14. The Habit of Productivity

In this episode, the CEO and Chief Product Officer from Nozbe will tell you how you can achieve more by working less. We will explore topics like: meetings, emails, notification, essentialism, team collaboration and communication and many others!

Episode Transcript

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Introduction

What does it mean to be productive? Is it about crossing out from your TO-DO list as many tasks as possible every day? Handling multiple projects or tasks at once? Or thinking more about the quality than quantity of your work? Working on things that matter and have a long-lasting impact? 

In this episode, we will answer all of these questions and even more. Let’s talk about the habit of … productivity.

And for the first time in this podcast, I will do it with the help of 2 experts. Michał and Rafał, the CEO and chief product officer from Nozbe will share many interesting observations and tips with you.

About podcast

Hi! My name is Andrzej and welcome to The Helpful Habits. In this podcast we will learn how to employ good habits that will do the hard work for us. How to change our lives for the better not by taking massive leaps, but with the help of small, easy-to-implement steps.

This podcast is brought to you by The Land of Habits - the educational board game with which you will develop new habits and skills. Check it out on landsofhabits.com.

The interview

Andrzej Bernardyn

Hi Michał. Hi Rafał. Thank you for accepting the invitation to my podcast.

Michał Śliwiński

Hey, thanks for having us.

Andrzej

Can you introduce yourself? Tell our listeners who you are and what you do professionally?

Michał

Okay, so Rafał is the chief product officer of Nozbe, a company I founded, and he's been working with me it for the last nine years. And that's Rafał. Now Rafał introduce me.

Rafał Sobolewski

Okay, so that was Michael, my CEO and founder of Nozbe, the company I work for. And yeah, Michael has been running his no office company for the last 15 plus years and he is now for running this company completely remotely. And yeah, he's a big fan of Getting Things Done methodology. And he is the iPad only guy. For more than ten years now. He's doing most of his work only on his iPad.

Andrzej

 As far as I know, you are also fellow podcasters. Please tell us what your podcast is about.

Rafał

Yeah, we have a podcast about working remotely. That's No Office Podcast. We currently have it on hold because we decided to focus on different marketing activities for now, but maybe we will come back to podcasting, we'll see about the results of our current marketing activities.

Andrzej

Plenty of episodes are waiting still, so if you don't know this one, you can go and you hear a lot of useful insights. Okay. Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, advises us to do less but better. Is this approach close to your view on productivity?

Michał

I'm a big fan of Greg McKeown. I love his podcast. Speaking of podcast, he has a great podcast, so you should subscribe to Greg's podcast. Totally. And I have this habit of rereading Essentialism, his book every year, every year around Christmas and around New Year's. So this year I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to reread it again because doing less but better is very important in your focus, in your productivity and your output, but it's a very difficult habit to master.

Andrzej

Okay.

Rafał

Yeah, I totally agree. We actually, in our company, try to work that way in product development. We try to do less but better. For example, when we implement a new feature, we always decide how much appetite we have for this feature to be implemented, and it is our constraint. For example, we want to spend four days on feature X, and after four days it should work in our internal version of Nozbe. And then after that, we just decide if we want to invest more time in it. So we try to structure our work in the smallest pieces possible. So it's kind of similar to less but better because each piece we've got more information, we learn more about the problem so we can make better decisions.

Andrzej

From the user experience, I can also tell that I would strongly prefer to have two functions that work perfectly then have ten functions with a lot of bugs, right? So it can be beneficial to both sides, this approach.

Michał

But not only that, Andrzej. The thing is that speaking of productivity, it's better to have fewer features and just execute them well. And not only about the bugs, but about also like we have this constant struggle and back and forth between our customers and ourselves that, you know, our customers but does knows we have this feature this feature this feature, this feature and this report and all that and this chart. And I'm like, yeah. No. So in Nozbe, for example, tasks is the main thing. It's about tasks and a bit about your tasks and about your team's tasks. And in many products, tasks is just one of the features of the whole productivity suite. Right. And we explain to these customers, especially to the entrepreneurs and CEOs of these companies, that the key is will your people use all these features? Not really. So just focus. So that's why Nozbe is more limited in that sense, but hopefully better executed. That's what we think. But the idea is it's more limited in features because we want the whole team to use all these features. We don't want just the CEO to use all the features and then the other team users using barely the product or feeling that the product is just too complex and too overwhelming to actually for daily use. And we want not to be daily usable.

Andrzej

Yes, we can be very busy but not productive and we can use a lot of features in some app, but don't do anything meaningful with it.

Michał

Exactly. Exactly. So that's the thing. I think the whole theme of this conversation today will be around this, around focus, around really focusing on key features, focusing on key habits, and focusing on the way you really can create impact.

Andrzej

When I conduct trainings, in many cases, at least one of the participants is very skeptical. And when I present some methods, he responds: You know Andrzej, it sounds really nice, but in reality I cannot do less because my boss tells me to do everything. Or if this person is an entrepreneur, he would say, I would love to less work, but I have a mortgage to pay, I need to feed my family. So this is why I have to work more. So how would you respond to these objections?

Michał

Oh, man. Yeah. Again, please do what I do. Read Essentialism book after Christmas. Like that's the first step. So if you're this kind of entrepreneur, read the Essentialism. But second thing is: Really? Really? You have to do all these things. Maybe you should just stop and think what you really have to do. In Nozbe we have this concept of mighty Fridays. Every Friday we do our weekly review and I'm a fan of Getting Things Done and weekly review and. So every Friday we do our weekly review and the rest of the Friday is actually for us to decide what to do, not on the current NASB affairs. So maybe you should start doing Fridays like this. This way on a Friday you would do your weekly review and as this busy entrepreneur you would think do I really have to do all these things? Maybe I can delegate that, maybe I don't have to do that. Maybe when I'm doing that it doesn't bring me any impact. Maybe posting on Facebook these things really doesn't bring me any customers. Like you need time to think. And I think very often this is the problem of productive people who want to optimize everything and people who are very busy is that they don't schedule time to think.

Andrzej

Very nice habit to have time to think and to review. Rafał do you want to add something?

Rafał

Yeah, I would add that in our time you are probably the knowledge worker. So you work with your brain. It's not physical work that is simple to do and your brain is your tool that requires some rest, not only sleep, but rest from thinking about stuff you work on. And without that long term you will be burnt out from your work if you work too much.

Andrzej

Great. I think that behind this objection is this way of thinking that if I do more tasks, I will have better results. And it isn't necessarily the case, right? Sometimes doing less but better will provide you these results and you will have enough money to pay the mortgage, to feed the family and also feel better at the same time.

Michał

So one of the again going back to Greg McKeown book, one of the issues he raises is that before you decide what to do, you have to discern, you have to do the research. So you have to spend time on thinking and weighing all these options and then decide. And too often busy entrepreneurs, busy productive people, they just want to make a decision now I want to decide now. And very often, as we know with Rafał, with our discussions, the first decision might not be actually the good one, it might be your first hunch, which sometimes is great, but sometimes it just leans you towards like what you already know. So this way you never grow because you just lean on what you already know and instead of actually researching the whole thing. And that's why very often with Rafał, we fight. Like we have quarrels all the time because he pushes me and I push him to just really step out of the thing we know and just do more research, just spend a little more time to just make sure that you have explored all the options and not just went with the easy.

Rafał

Yeah, that's true. And the funny thing is that often after a couple of days thinking about the problem, we change our minds. And sometimes happens that for example, Michael had idea how to solve some problem and our developer Leon had another idea, a different solution for the same problem. And after discussion, they both change their mind. So they switch with ideas.

Michał

Very often, when we decide on features in Nozbe and how to approach these features, it's very often that like, you know, I show up for the meeting and I'm like, I want this have done this way and this way. This is the way to go. This is the way to go. You won't convince me otherwise. And at the end of the meeting, I'm like, no, no, no, I was completely wrong. So it's really you need time. You need time, you need space to think, and you need to explore options. And also you need partners to be fighting with. So I think this is something we haven't mentioned. Like, it's really important to have really constructive fights, to really constructively quarrel. Because you don't quarrel against a person, you quarrel against an idea. So it's not personal. It's really about the idea. And when we come both, we both want I mean, I was the chief of product. I'm the CEO. We both want Nozbe to succeed. We want Nozbe to be the best product ever. So our motivation is good. But the way to get there, we should be fighting because we shouldn't be just agreeing on everything and just doing everything the easy way.

Andrzej

And Rafał can show you some things that aren't necessary that you do, and vice versa. Right? And we can go through this eliminating process of task with people's help with this different perspective than ours.

Michał

Rafał is very annoying because he always shows me the edge cases. Like Rafał, look, this vision would work so well like this and this, and Michael and Rafał was like, yeah, but what happens if this happens? And what happens? Come on Rafał. Don't spoil it for me. It was really nice.

Andrzej

Nice collaboration you have. Okay, let's move on to this topic. What is the main difference between a productive and unproductive person? And I would like to analyze it on two levels. One level is mindset level: beliefs, assumptions that we have. And the second level is day to day actions. So what are the key differences there?

Michał

So, just speaking of mindset, I'm just right now reading a book called Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck, and I recommend this book of mindset. It basically gives you a history of two mindsets. Of course, the growth mindset and the fixed mindset, but in a very repetitive way, with lots of repetitive examples, which is really good because this idea of growth mindset, of this humility to admit that you need to learn more. It's really hard to swallow for us because very often we just put labels on ourselves. So basically, from my point of view, I'm a bad CEO.

Andrzej

Why?

Michał

No, because I failed in this and this and this. So I'm a bad CEO. That's it. So, for example, if something didn't work for Nozbe, I can say I'm a bad CEO. Instead, I should be saying, OK, I felt at this. It means I need to learn here and I need to get conclusions from this, and I need to grow as the CEO because my company needs me. And right now I failed, so I better learn something.

Andrzej

But because of this failure, you can be a better CEO now.

Michał

Exactly. But I have to admit that I can be a better CEO instead of just saying I'm a failure.

Rafał

And that's what we call experience.

Andrzej

So how this mindset, maybe growth mindset, fixed mindset is connected to productivity.

Michał

I mean, action moves action. So very often you just have to start small with something, with any concept. And then after that, you learn from it and you improve it. Which is what we do, as Rafał mentioned, in our product. Like, we start with the simple version of the feature, and then we improve to a better version of the feature based on what we've learned, instead of just trying to do it perfectly from get go, which is really hard and basically impossible.

Andrzej

So perfectionism, right. This is also something connected to be productive or not. If I try to do it perfectly for the first time, I can spend many hours on that and I won't be productive at all because of that.

Michał

Yes, and you won't ship anything. You won't provide value. And that's why it's important to start with something in our company. For example, right now we are launching a revolutionary feature that you will be able to set a task for everyone in the world. But don't tell anyone, it's very secret. So anyway, this revolutionary feature is coming, and one of our developers is in charge of this feature. We call him feature owner. Okay. This is my pet feature. I really love it. And I was the person who really wanted this feature badly. And I had discussion about this and I said, this feature can be improved with this and this and this and this and this. I told him all that and I told him, yes, I tell you that. But it's you who's the feature owner. So you decide if my feedback is useful now or maybe we should do it later. Like you decide when to ship the first version of feature to test it. We already shipped the feature, the initial version, to first testers, and we already got feedback, which is great. And it was his decision. He decided, no, no. All these things, Michael, you're saying are very nice to have, but I'm going to write them down. We're going to write them down and work on them and I'm going to be fixing these things in the while I think we are ready to ship. And this is really important to decide. Okay, I'll just try the first step. The first step is good enough. And I think there's good enough threshold it's very important for practice people to start really with a good enough version, which is good enough, really is crappy, but it's okay, I would say. Okayish, then, good enough.

Andrzej

Great. There is a quote from the inventor of LinkedIn that if your first product, you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you was working too much for the first time, you should release it earlier. This is the same idea. So now let's go to this level of behaviors. Please imagine that I have a friend, his name is Mateusz, and I'm taking a camera and this camera is following him for the whole day of his work. What kind of behaviors will show you that Mateusz is or isn't productive or how much productive he is?

Rafał

Well, I would say that how many times does Mateusz switch between tasks? Or how many times he grabs his phone to check notifications or Facebook, or answering a call, etcetera.

Michał

I would say completely something completely different than Rafał. Notifications. Notifications. Notifications. Exactly what Rafał just said. So I think notifications are the killer because if you have too many notifications, if Mateusz has notifications on all these things, or some of these things, like the only notifications we have in our team and individually set, but most of us is we have notifications on Nozbe, on the tasks that are important to us. And we have notifications in Slack on direct messages only and not anything else, just direct messages. For example, in email, I have notifications for my wife because she emails me. So well, I have that, but nobody else. So I don't open email because somebody emails me something. Right. So it's really important to really manage notifications well.

Andrzej

So what kind of habits can we set to protect ourselves from the distractions and notifications? What is your recommendation here?

Rafał

Yeah, first of all, I would start with not having your phone on your desk while you work in front of your computer because it's just too easy to grab and check something. Even if you don't grab it, you're still consuming your mental energy to stop yourself from grabbing a phone.

Andrzej

Fighting this temptation.

Rafał

Yeah, fighting this temptation and it just uses energy of your brain, which you could use to produce work.

Andrzej

Okay, so after I start working, I hide my smartphone behind the screen of my laptop, in the drawer, in the backpack. Great recommendation. What else can we do? Because we have also notification on our computer Teams is attacking us, Messenger, WhatsApp? Many other apps. So how we can prevent this from distracting us?

Michał

I mean, there really there is like an application, I think, on the map called Cold Turkey and it just destroys like it completely shuts off so many things. But yeah, again, you have to manage notifications to make sure that you don't have them. You can have profiles of enabling them at some point in time and disabling them. But for me, I would say the key word would be to consciously do things so if you decide now I'm going to spend half an hour on Facebook, you consciously open Facebook, you scroll, then you finish your Facebook session and then you're done. For example, I have the 15 minutes time limit on social media on my phone, and after the 15 minutes are up, I have a time limit thing and it says your time limit for social media is done. And then I know, okay, I just wasted or invested 15 minutes of my time in social media. I'm done. For today or for now, let's get back to work. Anyway, all these things that help us make the decision easier would be great.

Andrzej

So having clear rules.

Michał

Yes. Again, the same thing with email. You say, I'm going to check my email, let's say at 09:00, although you should check it a bit later. But anyway, let's say 10:00 and then at 14:00, right at 02:00 p.m.. This way you consciously open email and you process the email. Like you go through the email and you decide, I'm going to have half an hour for email or an hour for email, whatever, but you have time for that. So this way you don't be consumed by it and you're not checking it every time and you're not switching your focus and anything like that. So basically, consciously deciding what you do instead of letting the smartphone decide for you because smartphone doesn't have your good intentions in the heart.

Andrzej

That is true. We can learn more about it with a document Social Dilemma. Then we can see that we are the product and they think about their profits. And now let's think what other bad habits stop us from being productive? We have one segment about notifications. Now we have some clear rules of what we can do about them, but we have more bad habits connected with productivity. Even I have them. I work on this topic for many years, but I still have some. So in your opinion, your clients struggle the most with what kind of bad habits?

Rafał

Too many meetings.

Michał

Oh man. We have a quarterly or every four months we have one on one meetings with everyone on our team. So like our director reports, talk to people I talked to, that my director report, and we talk about things. And my favorite piece of feedback recently from our developers, from our engineers was, why do you like working in Nozbe so much? Like, what's the best about working at Nozbe? And he's like and they're all like, everybody leaves me alone. There are no stupid meetings. The developers only meet on Monday for like 15 minutes to just say hi and just say how their week went and what they are planning for this week and that's it. And then hardly any one of them has a meeting. So maybe once a month they have a meeting somewhere, but that's it. So the rest of the week they just work, they just engineer because they are freaking engineers. And the only way they can receive feedback is through tasks in Nozbe and through comments. So they interact with us asynchronously which is what we call it. So they write a comment, they get their comments back and whatever in the tasks. So this way they know what they have to work on, but they can choose to respond to comment when they want to, and they can have hours of uninterrupted time where they can be in their flow and just create code. In many companies it's so funny in many companies who also have engineers, the managers have asked me, Michael, what do you do to motivate them? I'm like, cancel their meetings. This is what you do to motivate them. Don't make them. Don't make developers who are very often also introverts, so they don't really like being on the meetings. And they think and they are very intelligent, so they think it's just a freaking waste of time. So they're like, why are you why do you have me on that meeting? I don't want to be on that meeting. Just don't. Cancel their meetings. And there will be so much productive.

Rafał

Yes. And it's not only that it's wasted time for a person to be on the meeting, but it's also very exhausting for that type of people to be even on video call. Me personally, for example, after, if the meeting is longer than 1 hour, I need to go out and take a walk to relax, because after such a meeting, I cannot focus on working on something creative.

Andrzej

So we waste not only time for the meeting, but also the time that we need to regenerate ourselves after. Double waste.

Rafał

Yeah, energy and time plus time after that.

Andrzej

So let's do top three. We have notification as one problem meeting as a second, maybe just one more bad habit that we need to change.

Rafał

Yeah, I think Michael, his point here in our show notes is thinking that habits and structure is boring and uninspiring.

Michał

Yeah, I love my structure, man. I love it so much. And I remember I came from a holiday. So you just caught me, as you know, right after my holiday vacation, one week vacation. And I came back on Sunday. And on Monday I had the meeting with Rafał and with my directors. And after that I was so unproductive because I didn't know where to start. I didn't know what to do. It was like one day after vacation and I didn't have the time after vacation to just relax and get back into the mood and everything. So my Monday was really bad. But then on Monday evening, I was like, no, I need to get back to my structure. So then on Tuesday, I had my structure back. I had my coffee in the morning after I had my daily journal. After my journal, I had my marketing meeting. After my marketing meeting, I had my deep work session and I produced lots of great ideas and then I wrote something back and then I replied to all the comments. And then when I had all this structured exactly as I was supposed to have it, my day went just beautifully. And I was like, yeah, that's what I was missing on Monday. On Monday I just had no structure at all. And that's why I just didn't know where to go. That's why I think the key is that we should have the structure. And the structure is not boring because the structure gives you the space and the time to do your things and that's why it's so important. So this structure is not boring. It's actually creative. It enables you to be creative because you know what to expect and you know how much time you have for each of the things. And building this habit of creating the structure and adopting the structure to yourself, to you, is key because then you can have a productive day and productive week, because one of the things I really like is to have this idea of ideal week. So how my ideal week would look like if I had the ideal week, when would I do which thing? So when I have the meetings, when I have my sport, when would I have my deep work session, when would I have my feedback session, when would I have all these things? And of course, you never have an ideal week, but if you at least have an idea for an ideal week, you can be close to it. You can have better and worse weeks, but it's going to be still very close to the ideal one. Instead of just having a crappy week of just not knowing what to do.

Andrzej

And doing things at random, this is, I believe, a very bad habit. And this structure can really help us. I am a creature of habits. My discipline is my freedom. Because I have all these tiny things, I feel more safe, I know what to do, I don't feel less spontaneous about it. Right. So habits can really serve us well.

Michał

I really like what you said there. My discipline is my freedom. I love it. Very cool.

Andrzej

Okay, so let's talk about working with people because we have a different set of habits, different productivity qualities there. Which communication or collaboration habits are essential from your perspective? One we already covered meetings. There are better forms of communication. What else can be important?

Rafał

Yeah, exactly. So no meetings, but majority of your communication should be done asynchronously via text and transparently. Transparently. So you can always add more people to this communication when needed, so you don't have to. For example, we discussed something with Michael in some task in Nozbe and it is transparent, it is visible to the whole team. So at any point we can ask other people to give their feedback. We don't have to onboard them on the idea because everything is written down and they can just read it.

Andrzej

So don't hold the information to yourself. Be transparent about it. Put it in the cloud or in the Nozbe where everybody can see it.

Rafał

Yes, writing stuff down before you ask for feedback.

Michał

So what Rafał basically wants to say is, don't use email internally. Ever. If you're emailing your teammates, you're doing it wrong. Just don't do it. There are so many ways to do it. Of course you can use team chats like Slack and other things like that, or you can and better, we think you could use tools like Nozbe and other tools where you can share comments in the task. So this way it's very like the context is real. So when there is a task and you comment on the task, you all know what you're talking about. We're talking about only this task, and there is no sideways, no side notes about any different tasks. Or if you are, you can quote it, but everything is relevant to the task when you're using email. People are very productive in email because they can write about many things in one email, but then everybody is confused. I replied to this here and then to that there, and then I forgot about that. So I sent another email to reply to the other thing and I forgot to CC Rafał about this. Okay, man, so it's crazy.

Rafał

And attachment.

Michał

Oh man, I forgot to do that attachment completely. So that's the thing. Don't use email internally at all. Like no, no. And that's why I'm so happy about this new feature that we can actually send tasks to people, because this way we can collaborate with people who don't have a Nozbe account in a task. And this way we have it in Nozbe and they have a very simple link when they can interact with us without sending us emails. So we take them from email again. So email is bad, so you can quote me on that, you can hate me for that, but I'm telling you, email is the wrong thing. It's like when Steve Jobs once said that if you're holding the phone, you're holding the phone wrong if you lose the signal. So if you're using email, you're doing it wrong. Just don't. So I think that's the key that you shouldn't be using email, and that's the important thing. But second, what Rafał said, transparent communication is so much better because you can mention people in the comments to a task. But in our case, we see that you don't even have to mention them. They are actually joining the task very often without being asked. They give feedback anyway because they see it's interesting task, or they know something about it, so they just add their comments. So very often happens is that we discuss about the task with Rafał and suddenly somebody with expertise joins with a comment and we're like, duh, Okay, that was easy. So that's it. Otherwise we would have to email the whole team or I don't know, ask who knows something about that or whatever. We don't have to do that. Like somebody just joined the discussion who knew, gave us an answer and we're like OK, we're good.

Andrzej

I really love this very simple recommendation. No meetings, no internal emails, transparent communication and we have a recipe for success.

Michał

Exactly. I'm telling you this works.

Andrzej

Okay, let's work on a reallife example. I am a business owner who works on many projects simultaneously. In some cases, for sure too many projects. Do you recommend focusing time and energy just on one project until it is finished or there is some way to handle multiple projects at once?

Rafał

Well, from my experience I like to have like two, three, maybe four projects at once. But let's say two of them should be more challenging, more difficult, and other two should be not so difficult. But I can do it with more ease. So for example, as Michael said, you never have idea all week. For example, today I didn't sleep well today. So today I don't tackle my most challenging tasks, I just focus on those that I can easily do with low level energy. So this is always a very good idea to have this backup project that you can jump on it many times when you switch your focus to this

Andrzej

Side project

Rafał

easier task or side project, your brain produces idea how to solve some problem in this more important project. Plus it is very easy productivity boost. If you don't feel productive, just do something on your TO-DO list that is really easy and short task and then check it off as done.

Andrzej

Great. I know this as an incubational break. So we don't think about the problem actively, but on subconscious level our mind is solving it and then we have this AHA moment and we know what to do.

Michał

Exactly. Yeah, I mean for me, for example, I really like this quote from the book "The One Thing". And the quote goes like the question is it's called the focusing question and it's called like what's the one thing that I can do now such that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary. So if there is anything that you can do to improve something like permanently and I ask myself in my journal every day this question so very often, sometimes it's a big thing and sometimes it's a small thing and this is what I do. I'm just in the morning when I do my journaling, I have this question and I'm answering it and this is for me kind of this also guiding started I have to solve this thing today and then if I do this thing today, it's already been a good day, everything else is a bonus. And I think what I'm also trying to say is that we productive people, aspiring productive people, we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. Like we should know when we are done for the day, when we have a good day anyway, right? And treat all these other small things that we also accomplished as kind of a bonus. And not just because the TO-DO list will never be done, the whole list will never be. You will always have great ideas and you will always have tasks to do. So it's important to know that. What is a good day for you? You're done for the day list. So what needs to happen to have a good day? Or like, what's this one thing? That if you do it, move it today, everything else is easier or necessary.

Andrzej

Great way of thinking. When I conduct trainings, I'm trying to show my participants that I'm not perfect. I have many problems, I struggle with the same problems that they have. So what is the hardest part for you of being productive and how you deal with it?

Rafał

For me, the hardest thing is to relax, to shut down of the work. Because in the long term, as I said before, it's very important because you can very easily after like couple of months working too much, you can feel overburdened the long term it's not productive. And I'm the tech nerd and I'm the chief product officer in the tech product company. So it's really challenging to use technology for leisure but not find analogies to my current work and thinking about problems I have to solve in Nozbe. So what I try to do, I try to schedule every day some time to relax without any technology, without any screens, no listening to podcasts, for example. I'm now switching to reading paper books because it's not on the screen and it's not connected to the world. So yeah, that's the hardest part for me and that's how I try to deal with it.

Andrzej

What about you, Michael?

Michał

Yeah, I can say that I'm recovering people pleaser. I want to satisfy everyone and please everyone and it's really hard. And I think this is also a problem because you are kind of always trying to say yes to everything and you shouldn't. You know, in my mind, whenever I say no to something, I feel like I'm this egoistic person that thinks only about themselves. But again, in the Essentialism book that we mentioned, the good thing was that when you say yes to something, you should think that you're saying no to something else. You have to really again evaluate what you're saying yes to and what you're saying no to. So I think this yeah, people pleasing is very hard and you have to learn and you have to learn to be assertive without being...

Andrzej

Aggressive. That's the key distinction, right? Because if you are aggressive, you are thinking only about yourself. If you are assertive, you are trying to combine your interests with your partner interests.

Michał

Exactly. And look at it. And you have to really kind of remind yourself to think like this, you know, think, okay, so what's the best thing for both of us here? You know, instead of just, okay, I'll help you. I'll do it now, you know, stop and think about it.

Andrzej

Great. In each episode of my podcast, I present specific habits worth developing to improve particular aspect of our life. I do it in a form after trigger, I'll immediately do the behavior; thanks to that, I get the reward. For example, after I brush my teeth, I will immediately grab a book and read a few pages. Thanks to that, I'll feel inspired. What habits can you recommend that will help our listeners to be more productive? What can be the trigger, what can be the behavior, and what kind of reward?

Rafał

Well, we already mentioned one. For example, that after I when I started the work, I immediately hide my smartphone from my view.

Andrzej

That's true. That's the great one. And thanks to that, I can focus. I don't have this temptation to grab it. But what else can we do? Let's try to do a short list of good productivity habits.

Michał

So what I've also mentioned is the journaling. So I really like my journaling. I journal twice a day, mornings and evenings. So in the morning it's like I have my ritual that after I have my coffee, I immediately, or not immediately, but almost immediately do the journal. And that way I feel like I'm in control of my day because I let my thoughts out to the journal. And on the other hand, I have reviewed my day because this is part of my journaling process. I review my day and plan for the day. That's why I know I have this interview with you today and all that stuff, and I can prepare and, you know, prepare when I can work on things and to be able to be prepared for this interview. So this way I'm not kind of surprised you call me at 15 minutes before the interview. Michael - the interview. Interview! Questions! What's going on? Right? So I'm in control. So for me, this habit of journaling is being in control. And also in the evenings, I have this kind of trigger. When I put my girls to bed, my daughters, I have three daughters. And when I put my girls to bed, I do the evening journal. And when I do the evening journal, part of it is seeing what's on calendar for tomorrow. And this way I can see. So I have to do the interview. Okay, so again, we talk about this, that if you review your tasks for tomorrow, the day before, you kind of primed for it. You're ready for it, like you're not surprised and your mind is subconsciously sometimes working on these things already. So that's why I have this ritual also in the evenings to have this small journaling session when I sum up my day and preview my day for tomorrow. This way I can just also relax and just disconnect.

Andrzej

I see a great benefits of thinking ahead what I want to achieve tomorrow. But there is also some kind of risk that this evening I won't spend it fully with my wife. I will be thinking about this tasks. So what can we do to prevent it from happening?

Michał

Yes, in my case my experience has been different. My experience has been that because I know what's coming tomorrow, I'm kind of calmer and I know I have the time tomorrow to deal with it. So it's not like for me because I won't be surprised. I'm okay, but I don't answer the journaling, I don't go to my notes and start reviewing all these notes and all that stuff. So no, I just plan it and put my phone away. So that's the idea. So for me this hasn't been an issue, but maybe for some people it might, you know.

Rafał

Yeah, that's a very important point that everyone is a different human being. And some habits that works for us may not work for others, or may work for them only for some time because people change. So you just have to test, try to try new habits and verify if they work. And after you adopt some habits, then after some time verify if they still work.

Michał

And also a good tip, I think, especially for tech nerds listening to this. So if you want to try some new tech and do something for productivity, the external triggers are very good. So for example, I have this idea that normally every day between 12:00 so noon and 02:00 I have my kind of deep work session. So 2 hours of deep work session. So what happens is that exactly 12:00 the lights turn on in my office. This way they kind of trigger me. Oh, it's already twelve. Okay. I have to focus on so it's kind of an external trigger to do something. So if you're a tech nerd, get some simple light switch that you can program and just program it. So this way you know that from this time the external factor is telling you you should work on that, you should focus on that. And this has helped me sometimes I was busy with something and I wasn't paying attention to time. And then I get the light, I'm like so I have to finish this and then I should focus on the other thing because now is the time for that. So again it's going to trigger also externally with technology can be done great.

Andrzej

So just two short questions at the end, if our listeners would like to learn more about productivity, where they should look, what books or other source materials you can recommend?

Michał

So something we haven't mentioned is that I'm open source writing a book about remotely running a company. It's called No office. So  at nooffice.org it's a free book you can just read right now. As I write it, and it's almost complete. So it's a rough draft right now at this moment, but I would recommend it because every chapter is like a different essay. So there is a chapter on meetings, there's a chapter on not using email. Like all these chapters I have there with examples of how we do it in Nozbe, of how we do it in our team. And again, these are things that we have been doing for many, many years now. So it's not something I just discovered and I woke up and I wrote it down. So it's something that we have tried and improved and improved. So, nooffice.org, I recommend you reading it. You can read the chapter at a time or whatever. It's free. And I'm going to be finishing the book at some point, maybe next year. This is rough draft that you can just use at your own will.

Andrzej

Great. So I will put it in the description of this episode, link to it and how our listeners can contact you. What page should they go or on which platform should they send a message to you?

Rafał

Well, first of all, they should check out our product, Nozbe, so Nozbe.com, and they can learn about our philosophy there, about our product. And I think the best platform to message us is, I think Twitter. We both still use Twitter, so I'm @sobolowy on Twitter. And Michael is @MSliwinski.

Michał

So, just to mention, Nozbe is a freemium product. There's a free version. So you can try not be for free completely with your team members, so to see if you like it and if you want to change some habits there.

Andrzej

Thank you Michael. Thank you, Rafał, for a wonderful conversation. I wish you all the good luck today.

Michał

Thank you so much, man.

Rafał

Thank you, Andrzej.


Final words

I hope this conversation was as interesting for you as it was for me. As a bonus, let me introduce you to the habit of implementation. Every time I learn something new, I’ll IMMEDIATELY ask myself: What are the 3 most important conclusions for me? What will I change in the way I work with the newly gained knowledge? 

This time in, my Top 3 are:

1. Emails are best for external communication. When I want to give information to my coworkers, it is much better to use a different communication channel like Slack or Nozbe.

2. Notifications are killing our productivity. We must protect our focus and carefully decide which notification we want to get.

3. Schedule time to think and review. Without it, it will be extremely hard to know your priorities and stick to them. 

Which insights from this talk were most valuable to you? How will you use them in your work? I recommend pausing for a moment and thinking about it. 

May the power of habits be with you and till next time!