Donald Latumahina is the Founder of lifeoptimizer.org, one of the top productivity blogs in the world that he runs from Indonesia. Latumahina is an avid learner who has a deep passion for information technology and personal development. Since getting his first computer in 1994, he was hooked and has since written numerous articles trying to help people reach their full potential. In this brief interview, he talks about the best ways to have a productive day, the routines you should have every day, the best way to save time, his favourite productivity tools, and technologies impact on productivity.
Dan Schawbel: What are some of the best ways to have a productive day?
Donald Latumahina: Here are the best ways in my opinion:
- Have a mission. You need to know your “why,” the reason why you do what you do. Knowing your “why” will give you motivation and direction. It will energize you because you know that what you do is meaningful.
- Start your day right. The way you start your day can make it or break it. So it’s important that you start your day right. Set a positive morning routine. The routine is different for everyone, so find what works for you. I explain mine in the second question below.
- Work with focus. You can’t be productive if you are constantly distracted. So, to get things done, you need to focus. In my case, I use a timer to help me focus. I decide that whenever the timer runs, I must work solely on the task at hand. Whenever I switch to something else (for example, checking emails), I must stop the timer. Having to stop the timer makes me aware that I’m getting distracted. Usually I can then go back to the task.
- Have a system. You should use your mind for creative work, not for remembering things. So you need to have a system where you can put all your tasks, reminders, and appointments. Whenever something comes up (such as a new task), put it there. That way you free your mind for more creative stuff. I use a customized version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) as my system.
Schawbel: What are a few of your routines everyday that make you more productive and give you life balance?
Latumahina: Exercise. I didn’t make it a habit until a few years ago, so I can really tell the difference it makes. It boosts my energy level. That, in turn, enables me to think more clearly and focus better throughout the day.
Spiritual time. Spiritual time is important for me because it helps me gain clarity and balance. This is where I reconnect with my long-term mission and values. In my case, I spend this time praying and reading the Scripture.
Social time. Though I don’t do it every day, I often spend time with friends in a social, non-work context. It helps me live a balanced life.
Schawbel: What is the best way to save your time? What are the obstacles to saving time on projects?
Latumahina: I believe that the best way to save time is to not spend the time in the first place. Therefore I think it’s important that you know what your long-term mission and values are. They can help you decide whether or not something is worth doing. You can then avoid wasting your time on something that turns out to be unnecessary.
Not using the latest productivity tools could cost you minutes or hours here and there, but not knowing your long-term mission could cost you years. Nobody wants to realize one day that they have spent years chasing the wrong things.
As for saving time on projects, miscommunication is a common obstacle. You need to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Another obstacle is not figuring out what exactly to do next. This could lead to procrastination.
Schawbel: Can you name some of the productivity tools you recommend and why they are important?
Latumahina: Timer. As I’ve explained above, using a timer helps me focus on my current task. It also helps me control how I spend my time. I don’t want to spend too much time on reading news, for instance. I use Chimoo Timer for Mac, but you can use any app you want.
To-do list. Here I put all of my tasks so that I don’t have to remember them. I just use a text file for this, but there are many good apps out there. I use different symbols to mark the states of the tasks (such as its level of importance).
Calendar. This is where I put my reminders and appointments. I use Google Calendar for this.
Note-taking app. I have an elaborate note-taking system to make sure that I don’t miss the interesting ideas and information I come across. I mainly use Evernote for this purpose.
Schawbel: How has technology made workers more productive yet less productive at the same time? More distractions but new tools to manage your time.
Latumahina: It’s true that new tools could make you less productive. For example, you won’t get anything significant done if you constantly check your emails. To minimize such a thing, you need to set some boundaries. Using a timer, as I’ve explained above, is one way to do that. The bottom line is that you must have some “distraction-free zones” in your day.