Have you ever been starstruck? Maybe you’ve run into a celebrity and taken a selfie with them or went backstage at a your favorite artist’s concert? Well, that’s how I feel today - but instead of an actor or musician, I'm starstruck by one of the top productivity experts in the world, Michael Sliwinski! He is the founder and CEO of Nozbe, a productivity software company. In the past 10 years Nozbe (pronounced nose + bee) has served nearly half a million people and is available in 10 languages! It is designed to encourage users to DO more and MANAGE less. Not only does Michael develop software and run a productivity company, he also has written books, is the editor of Productive! Magazine and hosts a podcasts (The Podcast) and is getting ready to release a brand new book, 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity!
I have been fortunate to help with the launch of Michael’s upcoming book, and recently had the opportunity to interview him. I had a million questions about how he got to what seems to be the pinnacle of productivity, and his answers gave me hope that my quest for order in my life is achievable! What struck me most about Michael was his dedication to family and self-care. In a world where we often feel judged by how busy we are and how many things we accomplish, Michael explains how he stays grounded, “My family is more important to me than anything else in the world, and that is my source of infinite love, acceptance and happiness.” He credits his loving parents with inspiring his entrepreneurial spirit. He proves his dedication to his wife and three young daughters by spending time with them daily. Michael also finds taking care of himself essential to staying productive. This includes at least 7 hours of sleep each night, physical activity for fun and exercise, keeping a gratitude journal, and reading the Bible every morning. Here’s a guy who speaks 4 languages fluently (and can communicate in 3 others), with two degrees, several books, popular podcasts, a couple of blogs, a productivity video course AND a successful company-- and he is making himself and his family a priority everyday! Putting family and self first may actually be what leads to his continued success.
"My family is more important to me than anything else in the world, and that is my source of infinite love, acceptance and happiness."
Obviously, to accomplish all of this, Michael has to be productive, but not just in a check-things-off-of-a-to-do-list kind of way. In his words, being more productive means to “automate things, work smarter instead of working harder and save time for what’s truly important.” The passion for productivity seemed to follow Michael until it was at the core of who he was. After college and a couple of failed online startups, Michael worked as a freelance e-commerce and marketing consultant, but struggled to keep up with the amount of work he had coming in from clients. He discovered the GTD methodology (Getting Things Done by David Allen) which suited him, but he needed a tool to apply it. Taking after his father, Michael had an interest in computers, so he dedicated one weekend to building a very simple web-based program and just never stopped improving it. Nozbe got a great initial reaction from the U.S. productivity community, who liked the ease of use, but Michael worked on his passion project only after a full day’s work at his consulting business for a whole year before his “side hustle” became his full-time focus.
Over the past decade, Michael has continued to improve his productivity as his company and client base has grown. He “reads” about 30 books per year - he discovered audio books and now listens to non-fiction, business and productivity-related books (and the occasional Grisham novel) while on the move - even while skiing! Michael is also an avid tech and productivity podcast listener and enjoys shows like ATP, The Tim Ferriss Show, Beyond the ToDo List, The Model Health Show. He welcomes lessons from other experts to help him achieve the universal dream of having “...tasks under control, stress level low and being able to spend as much time as possible on the stuff they like and with the people they care about.” Michael said, “...after reading Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, I decided to trim my project list and concentrate on what is really meaningful to me. It helps! And I promise - the removed items come back in nightmares pretty rarely.”
Michael didn’t only develop the Nozbe software, he and his team all USE it. Michael is from Poland but because he promotes a “no office” work style, his Nozbe team spans the globe. He’s long believed that a commute to work not only wastes time, but also hinders many other aspects of life. It’s important to him that his employees are able to work remotely to save time, be able to focus, and not have to move from their local community to earn a good wage. The Nozbe motto is, “Work is not a place to go, It’s a thing that you do.” The entire company uses and communicates through tasks in Nozbe. Does that sound like something you’d like to try at work? He suggests that companies start small as they dip their toes into the world of telecommuting and stresses that remote workers need tools to help them “get stuff done.” His team relies on cloud services like Nozbe and Dropbox so everyone can access shared resources wherever they are.
Nozbe’s sounding pretty interesting, isn’t it? The basics of the software are this: You create projects with as many individual tasks as necessary. Each project can be shared with team members (even those who don’t have a current Nozbe account) and everyone can comment on a task in various formats including text, Evernote notes, and Dropbox files. Even if you don’t have a team to collaborate with, it’s a fantastic tool to keep all your tasks organized. Color coding projects and creating labels and categories help to easily filter your tasks so you can even keep work and personal items in the same system. You can forward emails to a special address, and tasks will automatically be created. If you prefer a calendar view, you can assign due dates to individual tasks. Nozbe is available across all platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iPad and iPhone) and syncs between devices. All data is encrypted and stored securely. Michael is proud of a feature that Nozbe DOESN’T have - that’s the ability to create sub-project after sub-project. “We’re strongly against too much hierarchy, so we try to keep our project and task structure as flat and as lean as possible….[users] appreciate how easy it is to get stuff done when you’re focused on doing tasks rather than re-arranging them all the time.” If you’re looking for a way to get more organized and be more productive in 2018, check out a free 30 day trial of Nozbe here. I've been using it for years and love how easy it is to use!
To wrap up, I asked Michael for his best productivity “hack," and he said, “planning your day in advance, defining most important tasks for the next day and trying not to get distracted before getting them done.” If you’ve been studying productivity for a while or if you’re brand new to trying to get the right things done in less time, this suggestion is such a good one because it provides focus for what really matters instead of allowing the little things to bog us down! Michael gathered up this and more of his best advice in his new book 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity. It’s a guide for total beginners with productivity theory, a ready-to-use toolbox, and serves as a step-by-step manual using 10 simple action steps. The book will be available early this year on Amazon. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available! If you have any questions about Nozbe, feel free to include them in the comments or submit through the contact page. I'm a longtime user and would be happy to share my experience with you.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!