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• Gretchen Rubin • Michael Hyatt • Dan Markovitz • Michael St. Pierre • Leo Babauta • Chris Edgar • Celestine Chua • James Tonn • Michael Sliwinski •

#11 (December 2011 / January 2012)

Exclusive Interview



of the Happiness Project

More articles on: 4 Happy New Year! 4 Habits, Discipline and Goals 4 Enjoying Life and Being Just Happy

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From the Editor

Happy New Year! By Michael Sliwinski, Editor


t’s all about happiness this New Year! We’re delving into goals, de–cluttering your life, and making the most of 2012. To start off a great new year I’m happy to offer you an interview with Gretchen Rubin – the author of the #1 New York Times best–selling book “The Happiness Project”. She’s an amazing example of a person who went on a journey to find happiness in the small things in life... although she wasn’t terribly unhappy to begin with. I’m off to a great 2012 – lots of challenges, many new developments and most of all, further building of an all–star team for my application: Nozbe. We are a team of 9 now and I’m hoping we will

get to 20 people by the end of this year... and most importantly, 20 productive, amazing people who love to work with one another. I’m so excited! Let’s start off this year with great advice from Gretchen as well as from many of our regular contributors. All the articles in this issue are designed to inspire you to clear off your old “2011 stuff” and focus your energy on the new 2012. Instead of attempting big, non–specific resolutions, focus on smaller, achievable goals and find happiness along the journey! Happy New Year? You bet!

– Michael

! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog


Productive! Magazine web site | Nozbe – Simply Get Things Done!


Table of contents 04

Michael Sliwinski Interview with Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project”

10 12 14 16 17 19 21 24 25

Productive!Magazine Sponsor:

Michael Hyatt 5 Steps to developing more discipline Dan Markovitz What’s your job? Michael St. Pierre Why You Might Need a Second Desk Leo Babauta Clearing Your Life for a New Year Chris Edgar What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity Michael Sliwinski I still prefer to have goals Celestine Chua The 8 Habits of Highly Productive People (Part 2) Michael Sliwinski Productive! Show Videos James Tonn Enjoying Life in the Context of Death

Your Online tool for Getting Things Done – available in your computer browser, mobile phone and on your iPhone. Chief Editor: Michael Sliwinski

Technical Editor: Piotr Wozniak

Technical Advisor: Maciej Budzich

Editorial Team: Lori Anderson

Delfina Gerbert

James Tonn

Tribute: Marc Orchant (1957–2007) The Productive! Magazine is dedicated to the memory of a productivity guru, great blogger and a very close friend, Marc Orchant who passed away on 9th December 2007. All articles are copyright © by their respective authors. Productive! Magazine is copyright © by Michael Sliwinski. Getting Things Done® and GTD® are the registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.



Interview with Gretchen Rubin, the author of a very popular blog and consequently the best–selling book “The Happiness Project”. It’s all about how to find happiness in ordinary life.



Michael Sliwinski: Before we dive into happiness and your “Happiness Project”, let’s just start with your career. You finished law school at Yale and that is quite a big deal, then after becoming a successful lawyer, you decided one day to quit... What happened? Gretchen Rubin: Well, I had a great time as a lawyer. I was working for one of the best law firms around, but I finally realized something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time, which is that I really wanted to be a writer. And it was at that point that I really came to feeling like, I’d rather fail as a writer then succeed as a lawyer, and I really need to give it a shot and try to make it work for a bit or fail. That was about 12 years ago now, that I made the switch. And my husband and I were moving from Washington DC to New York and so part of the transition was both of us stopping our careers as lawyers.

Michael: So you made the switch to a career you actually wanted to do and you have a husband that you love and you have great kids and so you were basically happy... so, why “The Happiness Project”? Gretchen: Well, I was pretty happy when I started “The Happiness Project”. So, I wasn’t coming from a place of depression or misery. I had all the omens of a happy life. But I asked myself one day as I was stuck in a city bus in the pouring rain “what do I want from life?” I wanted to be happy, but I never spent time thinking about being happy or how I could be happier. And so I decided to start a happiness project. And one of the things I really wanted to do, as my happiness project, was really to appreciate my life more. To stop taking it for granted and being distracted by the little things that were going wrong and losing sight of how much I really had. And I wanted to live up to it better, expect more of myself and to really appreciate what I had.

So yes, I was pretty happy when I started, but one of the things I really wanted to do was not to take my life for granted as much as I had.

Michael: Yes, I think it is the same for me as well. So many things are going great in my life that I just take it for granted. I just think “it is like this”. And then I start being annoyed about small things that actually don’t even matter, right? Gretchen: Right. There is something called negativity bias, which is that people are just psychologically biased to pay more attention to things that are going wrong, that are scary, that are annoying and so you really have to make an effort to train your sight towards the things that are good. Because if you leave them like this... you are naturally just going to drift downward. And it is easy. It is very easy to let one little thing go wrong and it just fills up your mind and you forget about all the million things that you should be happy about.

one thing. Another thing that you can do is just sit down a few times. That takes no time and there is just something so goofy, and silly and energetic about doing a few jumping jacks, running a few stairs or just jumping up and down by your desk that really gives you this kind of boost of childlike energy. It’s really fun, so those are two things that are small but effective.

Michael: In my case, for example, it is to have a clean desk when I start working. I just feel better when I have a clean desk. The Zen feeling is just kind of happier to me. Gretchen: One of the things that I’ve noticed, one of my secrets of adulthood is that for most people outer order contributes to inner calm more than you would think. And it seems like... well, what’s really the difference between clean desk and messy desk? In the end it is pretty much the same. And over and over people say that having a clean desk, having

One of the things I really wanted to do, as my happiness project, was really to appreciate my life more. Michael: So, you embarked on this one year “trip” and you’ve made a resolution to just be happier. From what you have learned, what are the smallest things that you can do or implement just now to feel happier? Gretchen: Well, this is surprising, but the number one thing that people mention, that they think that they’ve tried and has made them happier is the resolution to make your bed. It’s such a little thing, but this seems to be something that people really get a boost from. It’s very small, very manageable; it’s first thing in the morning so that’s

clothes closet that’s not full of clothes, you are having your kitchen cabinet door closed easily. These things matter almost more then they should. They don’t seem that significant really, to a happy life and yet over and over again people say that it really does make a difference. So, I do spend a lot more time just managing the exterior of my environment, because I find that it really does help. Like you, I’m exactly the same way, it really does make me feel more calm, more focused, more patient... it’s worth the effort.



Michael: I’ve read in your book that you mention that you like to clean things. Clean up desks and drawers so much that you insist on going to people houses and clean up their stuff without actually asking them. Gretchen: Yeah. It’s actually more fun to clean up other people’s clutter, because it’s just easier, you know? With your own clutter you have all those ideas about it, but when it is somebody else’s clutter you are just like “get rid of that”, “that should be recycled”, etc. It’s much easier. So it’s all the fun with none of the emotional drain that comes from your own stuff.

Michael: You must be a scary person then :–) So, about the New Year’s resolutions, tell me is there any trick to actually stick to the New Year’s resolutions?


I have a chart and I literally write down every resolution and I check off whether I did it or not. Gretchen: Yes. I mean it is fun to make your New Year’s resolutions, but something like 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by mid February. So, people aren’t very good at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. So, for me, I think what I found are two really cute things. One is to be very, very concrete and specific with the resolution. So, for example, resolutions people say to me all the time are like these: “I want to have more fun with my family” or “I want to

appreciate the moment more”. Those are good aims and they would make you happier, but they’re vague, because it’s Monday and you are about to go through a day, what are you going to do to appreciate the moment more? What are you doing to do to have more fun with your family? I think it is much more effective, when you are very specific. Say like “we are going to watch a family movie every Sunday night together” or “I’m going to take


10 minutes to sit in my back garden and enjoy playing with my dog everyday”. Be very specific so that you know what you are expecting of yourself. And you know whether you’re done or not. Which leads to the second thing, accountability. It is really important to have some sense of holding yourself to your resolution, because we all have those good intentions. But day after day goes by and you just don’t get around to doing it. That’s why I have a chart and I literally write down every resolution and I check off whether I did it or not. Other people do it online. I have this happiness toolbox. Some people form happiness project groups, some people just go back and forth to a sibling or a friend, some people start that on blogs. There are all kinds of things you can do. You just have to find the thing that works for you, but it is very important to have this sense of accountability, because without that it’s just easy to not follow through. Here is something that separates me from most, even for something that I like to do, like read, I love to read, and I would think: “oh, I love to read so of course I don’t need a resolution to read more” but actually I do and it is kind of hard for me to stick to that resolution. So just because something is enjoyable doesn’t mean that you are necessarily going to find it easy to stick to. That’s why I think accountability measures really help.

Michael: I my case, I had resolution to read more, but I struggle to find time for that. I always have so much on my plate that I never have time to read. And after doing this resolution the whole year I’ve read 3 books. So, not really helpful. And then I realized there is a different way of reading. So I just chose audiobooks and the next year I read 30 books. And that’s a totally different thing. I have audiobooks with me all the time on my iPhone

and it always comes as a surprise to me how many times I have the opportunity to read when I’m just walking, driving or running errands. Gretchen: See. That’s a great way of thinking about what could work for you, to get you to the same place but through a different way. So that’s great.

Michael: Yes, I’m really happy about the outcome :–) Now, let’s talk more about productivity. What do you think? If we are more productive, are we happier? Or if we are happier, are we more productive? Gretchen: I think both things are true. Because I think that when you are happier you are far more energetic and more creative and it is also easier to get yourself to do things that you do not want to do. Because sometimes being productive is being stuck with chores and jobs that you’d rather not do. So, you are more able to take those on. But then I think people do get a real sense of satisfaction from getting something done. And sometimes you can engineer a little mood–boost for yourself by just saying “you know what, I just feel lazy, I’m going to do something that I’ve been putting off and just get it done and get it off my mind, get it off my list” and that can give you that sense of good cheer and energy. So I think you can use it both ways. They feed onto each other, because they are tied together.

Michael: In your book you mention that you finally have forced yourself to do those things you have been putting off for so much time. On the other hand we also have to be able to say “no” to things that we shouldn’t be doing anyway. Gretchen: I think that’s the key thing. It’s not that you should do everything, but that you should figure out what is important to you. Because the one thing that I really can understand from my Happiness Project is that I can only have a hap-

Sometimes you can engineer a little mood–boost for yourself by just saying “you know what, I just feel lazy, I’m going to do something that I’ve been putting off and just get it done and get it off my mind, get it off my list”. py life on a foundation of my own interests, my own temperament, my own values. But when your day is full of things that you are not interested in, or that you don’t really value you are not going to feel so happy. So a lot of that is really figuring out what are the kinds of things that I should be doing with my time. Not just trying to do everything to make sure that you are doing the right things for yourself. Everybody’s different. So there is no one–size–fits–all answer. You will have to figure this out for yourself.

Michael: Tell me more about your writing. You have 4 unpublished novels, what about them? Gretchen: You know I’m really not a novelist. That’s really a different kind of skill. So I wrote them because it is fun and... one of the things that writers often experience is that you don’t really have that much control over what you feel like


Joi Ito / Flickr


writing. You can control what you write, but you don’t control what you feel like writing. So, these were good exercises for me, because they were things that I felt like doing. And I think for any kind of writer any kind of writing is like doing scale for a musician. It’s just helpful to be writing. But I’m really a non–fiction writer, doing biographies and other sort of social criticism, that’s what I do professionally. I often do enjoy these side projects, but they are not publishable quality.

Michael: So, do you have any plans for a new book? Anything you can tell us about? Gretchen: Yes, actually I have a book that will be coming out in August of 2012 and it is called “Happier At Home”. Samuel Johnson, who is one of my patron saints of my Happiness Project, wrote: “the ultimate result of all ambition is to be happy at home”. And I was thinking

“The ultimate result of all ambition is to be happy at home” about this and I realized that really, my first happiness project was very broad and I wanted to go deeper into it, and it seemed to me that a great focus for it would be home. Because home encompasses so many things and there are so many things we want from our home. It’s relationships, it’s stuff, it’s time, it’s neighborhood, it’s all these things and so I thought “OK, I’m going to do a happiness project again, because I loved doing my first one, but this time I’m really going to focus on home and make that the lens through which I will

look at everything”. It’s so fascinating to think about that and to think about what I would do, what kind of resolutions I would set and what kind of aims I would have if I really wanted to feel more “at home” at home. So it’s really so much fun. a

!!Gretchen Rubin Gretchen Rubin started out as a lawyer. At Yale Law School, was editor–in–chief of the Yale Law Journal. She had a great experience in law, but realized that what she really wanted to do was to write. Since making the switch, she’s published five books. Her latest book is “The Happiness Project”.

! Links: Gretchen on Twitter | The Happiness Project blog | The Book: “Happiness Project”


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5 Steps to developing more discipline

I have been thinking a lot about discipline lately. Everyone knows you can’t succeed without it, yet few people seem to possess it.



By Michael Hyatt


y friend, Andy Andrews asks this question: Can you make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want? If so, then you are disciplined – at least in that area. The key is on focusing on a result you really want. In this sense, the key to discipline is goal–setting. Over the years, I have found that I can become disciplined in any area of my life by taking five specific steps. Whether it is trying to get in shape, maintain a blog, or develop a great marriage, the psychology is the same.

1. Determine your goal Notice in Andy’s definition that the key is in knowing what you really want. If you are going to succeed, you must be specific. You must be able to see it. Write it down and – while you are at it – add a “by when” date. Example: I will lose 20 pounds of body fat by December 31, 2012.

You have to ask, Why is this goal important? What is at stake in my achieving it? 2. List your reasons This is often the missing piece in both goal – setting and discipline. You have to ask, Why is this goal important? What is at stake in my achieving it? I list both the positive reasons and the negative.

Example: ! I want more energy. ! I want to lower my cholesterol. ! I don’t want to put myself at risk for heart disease. ! I want to look more trim, especially on video. ! I want to demonstrate that I can lead myself. ! I want to be a good example to my family.

! Eat healthy snacks like raw almonds,

celery, carrots, etc. ! Share entrees with Gail when we eat out, so that I eat half the normal serving. ! Chose simple grilled fish rather than beef or chicken.

5. Stay focused Read your goals daily, review your reasons why, anticipate obstacles, and

As soon as you start swimming against the current, you will start feeling resistance. 3. Identify likely obstacles As soon as you start swimming against the current, you will start feeling resistance. It’s as if the universe conspires to keep you from succeeding. That’s why you have to anticipate these obstacles and build strategies to overcome them. Examples: ! Obstacle: Mindlessly eating for lunch what I always eat. Strategy: Plan my lunch before I leave the house – where and what I will eat. ! Obstacle: Inability to work out on the road. Strategy: Make sure the hotel has a workout room before I book it. Also, pack my workout clothes and shoes. ! Obstacle: Eating more calories than I intend. Strategy: Record everything in LoseIt, thus educating myself about the calorie–count of various foods.

work on your new behaviors. If you get off–track, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes it is three steps forward and two steps back. Just shake it off and re–lock on your goal. Discipline is not really about will–power so much as it is focusing on what you really want. If you get clear on that, it suddenly becomes much easier. a

!!Michael Hyatt Michael Hyatt is the Chairman (and exCEO) of Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publishing company in the world and the seventh largest trade book publishing

4. Develop new behaviors

company in the U.S. Michael has written four

This is where you should focus. What are the positive, new behaviors you want to develop to replace the old, negative behaviors. Examples: ! Drink two–and–a–half liters of water a day to stay hydrated.

books, one of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Since resigning from active executive role in Thomas Nelson, Michael has been having a great success as professional blogger and speaker.

! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael’s Blog: Intentional Leadership

Michael’s free eBook: “Create Your Personal Life Plan”



What’s your job? Have you ever stopped to consider what your job is? Yes, yes, I know: your title is VP of Marketing, or HR Benefits Manager, or Entrepreneur. But going beyond your title, what is the essence of your job? What aspects of your daily work create real value for your customers? By Dan Markovitz


rom the perspective of lean manufacturing, there are three kinds of activities: value–added work, non– value–added (but necessary) work, and waste. For an activity to be considered value–added, it must meet three criteria: 1. The customer must be willing to pay for the activity. 2. The activity must transform the product or service in some way. 3. The activity must be done correctly the first time. In other words, the starting point for defining value is what your customer has asked you for – whether that customer is a paying client, a colleague, your boss, or even yourself. Value–added work comprises the actions that move


your work closer to what that customer needs. Non–value–added work (or “incidental” work) may not move the value forward, but it’s essential to your abili-

Your customers couldn’t care less about your inputs, they want outputs and answers. ty to do value–added–work. And finally, waste is just that. Waste. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, it’s the difference between motion and action. Calling an activity value–added or non–value–added is not a judgment about the person doing that work. Some-

times systems or policies force you to do non–value–added work or waste. (I mean, really: does a florist or a barber really need a special licensing exam? Probably not. But it’s necessary to provide that service). This definition of value is actually a pretty high bar to jump over. If you were to track your daily activities, you’d probably be shocked at how little time you spend on value–added work – and I’m not talking about the time you spend on Facebook, either. The truth is that the vast majority of your work–related activities don’t meet these three criteria. And this is where many personal productivity books (in my opinion) go awry: they’re totally focused on helping you get work – any work – done, without considering whether or not that work is value–added. They fail to challenge you on the most important question of all: is this work that you’re getting better at doing something you should even be doing in the first place? Sure, you can become an email ninja and get your inbox down to zero by the end of each day. But given that much of the stuff in your inbox is garbage anyway, wouldn’t you be better off figuring out how to reduce the volume of incoming mail in the first place? Or perhaps you’ve reduced the time it takes you to prepare your monthly sales meeting PowerPoint presentation from three hours to two... but do you even need the PowerPoint? Does the sales team? Perhaps a one–page summary report would be faster, easier, and more valuable. It’s astonishingly easy to forget that the work on which you spend so many of your waking hours must be guided by what your customers need. In fact, they couldn’t care less how you get the work done. They don’t want inputs (e.g., focus groups, training sessions, PowerPoint reports) or “deliverables”. They want out-


Focusing on the value to the customer, even when you are the customer, frees you up to improve both what you do and how you do it. puts and answers. They want results that solve their problems in the shortest time possible for a reasonable fee. Therefore, you should always be mindful not to accelerate activities that look productive, but don’t actually provide value for your customer. Sadly, the work that generally gets short shrift in these busy days is the value–added work that customers actually care about. In their book Far From The Factory, George Gonzalez–Rivas and Linus Larsson express this situation beautifully: “We think that the appearance of being busy and overloaded is simply a management proxy for effort and productivity... But in the absence of meaningful measurements, we settle for the Plato’s Cave version of productivity – a cluttered desktop, an overloaded calendar, and workers running from meeting to meeting”.

What the heck is your work, anyway? In any discussion of value, it’s essential, first and foremost, to figure out who your customers are and what they want. That’s your work. I want to distinguish here between your “job” and your “work”. Your “job” has some sort of fancy title and incorporates the formal requirements and trappings of your position. By contrast, your “work” is your real value–creating activities. Your job description probably isn’t very helpful in figuring this out. It usually bears only the faintest relation to the job you actually do. (Plus, it’s written in turgid HR – and business jargon that makes

sense to no one except the folks who define job classifications for a living). To identify your “work”, you need to identify the various customers you serve and the various value streams in which you operate. That’s the first step in determining what value–added work is for you. For example, when I supervised people in one of my earlier jobs, my direct reports didn’t really want corporate performance evaluations from me. What they really wanted was guidance in developing their careers and improving their skills. The performance evaluation was just a tool (and not a very good one, for that matter) for delivering that value. As another example, the VP of Sales worked together with the CFO to forecast revenue for the year. He needed pricing, margins, and target volumes from me – but he didn’t need me to attend all the finance meetings–and much to their surprise, I gracefully excused myself from them. Even if you’re an independent contractor or an entrepreneur, this thinking still applies. Obviously, you have a variety of customers that benefit from your services – that’s easy. But your biggest customer, most likely, is yourself: you are the beneficiary of your marketing activities, your bookkeeping, the RSS feeds you read, and the classes you take. What value are you gaining from these activities? If you had to pay for them (and of course you are, with your time and attention, if not your money), would you want to? Here’s the key point: focusing on the value to the customer, even when

you are the customer, frees you up to improve both what you do and how you do it. Once you have that perspective, you’re unshackled from preconceptions of how to do your job, and you can see more clearly how to create value and reduce waste. Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “You can see a lot just by looking”. The truth is that you probably haven’t looked – really looked – at your work honestly and objectively in a long time (or maybe ever). Step back and examine your daily activities for truly value–added work us-

Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “You can see a lot just by looking”. ing the three criteria I listed earlier. Identify what the real value is – the outcome that the customer really wants. Use that insight to eliminate and restructure what you do. What you’ll find, I think, are enormous opportunities for improvement, both in how you do your work and what you’re working on in the first place. a

!!Dan Markovitz Dan Markovitz is the President of TimeBack Management, a consulting firm that applies lean manufacturing principles to individuals and teams to dramatically improve performance. This article is adapted from his new book: “A Factory of One”.

! Links: Dan on Twitter | Dan’s “Time Back Management” | Dan’s New Book “A Factory of One”



Why You Might Need a Second Desk A priest friend of mine told me once that he found it hard to pray in his own church. “It’s as if someone is watching you”, he said, “and it’s common for parishioners to interrupt your prayer time with a question or concern”. That’s when he decided he needed to find a secondary location for his prayer time. He chose a small chapel nearby where he could retreat and spend time alone with God. It worked perfectly. This became his secondary “desk” or place to do spiritual work, otherwise known as prayer.



By Michael St. Pierre


hile I’m not a minister, I do know what it’s like to find it difficult to work at my desk. Take today for example, my lunch–break didn’t come until 3pm and even when I had a warmed tupperware container on my desk, I still couldn’t fend off the interruptions that arrived. These included: ! A person who needed to talk. ! An employee needing direction on a project. ! An urgent phone call from a parent. Granted, it’s up to me to carve out the time to really crank and get my work done. No one to blame but myself but still, work at my own desk can be difficult. Kind of like my friend, Kevin, at his church. In my case, my warmed up lasagna quickly turned into a cold item that had to be reheated later. Not ideal. That’s why everyone needs a second desk. My friend’s second desk is a small chapel. My second desk is a conference table where I find some of my most creative work is accomplished. It’s only five feet from my first desk but what magic comes from that short distance. I try to spend the first hour of my day there

before the interruptions come, and they always do. I think that everyone can benefit from a second desk. That’s why people have theatre rooms in their homes. They want to get away and enjoy some quality time but they want to do it away from the high–traffic area of their living room.

My second desk is a conference table... It’s only five feet from my first desk but what magic comes from that short distance. It probably also explains why people have both home and work offices. The primary is vital but the secondary space might be just as valuable because it’s often there that true creativity occurs. So how do you make the idea of a second desk into a reality? Here are three suggestions:

1 2

Evaluate your current space. If room allows, can you add a standing desk or bistro–sized table for a secondary work place? Be creative. Give yourself permission to rotate during the day. Some organizations are so bottom–line driven that they really don’t care where you work during the day. You may be able to rotate between 2–3 different spaces during the day within your building.


Consider another location entirely. This may be an extra bedroom in your home or an office space that you can rent. The modest financial investment could pay off very quickly for your productivity. There’s never been a better time than now to establish a second desk. It might only be five feet from your first desk but what a difference that short distance can make! a

!!Michael St. Pierre Michael St. Pierre is President of Morris Catholic High School in Denville, NJ. He is the editor of The Daily Saint productivity blog and podcast.

! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael’s Blog: “The Daily Saint”

© corepics / Shutterstock

Consider rotatating between 2–3 different spaces during the day within your building.



Clearing Your Life for a New Year Every January, people rush out and get a gym membership, set a list of goals or resolutions, and get ready to take on a new year of frenetic activity. Unfortunately, we don’t often clear space to make room for all this new stuff. By Leo Babauta


he beginning of the year is a great time for renewal of energy and taking on the things we’ve always wanted to tackle – clutter, fitness, work we’re passionate about, debt, and so on. But it’s also a great time to clear out your life, starting out the year on a blank page that’s ready to be filled. While everyone’s life is different, I’ll share some of what I do to clear out my life. ! Review the year to think about what

I learned, what mistakes I made, what I accomplished. ! Clear my schedule as much as possible. That often means saying no to people. ! Wrap up old projects, end commitments to people, so that my work plate is clearer than normal.

! Toss out old fitness and eating plans,

to make room for new experiments. ! Clear my email inbox. If I haven’t answered the email recently, it’s probably not important, so I archive it. Act on or answer other emails, so that my inbox is emptied. ! Clear out other inboxes. That might be an inbox on a social network, or a list of things I wanted to do or read, or any kind of list really. File them away under someday, or delete or archive. Anything that’s taking some mental energy because I know I need to get to it, gets cleared. ! Clear my computer files. Usually this means deleting a bunch of files I don’t need, but I also just consolidate files into one folder or put them in an online archive (like in Dropbox). ! Clear paperwork. I rarely have any papers these days – I’ve slowly turned everything digital. But I still get things in the mail sometimes, so if I have any

lying around, I dispose of them to clear out any remaining paperwork. ! Clear clutter. If there are areas that have become cluttered, I clear them out. Often it just means taking a box or bag of things that I’ve been meaning to donate to Goodwill. ! Clear my errands. I’ll make a list of all the errands I’ve been putting off, and do them in one afternoon. ! Clear my finances. I’ll take a few minutes to review my checking and savings accounts, Paypal, investments, etc. and make sure everything is in order. If there are little things that need taking care of, I do them so that my mind is cleared. ! Clear pantry and refrigerator of junk. Old crap that’s been lying around. Junk food if there’s any there (I don’t usually have any anymore, but I used to). Left with just good whole ingredients for healthy foods. This might take a couple days, working off and on in little bits. For some, it might take longer. But when you’re done, it’s amazing. Your mind is clear and refreshed. You feel like you’re ready to take on anything. To be honest, I do these things regularly throughout the year, and it’s great to keep a clean slate most of the time. But the new year is always a perfect opportunity to clear everything at once. a

!!Leo Babauta Leo Babauta lives in San Francisco and is married with six kids. He’s a writer and

Wrap up old projects, end commitments to people, so that my work plate is clearer than normal.

a runner and a vegetarian and he loves writing blogs: “Zen Habits” and “Minimalism”. He’s a published author of a bestselling book “Power of Less”.

! Links: Leo on Twitter | Leo’s Blog: Zen Habits | Leo’s Blog: Minimalist



© Elena Ray / Shutterstock

What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

Usually, when we think about productivity, images of well–organized email inboxes and color–coded folders come to mind. But these things alone aren’t enough to make us efficient. If our minds aren’t disciplined – our attention is scattered, or we feel sluggish or anxious – work will be a struggle, no matter how organized our workspace is.

By Chris Edgar


ow do we discipline our minds? I’ve found the ancient practice of hatha yoga – the stretches and breathing we simply call “yoga” in the West – very helpful. This may sound odd at first, but it makes sense if we look at why hatha yoga was created. It’s designed to clear the mind to prepare for meditation. In the same way, when we use it at work, it helps us become serene and focused.



Although people tend to see yoga as a complex bunch of poses that require a mat and a lot of flexibility, there are simple forms of yogic breathing and movement we can do while seated. You can do the practices I’ll describe whenever you feel yourself losing attention or momentum at work.

When we “open” the heart chakra by breathing into it, we feel our sense of compassion for others, and our desire to give to the world.

1. Breathe Into the Tight Spot

The pose I’ll describe is called “eagle arms”. To do this, hold your forearms out in front of you, parallel to your body. Cross your right arm in front of your left, and clasp your hands in front of your face so that your arms intertwine. Holding this pose, breathe deeply a few times into your shoulders. Repeat this with your left arm crossed over your right. I think you’ll find this helps you let go of the tightness in your shoulders, and return your attention to your work.

When a student is in a yoga pose that’s creating discomfort the teacher will often tell the student to “breathe into” the uncomfortable spot in their body – meaning to breathe so that the tense part rises and falls with the breath. This helps the student relax into the pose. If you pay close enough attention when you’re feeling stressed or anxious at work, I suspect you’ll notice that some part of your body is tensed up – whether it’s your jaw, neck, lower back, or somewhere else. If you notice this, I invite you to try taking a few deep breaths into that tight place. When you do this, I think you’ll find the tension dissipating, and the stress starting to fade.

3. Breathe Into Your Heart When we’re feeling unmotivated at work, it’s helpful to connect with our desire to contribute to and serve others. The yoga technique of breathing into your heart is a wonderful way to do this.

Hatha Yoga is designed to clear the mind to prepare for meditation. In the same way, when we use it at work, it helps us become serene and focused.

your heart, and stretch out your arms. Then, breathe deeply so that your chest rises and falls with the breath. Feel the warmth and openness in your heart, and notice any tension melting away.

4. Breathe Into Your Spine According to yoga, there’s another energetic center at the base of the spine called the “root chakra”. Breathing into the root chakra gives us a sense of groundedness and stability. Doing this can be very useful when you’re feeling anxious at work. To breathe into the root chakra, put your attention on the base of your spine, where the spine meets the pelvis. If focusing on that area is difficult, place your hand on your lower back, and concentrate on the sensation of pressure there. With your attention on the base of your spine, take a few deep breaths. When you do this, you’ll likely feel a deep–seated sense of solidity, and that paralyzing worry will start to fade. a

!!Christopher Edgar Chris Edgar helps peo-

2. Open Up Your Shoulders Many of us spend our workdays hunched over a keyboard, and this can cause tension to build in the neck and shoulders. When that tightness gets uncomfortable enough, it can disrupt our focus. Here’s a great way to release some of this tension – again, without leaving your chair.

According to yoga, there’s an energetic center in the heart area called the “heart chakra”. When we “open” the heart chakra by breathing into it, we feel our sense of compassion for others, and our desire to give to the world. To breathe into your heart, clasp your hands behind your back at the level of

ple find focus, motivation and peace in their work through his writing, speaking, and workshops. He is the author of “Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work”.

! Links: Christopher on Twitter | Christopher’s Web Site | Christopher’s book: “Inner Productivity”



I still prefer to have goals I’m a big fan of Leo Babauta and I like reading about minimalism, simplifying life, de–cluttering homes and heck, I try to do the same with my life and I’m happy with my first results. But there is one thing these guys are preaching which I’m not comfortable with, which is the idea of a goal–less life – meaning to live without goals and just to do every day what you’re most excited about. By Michael Sliwinski

Goal–less means aim–less

Goals vs Habits

The problem I’m seeing with many entrepreneurs, startup owners/builders, students beginning their career or just people trying to get a job is the fact of how aimless many of them are. Sure thing, a goal of “I will be a partner in a major law firm by the time I’m 40” is a stretch

The no–goals proponents argue that it’s more sustainable to build good habits instead of pursuing goals. That it’s better to create a habit of daily exercise instead of pursuing a goal of “losing 10 kg this year”. I’m all for good habits. There are good habits and bad ones and I’m all for the building up the good ones. I like Leo’s one–habit–a–month thing. Good habits are... good. But I disagree with the notion that when you focus on building habits you should disregard goals entirely.

There are good habits and bad ones and I’m all for the building up the good ones.

and is a very lofty goal, but on the other hand “I will find a job that pays me big bucks now even if it’s not something I’d put in my CV” is not a good idea either. I see lots of people who have no career planning skills whatsoever and to plan your career you need goals. You can’t just wake up in the morning and do what excites you the most... because if it’s video–game–playing then it won’t pay your bills... and if it’s a lousy job but pays quite well (but in no way it’s aligned with your career and personal development) you will lose your focus and will only have a short–term gain. It reminds me of these dreadful articles of young student prostitutes who are paying for college by selling their body and say it’s OK for now, and it pays



made sure the new one was better than the current one. Sometimes the pay was good but sometimes it was lousy. The pay (short–term gain) didn’t matter, her goal was to make sure each new job was better in terms of her personal development than the past one and she did get to the top eventually. Short–term gains didn’t stop her from the long–term goal.

© marekuliasz / Shutterstock

Goals help you think big and steer your decisions

better than other jobs... but they don’t think about the long term effects such jobs will have on them.

Goal–less means short–term thinking, no big picture That’s what I’m getting at. Habits are long–term changes but going goal–less is short–term thinking. I prefer to have long term thinking. Sometimes you have to pay your dues to arrive at a better life. Going goal–less means you don’t pay any dues. I was always dreaming of running a successful startup company and now

I do... but to get there I failed several times, had to work quite a few years doing consulting gigs to many customers (and some of them I didn’t like) in the morning and working on my startup ideas at night, but it paid off. My goal was clear and was long term. So I stuck to it, persevered and achieved it... and now I have new, bigger goals. Wasn’t easy, but hey, it was worth it. Another example – a person I know had a goal to be a lawyer in a top–law firm. To get there she went through internships in many law firms, but always

Possibly the biggest benefit of having goals is that your thinking begins to align with your true desires. You begin making decisions according to your goals and soon enough you’re on a path of personal development. You begin to plan your career the way you want it to be and start to feel a sense of control in life. Even if your goals change or you don’t achieve some of them, you can re-calibrate them later. The goals simply help you stay on your long-term course. I like building habits and I like doing what excites me today, but I can’t imagine my life without goals. Remember, even though the course may change, you’ll never get where you want to go without a developing your sense of direction... through goals. a

!!Michael Sliwinski Michael Sliwinski is your chief editor of the Productive! Magazine and a host of

Sometimes you have to pay your dues to arrive at a better life. Going goal–less means you don’t pay any dues.

the magazine’s Productive! Show. Every day he’s trying to help people get more done with his web application Nozbe – now also available as a native Android, iPhone and iPad app, as well as for a desktop PC and a Mac.

! Links: Michael on Twitter | Nozbe – Simply Get It Done! | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog



The 8 Habits of Highly Productive People (Part 2)

Habit 5: Create barriers to entry A great thing about our world today is that it’s easier than ever to reach out to someone. Everyone is just a text/ phone call/email/Facebook message away. At the same time it has become a highly distracting place to live in. Every few minutes, there’s a new request coming in. Your phone rings and it’s a telemarketer; You get a text message from a friend who’s bored at work; You get a new email and it’s some unrelated, unimportant mail; You get a Facebook mass events invite from someone you don’t know; Your calendar sends an

© charles taylor / Shutterstock

From the editor: This is the second part of a great article by Celestine Chua. You can find the first part with the initial 4 habits in the Productive! Magazine #10 with Seth Godin.

By Celestine Chua



alert about an appointment you already know... the list goes on. There are constantly messages coming from all different directions, shouting for your attention. Each one of them serves an agenda that’s not yours. And every time you pay attention to them, you’re distracted from doing what matters... to you. What do you do then? To get real work done, I recommend you put up barriers, so it’s hard(er) to reach you. Unplug your phone, switch it off, close off your inbox, set a personal rule where you only reply to emails after X days. I’m not saying disappear from the face of the earth, but do that during your work hours at least, especially when you’re working on an intense project. After a while, people will get used to it and adhere to the rule in order to reach you.

For example when I was working on a book, I blocked out my calendar from other appointments. When my friends wanted to meet–up, I explained I was working on an important project and I wouldn’t be free for a few weeks. On a daily basis, sometimes I’d switch off my phone and only check it at the end of the day to return the messages and calls (my telecom automatically sends a message if there are missed calls while I’m unavailable). I set up my blog contact form as my official contact channel, and funnel the requests through a FAQs page which filter out majority of potential requests before they are sent. I still continue to get regular mails, and people who send them know there’s a minimum 5 day lead time (if responses are needed). By making it harder for others to reach you, you filter out a lot of unimportant “noise” from outside, and that lets you work on your Q2 goals (see Habit 1). It’s not about being difficult or putting yourself above others (nothing of this sort) – it’s about focusing on what matters to you and creating real value you want in your life so you can then do the same for others.

© charles taylor / Shutterstock

Habit 6: Optimize time pockets


Time pockets refer to pockets of time you have in between events. You usually get time pockets when waiting for people, commuting, walking from one place to another, etc. Look at your schedule. What are the time pockets that can be better utilized? How can you maximize them? Have some ready activities to do during these pockets, such as listening to podcasts, reading books, planning, etc. You will be amazed at how much can be done in just a short amount of time! For example, I spend a lot of time commuting. Even though I largely work from my home office now, I still commute a fair bit, say when heading out to meet friends, networking, business/lunch/personal

appointments, giving workshops, and so on. While I try to schedule them at convenient places, there’s still downtime from walking from one location to the next, waiting for transport, traveling, etc. So rather than let the time go to waste, I use it to do some work. I bought a smart phone last year (with a QWERTY keypad) so I can type articles on the go. I also got a data plan so I can check my emails wherever I am. Last but not least, I make it a habit to bring a notebook when I go out to jot down ideas. Amazingly, I’m highly productive during these time pockets. Because there’s nothing else I can do in this 15, 30, 45 minutes, I concentrate fully on what I’m doing. Right now, I’m actually typing this article on my bus ride home. Just a few days ago, I finished creating my 3– months plan from Dec ‘10 to Feb ‘11, as well as created the idea and book outline for my next book for next year, all while having lunch. That’s a lot of progress compared to if I had just spaced out, slept or idled away the time pockets.

Habit 7: Set timelines A fundamental productivity habit. By Parkinson’s Law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. This means if you don’t set a timeline, you can take forever to complete what you’re doing. If you set a timeline of 2 weeks, you’ll take 2 weeks. If you set 1 week, you’ll take 1 week. And interestingly enough,

It’s not about being difficult or putting yourself above others – it’s about focusing on what matters to you.


I’m continuously looking for ways to automate my process, so I can spend more time on creating value for others rather than being stuck in the busy work. if you set 1 hour, you actually can complete it by one hour too, if you truly want to. So set timelines. When you set timelines, you set the intention to complete the work by this time, hence paving the way for the reality to manifest. I do regular goal setting to maximize my output. My last book was out when I had set the timeline for it to be released then. If I hadn’t done so, it would still be in the works, possibly for release this month, next month, or perhaps even never. By virtue of just setting these targets and striving for them, I’m already increasing my productivity compared to if I didn’t set any goals. Be clear on what you want to achieve (Habit 1), then set your timelines for them. What do you want to finish this month? What will make you look back and think that this is the best way you’ve spent today, and there’s no better way you could have spent it? Set that as your targets. From there, set your weekly goals. Finally, you can set your daily goals which become your day–to–day targets.

Habit 8: Automate everything possible Technology today has made automation possible for a lot of things we do. Even when it’s impossible to fully automate the task, we can still use the systems to get a lot of the work done for us. Keep a record of the things you do today, and see how you can automate them. Some of the not–so–productive tasks that we do on a regular basis are: 1. Delete, archive, sort our mails 2. Delete spam mail

3. Paying our bills 4. Appointment scheduling 5. Planning our days/weeks/months (unproductive because it’s still planning vs. acting) Here is a partial list of things I automate: Site mails: I set up a filter where all site requests and reader mails automatically go into my “Reply later” folder. I don’t see them when I check my inbox – Only when I’m ready to reply to mails. Scheduling: My schedules are somewhat automated. I set recurring items for things I’ve to do daily, weekly or monthly like paying the bills, posting new daily posts, exercising (daily), workshops, etc so I don’t have to worry about them later. It’s not exactly automatic in that I have to first create the entry, but once it’s set I don’t need to do anything about it anymore. Tweeting/Facebook: I automate the tweeting and posting of my new posts. Every time a new post goes live, my twitter will have an announcement, which automatically feeds into my Facebook as well. Book payments: My book payments are automatic. Whenever someone makes a purchase for one of my books, e–junkie (my payment vendor) will automatically generate an invoice, a download link and a confirmation email and send them to the buyer. The payment is automatically sent to PayPal. Coaching payments: The same goes for my 1–1 coaching, where the payment system is automatic. Coaching schedules: My coaching sessions with each client are set on a fixed

day, fixed timing every week. Like #2, I have to first create the entry, but after that it’s automatic. That way we don’t need to arrange for a time slot every week and can get on with the coaching topics. Site maintenance: I’ve set up the blog and forums to be as low maintenance as possible, to the extent where my only involvement is to write/post new content and reply comments. Many things such as the statistics, category count (in the sidebar), etc are automatically generated by Wordpress. Email filters: I set up filters for newsletters and subscriptions that go into different folders depending on the category. That way my only job is to read and get the value, not to sort. (Read 11 Simple Tips To Effective Email Management). I’m continuously looking for ways to automate my process, so I can spend more time on creating value for others rather than being stuck in busy work. By automating your to–do list as much as possible, you reserve your time for the absolute important things. If you get a deja vu feeling when doing something on your task list, that’s a cue to automate that item.

Apply the 8 Habits of Productive People What habits can you apply in your work/life now? Practice the 8 habits above and boost up your productivity immediately! a

!!Celestine Chua Founder of Personal Excellence – one of the world’s top communities for people passionate about achieving excellence in life. This is her passion and her life. Born in Singapore, she’s now traveling the world and meeting up with readers.

! Links: Celestine on Twitter | Celestine’s blog: “Personal Excellence”



Productive! Show Videos

Happy Gretchen, influential Guy Kawasaki and touch–typing As always, here are the three new (and very short) Productive! Show videos to help, inspire, and motivate you to get even more done.

By Michael Sliwinski

Touch typing – how important is it? Chances are that if you live in the US, you’ve had touch–type lessons at school. If you live in Europe, you haven’t. I believe it’s an amazing skill and is much needed in today’s world. In this video I’m explaining why.

Guy Kawasaki wants you to enchant people Guy’s been on the cover of our #2 issue of the magazine and now we’ve just launched this issue on the iPad. In this video interview he’s talking about what happened in his life since he was last on the magazine and how he’s book “Enchantment” is important for you and your business.

Gretchen Rubin about happiness If you read the interview with Gretchen in this issue, I still encourage you to watch this full video interview. Watching her talk about happiness and how it affects us and other people is so convincing – like if you personally would talk to her. Enjoy!

! Links: Hope you enjoyed these short productivity videos. Click here to browse all episode archive.



Enjoying Life in the Context of Death It happened again this weekend. I enjoyed life. The rain poured down on my bare shoulders, my hands raised into the air, as I stood in the rushing rapids of the Muskoka River and said to myself “this moment is worth dying for”. I meant it. In such a beautiful moment, why would I think something so grim? Why do I visit a cemetery every year on my birthday? Why, for 6 months straight, did I decide to think about death every morning? Let me explain… By James Tonn


bout 7 years ago in University, I met with the Principal of my school, who quickly became one of my mentors. In our first conversation he asked me what my goals were for the school year. While I rambled on, he began to grin. His look told me he had a wealth of secret wisdom to be shared. He then asked his real question, “Academics aside, who do you want to be at the end of the school year?”. I love such poignant questions, so without holding back I told him my biggest desire: to be a person of joy. I told him how I felt numb, and could not grasp the beauty and goodness I knew was all around me. He became Mr. Miaggi, and I Danielson. The silence simmered. He packed up his things and just before leaving the room he quietly said, “cultivate thankfulness”.

This two word riddle bothered me until I came up with the concept that would be my tool for cultivation. I would look at life through the lens of death. See opportunity before it fades. I wrote myself a short poem as a reminder, taped it to the wall beside my bed, and slowly recited it on the way out the door each morning. “Open your eyes oh sleeper, Awake to a land of gifts. Greet the morning air gratefully, Kiss the darkness of the night. Let light live, While love can still be seen. Exist.” Though this was years ago, this lesson has been tattooed in my mind. I visit a cemetery every year on my birthday just to keep it fresh. In the presence of thousands of dead bodies, the fragility and resilience of life is exposed. I meditate, mindful that I could live 5 more

minutes, or 50 more years. I pause in thankfulness of the past year I cannot relive, and in eager expectation of the year ahead – opportunity that must be embraced. Advertisers spend billions to make us want, to make us feel need. In a world where apathy is the custom, pessimism is funny, and cynicism is smart – there is an alternative. And it is sad to say this is revolutionary. We must cultivate thankfulness in whatever way we can, and joy will overflow like the rapids of Muskoka. a

!!James Tonn James Tonn is a Procurement Manager in the financial district of Toronto, Canada, is Executive Producer at Podium Publishing (a New-Media Publishing Company), is Editor of Productive! Magazine and still has plenty

He quietly said: “cultivate thankfulness”.

of time to spend with his wife Mollie and baby boy Oliver.

! Links: James Tonn on Linked-in



Start feeling happy! Get the newest book by Gretchen Rubin!

Productive! Magazine #11 with Gretchen Rubin  

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project talks about ways of finding happiness in the every-day details of our lives, how to make sure New Ye...

Productive! Magazine #11 with Gretchen Rubin  

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project talks about ways of finding happiness in the every-day details of our lives, how to make sure New Ye...