Finishing What Matters Most: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time And Attention With Productivity Expert Charlie Gilkey

Episode Number: 300

Episode 300- Finishing What Matters Most: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time And Attention With Productivity Expert Charlie Gilkey

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Finishing What Matters Most: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time And Attention With Productivity Expert Charlie Gilkey


(This post may include some affiliate links)

Author, podcaster and entrepreneur, Charlie Gilkey, joins the podcast to shed light on what it really means to make the most out of your time and hone in on what you should focus your attention on.

Charlie is founder of Productive Flourishing, a website that helps creatives, leaders, and entrepreneurs start finishing the stuff that matters. He’s written several books, including an award-winning book, “Start Finishing: How to Go From Idea to Done,” and has been featured in Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times and more.

We talk about the four different blocks of time, the reality and advantages of not doing “it all,” how to manage time as a neurodivergent identifying person, getting back control over our priorities and rebelling against rigid schedules. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why attention is actually more valuable than time
  • The difference between freedom from and freedom to
  • How to implement the rule “No more than five active projects per time perspective.”
  • Acceptable loss, honoring your priorities, headtrash + centering yourself 
  • Avoiding the slippery slope of putting too much time, energy and attention on the economic and career projects in our lives + more
Episode 300- Finishing What Matters Most: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time And Attention With Productivity Expert Charlie Gilkey Click To Tweet

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Charlie Gilkey 0:03

word of this matters most. Like I want to write a whole bunch. I always have things I want to write about. I have a focus box. What am I going to do about that? Right? Again, it's that depressing sort of the world sitting on your, you know, your chest sort of scenario. But we know what the world is already sitting on your chest, right? You just may not be aware of it until the end of the week, and you're mad about what happens when we embrace that constraint. And say, Hey, this is the time I have, this is what I'm going to fund. Because if I fund those things, it helps me create the type of life and work that I want to be doing in the future. And maybe, just maybe, I can enjoy it now because I'm not stressed out trying to multitask and do a gazillion things and end up nowhere, not really getting anywhere.

Intro 0:53

T-minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs as a money expert who rocks her talk, she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real Whoa. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom for three.

Intro 1:23

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to Or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are an OG journeyer, or brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes, so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources, and so much more. You can go to journey to launch that comm slash jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Jamila Souffrant 2:06

Hey journeyers. So welcome to this important episode of this journey slash podcast. It's important because we're going to be talking about a resource and managing a resource that is actually I believe, more valuable than money. And that's time. And to help us do that. We have special guests, Charlie Gilkey co created a productivity method that helps others do more than just check off their to do list and help them finish what matters most. With this method, at its core, Charlie built one of the top websites around planning and productivity, productive He's written several books, including an award winning books, starting finishing, how to go from idea to done, and he's on the podcast today to share what I know will be insightful tips, topics and insights on how we make the most of our time. So welcome to the podcast,

Charlie Gilkey 2:55

Charlie, thanks so much for having me. Jamila.

Jamila Souffrant 2:58

All right, Charlie. So I'm assuming you agree, because you've dedicated so far your life's work to this, but it's time our most valuable resource and how can we get the most of it?

Charlie Gilkey 3:07

Yes, and no, actually, attention is actually far more valuable than time. But we we experience attention and time. And I know that's heavily philosophical, that's part of my background that leads to this work, right. But I think so many of us look at the 24 hours that we have in a day, and sort of apply an even valuation to that when the reality is we only have, for most of us, we only have three to maybe six hours of really peak time where we can do our best work. And so it's like a yes, it's time, but it's really the quality of that time. That makes a big difference. And so, yes, and this is what I'd say to that.

Jamila Souffrant 3:48

Oh, I like that. Just like that. I love that. So here's the thing. Before we press record, I said typically, you know, on this podcast, I was talking to you behind the scenes, and we talk all about reaching financial independence and financial freedom. And I really do think at the core of what everyone's looking for, especially me, what I was looking for, as I embarked on this journey was more control over my time. Like I felt like most of my time was spent in my car commuting, and at a job that I didn't love and financial independence, being smarter with my money investing. And then eventually finding entrepreneurship and building my own business help me gain more control over my time back, right. So now I get to control what I do on a full time basis. And most people, when they start talking about wanting to reach financial freedom or independence and quitting a job, I feel like at the core of that is because they just want more ability to control their time and what they do with it. And you said something really interesting that you've worked with a lot of people for at varying levels, probably of the journey who reached financial independence, have all the money in the world and have control over their time. And it's still not the answer to their problems. I would love to talk more about that and what that actually means.

Charlie Gilkey 4:59

Yeah, see. I'm just gonna go ahead and let your listeners know, I already mentioned that I actually do have a graduate degree in philosophy, I'm near PhD in philosophy and so I, I have a feeling we're gonna be leaning a little bit on that, but I'll try to make it approachable. Here's the thing, there are sort of two aspects of freedom that we don't think about the freedom that you frame that as freedom from freedom from people controlling your time freedom from so it's kind of that away from freedom, let me alone, let me do my thing, right, I don't want you to I don't want to be in a car, I don't want to be on the clock. Great. But there's also freedom to write. And so many people get on this journey, whether it's about time management, because they want to have control over their time or financial freedom, it's all the same thing. They get there. They're like, Wait a second. I don't know what my freedom to is. I don't know what's pulling me somewhere. I know, I've been doing this. I've organized my life around stuff that was pushing me away. But now that I don't have that I can't actually answer what's pulling me towards something. And a lot of people actually have a lot of suffering in this and suffering, I'm using the sort of Buddhist stuff, but the Buddhist concept where it's like the pain is what happens to you. The suffering is the story you have about it, right? It's the narrative you put on it. And so people end up in this position, and it's like, well, have I just wasted my life? What did I give up? Am I doing the wrong thing? What's my calling? What's my purpose? And all that sort of stuff starts happening? It's really going back to those things that is worth directing your life towards? Right? And if you can't answer that, at a certain point, the Financial Freedom Train gets really bumpy, and hard to stay on. Because again, if with regardless of communities, you get to a place where people are like, I retired at 30. And I'm depressed. And I don't know what to do with myself. Well, they probably were on the freedom from train, and didn't really think about the freedom to. And when you think about that freedom to what you end up doing in a weird way, is recommitting to things that tie you down in different ways. So you end up back in the commute, driving down, but it's instead of doing something that where you're just trying to cash a check and make ends meet, you're on that highway driving towards purpose. And it makes it easier to endure. And it sort of pulls that in in a different way. And so it's kind of one of those things where it's like, chop wood fetch water before freedom. And then after freedoms, like chocolate, fetch water, and that you're doing the same activities, but you're doing it intentionally with purpose, and it makes all the difference.

Jamila Souffrant 7:32

This is so up my alley. And you know, I'm writing my book now. And I'm exploring and talking about these concepts, and the ability to find freedom while on the journey. And something that I'm going to be exploring more and talking about more is like, a lot of it for people is when this happens, then I'll do this. And so there are all these outside conditions that need to happen first, before they can experience this life that they want. And some of it is really basic and understandable, right? Like we need to be financially secure, we need to be able to pay our bills, yes, we don't need to be in situations that are abusive, or that we're taking advantage of got it, right. But a lot of it is some other stuff that if you're not fixing now, so it's not until you get there, it's like while you're doing it, then it doesn't matter how much money you have, or the level of luxury in which you're able to live like you still be fighting these battles. So I think all of this is important to actually uncover like now while you're still on the path or getting your stuff together financially. And one of those things is time, right, like how we look at our time. And so tell us a little bit more about your your thoughts about time, and then what you help actually like people do with their time to be in control over it.

Charlie Gilkey 8:45

Yeah, the thoughts about time is an interesting question. I mean, the thing about time is we have at least four different ways that we four different paradigms of time that we operate, so we operate linear, we operate circularly, we can go through all those different ways, so seasonally, and that's what messes us up. And I think the other sort of aspect of time that's really important, especially for communities of color is to think about time in generational census. Right? What does what you're doing today, and I'll talk about it from the financial sort of wealth side of things, some of us getting on the journey, where we realize it's actually not about my wealth. It's about how I set up the following generations to be able to create wealth and overcome the disparities that they've had in the past. And so again, it gives that money preference because after a certain amount of money, your life doesn't change that much. Right? You get not necessarily more problems, right? But you don't get more benefit, right? But when you start having that generational sense of time, and, you know, from Native communities to talk about the seven generations, how will this choice affect seven generations down the line? Right in really understanding, but that's not the question you asked. It's like, how do we handle our personal time? Here's the thing I wrote about this and start finishing. This is this Some listener to me like this is, it's going to be probably a little depressing and then liberating. So I got, I gotta show it the journey. So the reality is for us to do a lot of significant projects and really do what I call your best work projects, they're gonna take about five years of your time, right to really commit to it five years. So that means we could do some math, right, take 85, subtract your age from 85 divided by five. That's the number of significant projects you have remaining in your life. Right, so let's say, you know, it's nine, already, the nine really significant bodies of work, significant impacts you can make during that time. Does what you're doing today, does your schedule, fund those nine projects? Can you draw a straight line and say, You know what, what I'm doing today is worth being its funding and worth being one of those nine projects. Because if not, guess what? The cold hand of time is going to take that from you. And then you're down to eight. And then you're down to seven.

Jamila Souffrant 11:06

I have a question. So what what type of projects? Are these? Are these only work related? Are these life related? Can you explain?

Charlie Gilkey 11:14

Yeah, so in my world I project is anything that takes time, energy and attention, and this trips people up, because they just think career, just the economic projects. And what we do is we over index on economic or work projects, and there's no space in our time, no space in our schedule for the projects of our life. Right. And so I'm not necessarily going to put like kids in there, because although kids do go through five years of sort of development, we can see that sort of thing turn out time and time again. But like if you want to move to a different place, and really live in that place, right? So you live in Atlanta, and you want to move to LA, it's gonna take you about five years to really sink into that and learn the lay of the land, or really, really be there, if you want to, you know, if you're, if you're an entrepreneur, your brand, and business is going to evolve about every five years, right? If you're an author, believe it or not, right, it's a least a three to five year journey per book. Right. And so you have to start thinking, so these are the macro projects of our of our life in that way. And most of us discount how long it takes to do this significant work. But we also discount how important this work is, I think it's, you know, been attributed to Bill Gates that we overestimate what we can do in a year. And underestimate what we can do in a decade. Right. And so five years is kind of that mid Mark betweens like we can kind of see it, it's right outside of our headlights, but what it does this create a organizing principle or forcing function to be thinking, okay, is this project that I'm working on right now, or? Well, I'll say here another way, another way, we have to think through this is thinking through horizon shifting with time. So let me let me unpack this for a second. It turns out in the English language, we don't have a really good word for big project, like we have mentioned for house. But we don't have that for Project, which is really weird, because we encounter way more projects of different sizes than we do houses. But we have that word. Typically, in a culture where you don't have a word you don't have understanding. Right. So that's an important thing to note. So when I say a five year project, that five year project is decomposed into, you know, year sized chunks, which is decomposed into quarter sized segments, which is decomposed into month size, week size, day sized, right. And so one of the ways that I help people align their big picture goals and where they're trying to go, is to think in terms of this horizon shift. It's like okay, Jamila, you decided, this is your five year thing. So I would say okay, and like, let's think about what one year arcs of that might look like, what's it? What's a segment of that, like, if we want to use your book turn, and that's a perfect example of that. And then it's once a quarter, once a month size. So that allows me to use what we call the five projects rolled around PF. And the five projects were the long and nerdy way of saying it is no more than five active projects per time perspective. No more than people skip over that piece. Five active projects per time perspective. So what that might look like, as I said, Hey, Jamila, what are your project? What are your month sized projects for this month? Right? And you might be like, Oh, well, they're, well, I got all these other projects. And then we might decide, oh, actually, all of these projects actually are sub pieces of this one month size project. But if you like, Oh, I've got 17 month sized projects. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, you're not gonna get those done. Right. Most people, even people in their productivity bag, topped out at about five projects, right? That's why it's the five projects rule. But we have to remember that's our life projects, too. And that's what trips us up. Right. So we're recording this in early October. We know next month we have Thanksgiving for the United States, what so many people in our society, especially women, who the burden of holidays falls on, on for they forget that Thanksgiving week is actually one or two projects in and of itself. But what do they do? They stack all their work projects on top of that, and then they're scrambling and they have they do, they don't do well at work. And then they feel like really crappy host and moms and things like that. And granted, this is a sociological generalization, but it's just true of our society. Right? And so when I have clients, who are moms or who who share the burden, or who carry the burden of those holidays, the work of those holidays, I'm like, Okay, this week, you have no more than three projects. And the fight with me about about, I'm like, your mom's coming. You're cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you got the shopping thing going on? Is it real? That you're going to have a full deck of projects outside of that? Or do we want to lean in and say, you know, what, actually, those holidays, being my mom, being with my kids and my family, that is a priority to me, that's what this is for. And I'd rather commit to that, and do it the way that I can do it in integrity and do it well, then a half ass all sorts of things, and be at the end of the week, exhausted, worn out wishing I had done something different.

Jamila Souffrant 16:23

So many great points in there. And you know, I gotta say, I definitely feel I'm one of those people I over index or over. What happens in my life is that I don't really think I'm doing that much. And then when I really look at my the weight of everything that I have going on, you know, I'm like, and when something doesn't get done, I think that's when I realized, like, Why didn't it get this get done, you did have three hours today, right. But then when I really looked at those three hours of Yeah, some of it was just wasting time. But a lot of it is, there was no way you were going to be able to get time to write and do this, and do this and do this. So what are some ways because what I'm thinking now is, you know, for me, I do have more control over my time, but not really like right now my daughter, I had to go pick her up to interview today, you were one of them, I did not wake up early enough to do any writing, I want to go for a run later. And then like so basically my day, it's like, it feels like wow, you have a whole day, you have all these things you want to do. But you have not even done like the most important thing on your list, which is to right. And you may not even get to it if you prioritize running and having pick your daughter up and do all this stuff. So then how do people who don't even have as much, I don't wanna say timing as me, but flexibility or control who have like a full time job and all the other things they want to do? How do we even begin to people like me and people who actually have full time jobs and are still trying to do all that stuff? Like how do we even begin to prioritize everything that's going on in our lives to get the most important things done.

Charlie Gilkey 17:53

Alright, Jamila, I'm gonna ask you and you say, Terrell, I don't want to go there. And we'll, we'll take it a different direction. But when you were given that narrative is like, so why is writing more important than running to you?

Jamila Souffrant 18:05

Because I have a deadline, like, I need to submit this to my publisher, supposedly, at the beginning of the year, next year.

Charlie Gilkey 18:11

Okay. You know, we always have deadlines, we always have these things that are going but for me, I'm like, honestly, if you go for that run, you prioritize what mattered most, which is you and your vitality. And we know, as you know, when we look at this marathon of being a creative entrepreneur, you have to resource yourself. And so when I start looking at the way you've actually prioritized today, I'm like, it might actually be that it is in a quarter of what matters most. And writing didn't meet the deck today. Okay. Would I rather use like, make a different choice about your daughter? Or, you know, right. And, you know, I would rather you not flake on me, right? That's, that's a thing, right? But I think what we do, and this is especially important for women in our society, I have to come back to that centering yourself, your needs, your desires, what brings you joy, what makes you happy, what brings you pleasure? That's really going against the script of our society. And so unfortunately, I've seen this, I've been doing this long enough to know that women and women entrepreneurs and women leaders, it's always like, well, there's this other sintered stuff that I need to do, that's more important. So I'm gonna go do that. But then when you look at what they're doing, I'm like, actually, I think it's balm that she focused on those things, because that is what creates the outsize effect. So we have to center ourselves. And I know that seems that can seem really selfish because of the scripts of our society. But look at how many people are burned out, broke and broken. Because they didn't center themselves, because they weren't worth a factor in this equation. Right. And so yeah, I absolutely get it and I'm going to be the bearer of bad news, I guess, right? You can't do everything you want to Do at the same time. And so if I get to make one of those motivational posters, you know, you can be anything. Right? True, we can be anything, but you can't be everything at all times for everyone. And so part of what we have to do is come back and say, All right, what are the things, I'll use my military language Ah, so I have a military background. And also, it's like, what's an acceptable loss? Right, I can't win all the objectives. But what's an acceptable loss. And sometimes what we find out is those acceptable losses are those things that are good to do. Those things that are shoulds that we get from social media and things like that. And we, you know, the thing and sort of my world, there's a difference between an idea and a project. Big difference between idea and a project, we don't do ideas, we do projects. But unfortunately, in the world we live in, we are on social media, we're watching TED talks, we're doing all those things. And we apply a little bit of commitment juice to every idea that comes to us. Like, we know, we're just sitting there, like at the TED talk, or whatever it is, but then all of a sudden, it's like, oh, I should do that. That little bit of commitment, juice, and then we can't let it go. I want us to be at a place where like, we can swim in the sea of ideas and enjoy them for what they are. But just because it's a good idea, doesn't mean it's a good idea for you now or ever. Right? And so how do we balance this one of is just getting real about what's an acceptable loss. And honoring your own priorities, you know, I talked about in start finishing, they're sort of talking about the air sound would have to unpack this a little bit. So the air sandwich. So imagine, the top slice of bread are your big goals, your dreams, the vision you see for your life. And the bottom slice of bread is your day to day reality. For many people, there's a lot of air between those two things, right, there's a whole lot of air. But actually, it's not air, there are five things that are in between there. So you've got competing priorities, you've got head trash, which is the cultural scripts and stuff and the baggage that we have that keeps us playing small and limiting ourselves. No realistic plan, all three of those are important. Too few resources, and poor team alignment. Right. And by team, I don't necessarily just mean your work team, I mean, the people in your life that are aligned with what you're trying to go in their partners. So we have to start looking at when you get to that place where you have way too much going on, which is most of us and you're overloaded, which is most of us have start thinking, Okay, what's going on? Is it competing priorities? I'm trying to do this. And I'm trying to do that. And I've committed to doing both at a certain level that I can't do so kind of work that out. Is it head trash like I have a book to do. Here's the frustrating thing for every author, everyone, as long as author journey Jamila, you know what I'm talking about. When you look at the math of how much you how much how many words it takes, and how long it takes you to write and things and you do sort of a spreadsheet operation on it. It's like, oh, that's totally doable. When you sit down and write, it's like, I'm not a writer, does this make anybody sense? Am I on crack? Like what happened here? Right, and your head trash starts to get in the way, it makes everything harder. And so I think that we have to start unpacking that. So Jamil, I know I've said a lot in there. And I don't know that specifically answered the question. But I think the reason I don't want to specifically answer the question is because I think too many of us have fallen victim to the seven step formula to rock your life rely without realizing that was somebody else's formula that may not fit our life and may not put our actual priorities on deck. So we follow that formula, and then want to get off.

Jamila Souffrant 23:41

Yeah, and, you know, that's one of the other things I wanted to talk about, like, not trying to get everything done, I don't want to be good at everything. And I don't, you know, so I cannot be all the things and being okay, with letting that stuff go. And I think you answered it in a way in which being real, like with everything that's on your plate as a person, you know, as you listening right now, and really thinking like so just because I'm hearing maybe someone else because what we don't, what we do often is we see other people maybe flourishing in a segment or section of life that we want to also and we don't understand or know the kind of team they have, and or what they're letting go on the in the back end that we do not see. Right. And so like there's like, and I feel like I've done this more often this year with writing the book and you know, kind of like easing the brake or easing the gas pedal on a lot of other things in my life. But it's still you know, you still come back to sometimes feeling like tag but it would feel good like if I if I could, you know, have home cooked meals like I don't like cooking so that's not going to be something I tried to accomplish or and or I had more time for my friends. And you know, or I am more consistent with working out right like all these other things that we want to do. So I just It gets real, like a lot of people are experiencing what feels like a, an energy because I feel like what happens to is our energy levels, we don't have enough energy to do the things we want either.

Charlie Gilkey 25:08

Yeah, we don't. And that's why I started with saying that's the more scarce resource, right? So looking at even your day that you that you present it with them like to podcast, and writing, that's actually a pretty heavy Braining day. You got to mess with fools like me, and they gotta mess with fools like you in the writing. That's, that's that's work, right? To think you're gonna do a whole lot outside of that super challenging, like, like, what expectations have you set for yourself?

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Jamila Souffrant 26:26

The other thing that happened so let's say we talk about distraction. And it's it's you also were in the military and like, I feel like what happens when I dropped my kids off. So I also am the one who primarily like I'm taking them to school in the mornings. And you know, in my head right before I before my day begins I'm like, if you were able to really just drop them off, do this do all these things, you could probably get some time back. But what happens is I find myself after the Battle of what getting them out the door, like I literally need like 20 minutes or even 30 to just sit. And sometimes it's scrolling sometimes I'm like, I don't know how much time has just passed that I have not even done anything but and I know what it is I feel like it's like, like, it's almost post traumatic every morning of going through this routine with them. So I get myself grace. But sometimes it's like hard because I'm just like, but this is time that you could be using to do something else. But my body physically and emotionally cannot like I just I'm just spent after sometimes dealing with them in the morning.

Charlie Gilkey 27:26

Yeah, so you know, I talk about four different blocks of time to sort of put on your schedule and and use it for time blocking. And so time blocking is is basically the idea that you actually look at your schedule, and you put blocks of time that you're going to do certain types of activities. When you get good at it, you build a schedule blueprint that is sort of has same blocks of time. And most people have this, especially if you have kids, because kids put us on a schedule, right? They do, right. And this is why we suffer in the in the school season, because we're on that schedule. And then we're not on that schedule in the summer. And that's a whole other sort of thing where we're trying to figure that out. But so there are four different blocks of time that can be brief on this one. So there are focused blocks, which is what we've been talking about the 90 to 120 minute blocks of time where you do your deep work or the stuff that's most impactful, it's like the physical analog is there, just some closets that you can't sort of unpack one thing at a time, you have to pull it all out and put it back in. Right. So we have that in the physical world, we have that in the in the conceptual world as well. Social blocks, which are you know, meetings or podcast interviews, or you know, meetings with your team or coaching sessions, you know, or, you know, if you work in an organization, it might be different meetings. So that's a social blog, you have admin blocks, which didn't give time for social. And so I typically encourage people to bank on 90 minutes to two hours and people are like with Charlie, most people most meetings are an hour long. But I like to think about the admin that happens before, like the the wind up before and the wind after. And if you look at people, and they're scheduled back to back to back to back to back to back to back all week. What happens is Friday, they're overwhelmed. Because all of the do outs and all of the admin still is done still is undone. They have no resources to do it. And they know they're going to start the next week and beyond that meeting train again. Right. So if a meeting is an hour, do yourself a favor of blocking some time. So you have 15 minutes of preparation and 15 minutes of do out. And actually those meetings will be more effective. But the one you just mentioned are actually recovery blocks, and then what they sound like. And they're not a certain amount of time because we need to recover in different ways. And the thing about recovery blocks is I don't care what the activity is. It's what it does for you. So for some people go into CrossFit as a recovery block for them. Not for me, but for them. It works right for you. It might be that you just need 25 minutes of free grazing on social media, whether it's not a bunch of commitments, you're not trying to post you're just letting your mind and soul rest for just a little bit. Before you do the next thing and let's get real Jamil and like, most of us do not, we would rebel against a 15 minute schedule to where like every 15 minutes, we had to do what was on that schedule all day long. All week, all year. We don't want to live that way. Right? So sure, from a rational sort of Spock in world, where like you're doing the most rationally productive thing. Yeah, maybe that 15 minute thing works. But when you look at the type of lives, we humans, actually want to live lives of grace lives a connection, lives that purpose, live our lives where we can actually have some CPT in this context, I'm saying creative people time, right, where we can have some CPT just to be a little more to, like, that's actually closer to the types of lives we want to live. So it's no wonder why we rebel against that hyper rigid schedule.

Jamila Souffrant 30:56

That makes so much sense. And I love this, what it's like that recovery block. That's so important. Now, I know different methods would work, potentially for different people, especially, you know, like, people who are neurodivergent, it's like this similar to me with like, a budget, like, depending on like your personality, and if you are neurodivergent, and have some things that will prevent you from focusing, right, like there's gonna be different things that work for you. And I do think sometimes a lot of the advice is just more it doesn't consider sometimes that and then if you feel like you can't adhere to the advice, or the scheduler, like once you figure out what's wrong for you, but there's a lot of other things that are not being factored in. So what are what are some other ways that we can look at blocking time? So you know, I know some people like instead of having to figure out all those blocks in one day, they maybe do one day of a type of block, like, does that work? Based on your experience? Like what are the different ways we can start looking at our week, our time and blocking or managing them out?

Charlie Gilkey 31:55

Yeah, what you're talking about his daily theming. And that works incredibly well for all types of people. Now, what I want to say here about especially neurodivergent people, because that's the first thing I absolutely get, that so much of the productivity advice has been from neurotypicals to neurotypical, or at least, to try to make people neurotypical, I get that right, I'm not neurodiverse or I don't consider myself having done the test anyways, but I feel you, right, I have enough affinities that sometimes it gets me in trouble. But what I'll say is like, let's unpack like that focus block. Notice that I didn't say that you could only do that one thing, and you had to sit there and stare at the screen. It turns out that most neurodivergent people figure out how they actually focus and it doesn't look like what it may look like for me like, I have a good buddy, who's ADHD. And dude is like watching TV in the background and listening to a podcast while he's writing. It's crazy pants. For me. I'm like, How do you do anything, but that's how he focuses and he knows he needs to set up that environment, I do the exact opposite. I put headphones on, I got a tiny screen, I'm doing everything I can just to like get all the noise out because the noise gets me off point. So during that focus block is what I'm saying. You can do whatever routine it takes to get you in that focus zone. And I said 90 to 120 minutes, some people might need to work for 30 minute little Sprint's right to where they do 30 minutes and they have a five minute they go jump on a trampoline for five minutes, and then they go back. Great, do that. Right? Just stay focused to stay committed to that one macro project for that period of time, and you're gonna be alright. So want to make room for it. At the same time. I think that the journey for for Neuro neurodiverse people, at least what neurodiverse people and experts tell me is figuring out their own way of focusing and the blocks at a time that I mentioned actually help considerably. Because you can set the reminders, you can do all those types of things and you don't have to stay just bleeding at a screen for now. I can't do that and I'm neurotypical right. That's not the way it works for me. Daily theme is what you mentioned. And so when you look at your week, you could sort of say like, I'll give an example like I know for me, Monday is with my team and what I'm working on that's like management Mondays at my team meetings. I do a bunch of Team docs, I do a bunch of sort of strategy recalibration, and things like that. And that's just my Monday, right? Tuesday tends to be my deep work and writing day I do a lot of heavy drafting. I do a lot of work on books and frameworks on on Tuesday. Wednesday is much more of a social day we're recording on Wednesday, right? It's when I do podcasts is when when I meet with the academy, I'll have some coaching sessions. Thursday's a heavy coaching day. So I have my lot of meetings on Thursday. This is coaching. That's what I do. I don't plan on doing any other work that day. I don't plan on doing any admin that day. It's coaching and recovery, coaching and recovery. That's the only way that that day. I get through that without being a husk of a person. And then Friday is kind of a flex day where I'm like maybe I want to take a half day off and go on a motorcycle ride. Maybe I want to like spend the afternoon down at the pub answering emails like, whatever I've most feel like on those days, Saturday tends to be salt. And that tends to be fun stuff with my wife and then Sunday's a recovery day. That's the shape of my week, most weeks. why this works so well is it gives me a place to put everything that needs to get done. Right? My Ark, I got to talk to the team about the thing I got to do all this kind of when I was like, Well, does it have to happen before Monday? Because if it doesn't have to happen before Monday, I could just wait till Monday. Right? Or if I get really creatively frustrated and pissy about something that I will really want to write right now. It's like, Well, can I make the time today in the time that I have available? And if not, maybe I put that on Tuesday, right? Wednesday, kind of accounted for. But it's like, it's a default place for things to go, we work so well as humans. When we have a default, when we have that default place where we put our keys, where we have a default way, like there are couples, hopefully, you're not one of these. But there are some couples who, most people in romantic partnerships, they have a side of the bed that they sleep on every night, you just sleep on that side of the bed, makes things super easy. which side you're on. There are some partners who change it up every night. Right? They might just kind of sleep wherever they want. And I'm like, That's madness to me. Right. But they get that worked out. But most of us thrive on those defaults. And so daily theming and focus blocks. So what we can do is overlay both. I know my focus blocks need to be in the morning, because I'm a morning person. I know Tuesday is the day that I'm doing deep work, it helps me sort of see that over the course of a month, I have eight focus blocks or so that I could commit to deep work projects, which makes me do the triage of saying what of this matters most. Like, I want to write a whole bunch. I always have things I want to write about. I have a focus blocks, what am I going to do about that? Right? So and it again, it's that depressing sort of the world sitting on your you know, your chest sort of scenario, but we'll know what the world's already sitting on your test, right? You just may not be aware of it until the end of the week, and you're mad about it. What happens when we embrace that constraint, and say, Hey, this is the time I have, this is what I'm going to fund. Because if I fund those things, it helps me create the type of life and work that I want to be doing in the future. And maybe, just maybe I can enjoy it now. Because I'm not stressed out trying to multitask and do a gazillion things and end up nowhere, not really getting anywhere.

Jamila Souffrant 37:38

Yeah. And it's almost feels like lowering the expectations I just wrote down as you were talking like it's slowing down. Because what happens is, you know, I'll have all these things, even if I'm time blocking or having a theme for the day, right? But it's still I still cannot get everything done and something bleeds over, especially if we're only and I'm sticking to that schedule. So I'm not going to read, I'm not going to return to this until next Monday or Tuesday. You know, it feels like gosh, like if I was only able to get that done in that time, I will be moving faster. And I think like you know, our society is really obsessed with moving faster. And which then takes away like this, just the slow burn up things and realizing that we don't have to be all at 90 miles per hour. But you know, same thing with money, right? Like we say, oh, I want this thing, I want this car, I want to go on this vacation. And or want to invest or save this much. And ideally, we can do as much as we could to get to that faster. That's what people advocate for. And that's what sells salt. That's that's what sells, of course is in the books, like be a millionaire fast. And you know, do all this, when really like realistically for most people, it's not going to be fast, it's going to be slow. And so how you know, getting our expectations, like lowering them, not in a bad way is really key to help manage things.

Charlie Gilkey 38:58

Yeah, I mean, again, from the Buddhist tradition, expectation is the root of suffering. Right? And so many people come to me and they think they have a time management problem. I'm like, you don't actually have a time management problem. You have maybe a priority management problem. But at a deep, deep level, you have an expectations management problem. Right. And what I would say as our society pushes that more is better, more is better. And so what we do is we create fast mechanisms, because if we move faster, we can do more. And that's a really both are really bad assumptions, right? I was doing a little bit of the math in my head, and I'm like, okay, so Jamila, let's look at it this way. Let's say you wrote 1000 words, every focus block. Let's say you had two focused blocks a week that you can allocate to your book, Thinking your book is about 60,000 words. 60 65,000 words like most books are, okay, we can backwards factor how long it's going to take you to do that right in If you just did those, you just use those tofu, those two focus bucks a week and you allocate it to there, how long would it take you to get your book done? Like four or five months? Are you going to get it done faster than that? With the way that you might normally operate over time anyways? Right? And so it's like, yeah, this is how there are some of us who some folks, I'm not one of those that writes many books a year, but people like how they crank and book after year, year after year, it's like, well, you put three to four focus blocks to it a week. And you do that consistently? Turns out, you're faster. You're faster, and you write better books. And at the end of the day, would you rather write better books faster? Or would you rather run around the deck of your business and life faster, but create those things slower, and less well, like when I phrase it that way, everybody's like, slower, obviously, are like this way, obviously. But we don't choose to do that. Because, again, we're expecting to do well, I got the book, and then I got this podcast, and then I got this, and then I got that. And then I got this. And it's like, the reason it takes us so long to do so many things, is because we're doing so many things. If we do fewer things in a stretch of time, we actually end up faster. And that's the counterintuitive things. That's why the five projects rule works, right? Because if you can say this year, one of my projects is finishing this book. Next year, it's launching the book, year after that, it's figuring out what to do with all of the ecosystem of content that I've traded around. That's what the courses and everything like that. Commit to that, you missed the podcast, right. And if you just focus on those fewer things, you're actually able to focus and to get more momentum faster, precisely because you're putting more shoulders behind fewer rocks. So that's where I want to push back because people are like, I, I want to move faster. And I'm like, I think what we're confusing is motion and progress. So many of us are on the motion sort of thing where that rocking chair that's moving fast, but didn't get nowhere. I want us to focus on what it takes to feel progress and do that.

Jamila Souffrant 42:07

And then what about just when things are you can't measure them by so I feel like I'm at the stage where I still need to write more words. But what's happening now is, is going back into some of the details, where I can literally spend 30 minutes or an hour, not and I don't and I don't think I'm taking it as being too detail oriented and wasting time, it's really getting an idea or concept and like taking my time like with this section of the book, right. So it's not about the words, but it's about like the quality of the type of words and what I want the reader to experience on the page. And so sometimes I feel like time, while we have to add hair to it, like doesn't always move to me in this like seconds. Like, it doesn't always feel the same. And it's funny I so I actually had this, I write notes down all the time, when I get inspired by something, and I was on a spin class. And the person was counting down, you know, whenever, like an instructor counts down from 10. And this is like, Oh, you just want it to end. And but they weren't counting and equal seconds. Like they were literally like, they would speed up like they make 10, nine, eight, and then they slow down. But it was still 10 seconds. And I realized that you know, in that moment, and just in general, how much of our lives are like that like it never sometimes the seconds even though it's the same amount of time for everyone on the surface level. Sometimes depending on where you are like it moves faster or slower. And understanding where you are is really important. Or what's happening in the moment is really important because you may be at a slower time, or in your life where it doesn't feel like much is happening. But a lot is happening. And that if that made sense. But I'm experiencing time. That way sometimes where it doesn't make it's like quantum. It's not linear. It's just happening.

Charlie Gilkey 43:48

Yeah. And that's the myth, like clock time is a human artifact. Right? That does not match our actual experience. Right? And so, so many times, like we've been talking months and times and second really what I mean when I work with folks, that's why I was like months sighs ish. I didn't say 30 days, right? It'd be 20 days, it could be 36 doesn't matter that much actually turns out, right? Because we have to factor in human time. So I'll get hyper specific about your actual question right about writing and editing. So a trick and this is for all authors out there is to know which mode you're in and that you need to be in right now. Do you have an editor?

Jamila Souffrant 44:27

I do-- So I have someone actually I hire separately to help me through the process that's helped me organize and edit.

Charlie Gilkey 44:34

Okay, so are you doing her job?

Jamila Souffrant 44:36

Well, I don't feel like I'm doing her job. Because even if she gives me edits, I feel like she's you know, I need to make things clearer, or I have a more I have a better way of explaining what I thought I said the first time which was not clear yet.

Charlie Gilkey 44:51

So in this stage of the journey, a lot of it is just like the more the jig focused on being the drafter and have the editor sort of leave for a little bit the faster you're gonna get your words out. So for instance, in all of my books, the rule I have is whatever comes up comes out. That's it, right? And my job is to get something good enough to my editor, right? Because if I fall into being the editor of my own work, I'm going to tweak and rework and restructure. And, like, I'm gonna do all of that. But that's not my primary job. Right. And so when you know what phase you're in, I'm, whatever comes up, come out, my drafting sessions are drafting sessions, they are not editing sessions. If you go into that, you'll spend way more time editing, and fall behind your word count and things like that.

Jamila Souffrant 45:38

Okay, I want to step in, because I actually think that that is such a great reminder, right of sometimes I think I'm not a perfectionist, but apparently I am. Because I'm just like, well, before I even because this is not even my book, my publisher that I'm talking to, that I'm working with, they have not seen anything yet. But I know they still have to go through it, right. And so it's so like, so right, because you can get caught up in the details that don't matter. And this is what I tell listeners journeyers audience members when you're considering you know whether to do this or that, like sometimes you get caught up so much in the weeds that it prevents you from the momentum you need. And so thank you, that was actually a really good reminder for myself. To not do that.

Charlie Gilkey 46:17

I know if I'm on a book contract, like it's gonna be 65,000 words. So listener, like, bear with us, we're gonna be a little nerdy here, right? I know, it's 65,000 words. I know I'm gonna turn in at 85. Right? So as I'm writing, I'm like, I don't know what's gonna get cut. I really don't. And that's not my job right now. Right? My job is whatever comes up comes out, does it make sense? Does it fit this coherent arc? And then to get it to my editors, because that's their job. Right? And so I have a grace built in, and I'm, like, 15 to 20% of this is not going to make the cut no matter what I do. So why am I worried about it right now, right? There's a phase in which I'll be an editor. So for my current manuscript, I'm in an editing mode, I'm not doing a whole bunch of writing, I'm chasing comments and sentences and cadences, and all of those different types of things. But, you know, that's the phase that I'm in. So I think, why this is useful more generally, is when it comes to our work in life, it's hard for us to accept what motor season we might be in, right. And so there might be a phase of your work where you're in that learning stage, like you got a new job, guess what you're in the learning state of your job, your primary lesson, or your primary thing is like to learn not necessarily to perform, right, you got to perform well enough that you don't get the boot, right, but you're not going to be a rock star during their stage, you're not going to be the best person, there's the stage in which your primary role will be the performer. And then there's probably going to be a stage where your primary role becomes either a manager or a delegator or a transfer or a trainer. And when you're in that mode, be in that mode, right? Or be in that season of your work. So you're in a mode season, where it's drafting is the mode you're in. Right, you're gonna go through two rounds of editing. So I would ask you that same question, why are you doing two people's job to me looks like, everybody needs you to do one job, which is to be the drafter at this point.

Jamila Souffrant 48:08

Point, take it out. And I'm gonna remember that as I, as I tried to get some writing time in today. So Charlie, just you know, before we wrap up, I'd love to give some more practical tips for people who are looking to get back control over priorities, because like you said, I don't think it's just a fad time necessarily management problem. It's like priority. So how do we, how can we do that? Like, if we turn off the podcast, after listening to this today? What are some steps we can practically take and to do that?

Charlie Gilkey 48:38

So if you've done some sort of values, or prior to exercise recently, then I would say return to those and sort of say, like, do your current action? Does your schedule reflect your priorities and values? Right, it's easy to say that if you've done that recently, but if you haven't done that, it's like, I don't know. So it's part of it's just thinking whether you take a visa test whether you take any of this sort of values test online, I don't. I'm agnostic about which one, right? I'm not going to get into that.

Jamila Souffrant 49:03

Wait, I'm sorry. Can we just go back just a little bit? Because that's the first time I've heard of this test. So maybe it's someone else also, that's first. So what are these tests? And what are the options?

Charlie Gilkey 49:11

So you can use a, I think it's the via test vi a test. I think it's out of Penn State or Philadelphia, one of those two, and it's just one that helps you track with your values. My colleague and friend Jonathan, Jonathan fields, has a book called sparked out that gives you a spa archetype. It really starts to tell you like what matters to me, what lights me up, so and so forth. And we'll use that to determine what's going forward. If that all sounds too much, then really think about it. Thinking of family thinking of priorities, thinking of all of those types of things. What are your top five things that you really believe your attention is best served at notice I did not use the word should, right? And it's gonna be really basic stuff like family or my kids or my job. Like you're gonna come up with things like that, but then you dig a little bit deeper, say, okay, where what's with my kids? What's my biggest growth goal for them? Or what's their biggest growth goal? Depending upon where they are? Okay, cool. How are you supporting that? How does that show up on your schedule? What are the projects? That's the key, I think, converting those values and priorities into projects. Because when you convert them into projects, projects have to live on your schedule.

Jamila Souffrant 50:25

Yeah. So just with that, like a project, what can a project just be ongoing? Right, so like, let's say, I'm running, but I'm not training for a marathon. I just want to continue running every day. Is that a project and how do I bake that in as it's always in the schedule?

Charlie Gilkey 50:40

If we were gonna go nerdy, I would probably say that's a routine. And so when I said five active projects, a lot of our routines like we don't put taking out the trash. As a as an active project, it's something we do, it doesn't take a lot of bandwidth, so on so forth. Now, if you are, say, trying to increase your the number of times you ran from three to seven, or whatever that time, then it becomes a project because you have to do some figuring out, you have to make some choices, you have to do some prioritization, you have to do all those sorts of things going on. And that's where we forget, like, if you're just on if you're just in a habit, that's why we have that word, habit, we don't think about habits, right. But habituating is a project. Right? And, you know, habituating, when we start looking at some of the macro goals, like, you know, the perennial, it's not New Year New yet, but we know so many people gonna be like getting shape. Cool, cool, cool, cool. Well guess what get in shape is probably a two to three year project, hate the bear didn't say it that way, broken down into going to the gym, or whatever that looks like for you until it becomes so habituated, that you don't have to think about it anymore, right? It's just what you do. So that that would be the answer your question. So you know, if you're like, Oh, well, I normally run three miles, I want to get to where I could run five miles comfortably. That's a project you're doing something different, that's going to require you to change how you orient your day and where your time energy and attention goes. So that's the advantage of creating habits and investing is that habit is because once you've done it, you don't have to continue to do it in that same way, because it runs automatically.

Jamila Souffrant 52:15

But you just brought up something that we didn't really touch upon. But it's a routine that now was added to your schedule. And so maybe that's the word that I was missing. When I was trying to explain some a lot of people have a lot of routines or things they just have to do. So then they don't feel like there's space for the project.

Charlie Gilkey 52:32

Yep, exactly. And so that's where you have to sort of look at and you mentioned in earlier, like you want to have home cooked meals, you don't like cook and you're not going to create that routine and habit and scheduling your life to make that happen. And that's a choice you've made great. Let's lean into that. Let's let go of the shoot around it. This is what you've set up for yourself. And what especially women in our society end up with because you end up because women end up with a lot of the kin keeping second third shifts, all like the groceries don't mysteriously show up. Like and I'm not telling that as like, everyone knows that. But when you look at your week, where does that two hours of going to the grocery store come in? Where does you know all of the calls you make for your appointments for your kids and partners? That stuff takes time. And it turns out, if we look at your schedule, it's not you're not being productive. I hate that. I hate it. It's you are investing your time and things that matter most to you, it turns out family and kids and your partner matter. And that's where you've chosen to spend your time now. If you're feeling the resentment of that, maybe that's some negotiations that you have with your partner and your kids and things like that. But what's driving your schedule? Is that priority? What would happen? What would happen? Just imagine what would happen if we said you know, what, actually, not only is that good enough, being a great partner and mom, not only is that good enough, that's actually thriving, what space in your psyche and heart might that open up for you not to think that you have to do all the other things too. Right? I know, I'm gonna get trouble with some folks. Because I feel like you know, I'm on a earlier stage of feminism and things like that. But I think we really need to come down and say, You know what, like, my dad passed earlier this year. And there was a period of time to were being involved in that supporting my family and my journey. That's what thriving meant at the time. That's what mean, that's what being a full human meant at that time. It also meant that I wasn't making progress on my book. It also meant that there was team stuff that I wasn't getting to it also meant that I was dropping other balls. But you know what, at the end of the day, I'm not going to remember all the things that I dropped and things like that. But if I hadn't have invested in that way, and chosen in that way, I would regret that shit for the rest of my life. So from my perspective, that was the most productive thing that I could do. Or that was the thing that enabled me to be the type are human that I want to be in the world. And really, it productivity is not about supporting you being the type of human you want to be in the world. What the hell are we talking about? Why?

Jamila Souffrant 55:12

Oh my gosh, Charlie, this conversation Oh, amazing. I turned this into like a personal session. Hopefully you guys got some still some great points or gleam really thinks that could help you too. I'm really glad that we got a chance to connect. So please, Charlie, tell everyone where they can find more about you, your work, your podcast, everything.

Charlie Gilkey 55:33

So thanks for that. Currently, all roads lead to productive And so you'll find, you know, my books start finishing Yeah, we also have an app that I mentioned that my company's working on some more like a productivity coach in your pocket that really helps take some of these ideas, get them on your schedule, convert them into projects and get them done and get you get credit for them. But productive If you hang out on Twitter, I'm also there at Charlie Gilkey. So, Jamila, thanks so much for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 55:59

Sure. I'll make sure I'll link all of that in the episode show notes. Thanks again, Charlie.

Charlie Gilkey 56:04

Thanks so much.

Outro 56:08

Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to Or click the description of wherever you're listening to this. And you can still grab your jumpstart guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journey to

Outro 56:26

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