Thomas Eveleigh recently finished reading our ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ book and enjoyed it so much that he was all up for sharing his newly found Productivity Ninja skills with the world. We sat down with him and talked about some of his takeaways from the book, which Ninja characteristics he’s currently strengthening and how he looks after his productivity and wellbeing. Over to you, Thomas.
Occupation: Procurement Manager
Company: Laureate Education
Location: Dubai, UAE
Other job titles in life: Dad, papa, writer, speaker, guitarist, son, the list-maker, the money guy, borrowed ear, consultant.
What’s important about your workspace?
Cleanliness – minimalism is the name of the game. Typically, the only things you’ll see on my desk are:
- Reading materials
- The current project I’m working on (if there is any paperwork for it)
Otherwise, everything goes in reference files or on the bookshelves.
Which Ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?
Weapon-savvy or Zen-like calm. I have a fairly laid-back personality and have always written things down as a matter of habit, so staying relaxed is rarely my problem. Likewise, I think I have tried just about every app and gizmo on the market, so knowing how to get things into my second brain is second-nature (it’s getting things out of it that I could use some work on – see below!).
Which Ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
Ruthlessness – I do worry about getting it all done, but being ruthless in making sure the high-impact activities always get done first (eat that frog!) is something that I am working on, irrespective of the total number of tasks I happen to check off each day.
Stealth & Camouflage – I often feel the need (as do my colleagues) to constantly be available, but this can be a recipe for disaster when your work is as project-based. Learning to delegate more effectively and stay offline (and out of meetings!) for at least the first two hours of the day are major areas of focus for me. Graham’s 50/50 email strategy is a great weapon in the arsenal in this regard.
Mindfulness – Even with writing everything down, I can often find it hard to remain present in those moments in life (wine at sunset, playtime with the baby). My second brain is certainly helping, but there are two things that I find help hugely in this regard (as long as I do them!) without fail: exercise and meditation.
Which five apps could you not live without?
Nozbe – after downloading and trying out what seems like a million task apps, I have finally realized the app I use makes roughly 0% difference to how much I get done. Utilizing the CORD model and doing daily reviews so I have a track to run on is what makes the difference. That said, Nozbe is what I’m using now – it holds projects, actions and a priority (today) list and is easy to use, so I’m sticking with it.
Zoom – the best video conferencing software I’ve found to-date. Easy to host, no sign-up required for participants, and you can share content easily.
Google Keep – very quick and very simple; holds lists of just about anything I think might potentially be a good idea one day (birthday presents, places to travel to, wines to try).
Dropbox – I still haven’t found a better way to store random things in folders that will come in handy later. I use it on my phone, iPad and Macbook.
[email protected] – I pay for this subscription because it simply works (as a Pomodoro tool or just a way to cut out distractions). To be fair, for some people baroque music on YouTube works just as well.
What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
Pilot G-2 0.7 gel pens and yellow legal pads. Other than that, just plain manila files for throwing paperwork into for quick and easy later retrieval.
When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
First thing in the morning. I try to ‘do the worst, first’, as I know if I put it off it’ll never get done.
What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
Stop! As the investment guru Jack Bogle says, “Don’t do something, just stand there!”. Escaping the office for lunch, taking a 10-minute walk, or just chatting with someone about a problem or project often energizes me and gives me the boost I need to get back to the work at hand. If that fails, pick something easier to do (having a second brain is a huge boon in this regard)!
What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
1) Think on paper
4) Stand-up comedy on Netflix
What’s your email regime?
Admittedly, I am rather inconsistent with email. Some days I’ll reach inbox zero two or three times, and on others I’ll have a three or four days backlog to get through.
My current approach is straight out of the Productivity Ninja book. Close email in the morning, get a few hours of solid, hard work done, then leave email open all afternoon.
What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
I try to break up the day – either by running a quick errand or two, leaving the office for lunch, or switching to a whole different type of activity (phone calls whilst walking around and getting some fresh air).
What’s the secret to your productivity?
Not much of a secret, just systematic implementation of the CORD model outlined in Graham’s book. Be open and willing to change your habits and you’re 90% there.
Thank you for sharing your productivity secrets with us, Thomas! Do you have any questions for us or Thomas? Leave a comment below.