My takeaways from the Productive Habits email course

My takeaways from the Productive Habits email course, a course by Belle Beth Cooper

Today was the last day of the Productive Habits email course that I signed up to. I wanted to share some of the key things I took away from the course.

Before I begin, I am only sharing a very small amount of the great stuff that I was receiving daily in my inbox. It only costs $39 and if you are interested in solid productivity advice then I suggest you ~check it out~ (unfortunately the course is now offline).

On Procrastination

I procrastinate a lot. Even though I had all my notes ready for this post because I had been writing them as I followed the course it still took me way longer to write than it should have. I would write a section and then go and check Twitter.

I loved the advice around making the threshold for starting anything as low as possible and to just get started. There was a great WSJ article on the subject.

I have used Pomodoro applications before and really like them, what I hadn’t considered doing was using real life pomodoros when working. I think I am going to use this technique on days when I work from home.

As someone who has an awful habit of beating himself up about stuff, I really appreciated this quote;

So being hard on yourself probably isn’t the best way to avoid procrastinating in the future. But if you’re someone who regularly beats yourself up, I don’t need to tell you that—it hasn’t helped so far, has it? Try going easy on yourself and being encouraging. Forgive yourself for putting things off and start again with a simple step.

As well as the original content around procrastination there were some interesting articles shared in this section. The two articles I enjoyed the most were on why we miss deadlines and how to stop procrastinating.

On Habits

I suck at building habits, so I really got a lot out of the emails dedicated to habit building.

I get too excited about stuff and want to make the habits too large too quickly. I should start small.

For example: say you want to start a habit of clearing out your inbox every day. When you first start building the habit, start with something tiny: processing just one email.

Once you have this established you can build on it over time.

Once you’ve built up the habit, you can add to it incrementally. For this example, you could try to process two emails every day, then three, and soon you’ll be hitting inbox zero every day without having to think about it.

I really liked the advice around using physical objects to help build habits, so if one habit is to eat more fruit you could leave a banana beside the kettle so in the morning when you have a cup of tea (an already ingrained habit) you can easily work on the eating fruit habit.

Here is a great blog post on some habit tracking applications.

On Organisation

I think I am a fairly organised person but I was still able to take copious notes from what Belle had to share.

I really like the idea of having start dates for tasks. Belle explains why having due dates on items that aren’t actually due that day are flawed.

A start date is easier to commit to because it is simply saying you intend to commit to starting the task. I use Omnifocus for my task management and this can be handled with defer dates. If you don’t use Omnifocus your tool of choice might be covered in this article on the subject.

I am pretty good at sandboxing my time because I believe that humans suck at multitasking. What I am not as good at is front-loading my week (or even my day).

Front-loading is making sure that the most important (how you define important is up to you) tasks happen sooner rather than later.

On Prioritisation

It has been a while since I have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People so I really enjoyed the refresher on the priority matrix.

This is the grid that lets you see if something is Urgent and Important, Urgent but Not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important.

The rule of thumb is if you can be doing more of the Important work and less of the Not Important work.

You have to be very honest with yourself when you are defining what is important. It should be something that moves the needle for your business or project.

There were two great articles that appeared on the Zapier blog about prioritisation; How to prioritise your task list and How to take effective notes.

On Looking After Yourself

I don’t look after myself well at all. I am 40lb+ overweight and routinely find something stupid to do to keep me from getting decent sleep. I have a lot to learn about looking after yourself.

There was a fantastic article on how to get more exercise on workdays, I also enjoyed an article debunking some myths around sleeping.

There was some great advice around keeping your energy levels up for your tasks. During breaks from work you should;

  • Call someone you love: one study found talking to a friend or loved one for five minutes could boost energy as much as a cup of coffee.
  • Take a walk in a park: spending time in nature can help your mind rest and improve your focus more than taking a walk down a city street.
  • Spend time doing a hobby that requires all your attention. This helps your mind rest so you have the energy to focus on hard tasks again later.
  • Take a nap: If you’re lucky enough to work from home, or somewhere with a quiet room and a comfy couch, a nap could get you back on track when you’re feeling low in energy. Naps have been shown to improve cognitive function, memory performance, and alertness.

General Information

Throughout the course there was good solid advice that doesn’t fit into the categories I wanted to talk about.

As well as providing excellent worksheets to help you complete your habit related tasks there were some nice blog posts; The ultimate guide to monthly reviews was one of them, and the best ways to work smarter not harder was another.


I really enjoyed the course, the emails were short enough that it was easy to keep on top and even on days when I punted the email to something to read the next day it was easy to catch up.

Again, this was a small amount of the great stuff I have read throughout this course.

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