Are you reflective at the end of each day? How is self-reflection a key component to spending your leisure time effectively for true health and rest? Are you using your brain as a storage “hard disk” instead of a system of “working memory”?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Rick Pastoor about how to be more productive.
Podcast Sponsor: Heard
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When you sign up with Heard, you’ll work directly with financial specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online, and grow your business. You’ll also receive financial insights such as profit and loss statements and personalized monthly reports. You can say goodbye to poring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments; focus on your clients, and Heard will take care of the rest.
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Meet Rick Pastoor
Rick Pastoor has always liked experimenting at work. He’ll try things out, then keep what works, ditch what doesn’t. Try. Rinse. Repeat. In his time at Blendle, the NYT-backed Dutch startup, Rick steadily refined his methods. All while filling a demanding management role.
Alongside his job he also wrote his own ‘guide’ to smarter working titled ‘GRIP‘. His productivity guide quickly became a Dutch bestseller that sold over 80,000 copies and has recently been translated into English.
In This Podcast
- Rick’s top 3 productivity points
- Make time to reflect on your day
- Experiment with your life
- Rick’s advice to private practitioners
Rick’s top 3 productivity points
- Put things on your calendar and fully commit to completing them
- Do not store things or ideas in your head
- Make time for and value communication
Make sure that you never store anything in your head ever again … don’t use it for storage. It is not a hard disk, it is working memory. (Rick Pastoor)
Make time to reflect on your day
Leisure time is vital.
Having time to relax and equalize after stress is important for physical and mental health, let alone productivity. What is integral to effective rest time is to reflect on your actions and behaviors.
[That’s] both a good question and an urgent one because we live in a time where more and more people fall off the wagon, and they get hurt because they don’t have this sense of balance … and knowing when to stop. (Rick Pastoor)
There need to be boundaries around your time.
Create a habit where you reflect on the day as it ends and ask yourself, how was it? How did you spend your time? Are you making time for your other passions besides work?
The key here … is that if you don’t have some kind of system or point in time where you shut everything off, sit down, and reflect on how much [you did], and how [you are] doing … if you don’t have an answer to that … I can guarantee the answer [will be] something that [does not] fit you. (Rick Pastoor)
Experiment with your life
Regardless of the system that you want to implement in your life, you will not find what works for you if you do not experiment a little.
We need to experiment to feel if something [can] be [changed] in our system … if you do not experiment, you will never know if there is something that brings you even more joy and helps you to be a better professional and a better person. (Rick Pastoor)
Pursue the small interests that you have.
If you cannot think about something that you have changed specifically in your system in the last three months, then you are ready to try something new.
Find one thing that you would like to change, make it big, and give it a go.
Rick’s advice to private practitioners
Shift things up a little bit in your work life. If you veer towards no structure, then give the routine a try. If you stick to a rigid routine, then give flexibility a try.
You can gain a lot from breaking out of old habits and experiencing something new.
Books mentioned in this episode:
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Visit Rick Pastoor’s website and connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- When you sign up with Heard, you’ll work directly with financial specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online, and grow your business. Sign up now at joinheard.com/partners/joe.
- Listen to the Manager-Tool podcast
- Are you ready to reset your rest and get to work on your projects? Sign up to Slow Down School
Check out these additional resources:
- How to be a Group Practice Owner and Love it with Whitney Owens and Alison Pidgeon | PoP 705
- Apply to work together
- Sign up for Next Level Practice — Cohort Open!
- Events – click on the event’s dropdown
- Sign up to join the free webinars and events here
- Podcast Launch School
- Practice of the Practice Podcast Network
- Free resources to help you start, grow, and scale
- Apply to work with us — a decision-making matrix for your next steps
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 706.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I hope you are doing amazing things in the world. I hope that you’ve had some restful times. Maybe you had a spring break. At the time of this recording, this is my first recording back from spring break with my daughters. I know it’s going live in late April but yes, we had a great time. We went to Mammoth Cave, we went to great Wolf Lodge in Cincinnati, went down to Nashville and hung out at the Gaylor Opryland Hotel. I had texted Gordon Brewer who has the Practice of Therapy podcast. I knew that he was in that area and he had recommended scooting down to Nashville and we just had an awesome time and then hung out with our friends in Kalamazoo.
I love having conversations like we’re about to have today around time, how we spend our energy, how we put good things into the world and focus in on the things that really align with who we are and what impact we want to have. If you’ve read Thursday is the New Friday, my book you know that this is the conversation I’ve been having for a while. I’m so excited to have Rick Pastoor who is going to be talking with us about time. Rick has always liked experimenting at work. He’ll try things out, then keep what works, ditch what doesn’t, try it again, rinse, repeat. In his time at Blendle, the New York Times based journalism startup, Rick steadily refined his methods, and that’s where GRIP was born, a flexible collection of tools and insights that helped the team do their best work. Rick, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, Joe. It’s great to be here.
Yes, I’m so excited for this conversation. Whenever I hear people say that they like talking about how we use our time right away I’m like, all right, let’s dive in. So tell us a little bit about just your personal backstory. Why do you care about time? Why do you think through time and the way you do? What happened in your life that made you care about time?
Well, so I have a bit of an unusual background in the sense that I meet, and now meet a lot of people that are in more of the content, like content side of things. So they like to write and they like to speak and they like to publish podcasts, like you are doing. I’m an engineer by profession and that’s my background. Also in my current startup, working on a new startup I’m actually most of the time, I think 70 to 80%, I’m actually engineering, just coding. So that’s my background, so the computer science parts. But I’ve always been fascinated by personal productivity. So how do we make the most of the precious and the so little time that we have on this planet? How can we make the most of that?
I read, I think the, like the range of the most popular books about this stuff a couple of years ago when I started out and I cannot get enough of these books, but I also know that for a lot of people, this is not the case. They’re most, not actively hate these type of books, but they do have this feeling of I don’t really want to get, I don’t want to spend time on that. I just, want to get by. I just want to well, I just want to stay afloat when I’m doing my job. This has always fascinated me because when I turned into a manager, I found that actually we have a lot of resources around us that are about the content of what we do.
There’s a lot of stuff that we can read about that. But if it’s about how we work, that’s not a conversation that we often have. I’m still fascinated by that. So how does this happen? How does this, how is this such a private conversation? How is this something that we see as an extension of ourselves instead of a team problem, instead of something that the company should care for? So this is the blob of ideas and things that always fascinated me. Then yes, I was experimenting with this so much that my team started asking me like,” Hey, Rick, how do you do all this because you have a lot of different things on your plate?”
Then I said, yes, well, I read this stack of books. So I maybe start here. I have a nice list of podcasts that I listen to, that you should also listen to. Maybe you should go take a time management course. Then I saw them rolling with their eyes and say, “Okay, Rick, I’m up until my neck in the work already, I barely survive. So please give me the three bullets of stuff that I can start do doing today to actually survive all this.” So I wrote my three bullets and that ultimately turned into the book that I wrote
Now, I want to talk about the book and talk about the bullets. What were some of your favorite books or podcasts when you were really diving into productivity, time management, things like that?
There’s my very first self-help book that’s, I basically, I got handed in when I was studying was the 7 Habits from Stephen Covey, of course, like the classic. That was the very first time that I read something that I thought, hey, this is actually something that this is more about me than about this guy. Like, this is something that I can actually apply and actually something that I can experiment with. So that was really exciting for me the very first time. I still, I reread this book and a bunch of others every year. So I have a project in my, like, to get really down to the ways, but I have a project in my new focus, in my task manager with a recurring set of books that’s scattered over the year, returned to my inbox and then say, okay, you need to skim through this book again.
This is one of them, Getting Things Done as in the air force, by David Allen. Start With Why is one that I really like from Simon Sinek. So these are a bunch of them. There’s also a couple more obscure ones. One that I really like is 24 Hours in a Day. I don’t know if you know that one by Bennett. This is actually one of the first, like the first-time management books that was actually ever produced, I think as early 1900s. He’s basically, the first one that advocated for that idea that we often see our days as only like eight hours that we have at work, but he’s actually saying, no, we have a second work day, which starts the minute you get home, or maybe when you’re on the train or in the car going back home.
You actually don’t need to relax so much, which is a controversial thing to say right now. We all want more time to relax and to do nothing, but he’s basically saying, “Hey, consider the fact that our days are well, we have more time than we think.” That’s a nice thing to hear. So these are some of the favorite books. One podcast that I very much enjoy I think more in the past than now, because I was an active manager with the Manager Tools podcast, which I think is great because it’s super practical. But actually, it has more practical and concrete things for actually individual contributors like I am now more than you would say from the title. So just some suggestions.
That’s awesome. Well, so how did you refine down what you learned into three major points? Take us through those.
I think actually, never found a book on this, but I think refining anything to three bullets is a really powerful method because it’s like it forces you to really distill, like what’s the gist here, what’s the core of what I want to say? Ultimately, I started thinking about, okay, how do I structure my day? How do I make decisions about that and breaking that down. It got down to like, I don’t want to introduce a lot of new processes. I really want to make sure that you pick a tool and then I have a couple of rules in your head that help you to make decisions because you want to, you don’t want to have an internal conversation all the time with yourself where there’s a lot of room for negotiation.
So what I found is if I said to people, okay take your calendar and make sure that if it’s there, you do it, that’s the rule. That’s the starting point for how I treat my calendar. Then it gets people to think like, okay, if I do that, then it’s not enough to have my meetings in there. I need to also put my other stuff in there. So this rule basically sets the course of the tool. The same I do for, so that’s the first one. The second one is the thing that David Allen introduced, like, make sure that your head is for ideas, not for holding them. That’s what he’s saying. So to make sure that you never store anything in your head ever again. You don’t use it for storage. It’s not a hard disc. It’s working memory. That’s a second rule. So never store anything in your head. Then the third one for me is and that I pass on is make time for communication. Communication is a key thing in our, as a professional. So we need to do it but what happens of course often is that we treat it as like, you have two directions, sorry for rambling, by the way.
No, this is awesome. Keep going.
So there’s two ways to do it. One is we have, we are in a constant state of communication. So that’s what a lot of people do. Like they start with their mailbox first thing in the morning. Then at the end of the day, they’re still in their inbox and then they’re like, what have I actually done but they have been in constant communication. There’s another group that’s like basically shutting themselves off for long periods of time and then with that losing the connection with the team, the connection with the other people that they need to work with. I’m actually saying that if we find communication valuable, which most people do we need to make it part of our schedules because otherwise, like we treat it as something that needs to happen in the cracks while it’s super important.
So the third rule is make time for communication. If it’s there, it should be on your calendar. So that’s the three, those are the three things that on a week level, I’m saying to like what I was saying internally in my team back then, and then of course you get a lot of follow up questions, like, okay, but how do I do this then? What tools should I pick? How do I do this specific case in my calendar and this specific thing in my task manager and what do I do with Slack and with chat and with WhatsApp and with whatever is going on. So there’s a lot of new nuance there but that’s the gist of it. So calendars are holy place and then tasks and then communication.
No, I love that. As you say that, I wouldn’t frame it that way, but that’s what I do. I mean, if it’s in my calendar, I often say I, wouldn’t no-show on a consulting client. So I’m not going to no-show on myself because I could have done something that makes direct money. So if I put it in my calendar, like I need to actually show up for myself in that. That’s awesome. I think that even just David Allen, when I had him on the show, and we talked about that idea of like, just emptying your brain and making sure you put it in a note, you put it into Trello, you put it wherever you, a whiteboard, whatever, that then allows you to be free to brainstorm
As a therapist, you’re probably too preoccupied with your caseload to want to think about bookkeeping or tax filing. Heard can help you out with that. Heard is a bookkeeping and tax platform built specifically for therapists in private practice that helps you track and improve your practice’s financial health. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned clinician or in the first year of your practice, Heard will help you to identify areas for growth and streamline best financial practices for your business.
When you sign up with Heard, you’ll work directly with financial specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online and grow your business. You’ll also receive financial insights, such as profit and loss statements and personalized monthly reports. You can say goodbye to pouring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments, focus on your clients Heard will take care of the rest. Plans begin at $149 per month and can easily be tailored to fit your business’ financial needs. Sign up now www.joinheard.com.
Now I’m interested in how you view leisure? How do you view time off? Because I think too often the conversation around productivity around killing it, getting things done becomes this unhealthy achiever hustle culture. Like I haven’t taken a Saturday off since I was 16, Gary V conversation. Now Gary V does some good work, but he also, I think perpetuates a lot of that hustle culture. I would argue that we don’t have as good of ideas or as creative of ideas when we don’t take time away, when we don’t allow that expansive space away from our work. How do you view leisure? How do you view non-work time and maybe even “non-productive time?”
I think it’s both a good question and a really urgent one because we live in a time where well, more and more people fall of the wagon and they even get hurt because they don’t have this sense of balance and they don’t have this sense of knowing when to stop. Let’s be honest, knowing when to stop is super hard if you’re not in the office because before we had a clock and it would run out and then we would go home and we saw our colleagues also go home. That was a really natural time to wind down at least a little bit and then head into the evenings.
But now since most of us are working from home and still this bleeds into each other a lot my take on that is that we, if there is no longer these boundaries at the end of the day, if there is no longer this moment where you reflect, hey, how was this how did I spend my time, we need other moments to reflect and to think about what is my personal opinion about how much work do I do and how much leisure do I have? I don’t think, there is no silver bullet and there’s also no rule. There’s no thing that’s universal. Like we should work, I don’t know, four hours a week and that’s the best, that’s our goal. I think that’s not the case. I think if, I’m 33 now, in my twenties, I could work way more in a way more intense space than I do now. I have two very young kids that don’t sleep well.
So I know that my mental load that I can handle is lower than it was before. So this is like a curve. This is something that changes over time. The key here, I think is that if you don’t have some system, some a point in time but you shut everything off and sit down and reflect on how much am I doing and how am I doing and how am I feeling about this and do I have enough time to recharge at this point in time, if you don’t have an answer to that, you leave that to something that just occurs like an insight or whatever. Then I can guarantee you that the answer is not something that really fits you.
So instead, I’m saying, and that’s also the part that I explain in the book, how I do this personally, I have a reflection on a weekly level with a weekly review that was like, of course also inspired by David Allen’s work. But I also have a quarterly review for myself and an annual review for myself. On top of that, I’m talking with an accountability partner every week for half an hour. These four components are what’s keeping myself in check. So all of these four have different roles in figuring out how is my, how are my weeks going? How am I doing personally? What’s my trajectory and what do I think about that? And those are systems that I know will occur. So I know the end of the year will come and I know that then I will take two days to do my annual review to look back and also to create a plan for next year. That’s the time where I can change course and adapt. So yes, those moments are set in my calendar and that’s my way of calibrating how much time I spend on leisure and how much time I spend on work.
Yes, it sounds like it was designed by an engineer.
Yes, but I think in all of these, the same as a weekly review is something that allows me to be way more flexible and in the moment in the week, because I know on Friday, that’s when I do this. On Fridays, when I take these 30 minutes to reflect on the week and to collect all the things and put them back in order, I know that that’s the moment in time where the sanity will return. So I’m way more flexible in the week. And indeed, that’s an engineering thing, but it’s also making sure that I have more flexibility in the week, if that makes sense.
Now for you personally, what is leisure and stepping back look like? I like your point that it’s not like there’s one size fits all. I totally agree with that. But when you think about your downtime, what either habits or rules do you have for yourself when you’re not working?
Things are falling up. I think what really helped me is knowing what gives me a lot of energy and there’s two big things for me. I’m an introvert so that’s not people for me but it’s reading. So I know that if I put myself with a good book in a silent environment that’s recharging. Getting to new ideas is something that recharges me. Second is programming. So actually that’s probably not weird for an engineer, but as an engineer, being in a manager role for a couple of years, I found that that was not tiring me in the day but if I look back in quarters and if there was a day that I could do some engineering, I would feel instantly better and knowing that helped me in the times where it was not a part of my work to know, like, if I’m feeling a bit down, I should just build something because that recharges me and gives me energy.
Knowing that really helps me to make a decision on that. So that’s one, and the second component is of course kids, because the kids are really forcing me to, in a good way to be at home and then be there. It’s also my partner, my wife she’s quite strict with the phones. And I tend to get distracted a lot so then she’s saying, hey you want to be here. So just shut everything out. Of course, ultimately has an effect of slowing down of disconnecting from the work, thinking about what is truly important. So that’s a key thing. That’s a key thing. It’s really a forcing function of switching gears.
So awesome. Now when you think about people that, I’m picturing the average therapist, a lot of us are social science people. Maybe not as, I don’t want to say rigid because I feel like that has a like detrimental impact on, I’m not saying that engineers are rigid, but the way that you’re describing things is a very clear-cut way of thinking. I think a lot of therapists sometimes are not as clear cut. They don’t look at what they’re trying to achieve in their businesses. Maybe they don’t have methods like this. When you think of people that are more those social science type of people, how can they be successful in implementing what you’re talking about?
I think this comes down to the answer that it’s important to have to have some system. Anyone, like we all have this, have a system. We all have a way of deciding what we’re working on. The question is that something that helps you or works against you? I think that’s a question that anyone can answer regardless of what type of system you would like. I often say that I really don’t care if you listen to this and then reject this because it doesn’t fit you because I think this is something that’s personal. What I do think is important that we all, I did not arrive at this point with a perfect system. We need to experiment to feel if something that we can change in our system, that sounds maybe overly engineering, the engineering like. But if you do not experiment, you will never know if there’s something that brings you even more joy and also helps you be a better one professional and then second to better person.
I think that’s something that we can all hopefully agree on that regardless of what system you want, I think we all want something that’s more rewarding and something that brings more light to our days and weeks. Then the question for us is what is it? My one pointer would be that if you cannot think about something specific that you changed in the system as an experiment in the last three months, then you’re ready for something new. So then you’re ready to change something around and then make that, make it one change or one like atomic thing that you want to change. But I would suggest to make that one change rather big. So what I’m saying with that is, let’s say you want to spend fewer hours at work. Then I would suggest not to take out five minutes but to see if you can do with two hours less, if you know what I’m getting at. So figure out an experiment that fits you and then make that a rather drastic one and then see what it brings you.
I love that. One thing in Next Level Practice when we’re doing our what’s working events, oftentimes people say I feel like I’m at the upper end of my rates but I’m totally full. I just say, do an experiment for two weeks. We don’t go up by $5 a session. We go up by like $30 or $40 a session and when people go from $125, a session to $175, then they get someone that says, yes, their minds are blown. They’re like, I’ve just been leaving money on the table. So I love that idea of having something drastic. What’s an experiment that you’ve done for yourself and what have been the results of it?
Okay, let me think about the different ones that I’ve done. One that’s really changed me as how I’m looking to myself is changing the way I approach myself in meetings. So one of the ideas that got stuck with me at some point is because, I need a little bit of time to process something that’s happening in a room and I now know that, but previously I did not. I was in a room with quite a lot of people that were able to think on their feet a bit better than I could at that point in time. So what happened was over time, this idea settled in my brain that I was not that creative. Like I’m not as creative as those people. Then one experiment I did that really changed me is that I needed to, I decided to, from that point on, I would just speak whatever was on my mind at that given time and then to change the habit of how I would respond to a certain situation in a meeting.
This might sound like a little bit of a weird example because you might expect like a, more of a maybe time management hack, but this was really something that wasn’t conscious experiments from my perspective to change how I was behaving in a certain social setting, which really radically changed my perspective of myself because as of course, as soon as I did that, I found that other people would say, okay, that’s quite a good idea. Then I was like, okay, but that was just the first thing that popped into my mind.
So I think it’s not the best idea. I need a little bit more time and they would say, no, no, this is actually quite good and then together, we can actually improve on that idea. That was one experiment and two on a different level was that I wanted, well, I wanted to do more writing. One of the connecting lines in my experiments is often that I’m trying to find out what’s the behavior? So what’s the behavior that I’m changing, not the outcome per se. So when I wanted to more writing, I did not change the contents of the writing, but I changed the pace. So I did an experience where I committed to doing a written newsletter for a full day, for every single day of the year actually.
So with that, I forced myself to write something every single day. Of course, you write more. That really changed how I approach coming up with creative ideas, because what often happens is that we think we are not that creative. Well, you see the connecting lines between the two experiments as well but then the forcing function of just deciding to put something out there really changed my perspective on what I can produce if I put myself to it. So that was a second very interesting experiment.
It sounds like just forcing yourself to not be paralyzed by perfection and to just say, I’m going to just create, create, create, and it’s going to be crap. I remember I saw this stat that Michael Jordan said, and I don’t remember the exact numbers, but he said something like, yes, I’ve missed eight game winning shots in the finals. I’ve like missed this many free throws. He just went through how many failures he had, and yet he’s considered one of the best basketball players of all time. So that idea of just like the quantity of just producing, producing, producing, and then allowing the good things to rise to the surface is such, such great advice. Well, Rick, this has been so awesome. My last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want him to know?
I was thinking about this before I also distracted a little bit by the conversation, the great conversation that we had. I think the gist of the advice I would give is any suggestion to pick out one of the things that’s, actually not close to your current way of working. So I would encourage everyone to shift things up a little bit. So if you are more of the, and same is for me always like if you are more of the person that’s very towards having no structure in the day, maybe try out something that’s way more structure and the other way around, because I feel that in this time where it’s a lot about the quality of the work, the structures are often overlooked and that’s something where we can gain a lot. So if that makes sense, I would suggest to break a little bit out of your current habits and then experiment with something hopefully quite extreme and then see how that works.
I love it so much. Well, Rick, if people want to follow your work, if they want to get your book where should they head?
The book is called GRIP and you can find it on gripbook.com and I will point towards Amazon and the other stores where you can get it. So that’s the place to go, gripbook.com. I’m active on Twitter mostly so at Rick Pastoor on Twitter. That’s where you can find me.
Awesome. We’ll have links to all of that in the show notes. Rick, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
Thank you so much, Joe, for having me. Was a blast.
I love conversations like this. You know, that whole last section of Thursday is the New Friday is about killing it. The after we slow down, then our brains are ready to just kill it and to find more tools or ways people think through how they kill it, how they get more done. I always love these conversations and to find that balance between slowing down and killing it. Tickets for Slow Down School just open to the public. They were open to some of our internal communities. Slow Down School’s an event that I put on the last week of July here in Northern Michigan, right on Lake Michigan. We pick you up at the airport and then we spend a week hanging out, slowing down for the first couple days, bringing a massage therapist, yoga teacher, we skip stones on the beach, and then for three days we run full tilt towards your business. If that sounds good to you let’s have a conversation about it. You can’t just buy the tickets. I want to make sure it’s a good fit. Make sure you’re going to get things out of it. So head over to slowdownschool.com. You can check that out as well.
Also, we could not do this without our amazing sponsors. As a therapist, you’re probably too preoccupied with your caseload to want to even think about bookkeeping or tax filing. Heard can help you out with that, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned clinician or in your first year of practice. Heard will help you identify areas for growth and streamline best financial practices for your business. You can say goodbye to pouring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments focus on your clients and Heard will take care of the rest. Plans begin at $149 a month and can easily be tailored to fit your business needs. Sign up now over at joinheard.com. Again, that’s joinheard.com.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.