England native Richard Tubb is no stranger to the joys of fine-tuning productivity hacks – so we thought he’d be the perfect guest for our #ProductivityGiants series! By the way, we’re almost at the end of Season 2 – so please tweet us @sanebox and let us know who you’d like to see us speak to in Season 3!
First a little background on Richard – he’s an IT business growth expert, working with the owners of IT businesses to help them free up their time, concentrate on doing what is important and making more money. He’s got plenty of passion for what he does, too – he believes in raising the bar within the IT industry and helping IT to be seen alongside other vocations such as Accountancy or Law. Other interests include promoting environmentalism and sustainability, and he’s also quite the fan of comic books.
Read on for Richard’s time-saving tips, the tools he swears by, and how he combats his dreaded procrastination habit.
What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
I’m a huge fan of the motto “Win the morning, win the day.” I wake around 6am, thanks to a Lumie Natural Light Alarm Clock that simulates the sunrise – much needed in the often dark North-East of the UK, where I live!
I generally eat the same breakfast most days – 3 eggs, scrambled, with some spinach, beans, salsa, and sauerkraut. It’s an odd combination, but I’ve come to understand that if I eliminate most of the decisions in my day in favour of a set routine, I’ll be healthier and happier.
Then, I read a chapter of a book with a cup of green tea, and meditate for 15 minutes using the Headspace app.
After that, I make my bed – if I achieve nothing else that day, at least I’ve done this! Then, I start the workday by setting myself up with 3 important tasks for the day. I begin working on the first one with a focused 25 minute Pomodoro session with music from Focus at Will or Brain.FM playing in the background.
Only then do I turn my smartphone on and check my emails. If I do either of these things any earlier, I tend to “lose” the morning to distractions.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
I heavily rely on the Pomodoro technique to get me started on anything. It’s simply working for 25 minutes on a task and then taking a 5-minute break.
As the world’s biggest procrastinator, it’s easy for me to waste time thinking about a task rather than doing a task. The Pomodoro technique forces me to get started – and that builds momentum!
Any favorite tools?
I use an App called AppBlock on my Smartphone. It prevents me from looking at Facebook during work hours, and my email out of hours.
Do you have a pre-bed/nightly routine?
I’m early to bed, early to rise! I turn my smartphone off at around 8:30 pm and leave it plugged in downstairs.
I then typically head to bed around 9 pm to read a chapter of a fiction book or a magazine article before drifting off to sleep as my Lumie Daylight Clock is set to dim to darkness.
How often do you check your inbox?
More than I’d like, but less than most people. Email is other people’s way of dictating a to-do list to you – but it’s so addictive to check for new email, isn’t it?
I typically don’t check my email in a morning, and I like to finish every day with a close-down routine that includes inbox zero and a short 3-minute meditation to reset my mind. Then, the work day is done – no more email until the following day.
#1 Email tip?
Use filters or rules aggressively. How can ensure that the next time a similar email arrives, you can deal with it efficiently?
Favorite SaneBox feature?
My SaneLater folder enables me to prioritize emails from clients and VIPs ahead of everyone else. If you’ve been promoted from SaneLater to my inbox proper, you’re doing very well.
What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?
Feeling overwhelmed. I spend more time worrying about what I’ve not done than concentrating on getting anything done.
I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. The GTD Weekly Review — making sure all my inboxes are at zero and looking back and ahead in my diary as a reminder of overlooked tasks — is invaluable to me. This really helps me stay sane.
Despite this, I don’t do my Weekly Review every week. When I miss out on my GTD Weekly Review – often because I’m too busy “doing” – it’s a red flag and I start to get overwhelmed.
When you lose focus, what do you do to regain it?
I go for a walk and listen to a podcast.
Then, I make lists. I dump everything out of my head and onto paper. This usually gets me back on track.
If all else fails, and I’m in a productivity funk, I’ll declutter something. A kitchen drawer. My office cabinets. My wife’s paperwork – she doesn’t appreciate that at all. Tidying helps reset my brain!
What have you learned from your failures?
As a procrastinator, I often put off what can be done today in favour of doing it tomorrow. You can guess how this often works out for me!
When I’m tempted to procrastinate, I try to remember how it felt when I let somebody down or got stressed from a previous bout of procrastination. This stings and typically encourages me to crack on with what I’ve been putting off.
My favourite failure? Procrastinating over preparation for public speaking. I used to “wing it” until I fell flat on my backside during a high-profile presentation in Dubai once. I’ll never forget the horror of being on-stage and realizing I hadn’t prepared well. That memory is forever burned into my procrastinator’s brain, now!
What bad advice do you hear often?
“Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
True, to an extent, but even doing what you love, if you’re not disciplined then at best, you’ll still get stressed, and at worst, you won’t get anything valuable done.
I see this often with starving artists. Do what you love with discipline and you’ll never work another day in your life might be a better, but less catchy line!
What book has changed your life and why?
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s a short read. A parable about how helping others can help you achieve your own goals and be happier too. Before I read that book, I was a Go-Giver to the point of detriment to myself. Now, I realize you can be helpful to others within healthy boundaries.
The most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
I’ve always worked with mentors and coaches. I’ve had dozens of mentors who have given freely of their time and experience to help me grow.
Where I need more of that time and experience, I’ve sought out a coach who I can pay for regular sessions. I’ve always done this. Despite the costs involved, it helps you stay the course.
My current coaches are Tiana Wilson-Buys, a South-African productivity author and guru who helps me stay on track, and Tracy Reck, a UK-based health and wellness expert, who reminds me that being healthy is a huge part of being productive.
What’s your definition of productivity?
Giving your entire focus to working on one thing at a time until completion.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Meditation helps me with my mental health and emotional intelligence. It’s become part of my daily routine in the same way that brushing my teeth has.
What have you become better at saying no to?
I’ve become a lot better at saying no to travel. I’m an extrovert and gregarious, so I love spending time with people. I used to light up at the idea of heading to a conference as a guest or a speaker. The trouble is, travel is very bad for productivity, and my health overall. I can get so much more done when I’m at home! It’s a balancing act — but one I’ve recently tipped in favour of saying no to travel.
Follow Richard on Twitter.