Boost Your Productivity While Working From Home (And Support COVID-19 Relief)

As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of people all over the world, I’ve been looking for ways to make a difference (aside from simply staying home and avoiding social contact, which is our duty during this unprecedented time).

With so many people suddenly working from home, often for the first time, staying productive can be a challenge.

As luck would have it, I teach a course on this very subject—and I want to use it to help those in need.

For the next five days, you can enroll in my Modern Productivity course on Udemy for just $10.99 (or your local equivalent), and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

This fund helps the WHO do things like:

  • Send essential supplies such as personal protective equipment to frontline health workers
  • Enable all countries to track and detect the disease by boosting laboratory capacity through training and equipment.
  • Ensure health workers and communities everywhere have access to the latest science-based information to protect themselves, prevent infection and care for those in need.
  • Accelerate efforts to fast-track the discovery and development of lifesaving vaccines, diagnostics and treatments

Here’s a blurb about the course itself, via The Next Web:

The Modern Productivity: Supercharge Your Focus in a Distracted World course may prove to be the most impactful for many with sound strategies for shoring up your mental game. These proven methods will help you develop a productive attitude, stay motivated, focus on what’s important and keep moving toward meeting your long term goals.

The $10.99 discount lasts until March 28 at 11am PDT, after which Udemy will begin adjusting the price based on their current promotions. However, all proceeds through this link (or the coupon code COVID-RELIEF) will still be donated to the WHO fund indefinitely.

Here’s a link to the fund if you’d like to donate directly.

Be The First

So many founders want to be the next Steve Jobs.

So many startups want to be the next Facebook.

Every VC is hunting for the next Uber.

Are these worthy aspirations?

Why are we so fixated on following in someone else’s path, rather than carving our own?

Instead of trying to be the next anything, focus on being the first you.

My Course Creation Workflow & Tools

I just finished producing a new video course, and I decided to document my process here for any geeks or creatives who may be interested.

When I’m creating a course, I tend to work as a jack of all trades: I write, record, animate, edit, and produce everything myself. This is not the most efficient approach, but it’s how I prefer to operate.

My workflow can be broken down into four distinct stages: planning, writing, recording, and animation.

Planning

The planning stage begins as a chaotic mess of notes and ideas that I’ve accumulated over many months. Often these ideas pre-date my intention to create a course—they’re just things I jot down because I feel they may be useful.

When I decide the course is actually going to be a thing, I start collecting these notes into a central location, like a Google doc. I make a list of things I’d like to cover in the course, and then I start doing research.

The research phase tells me what’s out there—what’s been done, what hasn’t; what’s good, what’s not; what people want to know about the topic, what doesn’t matter; etc. I also invariably learn more about the topic during this process, which I enjoy.

When the course transforms from a vague concept to an actual project, it’s time to start outlining.

The way I do this varies. In the past, I would create a long and convuluted bullet list in Google Docs, but that gets messy fast.

While outlining my latest course, I found that I really like the mind map format. I used FreeMind, a Java app, and despite some weird graphics issues on my MacBook Pro, it worked well enough.

Next time I’ll likely go with a native Mac app, though, as there are plenty.

I try to do the majority of the thinking work during the outlining process. By the time I have a completed outline, I feel I should be able to deliver coherent lectures on the spot, if prompted.

Writing

From there, I begin the writing process. Some people are surprised to learn that I write every word of my lectures in advance (though I often go off-script). I value preparation.

I do all of my writing in Google Docs, mainly for the convenience of cross-platform editing, not to mention the peace of mind that every change I make is saved automatically—revisions and all.

Writing, for me, is the most intensive part of the process. I’m obsessed with the details: articulating clearly, avoiding fluff and filler, packing in as much value as possible.

Recording

Once I’ve got a script, it’s time to record.

I record audio in Audacity with my trusty Audio Technica ATR2100. My tools and processes are almost exactly the same today as in my podcasting days.

Now, you would think four hours of content would equate to four hours of recording—but you would be wrong. Again, I’m obsessed with the details. I’ll often do six or seven takes on a single lecture, and I follow up with a meticulous post-production process. I don’t think I want to know the ratio of recording/editing time to finished content, but delivering an outstanding product is very important to me.

Animation

My last two courses have been animated, as opposed to the traditional slide deck format. I think it helps to keep people engaged.

This part is a lot more fun and laid-back, though I’m still very detail-oriented.

My animation software of choice is VideoScribe. It’s pretty easy to pick up if you’ve never used it before, but it still offers plenty of advanced functionality.

I also use Screenflow for screencasts and some post-production work, and I’ve been quite happy with it.

So, that’s my process in a nutshell. Definitely an oversimplification, but it shows what I’m actually doing when I disappear to work on one of these projects.