Personal productivity

I’ve been asked how I have time to work on these emergency preparation projects in the midst of several day jobs + two little kids. Three reasons…

First, I have a very supportive wife. Second, I get insomnia usually once per week, which opens up lots of hours for mind-numbing internet research. And third, I like to delegate.

One of my three day jobs is now mostly run by others I’ve hired, with me only answering the occasional phone call/email asking for advice. My second day job is highly seasonal, keeping me busy only in the Fall. And my third day job – a start-up that occupies 80%+ of my daily work hours – is an experiment in just how much I can outsource and still guide the ship. That experiment may or may not work. 2012 update: the above experiment did in fact work, but that company is now sold to make room in my schedule for a new company I started with three other co-founders who are very bright and very passionate. Will be interesting to see how these concepts that work well for a single founder work in a team environment. 

Many different books helped me over the years develop my own style of personal productivity, but there are two standouts. The first book got me to where I was two years ago, which is when I stopped working the normal 8-5 job and started splitting my time among several related jobs. The second book got me to where I am today.

Ten years ago, I was trained by a competitor to David Allen on a system almost identical to his brilliant Getting Things Done. Yes, it is all just common sense, but until you train yourself on a system like GTD (or any of the other similair ones out there), you just won’t act on it consistently, which is crucial. It’s a very effective system.

Two years ago, I read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week and was pleased to see two things. One, I was not nuts to try the things I was trying with my day jobs – like outsourcing as much as possible – despite what most of my friends and colleagues were telling me. Two, I had only just begun.

Ferriss pushed the concept way beyond what I would have thought possible. In particular, he opened my eyes to the power of Virtual Assistants. Granted, there are some significant hassles to using VAs, but overall it can make you significantly more productive.

My tools to stay productive and organized have been greatly simplified in recent years. There are now just three of them:
1. iPhone (a small computer that happens to make phone calls; current home page pictured above),
2. Tiny space pen + Hipster PDA, and
3. My brain, which functions significantly better breathing fresh air, taking 10-minute power naps instead of coffee breaks, and doing micro-yoga sessions while talking on the phone. Not items I had ever been able to access when working at a normal desk job.

Most used apps on the iPhone, in addition to the native ones, are below:
1. ToDo 2Do Things The Hit List Remember the Milk (better task mgmt and sync for iPhone),
2. ReaddleDocs (the missing File Manager / Finder for the iPhone),
3. Evernote (for the text recognition aspect),
4. WinAdmin (to control my servers),
4. QuickVoice Pro (to get thoughts quickly out of my head before they disappear)
5. Dropbox (to keep everything synced, particularly with iPad).
6. WordPress to update the company websites.
7. Asana to keep the teams coordinated and motivated.
8. Basecamp to keep the dev teams cranking (they don’t like Asana).