Interview with Mike Vardy

What projects are you involved in?

I’m currently involved in several projects. First off is my own blog, Productivityist. I’m also the co-host of the 5by5 podcast Mikes on Mics with Michael Schechter, where we examine productivity, workflows, technology, and how one can “do” better. I’ve also got two books on the virtual shelves right now — The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want (published by Diversion Books) and the self-published eBook The Productivityist Workbook.

I’m also working on a book proposal for my follow up to The Front Nine, and diving into areas I’ve not spent much time in before such as course development. I’ve also got several speaking gigs on the horizon.

How did you get interested in productivity?

I’d say it almost happened by accident. I have always been a writer in some form or another and was trying to balance my creative life with my day job. I had a lot of balls in the air, so I decided to look for ways to help me manage everything. That’s when I discovered sites like 43 Folders, Lifehacker, Lifehack, and the work of David Allen (among others) and started to dive in.

But what happened is that I got really good at knowing about productivity but was not all that much more productive. I fell into the trap of learning about productivity while not actually applying it all that much. Then something clicked. I decided to satirize the niche with a website that eventually (no pun intended) became Eventualism, a productivity parody site. From there I was asked to contribute to David Allen’s GTD Times website, and then got a writing gig with WorkAwesome. I soon became that site’s editor, and then I moved on to The Next Web and finally to Lifehack before I left to do my own thing in September 2012.

It was never my intent to become the very thing I parodied, but it happened because I was able to make productivity more accessible through the use of humour. While I’d hesitate to call myself an expert in the field, I coined the phrase “productivityist” because I am, more than anything else, a productivity enthusiast.

How many meetings do you normally have each week?

I usually have about 2-3 per week, including any bookings I have for guests on Mikes on Mics. Many of them take place over Skype because I work from home and live in a fairly small city in British Columbia, Canada (although it is the second largest in the province, it is still pretty isolated by most people’s standard since it’s on an island).

Each meeting normally lasts about 30 minutes, although Mikes on Mics recordings usually take closer to an hour.

What are some of your favorite productivity tips/apps?

I’m big on mindful productivity practices more than anything else.

One of my biggest tips is to check email second thing in the morning rather than first. I think that you need to do what you’ve set out to do first thing — your most important task — before you let others try to shape your day. The night before you’ll set up your day and then make sure you get your one thing done first. Then check email. Otherwise you’re saying that what others have in mind for you is more important than what you do.

It’s also important when trying to become more effective (and efficient in the process) that you take the time to create space for yourself so that you’ll create the space to make time for yourself. Basically this boils down to planning. Set yourself up so that you have the space (mental, emotional, environmental, etc.) so that you can make the best of the time you have. Do that, and you’ll be able to take the time away from everything and simply enjoy life.

What’s the most recent adjustment that you’ve made to your personal productivity routine?

The most recent adjustment I’ve made is to really look at the “contexts” I’ve been using surrounding my tasks and projects and base them more on energy levels than anything else. Sven Fechner over at SimplicityBliss has touched on this before and when you’re trying to be more aware and mindful about your productive practices then paying attention to how you’re feeling is just as important as knowing what you have to do. As an entrepreneur, I know that I really can’t afford to not be moving forward on a consistent basis — even when I’m not feeling well. By assigning contexts like “high energy” to tasks that I know will take up a lot of my bandwidth and “low energy” to those that I can do even if I’m under the weather, I’ve found that my effectiveness and efficiency have increased. (I’ve written about my introduction of energy levels as contexts here.)

Do you measure your productivity? If so, how do you do it, and what is your metric?

The Weekly Review is probably the most routine way that I measure my productivity. David Allen has said that it is one of the most critical things you can do to ensure that you’re on the right path with your work — both in efficiency and effectiveness — and I couldn’t agree more.

Lately I’ve also found that regular journaling has been helpful. I journal first thing in the morning, writing out what I plan to accomplish that day and doing what I can to shape my day in advance. Then before I go to bed I journal once more, recapping my day. It keeps me honest on a whole bunch of fronts, but primarily in terms of my own productivity.

What do you think the next productivity trend will be?

I think that becoming more mindful about what work we do and how we do it will become increasingly important. With all of the “stuff” that comes our way on a daily basis, we’re going to have to become more mindful in order to become more aware of what we should do as opposed to trying to do everything. Even some of the apps and tools we’re seeing these days are helping us in this regard. I also see a meshing of analog and digital tools becoming more popular, especially with things like The Bullet Journal garnering so much attention. I use paper regularly as a way to better connect with what I want and need to do (and as a way of disconnecting myself from the digital world). A combination of these tools will also help with overall awareness and, in turn, mindfulness when it comes to how we deal with everything that is thrown our way from all kinds of sources.

As David Allen says, “You can do anything — but not everything.” I think more people are realizing this and that the idea of being more mindful in our approach to work (and life as a whole) is the next evolution in the productivity landscape.

You can learn more about Mike Vardy through his website, and be sure to follow him on Twitter, too.

2 comments on “Interview with Mike Vardy

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