PreneurCast is a business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.
This week, Dom talks with Kourosh Dini, psychiatrist and author of Workflow: Beyond Productivity, about his new book. They take a behind-the-scenes look at optimal workflow, covering topics like defining tasks, managing focus, and mastery of a subject.
Dom talks to Kourosh on how to define a task and mastering a subject
Read it now.Hide it.
Conversation with Kourosh Dini
Dom Goucher: Welcome everybody to this, the 99th episode of PreneurCast. With me, Dom Goucher and him, Pete Williams.
Pete Williams: I’ve got 99 problems but a podcast ain’t one. Terrible Jay-Z reference.
Dom: Okay, what’s even worse is I haven’t got a clue what you were talking about.
Pete: Oh, dude. Well, really cool. Actually speaking of Jay-Z, in a few weeks’ time I’ve actually got a conversation scheduled with Zack O’Malley Greenburg who wrote a recent biography on Jay-Z about his business life, which is going to be really cool. I’m really looking forward to that conversation. That’s an upcoming episode of the show. But yes, it’s a rap song that Jay-Z sung called 99 Problems and it was very popular.
Dom: Out there in the real world.
Pete: You white guy living in Spain, you.
Dom: Yeah, dude, me and the real world, we. No, only thinly associated. This whole conversations with the rich and famous thing’s getting a bit out of hand really, Mr. Williams. Case in point, this week we have a conversation for the listeners with Kourosh Dini who some of you may remember from previous podcasts.
We talked about his previous book. He wrote a book about OmniFocus. And he’s written a new book. However, Mr. Williams was too busy to fit in a chat with Kourosh in line with Kourosh’s schedule and in line with our publication’s schedule for the podcast. So I had to do it.
Pete: Well, I also think that you were the person who first sort of, I guess, introduced me to Kourosh’s work. You obviously read his original book and was a big fan of that book, so I also thought that it was a great fit with you as well because you’ve probably devoured much more of his content than I actually have too.
Dom: Okay, I was actually trying to kind of avoid that. But I really can’t because when you listen to the interview, it’s patently obvious that, yes, I was quite excited by the opportunity to talk to Kourosh.
Pete: You “fanboy,” you.
Dom: “Fanboy” is actually the word that I used. I admitted it. I was open and upfront about it. Yeah, it’s a great chat, which we’ll get to in a minute. But it’s been a bit of a workflow, OmniFocus, productivity-kind of few weeks for us. Pete and I have both got advanced access to the new version of OmniFocus.
Pete: It’s actually quite funny. I got mine recently and the first time we spoke after I received my alpha access I answered the call going, “I’ve got OmniFocus 2, I’ve got OmniFocus 2,” thinking that I was really cool. And then you turned around and went, “Dude, I’ve had it for two and a half weeks.” So that pulled the air out of my balloon very quickly.
Dom: It’s a rare occasion that it happens, but I do relish it when I can.
Pete: Kourosh’s new book.
Dom: Kourosh’s new book.
Pete: It’s about getting things done.
Dom: Well, it’s called Workflow: Beyond Productivity. As I mention in the interview, Kourosh and I talk about this, it’s a little bit misleading in my opinion, because it’s not a traditional workflow or productivity book. It’s almost like you should put air quotes around the word productivity.
Because to me, it’s much more than a lot of these books that have been published in the last few years. Productivity is a bandwagon that everybody has got on. There’s blogs about it. There’s books about it. There’s magazines about it. There’s all kinds of things – workflow, productivity, time management. It’s a big thing, yeah. A lot of it is just rehashed stuff that we’ve all talked about.
We’ve all heard about from home truths and basic common sense that our parents have told us right the way up to real genuine stuff that you and I have a lot of respect for. Things like the Getting Things Done model by David Allen. And again, this comes up a lot when I talk to Kourosh. But to me, this book – it’s a big old book. It’s 570 pages. It’s a digital book.
And you get it in all the different formats, which is great because when I loaded it on my iPad and I loaded it in the, whatever the technical EPUB or MOBI or whatever format it is, proper e-reader format that you choose, those formats allow you to mark up the text and highlight and make notes, which is really, really useful.
It’s something that we do ever since we spoke to our friend from Read It For Me who talks about doing that. And half of this thing is yellow with notes because as I was reading through this, what Kourosh does in this book is not talk about any one particular strategy for workflow or productivity.
He actually talks about the concepts behind it – the real meaning of things. I’ll give you an example, people, to focus on and listen out for, and it’s all to do with all these things that we know. If you follow GTD [Getting Things Done], like Pete and I do, there’s a lot of concepts in there, a lot of terms that we talk about.
Things like context and inbox, and things like that; tags, things. If you’re a GTD follower you read the book, he says this is the context. You go “Okay,” and you carry on. But if you have a problem with any of that because you don’t quite get it or you don’t quite see it the same way as him, then you might get a sticking point with GTD, and that’s something that I personally did.
What I found with Kourosh’s book is that he actually explains those concepts from base principles. Now, from base principles there’s something Pete that you and I talk about a lot. About understanding the true origins of something – the real “why”. And this is something again Kourosh talked about.
It’s almost like there’s so much more that we could have gotten out, but we were short on time because he talks about base principles, he talks about understanding the “why.” And we touch very briefly on “mastery,” a topic again that we’ve talked about on the podcast in the past.
Pete: With Robert Greene.
Dom: Exactly, Robert Greene’s book. So, it was almost like a collection of all the things that we’ve talked about, all the books and things that we’ve made reference to, and the concepts and principles. It’s all in this book. It’s just a huge book about all these things. But it’s not a “be all and end all” book. It’s not like “follow this workflow that’s in Kourosh’s book” kind of situation.
And in a way, he says himself in the book – that was what his Creating Flow with OmniFocus book was about. That was a book about a particular way to use OmniFocus and a particular technique and series of steps that he recommends. This book started out as an explanation of where all that came from. It just evolved.
Pete: Fantastic. Well, it’s a good read. It’s a great interview. Should we get into it?
Dom: Yup, well, I’ll let you do that because otherwise you’ll hear me twice.
Pete: Here’s Dom interviewing Kourosh.
Dom: You do that so well.
[Dom’s conversation with Kourosh starts]
Dom: Hi Kourosh, and thanks again for making time to join us on the show today.
Kourosh Dini: Hi Dom, thank you very much for having me on.
Dom: I always find it strange when people thank us for having them on the show. We have such great people come on and take times out of their day to add value and share their thoughts. We’re always grateful. But they come on, “thank you very much.” I like it when it’s a mutual exchange.
Dom: Now, I have to confess something. I’m going to confess this to you. The rest of the show audience already know this and are totally aware. Pete and I are both massive fans of the OmniFocus product and when your first book came out, Pete and I almost clashed in the mid-ether with an e-mail of excitement about this new book that we’d found.
Your first book, in this space anyway, we’ll come back to that in a second, which was Creating Flow with OmniFocus. And Pete was excited because somebody had actually made OmniFocus real-world and given real examples. And I was excited because somebody had thought more than just about the features and functionality of OmniFocus, and was thinking more about the bigger picture.
So when we heard about your second book, again more e-mails clashed in the ether. So it’s fair to say I’m a bit of a “fanboy.” It may come across. I apologize if this embarrasses you, but Pete has his little foibles. Recently Pete had a big old conversation with Dan Norris from Inform.ly, a data service. And Pete is a data fiend.
He loves data. And you could hear the excitement in his voice whenever he talks about data. But for me, personal productivity, workflow, optimal performance – that kind of stuff – that’s the thing I love. So, ostensibly we wanted to get you on the show to talk about your new book which is called Workflow: Beyond Productivity.
But secretly I just wanted to have a chat with you. Because having read two books – I’m just fascinated. I just really want to kind of meet you, catch up and just have a general chat.
Kourosh: Well, I’m very excited that you enjoyed the books. That’s wonderful. Writing is such a solitary activity that you have no idea – “Okay, is this useful? Is this not useful? Is this – make any sense whatsoever?” It’s all such a solitary thing that it’s wonderful to hear when yourself or whomever enjoys the words. So I’m happy.
Dom: I can appreciate that. Pete and I regularly ask on the podcast for people to give us feedback. But even unprompted we get feedback on the podcast. And even positive and negative, we feel that, we really appreciate that people are out there and giving us some feedback. We know that we’re doing something right or that we’re having an effect.
Now, before we get into all of your books, could you just talk a little bit about yourself and your background? Because you’re not the traditional author of books; the OmniFocus book came out of nowhere for me. Could you just give a little bit of background about yourself?
Kourosh: Sure. I’ve always had a big interest in technology and science, and kind of the hard sciences. But then I deviated, I like to say I made a hard left turn towards med school, and I went into psychiatry. So I am now a practicing psychiatrist, but I also do a lot of therapy work, and that’s most of what I do.
But then throughout it all, I had also been a musician. I’ve been playing music since I was five and never stopped – every day, keep doing it. I’ve always had this sort of blend of several things going on. And really, the centerpiece of any and all my books or creative works is fundamentally the interface between the mind and technology.
For some reason it keeps coming back to the central, even more central than that, is the concept of play. So, if you read any of the books that I’ve written, that’s always a center theme with any of them. I guess if I had to summarize myself, it would be about finding that sense of play within life and what that’s about.
Dom: Cool. You say about the play, now that really is the opening statement of your book Workflow: Beyond Productivity, and it does carry all the way through. It’s the thing that carries all the way through. It’s interesting to me because as I read the book you talk about – and let me just try and put this in a frame and maybe you can give me your perspective of what you had in mind with it.
But to me, it’s a potentially misleading title. Now I have this thing with potentially misleading titles, and I’ve mentioned it before on a number of occasions. A long time ago I was referred the book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, a book that you make reference to along with many, many others that I’ve read many times.
When I finally got around to reading it, I was shocked at what the book was actually about, because the title didn’t help me. I thought all kinds of things. Pete and I have had a conversation about this before. And I think with your book, Workflow: Beyond Productivity, it’s important to read the entire title.
It is about beyond productivity. It’s the bigger picture. So anybody picking this book up thinking, “Wow, this is about workflow or systems.” What a lot of the buzzword authors have put together in the past – that’s not it.
Kourosh: I wanted to find some central principles behind the workflow. And any of these sorts of methods, ‘Agile Results,’ or ‘Getting Things Done,’ or any of these sorts of ideas – they all have various components of the workflow described in different terminology. And so I was looking for what is the underlying structure of any and all of these?
And in that process, I realized that it became a deeper thing than productivity itself. You can see how certain of these systems kind of are highlighted by various aspects of the workflow. For example, the Getting Things Done, one of the central ideas, if not the central idea, at least as I interpret it – is this idea of getting things off of your mind as being the organizing principle.
Everybody looks at it like, “Okay, let me implement this system so everything can be off my mind.” It’s more like, no, that’s the target. How are you going to devise the system in order to do that? That becomes, in my description of organization, this idea of trust, meaning a developed belief that something will continue behaving as it has been so that it can be relied upon.
That becomes this high, elegant, mature level of organization that you develop towards. So you could see that that’s kind of where that fits in there. Then something like, let’s say, Agile Results. You have a lot of this focus on outcome, which is a lot about vision. Vision is the one end of the potential of what an intention is.
An intention is this potential created between where your present experience is, and this vision which is this idea of what reality could be, but it is not presently. Agile Results is a codified scheduled way of developing that. So it’s like the underlying structure of a lot of these productivity ideas, but then I wanted to bring them all in concert.
They all needed to work together. It was a very long iterative process of developing all these sorts of ideas to make them all work together so the idea of vision works with intention or the idea of, what do I mean by present experience, or the concept of silence as a means of stopping what we’re doing, pausing, and getting into that.
And then on top of it, thinking about how do I make all of these ideas accessible too? When I just rattle them off like that, it’s kind of like, “What am I talking about?” But, having to pace it out at such a pace that, “I’ve got to make this accessible for the reader.” That’s kind of how things evolved.
Dom: Evolved is actually a good word, because you mention in the introduction of the book that it was originally intended as a corollary – something to go with your OmniFocus book, the book about flow with OmniFocus, because of all these extra concepts.
It was very interesting as I read that, it really resonated with me that there are all these different workflow systems. You do talk about many well-known systems, and also many well-known authors that you made reference to as well. It was like having a conversation with a friend when I was reading the book actually.
Mentioning all these authors that I’ve also read and all these concepts that I really like, like Getting Things Done. But when I was initially aware of Getting Things Done, it was fine for what it was. But there was something there – like a fundamental understanding – that maybe somebody who had been through it a few times and seen the light had got from it, but it wasn’t communicated upfront.
So there was always a bit of a disconnect with me. And I think a lot of people feel about that with these things. So, I can feel for you when you said that the book started out as a little side piece to go with that, and it’s turned into its whole book. And in fact, as you label it inside, it’s five books; which when I first opened it, I went “Wow, going to need to really allocate some time to that.”
Let’s not bury the headline; you do go into some depth in this book. This is not a light, fluffy, airy read. It’s a serious book, but I do like the way that you break these things down and you identify the concepts because that’s what I resonate with. It really is, as you say, a book to go with these other things.
You mentioned this in the book. Anybody that’s maybe tried to get into Getting Things Done or has got into it, but maybe tailed off because something wasn’t working out – there’s a part in your book, personally if somebody said that to me I’d be able to direct them to a section in your book and say, “You ought to read that bit.
And when you read that bit, I think you’ll have a better understanding of,” for example, the review habit. In Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the review habit. The review habit is really important. You should do it. That’s basically in rough summary and paraphrasing David Allen’s writings on the review habit.
But you actually explain why, and the positive reasoning and things like that. And I think maybe there’s a little bit of your psychology background coming in there, but I found it really helpful. As I read each piece and I could relate it to these other things, it helped me with those other pieces as well.
Kourosh: Excellent, so when you were reading it, it sounds like it helped to bolster the ideas. It helped to say, “Oh that’s why I’m doing it.”
Dom: That’s exactly it. It really did. Was that your intention as you were discovering these things and identifying them in these other systems? Were you just trying to present that information?
Kourosh: I think so. It’s this idea of distilling basics. This idea of taking whatever craft it is you want to get good at, and trying to think of what about it is most basic to my experience of that, and really bringing it down to those, “what are the fundamentals of this thing?” That’s what it was about Workflow.
The reason why that works, or the reason why that’s useful; I’m wondering if it worked for you in this regards, which was when you have an understanding of why, what the purpose is behind it, what the meaning is behind some of these things such as review, then you have more of a confidence towards doing it.
More of an understanding towards doing it, more of a different position towards scheduling it. And when you get up from, let’s say a review, to actually feel like “Yes, I’ve got a clear mind and this is why this is useful to me.” So you get into it more.
Dom: I can make you feel a lot better by saying yes, that’s absolutely what I got from it.
Dom: Seriously, to me the understanding of why is one of the fundamental elements of mastery. And mastery is something that you talk about in the book. And we’ve had a number of people on the show talk about mastery. To me, I never feel like I can fully implement something or I can fully make something my own until I understand it from those base principles.
Because otherwise, I’m kind of just copying or just doing because I’m told to. And I did feel that. It’s funny; I didn’t realize I was feeling that with Getting Things Done until I read your book. And then I read your book and I realized that some of the gaps were there.
And again, being slight fanboy, slight stroking of the ego, but your psychological background does, I think, come through, because of the depth that you go to with these things. Please don’t be offended, but I’m not sure that this is a book for everyone who’s looking on the bookshelf under the heading “workflow.”
But people who do want this mastery, who do genuinely want to be more efficient, more productive, I think will get some real deep insights. And one of the things that absolutely stood out to me and this is a 570-page book, according to my iPad which I read it on and marked basically every page.
But one of the things that stood out to me out of the entire thing was something that I would never ever have thought of in this context which is silence, and the importance of silence and the use of silence. It’s become now something that I’m very significantly aware of. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Kourosh: Sure, actually as you were describing what you’re coming away from the book with – I very much enjoy and appreciate the fact that it brings this sort of sense of yourself into the process, and I think that stems from the silence aspect. It’s important to study systems that exist.
But then being able to integrate that to where it works for you so that you can build it, you can do what you want to do with it, and a certain self-awareness that goes with it that, if this text has been able to impart that, in other words give you a sense of choice and agency and all that; then the book does what it’s supposed to.
That’s awesome. But yes, in terms of silence; silence is not silence as in a quiet room, although that can be helpful. It is the purposeful resting of attention on your present experience. It’s what’s on your mind. You can access it by simply pausing and pausing regularly.
Then you should be able to stop whatever it is you’re doing and essentially let go of the intention. Let go of the work. Let go of the project. Let go of just everything. The work you’ve done in building the session and building the environments that you can focus on the thing in front of you, will allow you to return to the work after this period of pausing and silence.
The reason why it’s so important, I can only guess on several of the reasons; but I think there’s more that I can’t even think of because it’s just harder to put them into words, is that it gives you this space and ability to go to things that you have not acknowledged.
It lets you think about the things that you are anxious about. It lets you think about the things that you desire. It lets you rethink the vision, the outcome. As meandering as it may seem that my words are being here, it’s really all accessible just by pausing.
Really where I got this from, in the intro I mentioned Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery, the book on playing music. Really it was very fundamental; equally, I’d say, moving to me as Getting Things Done or any of the productivity books or organization books, in that I think that’s where I picked up this idea from.
This idea of if you sit at the keys, if you sit at the piano, and you really want to play and really want to make it sound great and want this and want that, you’re going to mess it up. Unless you’ve got the practice and all that behind it. It’s more about, you need to let go of even the desire to play.
You need to take your hands off the keys and when you sense that certain, you could use the word “unconscious,” perhaps, “unacknowledged” aspect of wanting to play – that part of you that’s almost not quite yourself in that it’s really hard to describe unless you’re in it. Then that allows you to practice a different way.
That allows you to make good music, which is this idea of Effortless Mastery. That you can press the keys to the degree that it almost seems like you’re just not even doing it or that you can play a whole stretch of notes almost to the point where it feels like you’re not even doing it. That all comes from silence, that all comes from letting go of the intention, letting go of the thing in front of you.
Dom: Yeah, that speaks to the core of the book. This idea of play, and there’s a quote – and I think it was actually from Kenny’s book. I’ve got to ruffle through my notes, but they’re too extensive. About when a true master or true craftsman carries out their thing, they do it with that quiet smile because it’s not a challenge to them, it’s a joy.
Kourosh: Yeah, that’s like the centerpiece. That’s it right there.
Dom: Things that stood out to me, again, making this relationship with all these other concepts. Because this book to me, just to raise the level of language for a second; this to me is like a meta book, because it gave me a new perspective on, or reacquainted me with, a lot of these classic books that I’ve read in the past.
The book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I’ll move on quickly with a bad pronunciation; Josh Waitzkin’s book, The Art of Learning. All those books, you make reference to them, but you kind of add a perspective to the thing. And the silence, a good example and a practical one maybe the audience can relate to, you make reference to The Pomodoro Technique.
And roughly if anyone for any reason hasn’t come across this, it’s this idea of breaking your working time up into these chunks of time, 25 minutes at a go, five-minute break, four of those sessions, and you have a longer break. Now, I have a massive problem with The Pomodoro Technique on any given day. Sometimes it works really well for me, sometimes it doesn’t.
But your particular spin on that bringing in the silence part; not necessarily your particular actual use and the way that you personally reformed it, but just this idea of using the silence both before you start to have awareness of what you’re going to be doing, but also when you’re finished; the time to reflect on what you’ve done. But without this formal and rigid block in between that’s governed by some anomalous choice of time. The important part is the beginning and the end.
Kourosh: Yeah, I changed it to this idea of the closing technique; you need time to store the intentions. You need time to store the thing that you’re doing. And to the degree that it’s off your mind. That you need to be able to take, “I just did this, I did this.
And now for me to pick it up later and to bring my mind back to this sort of sado-mind as best as I can, I need to put this task over there. I need to write this thing over there. I need to put my references over there.” That all takes time. You need to buffer that time so that you’re not running into that with something else.
Let’s say you have to go somewhere in 20 minutes, give yourself that five, 10 minutes at the very end. Set the alarm so that you have that time to reflect to the degree that it’s off your mind. Get it off your mind. And then the next thing is free.
Dom: Absolutely, and I picked up little things like that throughout the whole book, where things with maybe I’ve struggled with but I didn’t realize I’d struggled with it. And it’s not just about getting things done. It’s not just about efficiency. It is about turning all this increased pressure on ourselves.
Because a lot of our audience, they may be dealing with a second business they’re trying to get started, or they’re dealing with a lot of information that comes into them. And adding in these systems and things like that, it’s a bit like your example of sitting at the piano willing yourself to play and straining and having that kind of overt pressure on yourself rather than being able to relax back.
What I’ve found with a lot of your examples and a lot of the concepts that you put forward were that it helped me just bridge those little gaps. For example, silence at the end of a session. And it’s something that you may have come across somewhere else.
Somebody else may have said it as, “You know when you’ve finished a job; you should tidy up after yourself.” And we all go, “Yes, Dad, of course” or “Yes, boss.” And it’s there in your mind, but the why isn’t always communicated. So we’re back to that why, the fundamental reasoning. I think you explain that very well in the book.
As you say, the gathering of what you’ve done, but also the transition between things. What I also got personally from the silence piece was that, my vice, I’m an inveterate task switcher. And it’s my one thing that I have to watch carefully. I have to close all my distractions – something that you talk about in the book.
I have to close all my distractions, I have to govern the time of day I check and respond to e-mails. All those things that I think just about everybody has an issue with. But the idea of the silence was great because it was like, “I’ve got to the end of my session.”
But even though I’ve got to the end of my session, I’m not immediately going to start another one or immediately going to go and do something else. It gives me that little breathing space that actually helps deal with fatigue. Helps deal with distraction. Helps deal, as you say, with just making sure that things are off your mind.
Kourosh: Yeah, it sounds like it also gives you maybe that sense of completion that’s needed to really do the next thing better and that same thing better. It gives you that sense of confidence. If you don’t have it, that’s when you start jumping from one thing to the next and the next, because you need to feel that. At least that’s the way I’m hearing.
Dom: I’m struggling now because I literally have pages of notes, I’m not joking. And I have to read the book another time, a second go, at least. It seems to be a book that I’m going to get more and more from as I go through it, and also as I find other things that I can relate back to the book.
But the core concepts I think is important – if you could kind of just help me highlight the core concepts that you’ve put in the book. Just a brief run through so people can get an understanding of the kind of things that you do talk about. Because I’ve been a little bit obtuse, I’ve said its title is Workflow: Beyond Productivity.
We’ve talked about that it’s about core concepts and it’s a meta book and things. But I think people might want to know what’s actually useful to them in there. So, the big takeaways for me; I’ve talked about this tiny thing about silence, which is actually a huge thing. But other things that you talk about, you talk about a concept of intention. And that’s such a core part of everything really.
Kourosh: Yeah, I’m actually going to go into the table of contents here so I can get my mind into the mindset for it. Actually before I jump into that, I do want to say that what it sounds like you’re getting from it, which is also, I think, like a centerpiece of it, is this idea that most of mastery is mastery of the basics.
And when you get that, that’s when you start to be able to express your own voice and things. It sounds like you’ve studied all these sort of different ways of being productive and you have your own system, but these little gaps were there. It sounds like more than just filling in those gaps.
Once those gaps were filled, you achieve a level of mastery that you can start building systems that mean something to you in a stronger way. So that’s what I’m hearing, and it makes me very happy to hear.
Dom: That’s a very good point. David Allen himself says in the book Getting Things Done you may read this book five or six times. You may read it over a period of time. I read it first more than five, maybe six years ago, and I’ve gone through it about once a year.
And each time I do, I develop a new level of understanding. And previously I’ve talked about this with Pete, we likened it to when you’re a student of martial arts, and he said of the martial arts, you’ll go right the way through to the black belt – highest level.
And then in a symbolic gesture you return to the first grade to go back through again, but with the eyes of somebody who’s got more understanding and learning. And what I found with your book is that it’s helped me, kind of, jump forward in that process.
Pete and I both like to think that we’re relatively well-organized people because of the number of things that we deal with. Pete’s kind of legendary for it. And I’m more of a student still in the growth of my knowledge. I’ve found some of these gaps and that means that maybe
I’m not so efficient with certain things or I don’t find a resonance with those things or whatever. But yet it is that self-expression thing. It’s that idea that once you have the confidence, another word that you’ve used – and it’s applicable to so many different things.
We’re talking about workflow. We’re talking about productivity. We’re talking about mastery. These are all topics for our audience that they’re all interested in. But it’s such a big topic.
Kourosh: Sure. The centerpiece – what I start off with in the major section – is the theory upon which everything rests is this idea that mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play. And so if anything, maybe if I were to re-title the book, it would have something about mastery and meaningful work.
But that would be something about – in the title. Although I’ve been through, I’ve got to say, like a hundred titles at least. Anyway, Book One is about intention and organization. What is an intention? It’s where are you now? Where do you want to be? And some sense of potential between.
Then I go into this idea of where you want to be is not always clear. And so that’s the idea of where you want to be is the vision. When it’s not clear then the process of resolving that vision is creativity itself. That creativity is that process. And in order to access creativity, play needs to be involved.
And it’s the same play that is a toddler’s play, and that play is also the zone, and it’s also the meditative mind state. It’s learning. It’s interaction and exploration of self and world. I go into some of that, and how that factors in and how that’s needed for mastering meaningful work.
That’s all well and good, but then okay, now what? If I’m just going to be goofing off in the corner and playing, then that won’t become stuff. Then I get into the idea, what is organization? When you approach organization from that, then organization becomes important and it’s something that you want to do in a way that’s about you.
It’s not about, “I’m just going to line things up this way because somebody told me to.” It’s about what are the fundamentals of organization? I go into these three pillars: that something is available when it’s relevant, it’s accessible when it’s relevant, and it’s avoidable when it’s irrelevant.
And then I go through, how does that make up organization and what are the details of that? How does storage get involved? How does maintenance get involved? I break it down, it’s a very kind of fine examples of all this. I could be wrong, but I think it’s one of the more difficult parts of the book because it seems like all of this is very widespread things.
I make the connection of organization to learning, that they’re not separate processes. That if organization is this support and clearing of a path for the development of an intention, then that means that the mind and the world are both part of that, and how actually organization often fails because of this lack of recognition of that.
‘How do you organize in a way that’s meaningful to you’ is this sort of section. Then I go through a few ideas of practice of that, and a session of organization. And I start seeing where I had the struggles in creating a book, is that a lot of these ideas are all interrelated.
Like a session of organization, I don’t describe session until later on. But for that reason I think it speaks to your point, Dom, that this idea that I think you have to go back over the book; you’ll gather more as you kind of revisit.
Dom: Certainly, things as we went through stood out to me more than others. That first section of first book is highly theoretical with some practical examples. And I do like the practical examples that you talk about and the ideas behind it, how you model the ideas – it’s great. It’s deeply theoretical, but important. It’s foundational.
Again, to almost keep saying the same thing, you’re not talking about anything particularly new and I can see a lot of common concepts like things from Getting Things Done; things from other organizational systems are reflected in what you’re saying. It’s just that the way that you’re talking about them, I think, will resonate with people if they have struggled with the almost simplistic way that other people have presented it.
Because when you’re presenting a book about an organizational system, this is my system, so you need to know what this word means. There you go, right, it fits into the diagram here – off you go. It’s fine if you really feel and understand what that word means. But if you don’t, I think it can be a hindrance.
Kourosh: Yeah, I think it’s very useful to know any and all – to study systems. For example, when I started learning music and composition in a very detailed way, I’d transcribe. A teacher of mine told me it’s an excellent way of learning. So I would take Beethoven pieces; I would take Beatles pieces, I would take Chopin, I would take Police – whomever.
I would just take all these sorts of different musicians and bands that I thought were good for whatever reason (I thought whatever good meant as good musicians), and just started to transcribe it and say how do they do this, and distill it into the very essence of whatever it was.
Then that would allow me to create music in my own voice because I knew what the basics were. That’s very much what this book is, about the workflows. I’m hoping that it presents those basics to others so that it’s like, “Okay. Now I know what this system is. And I know what that system – and these are all the workings that are going on behind it.”
Dom: It’s very similar to what Pete and I do with a lot of our mastermind groups, where we will take maybe a well-renown piece of marketing or just an everyday piece of marketing that we’ve seen, and we will break it down and say this is a good headline in this copy or a good title for the book, for example.
But this is a good headline in this copy because of this and it’s applying this fundamental principle. And a lot of people, as you say, they’ll have looked over the classical piece of music or they’ll have just taken for granted their workflow system that they’re trying to implement – the person has just said do this, so they do it.
That again is why I resonated with the book and its format. And I do sympathize with the complexity because of the interrelated nature; but the format to me was helpful in, again, understanding those core principles. Because a lot of other things, like if you talk to anybody about music which is, as you say, a common thread through here.
In our world, copywriting is a huge element of what goes on and any kind of marketing. All these things have been written about varying levels of accessibility. And you even have Dummies books and Idiot’s Guides, and also classical texts that have been around for hundreds of years. But if you actually look at workflow and productivity, there’s a lot of high-level buzzword-laden workflow system books.
But other than the deeply, deeply psychologically detailed and scientific texts, there’s very little on the actual mechanics of it. I tell people to read the book Flow; but really, it’s a very scientific and difficult-to-read book.
Kourosh: It’s a very good book, but it will be tough to maybe actualize that for oneself at times. It depends on how you approach it. I think I even make mention in there that were I to have this conversation with Mihaly; I can’t pronounce his last name well. It’s an excellent book, and you can tell that he really gets into it and loves it and all that.
But I would have this way of approaching creativity that’s different than him, and I’d have to have this sort of discussion with him about it and say, “This is this and this is that.” I have to make it so I can access the words myself. I can access the idea of creativity myself.
And I think that’s what I saw with this book. This idea of how do I bring a very serious academic – I don’t know about academic – but serious in-depth view of what is going on on the workflow in a way that can be presented to anyone and everyone? In other words, let’s make a textbook.
I’ve always loved textbooks because you can always ask it a question and the answer’s in there. Or if it’s not, it will refer you somewhere to where you can get the answer. That’s what I wanted to make with this. I wanted to make, “I don’t know what this word means.
There’s a place where I’ve got that defined. There’s the glossary, go there. You know what, this book over here about procrastination, it’s a good book. And here’s what I know about it and you can go to that.” It’s like that.
Dom: That’s actually a really good way of describing the book, it is. I wouldn’t say textbook in this common perception that textbooks are dry and uninteresting. If you’re not the scientific or investigatively minded person, you may think textbook is a bad way to talk about a book.
But the frame that you just put forward that it contains either the information you need or a reference to where to find it is a good one. You mentioned something earlier about applicability, accessibility. Actually implementable things. I just want to make sure that we cover, because I know you’re a busy guy and this call, even though it’s flown by for me, I think we’re getting close to time.
I just wanted to cover Book Two because I think there’s some very practical applicable pieces in Book Two which is about stations, habits, and sessions. I think these are things that will definitely resonate to somebody even without reading the book if you can just describe them from your prospective.
Kourosh: Sure, what I was explaining earlier was Book One and there are five, so this is the second. Stations, Habits, & Sessions probably resonates most with the idea of most task-management systems and the idea of what is a task. We usually look at the word “task” as interchangeable with intention.
But I look at tasks as stored intentions. You have these things written down. What you actually do based on the thing that you read is different and that seems like a small silly distinction, but it’s not. It’s actually huge. If you look at your projects in OmniFocus for example, or any project system, you’re doing the work.
You realize the tasks you’ve written are not the same things you actually did to make that project actually happen. And that’s a lot of the time, if not always, the case. Anyway, the idea that tasks are stored intentions – stations are where you store those tasks.
Contexts are a familiar idea. The tool, place, or person without which the thing cannot be done. Or other people have mindsets as a way of putting things down or organizing their work, or whatever it is – you have paths of habit. You have things you do regularly. You have these paths you walk.
Along those paths, you set up these stations. You set up these at your office, at your home, wherever. These stations, and however well they’re organized or disorganized, are the containers for these intentions. So how you organize those things are matters of habit and thinking through, and really are very fundamental to any of these sorts of task-management systems.
And then what the idea is about guides versus tasks; I’m trying to rewrite some of this section, I’ll probably put it up as a post at some point; the idea of guides and shifting between guides and habits, and tasks. Let’s say for example you want to develop a habit.
Before you have the habit, you have to have some way of starting it. And if you have, let’s say, something listed down, you have written down a large list of tasks: exercise or take out the garbage, or whatever it is, you want to start this habit. You write it down until you can develop the guides. The guides are these things that will present to your experience.
So until you have the habit, a messy set of dishes may not inspire you to clean those dishes. But then how do you start developing the habit so that that experience will inspire you to do the dishes? A lot of this is about how all of this fits together. How these tasks, guides, habits, stations all fit together.
Dom: Yeah so practical implementation of the theory that you’ve already expounded in, kind of, Book One, really, isn’t it?
Kourosh: Yeah, I’m not sure I’m giving it the justice that it should. You can tell from basically how I talk, you can tell that I say a lot of the stuff that all goes together. And then I have to go back later and say, “Okay I’ve got to take this part and put this over there, and put this over there.” It’s kind of how I wound up writing it.
Dom: How most people write and create music and things like that; they get it out and then they reorganize it. I’m very much the same myself. That’s why Pete and I both resonate with mind maps as a planning tool.
Kourosh: Oh, yeah, sure.
Dom: From my point of view; from Book Two, the Stations, Habits & Sessions, those are kind of the core functional units, the practical examples of how you can implement the knowledge from other parts of the book. To me, it’s a progressive book. It starts very logically.
Clearly, it has been thought through and reorganized from however it originally came out in its pieces as it’s evolved. You’ve got the core concepts in Book One. And I say Book One; they’re just labels inside the entire object. It’s all one book, but they’re broken up.
Book One is the core concepts, and Book Two is these practical implementations; and I would strongly recommend this to anybody who is interested in the topic because I love some of your real-world examples. Again, they resonated with me. Things like washing the dishes or refilling the coffee canister.
And the true life example of, as you said just now, you have your task list in OmniFocus, but you very rarely do things the way that you wrote them down in OmniFocus or whatever task tracking; whether you wrote them down on a piece of paper and things like that.
Your example was going into the kitchen to do things, and you don’t go in and do one thing that was on your list, then go back and tick it off on your list, then go back in and do the next thing. You tend to batch these things up. That’s the reality of it. For all of we’ve talked about a lot of theory, and a lot of kind of deep topics and analysis of these things in detail, it is an incredibly practical real-world book.
It’s anchored in the real world. And there is a lot of applicable stuff in it. The stuff I could grasp easily and quickly was definitely in Book Two. But things resonated with me all the way through this. It’s a kind of a sum up, kind of a summary as we get towards the end of your time, but it’s also an odd little compliment – at some point in the future, what you might actually have is an interview with somebody that believes that this book was written before Getting Things Done.
Or before some other workflow management, time management concept that was out there. And the reason is because of the way that you describe these concepts. If you, for example, just go back to Book Two briefly, if we talk about stations, you very briefly mentioned context which is a Getting Things Done concept.
But stations is a better described, more understandable, larger concept than context. It’s almost like context came from stations. Somebody could easily make that mistake that somebody read your book and went, “Well, if I take a bit of that and put it over here and call it this, I can use that in my system.” Sorry, David Allen. No offense.
Kourosh: I was inspired by having gone through Getting Things Done, so I actually went in the other direction where it’s like, “what is a context fundamentally,” and then getting to the idea of stations. You know that a station could be something like just writing a task down on a scrap piece of paper that you know you’ll come back to. That’s a station. So in a sense, it expands the idea so that you can allow yourself to use the materials at hand to clear your mind in whatever way is needed.
Dom: Yeah, my summary would be of this and what I got from this is that it takes all these well-known concepts from all these different places, and just explains them in just that little bit of a wider sense so that there’s a little bit more to get ahold of so that there’s a little bit more for you to personally relate to in your own particular example and circumstances. Which just makes it more accessible.
There’s an appendix; there are no appendices at the end, there’s an appendix with a number of increasingly complex examples of organizing things, which is something that people can very easily get lost in. I have to say, as I warned you at the beginning, it could be a bit of a “fanboy” show, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. I thoroughly enjoyed your book. So I have to ask you, what’s next?
Kourosh: I don’t know. That’s a great question. I’m trying to figure that out myself and for the moment I’m taking a break, playing the piano, maybe a video game or two, but taking a break. I’ll see. I do have ideas, but I can’t say specifically because I don’t want to lock down a direction just yet.
Dom: Well, I would humbly ask to be on the preview list for whatever is next.
Kourosh: Sounds good.
Dom: Okay, now Pete has a classic question that he asks absolutely everybody. It’s my favorite question and he gets load of great responses to this. We have talked extensively. We’ve talked about you. We’ve talked about the book. We’ve talked about workflow.
We’ve talked about so many things in this conversation, but what is the question that you wish I had asked you so that you could have gotten across something that you think is fundamental or really important to our audience?
Kourosh: Oh my goodness. Honestly, I think you asked it, which was at the very beginning: what summarizes where I’m coming from with this and the idea of mind and technology being kind of the centerpiece. I think you asked it and that was the idea.
Dom: Okay, I will class myself as a competent interviewer at this point if I actually asked all the good questions. Kourosh, thank you so much for your time today. Even though you say you’re going to take time playing the piano and things, I know you’re a busy guy, and Pete and I both appreciate your time.
And I’m sure anybody that picks up the book is going to appreciate the work that you’ve done here. How can people get ahold of you? How can people find the book? Have you got a blog? How do people find out more about Kourosh Dini?
Kourosh: The books are at MasteryInWorkflow.com; that’s one site. The other one is UsingOmniFocus.com. I also have my own blog, which is KouroshDini.com, and that’s K-O-U-R-O-S-H-D-I-N-I dot com. Yeah, those are it.
Dom: Okay, I’ll make sure those links are in the show notes, folk. Again, Kourosh, thank you for your time and I’m looking forward to whatever you do next so that you can come back and we can have another great chat.
Kourosh: I had a wonderful time, Dom. Thank you so much for having me on.
[Dom’s conversation with Kourosh ends]
Dom: So, I’d say it went on a little bit longer than some of our previous interviews have. But hopefully, you could tell I really enjoyed that chat with Kourosh.
Pete: Absolutely, mate. It sounds like you have to get off the couch a little bit. He gave you a little bit of a psychological throw-around, a little bit, with some questions there for you.
Dom: Yeah it was really weird. Just before the call, we had a little chat. But also in the introduction and the kind of peripheral pieces around the book, he explains that his day job is as a psychologist.
Pete: It definitely came through.
Dom: Yeah he was almost interviewing me at one point. But no, it was great, and hopefully I’ve picked out my personal takeaways from the book during that interview we talked about things I personally got from it. But as I said in the interview, and I said to Kourosh, I feel that a lot of people are going to have their own personal things that they get from this book.
It’ll help them understand these other workflows. So if you’re out there and you maybe looked at GTD and it’s not quite working for you, or you’re struggling to keep going with some of the things, a lot of the reasons for that is to do with you don’t fully understand it or it’s not quite ingrained in your own internal language.
This is again a topic, just the generic nature of the topic, that Kourosh has in the book. At that point, this book is great. Kourosh himself says in the interview, as you heard there. Pete, he calls it a kind of a textbook where it’s got as many of the answers as he can give you.
And if it hasn’t got an answer for a particular question, it’s got a cross-reference to where you might find it. Because he makes masses of cross-references in there. I didn’t even get to mention some of them in the interview, but he talks about Neil Fiore’s book, The Now Habit. He talks about David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning.
All these books that we’ve talked about right from the very beginning of this show, and even people that we’ve interviewed, they’re all referenced in his book. So, it’s almost like a book that was written for the Preneur Community to kind of go along with the things that we talk about.
It isn’t a light book. I openly said that in the interview as you heard me say. It’s not a light book. It’s dense, there’s a lot of stuff in there. But you can dip in, get stuff – and also there’s a load of cool supporting stuff because it’s a digital download. There’s flash cards and quick review checklists, and things like that that come as extras.
All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed it. It’s not a light read. But it is something that, as I said, my personal copy is covered in those little yellow markers and highlights for the things that stood out to me. I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of value from this. And hopefully, they got a lot of value from that little chat that I had with Kourosh as well.
Pete: Very, very cool. Speaking of a lot of value, our next episode is our 100th episode and we’re doing something very cool. We’re doing it live.
Dom: Indeed, indeed. The fear is upon me. No, seriously. We do a lot of live Q&A’s for our Platinum group and we’ve always had a great response from the live Q&A format. So Pete and I decided to open up a live Q&A. And it is live Q&A. It’s not just me and Pete live, it’s like a live Q&A.
We want you guys to join us on a live call and submit your questions, which we will answer there and then to the best of our abilities and as honestly as possible. We’re shuffling the date a little bit just to make sure that we can keep on schedule. What’s the date, Pete?
Pete: It’s going to be Friday, the 28th, Melbourne time. Which makes it Thursday, the 27th, in the US. Obviously, Europe is somewhere around there as well. We’ll have all the details and things on the blog, but it’s going to be 7:30am Melbourne time, which will be 5:30pm on the Thursday in the East Coast of the US.
Get your calculators out to work out your time zone. But we’ll have all the details on the blog, so make sure you check out PreneurMedia.tv. Hopefully, you’re already a part of our community newsletter, which you can subscribe to at PreneurMarketing.com, and we’ll e-mail you out the details.
The last webinar we did for our community, we had 1400 people register. So I’m guessing for something like that, we’ll have a few thousand people at least online during the live call, which is going to be super fun. We may have to “up” the GoToWebinar account to host everybody, but it’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun.
Dom: Excellent. Really, folks, we’re encouraging you to join in and be part of the live stuff. This is the feedback that we get all the time with our Q&A’s with our Platinum group, that being there live, having that interaction, the ability to ask a question that’s on your mind right there and then and get it answered; people get so much value from that.
And we want to extend that out to the community as a thank you for being with us for 100 episodes. I’m a little bit shocked actually. I’ve mentioned this to a couple of people recently that it’s going to be our 100th episode, including Kourosh and he said, “Wow, really? You guys have been going that long?” And I said, yeah, we’ve had a good run.
We’re really appreciative of the audience sticking with us. One last thing mentioning Kourosh, and I’ll remind everybody. Whenever we have an author on, we ask our authors to give us copies of their book. And Kourosh has very kindly given us four copies of his book, Workflow: Beyond Productivity.
So, if you visit PreneurMarketing.com/Win, the link will be in the show notes; you can enter to win a copy of Kourosh’s book. And you can always go there. If you’re listening to this show later on after the fact because we cycle through these when we get a new author, we ask for some more prizes. So, always be visiting PreneurMarketing.com/Win because there’s going to be something there that you can win.
Pete: Absolutely. Awesome, guys. We won’t drag this one on too much longer. We’ll start getting prepared for our live show in a couple of weeks. Make sure you join us there. And then I think we’ve mentioned before; post our 100th show, we’re going to go back to weekly again.
Just for that first 6 months of this year, with babies and other bits and pieces going on in everybody’s life, we decided to do it biweekly, every two weeks. Moving forward again, after the 100th show, we’re going to be back to a weekly edition of PreneurCast. So, your wishes have been granted for everyone who has been e-mailing and tweeting, and stuff like that. Super excited about that.
Dom: Indeed, indeed. So, we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks, everyone, for listening as always. And as always, please do visit us on PreneurMedia.tv. Leave us a comment, get the transcripts, download the podcast for offline listening. Or visit us on iTunes and leave us a comment there. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being with us for 99 episodes, and please join us for the 100th episode live in a couple of weeks. See you all soon.
Pete: See you again.
We are now regularly receiving copies of books (and other goodies) from the authors we feature to give away to PreneurCast listeners. To enter our current competition, just visit: http://www.preneurmarketing.com/win.
Keep checking back for the latest competition and prizes!
|If you like what we’re doing, please leave us a review on or a comment below.|
Need to raise capital? Want to become a more persuasive presenter? Want to master social media? Is it time to overhaul your website? Unlock the library to get free access to free cheat sheets and business tools. Click here for free business tools.