December 7, 2018

    10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

    10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

    How big is the gap between you and your success?

    What is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

    It is as simple as this: successful people think and talk about what they are creating, and unsuccessful people focus on and talk about what they’re lacking.

    So how do you bridge that gap between wanting success and having your success? Let’s make an important distinction. You see, there is a big difference between “Wanting” and “Having” something.

    Wanting: means lacking or absent. Deficient in some part, thing or aspect.

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    Having: means to possess, to hold, to get, to receive, to experience.

    You can have one OR the other, but not both at the same time with any particular object of your desire. You either have it or you don’t.

    When it comes to your subconscious, if you’re focusing on the “wanting”, i.e. the not having, guess what, you will build stronger neural networks in your brain around the “wanting.” However, through the power of your subconscious mind, you can focus on the “having” as if it has already happened. Research has shown that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re visualizing inside your mind versus what is happening out there in your reality.

    This is a regular practice of elite athletes. They spend as much timing creating the internal mental imagery of their success playing out as they do actually physically practicing. This helps create both the neural pathways in their brain and the muscle memory to consistently deliver on that success.

    Here are 10 “brain hack” steps for success that you can take to create your version of a happy life. Make these steps a regular habit, and you will be astonished at the results.

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    Step 1: Decide exactly what you want to create and have

    This is usually the biggest problem that people have. They don’t know what they want and then they’re surprised when they don’t get it.

    Step 2: Write down your goal clearly in every technicolor detail

    A goal that is not written down is merely a wish. When you write it down in full detail, you signal to your subconscious mind that you really want to accomplish this particular goal.

    Step 3: Write your goal in simple, present tense words

    …that a three year old can understand on a three-by-five index card and carry it with you. Read it each morning after you awake and just before you go to sleep.

    Step 4: Backwards planning

    See your goal achieved and identify all the steps required that it took to bring it to life. Making a list of all these steps intensifies your desire and deepens your belief that the attainment of the goal is already happening.

    Step 5: Resolve to take at least one step every day from one of the items on your list

    Do something every day, even if it is just one baby step, that moves you toward your goal so you can maintain your momentum.

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    Step 6: Visualize your goal repeatedly

    See it in your mind’s eye as though it were already a reality. The more clear and vivid your mental picture of your goal, the faster it will come into your life.

    Step 7: Feel the feeling of success as if your goal were realized at this very moment

    Feel the emotion of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure that you would have once you have achieved your goal. Visualize and feel this success for at least 20 seconds at a time.

    Step 8: “Fake it till you make it!”

    Confidently behave as if your subconscious mind was already bringing your goal into reality. Accept that you are moving toward your goal and it is moving toward you.

    Step 9: Relax your mind

    Take time to breathe, pray or mediate each day. Disengage the stress response and engage the relaxation response. A quiet state of mind allows your brain to access newly formed neural pathways.

    Step 10: Release your goal to your subconscious mind

    When you turn your goal over to the power of the universe and just get out of the way, you will always know the right actions to take at the right time.

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    Starting today, try tapping into the incredible power of your subconscious mind.Start with just one goal or idea, and practice it continually until you succeed in achieving that goal. Make it a game and have fun with it! The more lightly you hold it, the easier it will be to achieve. By doing so, you will move from the “positive thinking” of the hopeful person to the “positive knowing” of the totally successful person.

    Hit reply and let me know what you’re creating!

    To your success!

    Featured photo credit: use-your-brain-markgraf via mrg.bz

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