My Toolbox: Productivity

My Toolbox: Productivity

I can remember as a little boy being fascinated with my Dad’s tools. He’s talented when it comes to woodworking so I had the opportunity to watch him firsthand use those tools to build some really cool stuff, like a marble roller. (It’s much cooler than it sounds and that woodworking masterpiece provided hours and even years of entertainment.) 

My parents even bought me a kid’s tool belt with a plastic hammer and screwdriver that I could wear as I “assisted” my dad on those projects. You may have had one like it.

Tools are important to any project, whether that be woodworking or leadership. If you don’t have the right tool or don’t know how to utilize the tool correctly, your leadership will suffer and will not be as effective as you would like it to be.

I’ve seen too many well-meaning leaders who have the vision and passion for leadership, but don’t take the time to assemble and learn the tools they need to maximize their leadership potential. Most of the time these tools are not sexy, but they are vital to a leader’s success.

So over the next two weeks, I’m going to open up my personal “toolbox” and show you some of the practical tools, programs, and apps I use on a regular basis that help me be an effective leader, small business owner, husband, and friend. 

Today, I’m focusing on productivity.


Productivity 101

I’m a self-proclaimed productivity nerd. My goal is to be efficient with tasks so I can be effective with people. I wouldn’t be able to be efficient if I didn’t have productivity tools to help me remember tasks, minimize the time I spend on email, and serve as a catalyst for getting things done. 

Maybe you’re new to this topic. Maybe not. But before I dive into these tools, let me give you a crash course on productivity. Productivity 101, if you will.

The most influential resource for my productivity is David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. Here are some of the basics:

There are three basic avenues for effective productivity:

    1. Inbox: Any avenue that collects information (email, physical mailbox, text messages, etc.)
    2. Project/Task Management: The place where you actually get the work done (checklist on a piece of paper or something more complex like a digital task management system)
    3. Filing System (Reference): The place where you store information to retrieve later (physical filing cabinet, notes app on your phone, etc.

These three avenues or systems need to communicate efficiently, and ideally you want to be able to move information and projects seamlessly through each one.

The reason you need three distinct systems is because each one has different strengths. Your email inbox is a great place for communicating and receiving information but it doesn’t make a good project/task management system because you can’t prioritize those emails or tasks very easily. In the same way, your project/task management system isn’t a good filing system because you want to be able to “check off” or delete projects and tasks once you complete them, so you are only seeing what needs to get done. (Who doesn’t love the feeling of checking something off a list?)

This chart from David Allen shows how these 3 systems work together:


Now that you know my productivity philosophy (aka David Allen’s), here are the two apps I use the most for helping me stay productive:



Nozbe is my task management system. My favorite aspect about Nozbe is that it’s simple to use. You can start using it after only 5 minutes of downloading it/setting it up. Yet it doesn’t lose its power in its simplicity. 

Here are some other aspects I like about Nozbe:

    1. Inbox (Emails and Text Messages): I can forward emails directly into Nozbe and create a task right from my email inbox. (I can also take screenshots of text messages that I need to respond to and upload them directly into Nozbe.)
    2. Priority: Nozbe easily lets me create projects and then tasks underneath those projects. I can “star” them, which automatically puts those tasks on my priority list. Then, I can sort those priority tasks and put the highest priority at the top.
    3. Calendar: Nozbe syncs with my Google Calendar so any tasks that have specific due dates automatically sync to my calendar.
    4. Categories: This is probably the most powerful feature in Nozbe. I can create a customized “category” list and then assign categories to each task. I can also filter my priority list based upon that category. For example, let’s say I’m about to get in my car and run some errands. That is prime time for me to knock some tasks off my list (redeem that time in the car.) I can filter my priority list with the category “phone” and this shows all of the phone calls I have to make. Perfect – now I know what I can do while I’m driving. Or, let’s say I sent out 20 emails and now I’m wondering who hasn’t replied back. I can filter my list by “waiting-for” and see all of those emails. I can quickly follow-up on those emails with the filtered list.



Evernote is my digital brain. I use it as a filing cabinet, project management system, and content calendar for my blog. Again, I value simplicity, which is why I use Evernote. It can be used in a matter of minutes after downloading. (And they have a free version so you can test it out before deciding if you want to pay for their more robust features.) 

Here is why I like Evernote:

    1. Inbox:Just like Nozbe, I can email directly into Evernote. If I receive an email with some key information from a client that I want to remember, I can directly send it from my inbox. Or if there is an attachment that I want to save I can shoot that over to Evernote. 
    2. Digital Filing Cabinet: Evernote lets you create “notebooks” that contain multiple “notes.” Think of notebooks like a file folder and notes like the actual files inside that folder. With Evernote, I can put text, pictures, videos, and audio files all inside a note. What makes Evernote really powerful is its search function. You can take a picture or screenshot of a quote and Evernote can read the words of that quote from your picture. Amazing!
    3. Scanning: Evernote has a scanning feature inside the app which is great for loose paper information that you want to digitize.
    4. Business Cards: In my opinion, Evernote is a must for business card storage. You can scan the business card in Evernote and create a digital file. Plus Evernote will create a contact on your phone if you want it to. 
    5. Tags: I already mentioned the power of Evernote’s search. But “tags” make that search even more powerful. Just like categories in Nozbe, I can create a customizable list of tags and then tag notes. I use tags for helping me create content for public speaking events, training workshops, and blogging. For example, let’s say I am speaking at a conference called IAAPA Expo 2020 (which I really am, by the way). I can create a tag for that conference “IAAPA 2020” and then every time I read or see something that would be great for that speaking engagement, I can create a note in Evernote and then tag it with “IAAPA 2020.” When it comes time for me to prepare for my session, I can search “IAAPA 2020” and find all the quotes, illustrations, and other pieces of information for that speaking engagement. 

I could talk all day about Nozbe and Evernote. (I told you I’m a productivity nerd.) But I’ll refrain for all of our sakes. :) 

If you would like to learn more about the apps and programs in my toolbox, check out my brand new Resources page. Here I include the productivity apps listed above, my website and blogging tools, and some of my favorite books. 


Game Plan

When you think about your inboxes, project/task management system, and filing system, which one of those areas is hindering your productivity? Review David Allen’s chart above and focus on one of those areas to make yourself more efficient.


Tweetable Lesson

The Secret to Effectively Leading Others

The Secret to Effectively Leading Others

Think about a person who has significantly influenced your life. Someone you would consider a mentor or personal hero. Do you have that person’s name and face in your mind?

Now, I want you to think about how that person influenced your life. What did they do to have such significant influence or leadership in your life? Check out today’s video for the secret to effectively leading others.


Game Plan

Think about this question (and then go and do!): Who do you need to spend more time with in your life? 

PS – If you’re interested in learning more about leading others well, especially those of you who either manage people in the workplace or contribute to your company culture, I invite you to attend Part 3 of our free Summer Webinar Series: The New-Norm Employee Experience: 5 Essentials for Creating a Healthy and Effective Team Culture. It will be a great time to talk through how we can lead others well in both a season and an environment that is different than what we’re used to. You can join me by registering here.

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The Secret to Accomplishing Your Goals

The Secret to Accomplishing Your Goals

What does chopping down a tree with an axe have in common with accomplishing your goals? Find out in today’s Your Leadership Coach video, where Shawn shares the secret to accomplishing any goal.


Game Plan

Think about a big goal that you want to accomplish. What one or two actions can you take on a daily or weekly basis that, over time, will help you reach your goal?
Looking for an affordable way to continue to work on your own personal development during the pandemic (and beyond)? We’ve released YLC+, an affordable, monthly subscription-based online accountability and virtual coaching program. I don’t know about you, but after the last several months, I am longing for more community…so let’s go after it together! Our goals are not accomplished without some sort of accountability. Let me know what you’re working toward these days! Find out more at   

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The Connection Between Social Media and Making a Difference

The Connection Between Social Media and Making a Difference

In the span of about 10 years, social media has moved from “that up-and-coming site that some college students use” to “everyone has a social media account including your 90 year old grandmother.” (True story.) 

Like it or not, social media has become an integral part of our life. However, as with any new technology, there have been challenges and even negative effects with the rise of social media.

Now I’m not against social media. It’s amoral. The strengths and weaknesses of social media come from our motives and how we use it.

With that being said, how do we, as leaders and people wanting to make a difference in this world, interact with social media in a way that enhances and not hinders our ability to influence others?

Here are a few thoughts:


Be Vital, Not Viral

I didn’t coin that phrase, but I really like it. Too many times, we (that’s including me) use social media to try to appeal to the masses. The problem is that our posts get lost in the information overload that all of us are experiencing because everyone is trying to do the same thing. There’s a paradox when it comes to mass market appeal (aka viral). It doesn’t happen when you are trying to appeal to the masses. It happens when you shrink the size of your audience and “focus on a small group or tribe,” as Seth Godin says.

As leaders, we need to shift our focus from going viral to adding value (being vital). That’s how you make a difference in the lives of others. And if your post or video happens to go viral then, as we say in Louisiana, “that‘s lagniappe.” 


Be Yourself

How do we shift our focus to adding value? Be real. Many people try to craft a different persona through their social media account. The problem is that those who know you see right through it. They notice the duplicity between your virtual self and your real self. 

Today, authenticity and transparency are highly valued and key ingredients to effective influence. Close the gap between your virtual and actual self.


Be Discerning

Some people don’t struggle with social media hypocrisy, but they might swing the pendulum the other way and share too much. Social media is always public and permanent. No matter what privacy settings you have set, most posts eventually get on the internet for all to see. Within the last few years, there have been athletes, politicians and other celebrities who have been at the center of controversy for posts that were made years and years ago. 

So think before you tweet (or post.) Assume that everybody is going to see your post (including your 90 year old grandmother) and edit accordingly. 


Be Known (outside of social media)

For some people social media has become the number one way they connect with people. The problem is that as humans we were made for face-to-face connection and community. I’ll admit, the pandemic has made this tougher and for some, the only way to connect with others is virtually and that’s alright. But, when possible, we need to have family and friends who truly know us beyond our virtual/social media persona. People who know our successes, fears, dreams, and insecurities. Your social media community cannot provide that as effectively as your actual community.


Be Present

One of the insecurities that social media has really tapped into is Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). We feel as though we need to be constantly connected with our social media networks and always “on.” The problem is that we tend to miss out on what’s happening right in front of us. 

People who add value to their spheres of influence do so through engaging with others in 1:1 and small group meetings. In a lot of ways this point is a summary of everything else I’ve already shared. Make a difference in your non-social media, non-virtual life and then use social media and virtual community as a platform to share what you are doing in real life. That’s how you use social media to make a difference in this world. 


Game Plan

Choose one day a week to have a social media fast. You may have to start with just an hour or a half a day. But instead of killing time by scrolling through feeds, pick one of these: read a book, call a friend, or simply just sit in silence and think. 


Tweetable Lesson


The Difference Between Leadership and Management

The Difference Between Leadership and Management

I just recently added another category to our Your Leadership Coach blog. That category is Management. (To learn more about why I added this category and the purpose of the categories on this blog, check out the update here.)

For some, it may seem repetitious to have a leadership category and a management category. Many people (including me at times), use these words interchangeably. However, there is a fundamental difference between leadership and management, and the sooner we recognize this the more effective we will be at leading and managing.

To start our conversation on leadership and management, I think Stephen Covey best illustrates the difference by this analogy in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is also in my top 2 favorite leadership books of all time):

“You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies, and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ‘Wrong jungle!’ But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? ‘Shut up! We’re making progress.’”

Do you see the difference? Here are some of the characteristics of leadership and management: 

The main characteristics of good leadership are…



My favorite definition of leadership comes from John Maxwell when he says that “leadership is influence.” Leadership is not about a job title or a position. People can’t “give you” leadership. It’s something that you earn. Leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate others to act, to realize their dreams, to pursue self-development, etc. 



How do leaders inspire and motivate? Through their vision. They understand that people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A great leader knows both their personal vision or purpose in this life and also the vision or desired culture for their team and/or organization. They influence, inspire, or create a following through personally embodying their vision and publicly proclaiming it. 



Perhaps the biggest difference between leadership and management is people. Leadership is specifically about others. Your vision is not meant to be kept for yourself. It’s meant to inspire others to become the best versions of themselves. The only way a leader can accomplish this is through empathy and building trust. 

As I’ve heard it said, “be effective with people and efficient with tasks.” And that’s where leadership ends and management begins. 


The main characteristic of good management is…



Managers focus on the ROI. How do they get the most out of their people and systems? How do they work smarter and not just harder? How can they multiply their efforts?

The three areas that effective managers focus on when it comes to efficiency are: 

  1. Time
  2. Meetings (1:1s, team, corporate, etc.)
  3. Systems (task management, communication like email or Slack, CRMs, etc.)


Why is it important to know the difference between leadership and management?

Management without leadership lacks purpose. Leadership without management lacks productivity. You need both to be successful whether personally or professionally. 



Game Plan

Most people are either more naturally gifted at leadership or management, but usually not both. 

  1. Recognize which one (leadership or management) you are most gifted in. Ask your friends. Take a strengths or personality assessment. I recommend StrengthsFinder 2.0 and/or the Enneagram.
  2. Focus on one strength to refine (whether that be in leadership or management). 
  3. Recognize one weakness from the area you are naturally gifted in (leadership or management) and get that weakness to par or average.


If you are interested in some coaching on how to develop your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses, check out our coaching programs here. We offer a wide variety of options, including 1:1 coaching, coaching cohorts, and our brand new virtual coaching called YLC+


Tweetable Lesson



7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)

StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup)

The Road Back to You (a book on the Enneagram by Cron & Stabile)

Coaching Programs & Resources