How I Stay Productive: Tim O’Connor

The Think Productive blog offers different ideas on how you can increase your productivity on a daily basis.  We also like to feature our clients and other people we admire to share their favourite productivity tips and habits.

tim oconnorName: Tim O’Connor

Occupation:  CEO

Company: Results Canada – The Business Execution Experts

Location: Calgary, Canada

Other job titles in life: Cattle rancher, movie theatre usher, bartender, electrician, market research analyst, etc … (you get the point)

What’s important about your workspace?

It’s pretty sparse, only the essentials.  I’m easily distracted, so having nothing in my workspace is preferred.

Well, except for a picture of my amazing and beautiful wife and a Golem figurine from the Lord of the Rings (best movies ever!).

Which Productivity Ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?   And where do you want to improve?

Every day my inbox is empty at the end of the day.  Also, I try to work from home as much as possible because my productivity is 2x from there.

I’m not so good at switching off the email, I often ‘sneak a peek’ which I need to get better at.

Which five apps could you not live without?

Toodledo – Task Management on steroids.  I’ve tried dozens of other apps, but this is the best for me.

Mindmanager – mindmapping software.  I’m a mind map junky and I recommend Tony Buzan’s, “The Mindmap Book”.

Onenote – Recently I switched from Evernote.  I like both, but Onenote works with my interactive whiteboard better.

LoseIt – I count calories.  I’m not so good at reducing them, but I count them.  It’s a first step.

Feedly – Reader for all my blogs, news, thought-leaders.

What’s your favourite piece of stationery? 

Can I say United States currency notes?  Oh, sorry, that’s not what you mean is it?

In Canada we have a customizable notebook system called Arc (from Staples).  It provides elegant creation of customized notebooks with sections, tags, tabs, templated stationary, etc., and individual pages can move around easily.

When in the day do you have the most proactive attention? 

I’m absolutely a morning person.  I get up early, before the rest of my family, and have quiet time to do a bit of yoga, stretching, praying and reflecting.

Then I’m at my peak from 7:00am to 10:00am.

My energy and focus are very low after about 3pm.

What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?

I try to do the most complex or difficult things in the morning. Often that is the tasks I don’t want to do at all.  Later in the day I’ll do the easy stuff – responding to emails, reports, etc.

What’s your best advice for reducing stress?

Move your body and be aware of your breathing.  It does wonders!

What’s your email regime?

Unfortunately I’m not as good at this as I used to be.  Checking the inbox 4x maximum per day used to be my routine.  Sadly, I ‘sneak a peek’ a bit more often now, usually when I’m in a waiting room, at a stop light, etc.

As noted above, I read each email once, deal with it, then archive or delete.  I never read an email more than once.

I also unsubscribe from almost everything.  If I can’t ready newsletters through RSS, I tend to drop them.

What’s your favourite way to take a break in the middle of the day? 

Ice hockey.  I’m fortunate that 3 times a week at noon I play hockey.  I book that in my schedule in September as a recurring appointment that continues until June every season.  Sure I miss a few, but when I or someone else wants to book a meeting in that timeslot, it requires a discussion.  My team knows I need my hockey or I get grumpy, so they try not to book with me in those times.

What’s the secret to your productivity?

Control and don’t overcommit.


If you believe you don’t have control of your time and priorities then you’re right.  However, if you believe you DO have control, then you are right too. Take control!

Don’t overcommit:

My todo list rarely has more than 6 items on it per day.  I feel a huge amount of satisfaction and motivation when I check off the 6, and maybe knock off one or two from tomorrow’s list as well.

To achieve this, I say NO to a lot of things.  My default answer is “no” to most requests from others unless they convince me otherwise.  I didn’t always have this skill, but I’ve found I can still be gracious and say “no”.  I also find that when I have clear priorities for my day, week, month, etc., I can use that to rationalize why I say ‘no’ to other people’s requests.

By contrast, I know people who always put more items on their todo lists than they can accomplish in a day.  So every day, at the end of the day, they look at their list and think, “gee, look at all the tasks I didn’t get done.  I’m not so good at this.  I’m a loser.  etc.”  Those people become discouraged by the negative self-talk, and throw their hands up in frustration.  I choose otherwise.  I hope you will too.

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