[quote style=”boxed”]I like to give ideas room to grow. I will jot down bits and pieces of thoughts in a notebook I carry, and then let them stew. I turn things over in my mind without being aware of it, and I find that aspects of things I have been thinking about come to light without much effort. If I stay out of the way and try not to stuff ideas into a box, they live on their own.[/quote]
L.J. Earnest is a blogger and productivity evangelist who believes that far too much of what we do is overly complex and impedes productivity. By boiling tasks down to their essentials, we can get through the stuff we have to do quickly to get to the stuff we want to do. Her blog can be found at SimpleProductivityBlog.com.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on developing ebooks and courses to help people get a handle on their lives–so they can cut out the unnecessary and work on achieving their dreams.
Where did the idea for your blog come from?
I have been interested in time management and productivity since the day I came across my first Daytimer catalog as a student. As my life became more complicated and busy, I realized I only had time for the “have-tos” instead of the “want-tos.” I realized I had to cut back or find better ways to do the things I had to do if I ever wanted to have time to do the things I wanted to do. As I looked around at my friends and colleagues, I realized I wasn’t alone in this, and I wanted to share my successes and failures as I tried to make my life more manageable.
What does your typical day look like?
My days are actually fairly regimented. “Before work” time is devoted to getting everyone out the door. Work hours rarely fluctuate more than 15 minutes, and I spend less than 10 minutes commuting each way. I run errands or write during my lunch break. After school it’s all about homework, music practice, dinner and housework. After my daughter’s bedtime, I have my unstructured time. Each day has a theme, where I group like tasks together in order to be most efficient. Monday, for example, is my computer day, and I try to knock out the weekly tasks that have to be done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to give ideas room to grow. I will jot down bits and pieces of thoughts in a notebook I carry, and then let them stew. I turn things over in my mind without being aware of it, and I find that aspects of things I have been thinking about come to light without much effort. If I stay out of the way and try not to stuff ideas into a box, they live on their own.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love the trend of people buying local. Too many small businesses are going under, and we need to sustain the businesses that make up our communities.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was a software consultant for many years, and the one client that stands out the most was the one who was looking for a scapegoat. The project had failed before I got there, but my inability to resuscitate it gave the client a chance to hang the blame on me. He was able to get away with it because I had not documented many of the decisions he had made. I learned to document everything; even a brief chat in the hall where decisions are made should be followed up with an email.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start the blog over, I would focus more on the central message of the blog. I spent a couple of years wandering aimlessly around software reviews.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think it is critical to automate things as much as possible. Allowing machines to do many of our mundane tasks frees us up for other work. For instance, having a backup program that automatically puts your files in the cloud can save you from costly mistakes, without you having to think about doing the work yourself. There are many opportunities to automate tasks around the house and on the computer.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My education path did not include any business courses, and marketing has always scared me. I found an online course (The Business Goddess E-course”) that approached these topics from a fun place, and I was able to learn the basics to get my message out.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Don’t rely on one or two people to judge a product idea. Ask a wide variety of people, especially those that fit the demographic of the target audience. Naysayers are all over the place, and it is easy to get discouraged by someone who may not be judging the idea on its own merits.
If you could change on thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would make people more open. I see far too many examples, both in my daily life and in the world at large, where people get upset about something out of fear and a lack of knowledge. I don’t know how I would change this in general, but I do my bit by educating my daughter to think things through and ask questions.
Tell us a secret.
Frozen custard rocks. And so do deep-fried cheese curds.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Dropbox has made keeping things in sync much easier. I work at home, I work at work, and I work on my iPad; Dropbox lets me share the files without having to remember to move them.
Remember the Milk is the backbone of my productivity. I love that I can access it online, and also by app (iPod and iPad) when not connected, and it syncs the changes. I also love that I can email tasks straight from Gmail and have them show up in my lists.
Gmail is also a powerhouse for me. I get all my email in one place, and can send out under any of my accounts. I can search and find things quickly, and I can filter to make processing my email much easier. I also used the canned responses to handle most of my routine correspondence.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There are so many great books out there for business and generating ideas. But I like the places that fiction takes me–the “what if” places. So I recommend The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1) @TMNinja is the Time Management Ninja. He’s got great new ways to look at productivity.
2) @Zen_Habits is a master of simplifying life.
3) @ChrisGarrett because in between his nuggets of wisdom about online work, he is a real and funny human being.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh often, but the last time was about an hour ago. My youngest cat, who has a fondness for chewing shoelaces to bits, was caught in the act. She sat there, a shoelace hanging out of her mouth, with an expression of pure innocence. “What shoelace?” she seemed to be saying.
Who is your hero?
I don’t have one particular hero. I realize that we are all human, and that we are all capable of great, as well as not-so-great things. I admire many things about many people, especially those who think for themselves, in spite of ridicule or danger.
What is the best way to boost productivity?
Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking actually takes more time and energy than focusing on a single task at a time.
Is it true you have broken bones playing Scrabble?
Yes. I was trying to get back to the game and misjudged a doorframe, which led to a broken toe. I’ll bet you didn’t know it was possible to break bones playing a word game, did you?
L.J. Earnest on Twitter: @smplprodblog
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.