013 Thomas Wu shares his ups and downs with fibromyalgia and how his productivity revolves around an E-ink tablet and the Smart Google ecosystem.
With the help of his team, Thomas helps small business operators with all their marketing and branding needs. Small business owners are constantly faced with resource scarcities and too often piecemealed information, becoming the impetus in starting Koyoti Inc., continuing this mission of helping small businesses thrive via an ardent belief that Branding Happens At Every Point Of Contact.
Join the conversation on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/chrisnixon/
Detailed Show Notes With Transcript: https://chrisnixon.com/episode-13
GUEST LINKS For: Thomas Wu
Website 1: https://www.koyoti.com
Tools and Books mentioned in this episode:
- The Sacred 6 by JB Glossinger: https://www.amazon.ca/Sacred-Six-Step-Step-Recovering/dp/1401947999
- E-ink Tablet: https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/best-e-ink-tablets/
- Pomodoro Technique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
- Kanban: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban
- Kanban Method: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)
All socials: https://linktr.ee/chrisnixon
**This episode Copyright © 2023 Chris Nixon***
Music: spacedust by airtone (c) copyright 2022 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/airtone/64741
Chris: Hey, I’d like to invite you to share your name and a bit about what you do
Thomas: well. Hello, Chris. My name’s Thomas. I’m with Koyoti Inc. We’re marketing and design studio here in Toronto. We help small business owners with their marketing and design needs. Fellow Canadian.
Chris: Yes, Thomas. As we discussed earlier, I like to talk about different productivity systems and understanding the different productivity tactics work for different people.
Tell us about your journey with productivity and what works for you and helps you. Be successful in your business?
Thomas: My journey with productivity has probably been a little bit longer than others. I used to be a productivity junkie of sorts. I was one of those people who needed that zero inbox when it came to emails for work, and that caused me to work very long hours at times.
And I also because of that, or partly because of that did end up with fibromyalgia and so I needed to find a way to balance my life a little bit more. And so I started playing around with different things and eventually settled on a system that I’m using right now.
Chris: Wow. So do you think there was a direct link then from between stress and the fibromyalgia?
Thomas: Definitely. The, with fibromyalgia, there’s generally a trigger of sorts and there was a point in my life when there was a lot going on and and definitely a stressful time at work. And so I think that’s probably when that started. .
Chris: So tell me what do you suppose led you to. The thought that you needed the inbox zero and what did that look like for you at the time
Thomas:, again, just wanting to be productive and reading the articles dujour at the time.
That was what. The article said successful people were doing so. , I figured, you know what that’s what I needed to do and as well a lot of it was customer and client related emails. Wanting to keep clients happy, wanting to keep customers happy wanted to make sure that That everything that they had questions for, concerns about was, was answered.
Although part of it started getting a little silly because they would send a question, okay, fine, and I’d respond. Quickly, but then it’s like they wanna not, they have a follow up question and then I feel the need to respond quickly, and then by the end of it, it’s just, why am I sitting here having a conversation via email with a customer when I can just pick up the phone?
Chris: Yeah. And it al it almost be, become subservient to that, that email conversation that just builds and keeps building and building, doesn’t it? ,
Thomas: that’s why they called it a CrackBerry. ,right?
Chris: I remember those days. Okay bring us to the current time now. What is it that you do around productivity to be successful?
Thomas: I combine, I use an i, I combined a couple of things. I am on the Google ecosystem, so I am gonna say Siri so that I don’t trigger any any of my speakers. So what I’ve done is on Google, I’ve set up something called a repository list in Google Notes, and that’s pretty much a brain dump. So because I am on that ecosystem, I have it on my phone, I have it on, I can use my browser, I can use the smart speakers.
So anytime I have, I remember that I have something that I need to be, that needs to be done. I can just say, again, I’m using Siri here, so I don’t trigger speakers. I can just say, Hey, Siri. Add item to repository list and I can add, very quickly add simple instructions for things that need to be done.
And so it doesn’t matter if I’m just about to lie down for bed or if I am driving and I don’t use to need to type if I’m out doing groceries with my wife or what have you, and, I have my phone with me, so pretty much. , I would say 90% of my day I have access to this list that I can just add to and what I, and then my entire.
Business life. I’m using a scheduling service called Calendar Hero, and so everything gets put on my Google calendar and so everything is there on that one page, the calendar, and then the notes on the sidebar. And then every morning I have an ink tablet that I transcribe everything to. So that writing process also helps me to.
And so I transcribe everything onto the tablet, and so I work off of that.
Chris: Wonderful. So one of the things that I’ve discovered and helped clients with is the concept of getting things outta your brain when you think of them, because the brain takes a lot of energy more than we realize. And if we’re thinking about the same thing over and over again, we’re essentially just burning energy over and over again.
It’s like driving in circles your driveway wasting energy. . So when you have a thought, if you can get it out of that system or get it into a system that’s trusted, this is what you’re describing with your repository. . So how did you discover that was important for you to get stuff outta your brain right away?
Thomas: Very important because over the years I’ve been and this is also one of the reasons why I wanted that zero inbox as well, because I’m very forgetful. And I, Quite scatterbrained and I forget things the moment I turn around and do something else. And so it was affecting how I work having completed those emails and having that zero inbox means that I’m not taking anything outside of the office then, and or I’m not carrying anything after I put my phone down or, pu putting the blackberry. . And that was one of the reasons why I was doing that. But again if I’m, if it’s not in front of me and I’m not looking directly at it, I’ve forgotten it.
And when it comes to not just work stuff, but again with family stuff as well, it gets in the way because I keep forgetting things. And it’s not that I, trying to be, I’m not trying to procrastinate it. I forget. And having that repository there means that if I have that thought at that moment, putting it there into the repository as a brain dump, then I don’t have to worry about forgetting it, and I don’t have to feel guilty that I’ve forgotten to do something for somebody.
Chris: So you mentioned then there’s the calendar and then there’s the daily tablet. So how does that repository translate to. The daily tablet.
Thomas: So I used to carry around multiple notebooks because I wear different hats. And for a while I was trying to use the physical notebooks because I do find the process of writing things down to be helpful.
, the physical act of actually scrolling letters onto paper did help. But I. Having different hats in your life, you end up having, if you put everything in one notebook you’re flipping back and forth. Flipping here, flipping there, and you end up spending more time flipping, flipping, flipping than actually getting things done.
So I ended up using multiple notebooks, but then that means I have to carry multiple notebook. and that gets heavy. And if I’m using only one note, if I’m carrying only one notebook and I have a thought for a different purpose, then it’s oh crap, I don’t have that notebook with me. And then again, you end up with the same issue of not being able to have that brain dump, not being able to put things down.
So what I ended up doing is I got myself an eating tablet. So I have multiple notebooks in. So not only is it searchable, and so when I do need to go into that notebook, I can easily find what I’m looking for because of that. And then I’m only carrying around one notebook now and it happens to be digital.
And because it’s ein I don’t have to worry that much about it running outta batteries. Because it doesn’t take that much battery again. One charge will last me once, two weeks.
Chris: Really? That’s fascinating. Yeah. Do you still get the tactile benefits of handwriting on the tablet?
Thomas: Yeah yeah, because it’s a, because it’s a tablet. There’s a pen that I use for it. I’ve gotten one that is actually Not a stylist type pen, but it’s actually like a pen. . So it’s shaped like a pen. It feels like a pen. So when I’m writing it, it tricks my brain into thinking that it is a pen.
And so I use that to, to to write, to transcribe my daily things that I need to do, my and my and my schedule onto. every morning. First thing I do when I get to work for work I set the notebooks up per month. And so at the first day of every month I turn the old month into a PDF so that, that can be easily searchable as well.
Chris: So it’s archived somewhere safe Yeah. That you can access when you need it, but it’s not in your face distracting you from what’s important today.
Thomas: Exactly. Yeah.
Chris: So how do you determine then, what goes from the repository onto the tablet for the day?
Thomas: Just, number one is going to be my my schedule for the day.
So if I see that I have windows that I’ve set apart that I’ve set. So if today my window, there’s three hours, then I start thinking, okay, what are the in, within three hours? What do I think I can get done? Okay. And so I transcribe the items in, level of importance. Onto the list of things that I want to tackle today.
And we mentioned that I had fibromyalgia, so I don’t, I try not to overdo it. . And it’s just, okay, what it, what do I absolutely need to do to today? What do I, what should I get done today and what would I like to get done today? And then it’s looking at those kinds of priorities and saying, okay, that one doesn’t need to be done.
I will leave that in the repository and I will deal with that tomorrow and being okay with that. Yeah,
Chris: I imagine you have good days and bad days and Yeah. Do you have some sort of an indication in the morning like, this is gonna be a good day, or this isn’t, and you’re able to calibrate? Or do you have to calibrate throughout the day as you experience it?
Thomas: For me, I’ve been fortunate. Mostly my flareups have been fairly mild. There are days where I struggle more in which on my. To-do list for the day. I guess I transcribe fewer things. There are some days where I just keep, leave it completely blank because I, I’m, I know I’m not going to be able to do anything, or, you know what, let me just try to do this one thing.
And being okay with that and learning to be happy about that.
Chris: And how’s that learning going? Are you getting better at that or, are you quite comfortable now or do you still feel that you struggle sometimes?
Thomas: I still struggle sometimes. Like I the biggest struggle is that I feel like I’ve wasted that day away.
, but at the, and then I feel guilty about wasting that day. But I try to tell myself that, you know what, my body needs it and I can do more when I have a good day. So that helps. But it’s still it still happens. Again, I mean I’ve been dealing with this for, it’s 2022, since 2005 I got into marketing so I don’t have to do math.
Quite a few years now. I think 17 years now. Again, I’m very fortunate. What I have for fibromyalgia isn’t severe. My flareups aren’t totally debilitating. . It, there are days where I do struggle to get out of bed, but I can power through and get out of bed. But I know for some people that even that is not possible for bad days.
Chris: Do you spend some time periodically to look back at your notes and really, give yourself credit for what you have accomplished?
Thomas: Yeah. Especially when things get really chaotic and you have to look, have to take a pause and take stock.
And I found that helps. So seeing those check marks that I have been able to complete, especially if it’s been a week where I’ve really struggled with flareups. Okay. And saying, you know what, despite these flareups and despite the pain, I got a few things done. That’s pretty cool too.
Chris: I know you mentioned offline about the A D H D brain as well.
Thomas: Again, very, a minor case. I don’t, I’m not so bad that I can’t focus on any one thing at four or 4, 4, 5 seconds at a time, but at the same time I am cognizant of the fact that it is. , and that goes to the forgetfulness aspect. And it’s something that I didn’t realize was part of, I just, I’m just scatterbrained, right?
I’m just forgetful. But I never really thought about, how am I real? How am I going to mitigate this? And. . So having the repository has helped a lot. I still forget things. And I still get distracted and sometimes I’ll, I will take a look at my list of things that I want to do, turn one way, end up doing something else, and completely forgot even that one thing that I had just looked at.
, right? So there is that. Part of people who have ADD or ADHD as well is also as much as we are, we can, a big part of the misconception of ADD and ADHD is that we can’t sit still for five seconds, but at the same time, part of a D and H D is that there are times when you can get, when you end up being, so being hyper-focused okay.
As well, and. , I, you, you end up going down rapid holes. YouTube is horrible for that. And so there, there are days where, , I just wanna do these few things and then something that somebody sends me a link to YouTube and there goes another two or three hours , and, that does happen as well.
But again, with the digital the eing tablet that I have, the reason, one of the reasons why I chose an ING tablet is because while you can go on YouTube, , you really don’t want to watch YouTube on it. So all of those distractions are eliminated, right? It’s taken away from you. It’s essentially a digital notebook.
And so when I’m using it, if I’m writing down notes preparing for, say, for example, a podcast interview, Uhhuh , then I end up, my focus ends up being on that as opposed to being distracted by, 5,000 different than other things.
Chris: So you mentioned that you’ve done and some other tactics in the past that didn’t necessarily work as well as you’d like.
I know you mentioned the inbox zero. Was there anything else that, that you tried and ditched, so to speak?
Thomas: There is a process by gentleman, I believe his name is JB Glosser called the Sacred six. And I read his book and I tried his system for a while. And the basis of that is that at any point in time you, we really can’t be focused on more than six projects at.
I did use Pomodoro for a little while. And my why that didn’t work for me was I was on Zoom calls quite a bit. And because of that, you can’t really s you have to remember to. To start the timer and then end the timer, and then start the timer again, and then end the timer, and then just when you’re getting calls interrupted throughout the day, that ends up not really working.
If you were writing a book, I think that would be excellent because , you would write for whatever, like 20 minutes or half an hour, what have you, take that five minute break. 10 minute break, go back to it and something like that. I think you can use Pomodoro for. When you’re getting interrupted all the time, it just didn’t work for me.
I tried bullet journaling and I, that didn’t work for me because I ended up spending more time trying to set up the bullet journal. than I was using it. And then again, we’re talking about that physical notebook, and this is when I was, had multiple notebooks. , in which case I had my bullet journal in the one notebook that I might not be carrying with me.
if I’m at Ikea , and in which case you, I end up not really using the notebook anymore. And so the bullet journaling didn’t really work for me. So those are the main ones that I tried. Oh I also I tried using, I was on tr I was using Trello for a while. I used, tried the CanBan method and that worked for a while until I stopped logging.
because, I forget to do things. I tried doing it physically and then I have I had a wall full of post-it notes that I subsequently started looking past and forgetting that those post-it notes were there. I needed something that I was going to be actively using as opposed to having it there and it’s there.
Which is why I can’t really. The Google calendar where I have my schedule set up and just use that as my day-to-day let means to go look at that and figure out my day because I will stop looking at it. Whereas if I look at, if I make a, if I make a conscious decision, in the morning. Okay, this is gonna be a part of my routine.
I look at it, yes. But not only am I looking at it, I’m transcribing it, I’m writing it down, I’m reading it once, I’m writing it down. So I’ve typed it in, I’ve read it, I’ve written it down. So that’s already three repetitions. And so it’s, and then, so there might be another repetition in there for me when I go and review it again in a couple of hours.
Oh, what’s next on my list? Okay. And so I’ll be looking at it again. Throughout the day, I’m looking at that trans, I’m going through that process maybe 6, 7, 8 times a day.
Chris: So does your, do your daily meetings then show up in your eating tablet as well?
Thomas: Or are you still looking? Google. Okay. So you, I can, but it’s not a very, that process because it’s, yeah, that process isn’t very good.
It can be. , but it’s not done very well. So I prefer and also because if it’s already automatically on there, I run the risk again of just completely ignoring it after a while. . So I make it a point that I have to transcribe it and yeah.
Chris: So it’s really like setting up your day for success.
The appointments are in the system of record, which is your Google calendar, but you’re bringing them front to mind by putting them in your EIN tablet and then going about your day based on the tablet. Okay. Can that get you those repetitions that you mentioned of the number of times that you see or interact with it in order to commit it to.
Thomas: Yeah. And also it’s about simplification. For me I, what I’ve learned about me is that if it’s going to be, if it’s going to be complicated, I’m not gonna use it. , I tried using, I tried ha I tried starting tried different, I’ve tried using tab trackers. For a while. Yeah. That doesn’t take because it, it just, it’s just too much trouble for me for something that, what if get up and stretch, you know what, just get up and stretch as opposed to, oh, let me see at my tablet tracker, if I’ve been stretching lately.
It, it just doesn’t, it never really worked for me. But so I just got rid of that and I said, you know what? I’m just gonna make it a point where when I am taking my breaks, I. I do maybe, five minutes of stretching, get some oxygen back in and move on.
Chris: Just being mindful of what’s important to you and what you need to do.
Thomas: Yeah. And there are days where I forget and and I’m okay with that. And again, it’s, for me it’s, for me, it has ended up being more. being okay with myself and being okay with what I can do and what I can’t do. And appreciating when I can appreciating when I can do things.
And so number one, I’ve ended up becoming between my diagnosis, my, my fibromyalgia diagnosis, and now I’ve gotten a lot more pro productive. Which is a huge win for me. . But at the same time and because I understand that look, you’re being a lot more productive than you have been in the past, now, 15, 17 years.
So be okay with. and stop feeling guilty about it. And there are things that you aren’t gonna get done well, most of nine times outta 10. There are no fires in marketing. It can be done tomorrow.
Chris: Yeah, I think people of respect generally clear communication, honesty, man, and It sounds like you’re acting with intention, right?
So instead of trying to set the bar too high and being stressed and maybe failing and not meeting commitments to customers, you’re intentionally setting out the expectations and clearly communicating it. And yeah I believe. as a customer myself, I would be totally okay with that. Do you have tactics that you use for longer term thinking goal setting, that sort of thing?
And if so, how do you make sure that what you’re doing on a daily or weekly basis is moving those goals forward?
Thomas: Let’s say I want to do a website rebranding. and I know that’s a longer term goal and that part is okay. So I don’t need to write that long term goal down. And for me, looking at it too far out is, doesn’t really help me.
So a kind of taking a page out of that secret six process, it is just that very short-term goal, turning that short-term goal into. Items that I put into my repository, . So I’m always doing something that is working towards it, but not stressing myself out that it needs to get done. Oh, this needs to happen in two months.
This needs to happen in three months. It’s fuzzy. I want to get, I want to get to it by, say six months. . Okay, here are the, here’s my steps. And so I can just say, okay, here’s the first step. Here’s the next step. Here’s the step after that. . And then just tackling those items. One nice big goal.
And then here’s the breakdown of all the things that need to happen for that to happen. Okay? These are individual tasks and I’m just gonna tackle them one by one. You Now that being said, I have. . I have the benefit and luxury of doing that because Koyoti is my company, so the deadlines I set are the deadlines I set and it’s not being set by somebody else.
The process is going to be slower, but again, fibromyalgia. God learned to take it easy. Let’s not go crazy here. When you do have good days, do a few more when you have bad days. Okay? Do a little bit less. , as long as the clients are taken care of. And again, taking care of a client for me might be.
I will respond to this tomorrow. Or what have you. And just laying it out that way just to, at any point in time, buying myself more time and also relieving stress. Getting my team to help out with different things so that I have less on my plate getting, bringing in other team members for certain tasks.
So that, again more time and more time is taken off of my plate. So anytime I can think of ways to do that, I try to do it’s management of this thing called fibro. It’s I don’t wish it on my, my, my worst enemy. But I’m very, I count my blessings because like I said, mine is already minor.
I’m a part of a few online groups where they do talk about other people who have fibromyalgia. and some of those stories are horrific. They, there’s, there are days where they just days at a time when they cannot get anything done. , and getting out of bed is a, is. Is that is the struggle for the day.
And I have had a couple of those, but I have, I’m fortunate that it’s not a regular thing for me and, but I keep telling people as well, we gotta celebrate the wins even if they’re small. Sometimes the biggest win of my day is getting out of bed and I have to pat myself on the back on it, and it might not be anything to you, but I got out of bed today and I feel good.
Chris: That, that’s huge. That’s a, I love that mindset. Celebrate the winds, keeps us going, doesn’t it?
Thomas: And also if you if you look back at those wins and again, taking stock like we were talking about, right? Sometimes it’s wow, I actually, that’s a lot that, that, that happened that I have to be, that I should be celebrating.
Chris: Thomas, thanks so much for sharing your productivity journey with us with. Productivity tactics that work with fibromyalgia, with the side of A D H D.
Thomas: Happy to do it. And ha thank you. Thank you for having me on. Hopefully it helps a couple people or at least gives them something to think about.
But it’s it’s a journey and one that we’re all on. And yeah. And hopefully this has been helpful to you.
Chris: So I’d like to invite you to, More specifically about who your business serves and who’s who should reach out to you and how they can do that. My
Thomas: background is in brand strategy and brand management and my family.
I come from a long line of small business owners, my grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles, all with their respective small businesses. And I’ve spent time, I’ve spent over 10 years with my va, my parents’ small business. So my understanding and my clients are small business owners because I understand the lack of resources that small business owners are facing.
And what really has driven me is that small business owners are too often piecemealed information. And so that’s where, that’s the people that I’d like to help. People who are confused, overwhelmed. With their marketing strategy, with their brand strategy, so that small business owners can thrive as a business person.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber, if you’re a coach, if you’re if you have a restaurant or a retail shop, you should be spending time, your resources, your personal resources on things that are making you money. If you’re finding that you’re spending more. On marketing, on branding, it’s not sticking and you’re, again, you’re confused or overwhelmed, or you want some more information.
Yeah, feel free to reach out. Always happy to talk about marketing and best way to reach out to you. We’re on a podcast and we do also have a podcast and a podcast of our own. Just reach out to podcast coyote.com. That’s K O Y O T i.com and I’m sure you’ll have that in the show notes, so you sure will.
Chris: It’ll be there. Yeah. Thanks so much, Thomas. I really appreciate learning about your journey.
Thomas: Thank you, Chris.