What Are Your Default Settings?

Chances are you’re familiar with the default settings on your computer or phone. Maybe you never even thought about them.

What about the default settings in your life?

Have you thought about those?

Are they helping or hurting you when it comes to being productive?

Note: The following article originally appeared in the Productive! Magazine No.34 – A monthly dose of inspiring, practical and timeless articles written by the best productivity experts on the Internet. I’m a regular contributor

Defaults determine how devices perform in different situations.

They are the manufacturer presets that control a computer’s hardware or software. The purpose is to create reliable and predictable processes and make work easier.

Defaults help you know how a device works without having to read a manual. Like Apple says…”it just works.”

They help you be more productive because you’ve got a starting point and a standard system to follow.

Sure defaults work for computers, but what about for your productivity?

Here’s a newsflash for you…

People aren’t computers!

But like computers, we do tend to follow a certain set of routines, habits, and actions.

In other words, we usually work from our default settings.

Have you ever noticed how easily influenced you are by your surroundings?

It’s so much easier to get work done when you’re in your ideal environment. Too often, it’s easier to take the path of least resistance.

People tend to make decisions based on the environment instead of what’s in our best interest.

Imagine sitting down to your computer ready to start your work day. You’re feeling productive. But then you see browser tabs filled with new emails and notifications from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You’re going to get distracted. And, the mental rush you get from staying busy makes you feel productive. But time slips away.

What about putting your phone next to your bed as an alarm. Sure it’s convenient and can track your sleep. But, are you really surprised when the morning is over and you’re running late?

Too often our default settings are created by chance and circumstance.

It’s time to take control and make defaults work for you rather than against you.

Here is the one step process to reset your default settings:

Change your environment.

Changing default settings is one of the easiest productivity tricks out there if you act with intention. Just change your environment to be in line with the habits you desire and the goals you’re working toward.

For example, don’t leave all your tabs open at the end of the work day just to get distracted first thing tomorrow. Either:

  • shut down all your tabs,
  • or have only the apps/tabs you’ll need for work open when you start the next day

Or perhaps if you’re trying to improve your health, have healthy options available.

Buy seltzer water instead of beer and keep a bowl of nuts or fruit instead of candy. Even if you change nothing else, you’ll improve your health.

What about that alarm clock?

Try using an old-fashioned alarm and put your phone on the other side of the room. Then you won’t be as tempted to sit in bed staring at your screen all morning.

Remember, you are the one in control of your personal productivity.

Just like you can change the defaults on your computer or phone, you get to determine your own default settings.

Design your defaults to start building strong habits that will help you be more productive and accomplish your grandest goals.

If you want help designing the default settings in your life check out some of the resources I’ve put together for busy people like you.

Steal My Automated Blog Workflow Using Nozbe, Zapier, and Google Docs

What if there was a way you could use automation to make blogging, editing, and publishing easier? With productivity systems like Kanban, GTD, and Zapier, I’ve created an automated blog workflow using Nozbe, Zapier, and Google Documents.

Today, you get a behind the scenes look at my automated workflow and have a chance to steal it for yourself.

Blog Writing Project Setup

Kanban is a productivity system made popular by Toyota and has become an integral part of many team workflows. You’ve seen Kanban in action if you’ve ever used the popular app Trello.

The basic Kanban system involves moving tasks through a series of specific phases. Usually this is something along the lines of: To Do, Doing, Done.

This system is great for getting an overview of your current project workload and keeping tabs on all the moving parts. After tracking my blog writing, I came up with four main phases in the process:


As a new post goes through the writing process, the task is moved to the next project in the process.

But, tracking tasks alone wasn’t enough to streamline my process. I wanted to automate the creation of documents, linking tasks and documents, and the creation of my pre-publication checklist.

Start by Tracking the Workflow By Hand

The first step in automating any system is understanding the steps involved when it’s completed manually.

So on my next blog post, I tracked every single step from start to finish. Here’s what I came up with:


What is Zapier: Hint…Automation

Zapier is an awesome tool that, according to their website, helps you

Connect Your Apps and Automate Workflows. Zapier moves info between your web apps automatically, so you can focus on your most important work.

It makes automation easy and available to anyone through both free and paid plans.

What does this mean to you?

It means that you can connect Nozbe to over 500 different apps with endless possibilities. It was those possibilities that helped me create an automated blog workflow.

After a little experimentation, here’s the workflow I eventually came up with.

Continue Reading »

3 Key Steps to Help Everything Come Together

Ever have that time in your life where everything just sort of falls into place? Some people say this is creating your own luck while others just look at it as the result of hard work. Over the past few weeks, many different parts of my life are falling in line and I want to share the 3 key steps help everything come together:

  1. Focus on what’s essential
  2. Get personal coaching
  3. Learn to write better

To make this easier, here is one thing to read, one thing to do, and one thing to download to knock out your goals this year.

READ – Productive! Magazine

This week Productive! Magazine published their final magazine and it’s all about essentialism (saying yes to most important and letting everything else go). I was so honored to be featured next to the author of Essentialism himself Greg McKeown.

Greg’s book changed my life last year when I read it and then again this year when I re-read my notes. My favorite quote in the whole book is

If it’s not a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

This one piece of advice alone helped me really define what matters.

I’ve been able to spend more time with my kids, do better work as a teacher, and follow through with my freelancing commitments.

Even if you don’t read his book, check out his interview in this issue. You’ll learn something for sure.

DO – Get Personal Coaching

Several weeks ago, I was really struggling with how to position my skills when it came to pitching my freelancing services (I’m a technical operations consultant, i.e. I work behind the scenes for big name bloggers and help them streamline operations).

To tackle my problem I got some personal coaching from John Meese, author of Build Your Online Business in 30 Minutes a Day and the Unleash Your Blog Podcast.

Suffice to say, one hour with John discussing my obstacles and options cleared my path forward.

Not only that, but I had actionable items to add to Nozbe 😉 and built in accountability with John.

Get 3 free months of Nozbe Pro when you sign up through my link. This is one of the perks of being friends with a Nozbe Ambassador.

Getting personal coaching skyrocketed my motivation and focus.

Today you have an opportunity to get free 1-on-1 productivity coaching with me. Share your thoughts in my 2017 Survey.

It should take less than five minutes, but will really help me make sure I’m writing and creating the content you want and need to streamline your productivity.

==> Click Here to Take the 2017 Reader Survey and get a chance to win FREE Coaching <==

And, THREE lucky people who complete the survey will get free 1-on-1 coaching, but the deadline is March 21st. It’s my way of paying it forward.

DOWNLOAD – $2 Billion Sales Letter

I’m a teacher by trade, and have always known how important it is to write well.

But one of the things that’s annoyed me about school is how most schools never teach writing outside of formal prose. Because formal prose always comes in handy in the real world 😕.

What happened to writing that’s practical?

For most people, writing is hard work because crusty old teachers took the joy out of it.

It doesn’t have to be hard if you have the right guide…someone who’s been there and been successful outside academia.

My friend Ray Edwards is the world’s highest paid copywriting coach. He knows a thing or two about writing.

But more importantly, he teaches a writing system that anyone can learn (even a stodgy teacher like me).

Don’t believe you can learn to write well. Did you see the Pixar movie with the rat who cooked? Anyone can do it.

I challenge you.

To help get you started, Ray is making his “The $2 Billion Dollar Sales Letter You’ve Never Heard Of” ebook available for free.

==> Click here to get your free copy <==

I know the title seems like outlandish (and it is…sort of), but once you learn his secret you’ll start to see that writing is easy enough for anyone.

Like I said, learning to write continues to help me share my message with you.

There you have it. The 3 key steps that to it all work.

Question: What action will you take this week to ‘create your own luck and help everything come together? Leave your comment by clicking here.

This week the Productive! Magazine released its final issue with an exclusive interview with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism.

Included in this issue is my article, What Are Your Default Settings? where I share how you can change your environment and move forward on creating better habits.

It’s quite an honor being published in the same magazine as Greg as well as other productivity leaders such as Laura Stack and S.J. Scott.

Check out this final issue. It’s full of great resources.

Date: February 27, 2017
Appearance: “What Are Your Default Settings?”
Outlet: Productive! Magazine
Format: Magazine

Using the “Right Tools”

It seems like everyone wants to find the perfect tool to be more productive.

So they go out of their way to try every new thing that comes along searching for something to fill their need.

The productive feeling is there, but the productivity isn’t.

More tools do not equal more productivity.

Instead, you need the right tools for you.

Tools are unique to a job or skill.

Sure you can use a shoe to pound a nail, but a hammer is really the right tool for the job.

Across the internet I see so many writers trying to convince you that they know what tools are best for you.

Do they really understand your needs or circumstances?

Sometimes the tools you have and already use are the best for your situation. You just need to know how to use them more effectively.

I can’t tell you what tools are right for you and your situation, but I can share the tools I use and how I work with them to be productive.

Sign up to learn what’s in my toolbox and to see how I use them to stay on top of all life throws at me.

How to Organize Loose Tasks

Everyone has “loose tasks.” You know, the ones that just don’t seem to fit into any project. They just hang there without a home. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how science says you should organize loose tasks.

Photo courtesy of Liz West via Flickr

Last week Michael Sliwinski, the founder of Nozbe, shared his plan for dealing with loose tasks.

Here are his thoughts:

According to neuroscientist Dr. Daniel J. Levitin in his book The Organized Mind, Michael is on the right track.

The premise of his book is simple.

Everyone needs a junk drawer where they can put that random assortment of stuff that shows up in their life.

The caveat is…

You need to regularly review that drawer and see if there are any new categories or if anything in the drawer fits within an existing category.

I’d say there is a strong case that this junk drawer methodology can work with Nozbe and actually help you get more done.

First, let go of your perfectionism. Sometimes our systems have to be flexible.

In Nozbe, I have several different junk drawers for personal, work, etc.

For each group of projects (or label), I have a Miscellaneous project. Here’s what that looks like:

Every day I sort my Inbox in Nozbe.

Many of the tasks fit directly into another project. More than a few of those loose tasks do not, and they never will.

For those tasks that belong to a general category, I add them to the Misc project.

Then, as part of my weekly review, I categorize tasks as needed if I see a new project starting to form.

That’s it!

You can organize your loose tasks by being okay with a little imperfection. Let your Misc projects be your junk drawers.

Just remember to sort them regularly 😉

Question: How to do you organize your loose tasks? Leave your comment by clicking here.

Reach Your Reading Goal This Year with Overdrive

Always be learning. That’s one of my mottos. What can I say…I’m a teacher by trade. If you’re not formally in a classroom, reading is the best way to make sure you’re learning each and every day. And you must have a reading goal.

Every year I set a reading goal. Last year I set out to read 12 books. Here are a few of those books. This year that number is 24. Is that kind of reading goal achievable with four kids, three jobs, and too much to do (see what I did there)?

I’m here to tell you that it’s more than achievable if you use the tools at your disposal.

hands hand book reading

Last year I was able to reach and surpass my reading goal thanks to an app I found and my local library. And the best part, it’s completely FREE.

Here’s what you can do to reach your reading goal this year.

Continue Reading »

Top 10 Posts of 2016 (Nozbe’s a Big Hit!)

This has been an incredible year. I have been blessed to share my writing with you and appreciate all your support.

Top 10 Posts of 2016

Below are the Top 10 Posts of 2016. As you can see, Nozbe seems to be popular ;-), but I figured as much.

If you missed one of these posts, now is a great chance to catch up before 2017 gets underway.

  1. Nozbe Email Integration
  2. Nozbe and Google Calendar
  3. The Only FOUR Apps You Need to be Productive
  4. Batching in Nozbe
  5. Stay Organized with Nozbe Project Labels & Colors
  6. 5 Steps for Choosing the Right Apps
  7. My 3 Favorite Updates in Nozbe 3.0
  8. What Does the Nozbe Ratio Actually Mean & What’s it Good for?
  9. Your Basic Nozbe Workflow
  10. Setting Up Nozbe Integrations

I can’t wait to share what I have in store for 2017.

Sign up below to get posts like these delivered directly to you.

Annual Review Using the After Action Review Process

Every year is transformational in one way or another. If you really want to be productive, this is the time of year to reflect on 2016 and prepare for 2017. Each year you have a chance to learn lessons from the previous year.

AAR Process

Measuring each year’s successes and failures is key to knowing how to improve the next year. Every year I personally go through Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. But as an Army officer, I use the After Action Review (AAR) process as a guideline for reflection. Follow along below as I show you how to conduct an annual review using the AAR process.

Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever!

Continue Reading »

How to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever

Holy smokes! The year is almost over. I know many of you are making plans for 2017. Before you jump too far into planning, I want to share a quick story about why this year was way better than last year, and how you can make 2017 your best year ever.


If you look at the headlines, 2016 was a wreck. It started with a gorilla, had a knock-down-drag-out election season, and a whole load of messes in between. But if you look past the news, good things were happening all around in people’s everyday lives.

The year before, 2015, was a tough year for my family.

My wife was in school, we were expecting our fourth baby, I left for military training across the country for four months, and more. The baby was born while I was away and my wife toughed through school with a newborn on her lap while taking care of the other three kids at home.

Meeting my new little girl.

A photo posted by Robby Miles (@robbymiles) on

Once I got home from training, the school year was already three-week underway, not fun if you’re the teacher. I had to jump into teaching without any preparation.

The next few months flew by and I felt like I never saw the people I loved most.

I was strapped for time, working myself to death, getting no sleep with a newborn in the house, and on the edge of depression.

Have you ever been in a situation like this where you felt like no matter what you did or how hard you tried, the world was plotting against you and making things more difficult at every turn?

I was frustrated beyond belief. I’d long since dropped any focus on goal setting. I knew that 2016 could be better if I could only find the right tools to get me in control again.

In December, my buddy John Meese told me about some awesome training that Michael Hyatt was sharing. He shared the LifeScore Assessment and ultimately Michael’s flagship 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever course.

Learn How to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever!

Michael Hyatt always had great content, but I’d never purchased a “premium” priced online course before. I was totally skeptical that five twenty-minute videos and a workbook could change my life. But my wife and I wanted more for 2016.

When I first mentioned the course to my wife she loved the idea. But, the cost seemed ridiculously high to both of us. We bounced the idea back and forth for a few days missing out on Early Bird pricing and some super bonuses as we tried to figure out how to pay for it.

Finally, we spent the last $500 in credit we had. We decided to buy the VIP version of 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. We decided that if it wasn’t worth the cost, we’d just ask for the refund. There was nothing to lose and we were desperate to change our life.

The night we bought the course we watched the first video and worked through the workbook together.

As cliche as it sounds, we made a pact to make 2016 our best year ever!

As we sat on our bed talking about what we wanted 2016 to look like, we were hopeful but still discouraged. We knew the statistics that say that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

Each of us carefully crafted 8-10 goals and posted them on the wall to hold ourselves accountable. Took our “before” pictures for our health goals and were ready to make a difference. We still haven’t taken the “after” pictures. Some goals will happen next year.

Did everything go perfectly?

Absolutely not. To be totally honest we barely completed 50% of the goals we set last year. But the goals we did accomplish have completely changed our life.

The biggest thing Best Year Ever did for us was to change our attitude towards goal setting. We broke big goals down into bite-sized chunks we could actually accomplish.

More than that, we had something positive to keep our eyes on as we went through some tough months. We regularly ended our texts with #BYE. Though, often we meant it sarcastically when things especially sucked.

As we knocked out small wins, we built confidence that we were in charge of our life and could do more of what we want and actually see results.

With the VIP package, we were part of the exclusive Facebook group and got monthly coaching from Michael Hyatt. This was absolutely priceless.

We always watched each month’s videos with kids and got them involved and setting their own goals too. Our support network grew on Facebook and at home. And, the monthly pep-talks and check-ins kept us motivated when things got tough.

Learn How to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever!

Some of our big accomplishments were:

Reaching out to mentors and seizing opportunities we wouldn’t have noticed or acted on before.

I actually began working with John and MeeseWorks as technical support and a course creator.

My wife finished her degree and got a job in her field and earned a 16% raise in the first four months.

So proud of this lady 😘

A photo posted by Robby Miles (@robbymiles) on

We set reasonable schedules for the kids and got them on some awesome routines. Even better, we focused on spending some real quality time with them.

Cleared at least 20% of the clutter from our house.

I became a Nozbe Ambassador and am featured right next to Michael Hyatt on the Nozbe site.

I read at least one book per month (most people don’t even read one per year)

I know some of these might seem like small accomplishments to some, but each small accomplishment set our family on the path we’d always dreamed was possible.

We’re not to that dream-life we see for ourselves someday, but we are heading the right direction thanks to John’s recommendation of the Best Year Ever Course.

Today you have the opportunity to change your life.

If you’re frustrated with life and ready to give up like I was, stop everything and listen to me.

Things can and will be different in 2017 if you decide to take action now.

You could go through another year doing the same old thing and getting the same old results.

You could wish you were healthier.

You could want to spend more time with your kids.

You could even work yourself to death trying to provide for your family.

All these things are good (except working to death), but unless you have a plan and take action, this year will just be a repeat of last year. Is that what you really want?

Michael Hyatt just opened 2017 enrollment for his 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever course.

Click below to learn more about this course and hear some other amazing transformation stories.

Act fast because Early Bird pricing ends December 8th at Midnight. After that, you can still purchase the course until December 15th, but it will cost more.

Click Here to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever!