Expert Interview with Mike Vardy on Being More Productive, Focused and Effective in your Day-to-Day Life
Think about your house. How many electronic devices do you own? In today’s multi-screen society, it’s common for families to have multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, iPads, etc.) filling up your time and personal space. Television shows even cater to it by asking viewers to comment on Twitter via predetermined hashtags. It’s a generation of social engagement and audience participation.
But when your head is in a million different places, how do you keep track of the things that really matter? How do you manage your priorities without losing focus? Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, or a stay-at-home parent juggling multiple family members’ schedules, it’s all too easy to drop the ball.
That’s where Mike Vardy comes in. Mike is the Strategist and Founder at Productivityist, a business that is designed to make you more productive, focused, and effective in your day-to-day life. PerfectForms recently spoke with Mike about his work.
What inspires your work at Productivityist?
I want to make an impact on people’s lives by helping them get better at dealing with the things they need to do, deciding on what they ought to do, and – as a result – doing more of what they want to do.
You motivate people and businesses to be more efficient by organizing and streamlining their time and resources. Considering the busy world we live in, why is that so important?
We have so many inputs these days and they are coming at us faster than ever before. We’re not facing an information overload; we’re facing an input overload. But the great thing about that is that we can have a say in what inputs we receive – maybe not all of them, but certainly some of them. When you begin using a framework and approach that you can use towards your work and life, you’ll also recognize what inputs you need to pay attention to regularly and which ones you don’t. You may even find some that you can eliminate altogether. It’s important for people to recognize this so that they can really find their way forward in the world, rather than finding themselves lost in their to-do lists.
What would you consider to be 3-5 core principles that you try to convey in all of your workshops?
The core principles I convey in my workshops are:
1. Working by “mode” is far more beneficial than working by project. It allows you to work in better alignment with your current state – whether it’s time-based (how much time you have), energy-based (be it high or low), and/or resource-based (email, meeting, phone, etc.). In fact, tackling your tasks by mode is the closest we can get to multitasking.
2. Aligning days of the week with overarching themes gives the mind a waypoint to use as a starting point for each day. I encourage attendees to always look at their certainties when deciding on their daily themes and to work backward from there, because it allows them to use those days as a springboard to assign themes to the days where certainties aren’t nearly as apparent. For example, if you know that Monday is a day where you’re usually knee deep in administrative work, then theming Monday as “Admin Day” can really help you with your to-do list for that day of the week over the long term; because every Monday, you’ll wake up the knowledge that most of the work you’ll be doing on Monday is administrative.
3. Review is crucial when it comes to prolonged effectiveness and efficiency, but not everyone is capable of reviewing their tasks daily (or even weekly). So I recommend that attendees keep a Daily Log that they compose at the end of the day (either at the office or before bed). Then they can review their tasks every week or two and simply look back at the log entries to see if they have strayed too far off course from what they ultimately want to be doing (or where they ultimately want to be going).
How do those principles encourage a simplified workflow in an organization?
These principles are easy to adopt and can be used within a wide variety of applications. They really tap into the individual rather than the team as a whole, which works better for the team because the way each of us work is very subjective. What may take me 10 minutes to do might take you 4 hours. And how we approach the tasks we have on our list is going to vary as well. These principles (part of what I call The NOW Year Formula) are part of the foundation of a simple, flexible, and durable system that can scale for both the individual and the team.
On your website, you have an extensive list of tools and resources. If you had to narrow your list down to three vital resources that you could share with our readers, which three would you choose?
The three vital resources I would suggest are as follows:
1. A digital task management application. Whether it’s Todoist or Asana, using a digital task management application is ideal for long-term task and project incubation. I look at my task app (I use both of the ones I mentioned) as a personal assistant of sorts because it keeps me in the loop of what I need to do soon and what I want to do down the line.
2. A paper notebook and pen that you’ll love to use. There’s something about pen and paper for capturing your tasks and ideas that just works. Neither will run out of battery life; and when you write something down that someone is saying to you instead of entering it into your smartphone, it shows them that you’re actually paying attention to what they are saying rather than possibly checking Facebook or email instead. But pick a notebook that you’ll want to use (I love the Baron Fig series of notebooks) and do the same for your pen (JetPens is my pen shop of choice). That way you’ll feel more compelled to use them because they’ll hold a greater value initially since you like them. Eventually, they’ll hold that value because they’ll hold a lot of what used to be kept in your head.
3. Sleep Cycle is an app I highly recommend because it allows you to wake up after sleeping during your lightest phase of sleep. As a night owl, I tend to go to bed around 1 AM, and I want to make sure I get a solid sleep when I finally go down for the night. Sleep Cycle lets me set an alarm, and the accelerometer in my smartphone does its best to monitor my movements in bed. Based on those movements, it has a good idea when I’m in a light sleep phase, and then wakes me up based on the timeframe I’ve asked to be awakened (which is usually a 30-minute window prior to when I know I have to be up). It’s replaced my alarm clock because of this, and I use it every single night.