What Are Your Success Support Systems?

Photo by Aleksejs Bergmanis from Pexels

Are your productivity tools and habits propelling you toward success, or are you defaulting to mediocrity?

How much deliberate effort have you put into selecting the tools and developing the habits that determine the quality and outcomes of your life? 

Do you have success support systems, and are they optimized? 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear popularized a retooled version of Archilochus’ almost 3,000-year-old observation, which is:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

Clear also correctly observed that:

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”

As we approach the New Year, billions of people will customarily set goals for themselves that they will invariably give up on shortly thereafter, as they do. 

They will do this for a number of reasons, but primarily because simply having a goal does not create a path or method to achieve success, systems do. And whether you have deliberately developed your systems or not, you do have systems that you rely upon (even if your default system is not to have a system). It’s very likely that if you haven’t thoughtfully developed your systems, they are at best unreliable and inefficient, and at worst, they’re silently and violently sabotaging you. 

Have you ever tried to swim with your clothes on? 


I had to do this a few times for the U.S. Army and German Bundeswehr. It’s surprisingly harder than it looks.  

Perhaps you’ve tried to walk or run with wet, muddy, boots on? Both of these scenarios are at best, mildly inefficient. 

Such is life when you try to tackle it without intentionally designed success support systems. You might as well be trying to swim across the English Channel in a tuxedo and hiking boots. 

So then, if the capabilities and shortcomings of our systems impact our success in life in such a tangible and meaningful way, wouldn’t it make sense for us to take a moment to optimize those systems, such that in so doing, we optimize for success in life? 

Think about those wet, muddy, boots again. Let’s suspend reality for a second and say that you were running a marathon in these same boots. Let’s also suppose that, in this alternate reality, there was a kind old man giving away high-performance racing shoes to anyone who would stop and accept them. 

Would you stop and take the two or three minutes necessary to change your shoes, vastly improve your run time (and your personal comfort), or would you keep on running? 

It is pretty safe to assume that every one of us would stop. The time spent replacing the water-logged boots with featherweight racing sneaks would be almost inconsequential in comparison to the time saved, and painful blisters avoided, running the marathon in optimized running gear. And just as assuredly as wet, muddy, hiking boots would kill our run time over the 26.2 miles of a marathon, so too is the drag of poorly designed (or non-existent) success support systems amplified over the longest race of all, our life. 

So when was the last time you stopped to shed the muddy boots? Or have you, ever? 

How do we shed these metaphorical muddy boots and upgrade our success support systems in the marathon race of life? 

It starts with a time out—simply stopping to take a look at what’s on our feet. Although it sounds easy, this is often the hardest part, especially when life is moving so fast. Not to mention, while we’re stopped the pressure of the crowd running by can be almost unbearable in the moment. 

It’s a little like…

Image courtesy of WorkCompass

But regardless of your perceived busyness levels, when was the last time that you took a time out to evaluate your current tools and habits to determine if those systems are serving you best?

To be clear, I didn’t ask if they were serving you good enough. I asked, when was the last time you evaluated your systems to determine if they are serving you best?

It’s very likely that good enough has gotten you to your current run of successes in life, which may also be, “just fine,” but have you ever stopped to imagine how much better things could be if your success support systems were fully optimized? 

That is, what if, instead of systems that simply keep you just short of the brink of chaos or catastrophe (i.e. out of the yellow or red), you had systems that keep you in the green, at or well below your maximum threshold? And what if this could be the new status quo? 

In the display below, we see a scenario where a pilot has almost run out of power (torque, or “Q”) on the number one engine. Pilots generally do whatever is necessary to keep things “in the green”. This provides a margin of safety, or a buffer, so that if for some reason additional transient power is needed, it’s there. 

Engine Instrument Caution Advisory System (EICAS) from a UH-60M Black Hawk

What if you had systems that provided you with a similar buffer? A buffer that not only provides you transient, surge, or additional bandwidth when needed, but one that allows you to leave work on time, pursue a hobby, or actually play with your kids when you get home? Systems that benefit you, systems in service of your best life?

At some point, I will dedicate the commensurate word count to explaining how we build a buffer into our systems such that we do not live on transient power (in the yellow and red zones), but that is not our current focus. 

Hopefully, at this point, the value of taking a breath to take stock of our systems and how we’ve organized ourselves for combat—or work and life (sometimes the differences can seem minor) is abundantly clear. 

Assuming so, let’s take a brief look at the success support systems everyone must have to be successful in the digital age. 

There’s only three, and they’re quite simple:

📅 Time Management System – A habit-driven calendar app. 

📋 Task Management System – A habit-driven to-do app. 

📂 Knowledge Management System – A place to store information and generate ideas.

Each of the three systems above are just ordinary tools (i.e. calendar, to-do, or file storage apps). However, when we deliberately determine when, why, and how we will interact with these tools by establishing habits and routines, they become systems. Most importantly, when we do this consistently (i.e. without fail) they become trusted systems. 

The formula is pretty straightforward: Trusted Systems = Tools + Habits

An entire discussion could also be had about tools, habits, routines, and trusted systems, but once again, not the focus of this piece. 

Here are the components of an optimized success support system:

  1. A calendar app supported by habits or routines to make it reliable.
  2. A to-do app supported by habits or routines to make it reliable.
  3. A digital storage app supported by habits or routines to make it reliable.

So how do we optimize these systems to optimize our success in the marathon of life? 

We do it by asking some simple questions. 

As Mr. Anthony Robbins so eloquently put it:

“The quality of the questions that you ask yourself directly determine the quality of your life.”

So as you seek to identify, upgrade, and optimize the tools, habits, and routines that support your individual needs in the way that you uniquely function, consider the following success support system evaluation questions:

  • Does this tool or system serve me best? Does it provide the results I need, in the most efficient and effective manner
  • Is it frictionless? Your tools should minimize delays, clicks, or swipes and they should be a joy to use (shortcuts and voice commands ftw).
  • Is it lightweight? Your tools/systems should serve you effortlessly and should require minimal upkeep for them to produce the desired results. 
  • Is it reliable? Would you bet your life on your system? 

If the answer is no to any of these questions, the next step is to stop and think. Think about what would make each of these answers a yes. If you’re not sure, reach out, maybe I can help.

Once you’ve determined what turns each of these into yes answers, take action:

  1. Identify the tools necessary to most effectively serve future you.
  2. Optimize your habits and routines to turn those tools into trusted systems.
  3. Rinse and repeat.

Above all else, when you catch yourself running in hiking boots, do not hesitate to pull over and change shoes. The future, and most successful you, will thank you for it!

Want more insights? Sign up for my newsletter, or check out my related TikTok or Instagram posts where I demystify how to be successful in today’s digital world.

Do you make your to-do lists too hard?

Use this simple note-taking technique to leave your future self best equipped to take action. 

Do you repeatedly hose your future self

Or do you consistently tee up future you for success? 

Unfortunately, it’s usually one or the other. Either we are regularly and deliberately thoughtful in our actions towards our future self, or go about our lives as if they don’t exist. In fact, if references to future you in these last two sentences had you scratching your head, you may want to continue reading. 

Current you taking care of future you—a quick example. Consider a time when you stopped on the way home from dinner or a late evening at work to fill up your car’s near-empty gas tank so that you didn’t have to leave early for work the next day to fill up the tank. 

Would it have been hard to leave 10 mins early to fill up the gas tank before work the next day? Nope.

Were you glad you did when the next morning inevitably rolled around? Yep. 

So what does all this have to do with taking notes or making to-do lists easier? Everything, but first we need to briefly discuss human nature.

When it comes to us as humans living our day-to-day lives—although there are tons of simple actions that our current self could take in the moment to shave time and inconvenience from our schedule in the future—we often take the shortcut, thereby choosing to hose our future self instead.

A quick example of how everyone does this: to-do lists.

How many times have you written a to-do that looked like this?

To Do:

  • Glass Animals concert
  • Dave’s birthday

All objects, no action (nouns, no verbs). 

What about the concert? When is it? Do I want to go? 

What about Dave’s birthday? Is there a party? Am I buying him something? 

These are what I refer to as word blobs. They make it hard for our future self to understand what our current self was trying to communicate. 

If instead we had more empathy for our future self, we might have written the list like this instead:

  • Buy Glass Animals concert tickets
  • Buy Dave’s birthday card

Verbs have made the action clear!

In this scenario, the inclusion of verbs has made all the difference. Similarly, the use of simple geometric shapes can have an outsize impact on clarity when taking notes.

Assuming that taking notes is a key way to communicate important and actionable information to our future self, let’s talk about how we can do that with minimal friction and maximum impact. 

When taking notes—analog or digital—all we need to do is employ a few simple, visual signals that our future self will immediately recognize as “action required.” Including a simple square, circle, or triangle before or after an actionable tasks is one of the easiest ways to provide an easily recognized visual signal. 

By placing a shape or symbol next to action items in our notes, we are providing simple instructions to our future self about what those notes mean to us (action required, yo). 

Although Michael Hyatt is credited for a particular method, ultimately, the shapes you use and when you use them should be determined by you based on your needs. You do you, essentially.

Here are the shapes I use and what they mean to me:

  • Square: Do this task
  • Circle: Delegate this task
  • Triangle: Share this information

By signaling actionable information with shapes, we are eliminating the need for our future self to re-read old notes, line by line, painstakingly sifting the inert from the actionable, unnecessarily deciding again and again what every single entry is, or was supposed to mean to us. These shapes are a bullet-proof way to tell our future self, “Hey you, this thing right here, this is something that we decided requires action.”

The second result of tagging action items with shapes is that not only are the action items clearly identified, but they now also pop right off the page. That is, by using shapes—signals that our brain immediately recognizes—to “call out” tasks that might otherwise be obscured or camouflaged in our notes, we are making it incredibly easy for our future selves’ eyeballs and brain to immediately differentiate between the inert and the actionable. As you may have noticed at the 2-3 second mark in this video, even when the words were backwards (and otherwise unreadable), the shapes on the page in notebook make crystal clear which data points require our attention. 

So by including signals (open shapes: circles, squares, and triangles) adjacent to actionable information when taking notes, our current self eliminates the need for our future self to reprocess notes in search of meaning, and we make any action items—potentially embedded across pages of homework or research notes—immediately clear to our future selves. 

When we take deliberate steps to clearly call out action items in our notes, we keep our to-do list clear, actionable, as easy.

So take care of future you by providing him or her with a to-do list that is friction-free and 0% harder than it needs to be.

How This Simple Productivity Tool Saved My Wedding Day

Disaster. Narrowly avoided.

We were getting married in Hawaii—half a world away—in less than two days. We were also ten minutes from the airport and on a trajectory to completely blow through our final check-in window, and ultimately, miss our flight. It was not supposed to be going down like this. In fact, I spent the last six months of my tour in Iraq planning the perfect wedding (a toes-in-the-sand, khakis and flip-flops, zero-stress wedding) precisely so this would not happen. 

Every detail had been locked down, months in advance:

  • Limo and driver scheduled with on-time pick-up at the hotel? Check. 
  • Flowers and minister prepositioned at Waimanalo beach? Check. 

Everything was all teed up. All we had to do was make our flight. 

That that we were about to become the single point of failure was not something that was sitting well with me. 

Regardless, here we were, flushing all of my detailed planning and all of my perfect preparedness down the drain. Murphy was exacting a trifecta upon us, the likes of which could only be replicated in actual combat scenarios. How did we get to this point?

The opening salvo began with the late wake-up, the reason for which, to this day I still cannot explain to anyone who asks. 

The next barrage was the missing suitcase. I mean, how do you misplace a suitcase? A question or consideration for another day perhaps.

Finally, Murphy’s attack was culminating with some absolutely confounding, for-no-good-reason, bumper-to-bumper traffic in the exact middle of a workday. I know lunch rush-hour can be a thing, but what we were experiencing was just uncalled for. 

In any event, fate was conspiring against us and the outcome did not look hopeful. Nevertheless, we pressed on, relentless in our effort to make the flight we seemed destined to miss. 

But what if I told you that despite the odds, we made our flight? And what if I told you that the lifeline that saved our wedding day from destruction was an email address? 

That’s right, a simple email address. One that in fact, looked exactly like this: 8january10am@followupthen.com

This email saved our wedding day. Would you like to know how? 

I bet. 

But in order to tell you how this email saved my wedding, I need to tell you a little more about the service behind this email address. The service is called followupthen.com.

What if I told you that with this service, you could also one day save your very own wedding, someone else’s wedding, or an equally important life event of your own?

What if I took a brief moment to explain to you how this simple service holds your key to outsourcing every single one of life’s ankle-biting, death-by-a-thousand-papercuts, I-thought-it-would-be-so-easy-to-do-or-remember-that-I didn’t-bother-to-write-it-down, tasks. You know the kind I’m talking about. I’m referring to those oh-so-tiny-but-often-critical “remembering” tasks that are seemingly so simple we casually commit them to memory and then go about our day. 

These tasks range from the completely mundane (renew my WIRED subscription) to the potentially critical (validate checking account balance before credit card auto-payment hits on Monday) tasks that, in the moment, actually only take a brief number of minutes or even seconds to complete. Over time the minutiae of day-to-day simple to-dos such as these pile up in our working memory causing unnecessary anxiety and continuous wonderment (aka stress) about what it is we’ve committed to memory and are subsequently forgetting.

One of the many problems of committing tasks to our flawed human remembering/operating system is that we do not control when we recall these tasks. This is why when something absolutely must be done we put it on our calendar, or on a sticky note that we stare at every single day until the task comes due, or we simply get sick of looking at the note and complete the task. 

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes, making a small but important point about our human inability to control our subconscious recall abilities. I will reach the end of this story shortly, so please oblige me just a little bit further. 

When we rely on our memory to surface tasks for us to complete, it generally happens at an inopportune moment, and often, can bring with it a small moment of panic. 

When this happens, it often sounds [inside our heads] something like this:

Crap –

  • Did I remember to move cash from savings into my checking account to cover that extra-large credit card auto-payment tomorrow?
  • When did I send in that Nest rebate? Shouldn’t I have received that refund by now? Whatever happened to that?
  • Did Bob in accounting send the IRS payment I requested last week? 

We all deal with these types of tasks. Simple to execute, but in the hurry and blurry of life or work, they get temporarily forgotten, only to reappear at less-than-convenient moments. 

The lifeline that saved my wedding that I’m proposing to you is so incredibly simple that I wrote everything above just to fill some space. That’s because, as you’ll see, the mechanics of this are so simple it feels patronizing to write it down. The application and impact however, are both tremendous and 100% life-changing (I’m specifically not using the term game-changer here so that you don’t roll your eyes and discontinue reading, but technically speaking, the term is actually applicable with this service). 

How so?

This lifeline is going to give you absolute dominion over your subconscious, or at least, the power to control the exact timing of when these reminders come back to you. All with near effortless front-end requirements (as profoundly simple as, surprise surprise! Sending an email). 

Oh, and it might also save your wedding. 

Here’s how.

Followupthen.com is the website, domain name, and back-end of a magical collection of seemingly infinite email addresses that represent dates (February 14th), days (Friday), or time intervals (365 days, 4 hours, 1 month, etc.). A tiny fraction of that infinite list is detailed for you right here: followupthen time formats

Followupthen.com also has a short domain (the combination of letters following the @ symbol) that make for easy thumb typing: fut.io 

But none of this helps you understand what FollowUpThen is or does… or how it saved my wedding. 

FollowUpThen allows you to grab an email from your inbox (imagine with me, the Hulk, grabbing a rag doll), determine when you’d like to see that email again (for example, 2 months from today, at 2pm) and using the corresponding followupthen.com email address (2months2pm@fut.io), to hurl the body of your email into cyberspace without ever thinking about that email again. All stress, anxiety and remembering associated with that email melts away with the push of the send button. 

Why is this? 

Because whatever day, date, or time interval you placed in front of “@followupthen.com” (or fut.io) is precisely when you’ll see the email again. 

For example, if you —

  • Need that email in 5 minutes?
    📝 Put 5mins@fut.io in the To line.
    📨 Send the email. 
  • Need that email in 3 days?
    📝 Put 3days@fut.io in the To line.
    📨 Send the email. 
  • Need that email every year?
    📝 Put everyyear@fut.io in the To line.
    📨 Send the email (recurring events ftw!).

And when does the email return? Exactly when you told it to… just like Ubu. 

Sit Ubu sit. Good dog. 🐕

Although both application and execution are at best, overwhelmingly elementary, so many fail to personally realize the benefits to be reaped by the enormous amount of potential energy sitting idle behind the Send button. 

Why is this? I can only guess it’s because of a simple lack of imagination, or perhaps some of the “so what” is just not immediately obvious. 

Assuming the latter is your situation, I’ve provided some “tiny” examples for you below.

Gains to be had from using followupthen.com —

  • The flawless ability to follow through on your promises (No matter how small the task!)
  • Your management of others’ assigned tasks become errorless (subordinates, peers, and boss!).
  • Mindless but important tasks are never forgotten (Never forgotten. Ever. To an almost annoying degree.).
  • Any of the tasks listed above that would normally be on your to-do list, disappear completely (Like gone baby gone. Only more gone. Completely gone). 

I see the glimmer of recognition in your eyes. Kindly allow me to present some practical, real-world use cases along with some of the very few, very non-technical details necessary to get you spun up on using FollowUpThen with the proficiency of a Jedi Knight. 

People Management – How Can FollowUpThen Help Me?

FUT Basics: Scenario. You have a request for someone that must not be forgotten. By putting the FollowUpThen email (e.g. 1year@fut.io) in the Bcc line (as opposed to the To or Cc lines), the email request returns only to you, bringing with it, the full complement of related emails in your threaded conversation (assuming you have conversation view turned on). 

As such, when the email returns (2 days, 2 weeks, or a year from now) to future you — who by the way, has possibly forgotten the request completely, which is in fact, the point — by reviewing any new emails present in the threaded conversation (received after you flung the original FollowUpThen email into cyberspace), it’s very easy to validate if what you requested has been accomplished. 

How? If after you sent the request, the respondent replied with an answer or a confirmation of task complete, that response would also be in the conversation thread, and obvious to you, the requestor, negating any further follow-up and allowing you to archive the email and move along with your inbox processing regimen. 

If there was no response in the conversation thread, a simple reply all to the original email with a friendly, “Hi Bob, how are we doing on XYZ thingy?” and another @fut.io in the Bcc keeps the flawless follow-up never-forget-it cycle in motion. 

By the way, if you don’t share this magical tool with your team (we do not recommend hoarding this superpower), they will believe you are a full-on 3rd level wizard with a mind-bending, flawless ability to never forget to follow up on any assigned task. Ever. To an almost annoying degree. 

In any event, here are some examples of how to employ FollowUpThen for the furtherance of your people management duties:

Email: Hi Team, here is the summary of meeting due outs. Please note, John owns the first suspense that is due Friday at 3 pm. I’ll follow-up then if I don’t hear back beforehand.

Bcc: Friday3pm@fut.io 

Email: Hi John, do you mind sending out that white paper to the team by 10 am on Friday? I’d like everyone to be able to consider your ideas before we meet on Monday.  

Bcc: Friday10am@fut.io

Email: Hi Staci, I just received your pay request. I will call you tomorrow by 4pm to discuss. 

Bcc: tomorrow345pm@fut.io

Email: Dear HR, I noticed my March pay was incorrect. Will you please remedy this mistake in my April paycheck? I’ll follow-up with you to validate I was paid correctly on April 1st. 

Bcc: 1April@fut.io

A nice byproduct of using FollowUpThen and never forgetting any tasks is that your employees will trust you. They will trust that anything you tell them you will do, you’ll do. They will also trust that anything you request of them won’t be forgotten by you. 

Reminder for Brainless Tasks / Just in Time Remembering

Email: Hi future self, please don’t forget to log your time every day before leaving work. For your convenience, I’ve included the website hyperlink below.

To: everyday4pm@fut.io

Email: Hi future self, the rebate I mailed yesterday promised payment in 2-3 months. Please validate I received the $20 refund on my credit card. 

To: 91days@fut.io

As you can see, the use cases are limitless. Hopefully, it’s also clear how FollowUpThen could help you save your wedding. If it’s not, I’ll tell you how it saved mine:

Email: Hi future Josh, in 6 months you’ll be checking in for your 12 pm flight at around 11 am. For your convenience, I’ve included your flight record locator: 2UBQXT. I’m sure you’ll be plenty early for your flight, and I’m sure you won’t need this helpful reminder, but just in case this helps save you a few seconds looking this up, here you go. Oh by the way, congrats! 🙂

To: 8jan10am@fut.io

So on January 8th, 2010, “future” Josh and Adrianne Evilsizor checked in for their flight with exactly 3 seconds to spare. 

They were married in Waimanalo, Oahu, exactly two days later. 

Josh and Age both continue to use FollowUpThen… as if their future wedding day depended on it. 

This article originally appeared on joshevilsizor.com.

The #1 Rule to Reach Inbox Zero: Embrace the Archive

If you use more than one folder to manually file away all your emails, not only will you never reach inbox zero, but email will always be a challenge and your mind will never be clear.

If you’re interested in clearing your mind and your inbox, check out the video below, or simply continue reading.

Here is the executive summary (or the BLUF or tl;dr version) of the article and video that follows:

Complete or capture the action associated with an email, then move that completed email to your one and only “done” or “completed” folder.

That’s it. If you can do that, it becomes much more likely that you’ll see the bottom of your inbox.

If that sounds too simple, watch the quick 7-minute video below and/or read my explanation that follows.

Ultimately, if you use more than one folder, you will either never reach inbox zero, or you will struggle maintaining it, and your life will remain chaotic—at least as it pertains to email (which unfortunately, is a significant driver of what we do or do not accomplish personally and professionally).

Additionally, if your system is complex, you will also fail.

So where does that leave us?

It should be clear that what we as humans require to wrangle our inboxes are just two things: (1) a simple system that (2) relies on only one folder.

I have previously explained some of the basics and technical how-to of this simple, one folder concept in my post, Inbox Zero: The Key to Less Email is No Email (Step 3).

However, the benefits and the why behind this one folder system were not the focus of that previous article, but will be in this discussion.

Here’s what I’ll be explaining:

  • Using any number of email folders that exceed one is a really, really, bad idea.
  • A complete rundown of how to operate using only one folder.
  • When it comes to finding an email, the search function is guaranteed to beat the antiquated, find-it-by-scrolling-squinting-and-reading technique, every time.
  • Because this method makes it functionally impossible to overlook important emails or tasks, you will become a trusted taskmaster.
  • This technique does not involve deleting emails; only moving (or removing) them.

And here we go…

Using any number of email folders that exceed one is a really, really, bad idea.

  • Multiple folders cause decision fatigue. If the human brain has a finite capacity for making good decisions each day, then consider that filing (and finding) emails in a multiple folder environment requires the user to make a decision as to where to put (or find) an email every time a new email is completed (or needed). Multiply these micro-decisions by the total amount of emails processed in a given day and you can begin to see how simply filing (and finding) emails becomes an enormous and unnecessary brain drain. Especially given that—in my proposed single folder environment—zero decisions have to be made, ever.
  • Folders are so 1990s. Filing emails is an anachronism that, perhaps surprisingly, makes finding emails unnecessarily difficult. In the past, people filed emails in folders for two reasons: (1) that’s what you did with important electronic documents on your computer and (2) search sucked, so it was the only way. However, with the advent of Gmail, smart searching your inbox for the exact email you seek should have supplanted the folders system of the pre-Google era. If you are still holding on to this dinosaur methodology, fear not, for you are not alone. Allow me today to be the first to formally invite you, and all those like you, into the 21st century. 😃

How to operate using only one folder.

  • Follow these steps. (1) create a done or completed folder (2) open the email at the top of your inbox (LIFO) (3) complete or capture the action required with that email (4) move the email to your done or completed folder. That’s it! Rinse and repeat steps 2-4 until your inbox is empty.
  • Locate email intelligently. Use smart searches to find your emails instead of tediously, manually combing your inbox. There are just a few simple search terms (aka Boolean search “operators”) that if committed to memory, 100% obviate the need for folders. I also have a video that explains how to search your inbox hyper-effectively.

You become a taskmaster because it is functionally impossible to overlook important emails or tasks.

  • As the video above most clearly depicts, if your MO is to move only completed emails to your completed folder, the only way to miss an email… doesn’t exist.
  • This is because you are (1) eyeballing each email, (2) confirming that any and all associated actions are complete, and then (3) physically moving the email from your inbox to your completed folder, it is literally impossible to miss any emails. Ever. It therefore follows that you never miss emails, you will then never miss any tasks, requests or information sent to you over email (follow through and execution are of course, dependent on the strength of your personal organization and/or trusted systems). Finally, assuming a high task execution and follow through rate, you become a “fire and forget” employee, co-worker, boss friend, relative, or spouse. And ultimately, when any of these individuals know that they can send you a task, request, or anything of any level of importance, and that you will respond or action it, you become a highly trusted agent.

This technique does not involve deleting emails; only moving (or removing) them.

  • The completed folder is an actual place where emails remain to be retrieved in the future as required, it is not the trash.
  • When processing your inbox and your only perceived options are to delete the email or leave it in your inbox, of course it’ll never leave your inbox—archive instead!

I explain all of this in detail in the video I posted above.

Please watch the video and ask questions here or on my YouTube channel and I’ll be sure to answer!

Happy better emailing!
(you’ve been Evilsized!)

Capitalizing on Unexpected Free Time Using Your Read Later System: A Hastily Written Case Study

Read Later on Tap Today!

What is a read later system and why should you care about one?

A read later system is an app (or large suitcase) in which you store anything you want to read later, offline. It’s trusted because it is:

  1. Available and,

  2. It’s it.

That is, it’s always available because it’s on your phone, which is always on you, and it’s the only read later app you use (eliminating the familiar “in what internet repository or phone app did I put this thing?” dilemma we all encounter when we use too many apps).

Why should you care about having a read later trusted system?

You should care for two reasons:

  1. It’s part of a larger ecosystem of trusted systems (more to follow on that topic) that allow you to clear your inbox, use your brain for thinking (instead of remembering), and keep you organized.
  2. It allows you to be OK waiting in line at the DMV, offline for three hours on a plane, or otherwise very productive when you find yourself with or without internet, planned or not.

My read later system is Pocket.

My Go To

No affiliate links or paid advertising here, I just use the crap out of it, and love it. There are of course others.

How does it work?

You share web articles to it and it downloads them to your phone. Typically text-only, and readable in dark mode (easier on the eyes). You can also share pocket articles to your kindle if you want even less lightbulb screen time. Read all about it elsewhere, the purpose of this article is the use case that follows…

So the wife and I were thirty minutes from boarding a plane to Fuerteventura for some warm sunshine and epic waves last January. Unfortunately, our Huawei 6P phones were both crapping out and in dire need of replacement. Not wanting to buy a Pixel 2 XL because of the screen issues, it struck me that I might get a good deal on the original Pixel XL. All of this occurred to me as we’re sitting in the airport, about to spend the next couple of hours on a plane.

If you don’t know me, I’m a “let’s solve this problem now” kind of person. Having this thought, but not having the time to execute a full “research and execute” plan initially seemed understandably worrisome (to me at least). That is, until I remembered my trusty pal pocket, and sprang into action.

I immediately began smart searching every permutation of “Pixel XL phone reviews” I could think of:

“Pixel XL” review
“Pixel XL” review 2018
“Pixel XL” camera review
“Pixel XL” battery review

Etc. etc.

After garnering about twenty solid search results from reputable reviewers, and opening articles in the same amount of chrome browsers, I then shared each of the articles to pocket using the share function, followed of course, by closing each of the browsers (because Chrome is unfortunately, a memory hog).

Rinse and repeat for all twenty articles.

Right about this time the Europeans were getting restless and it was becoming obvious we needed to merge into the gate-waiting mob (they don’t do lines in Europe, for whatever reason), or we would be getting on last.

No problem.

I closed out my last browser, fired up pocket, and validated all twenty of the articles I’d just shared were confidently stored on the app in my phone, ready and waiting for me to pour through them, offline, with all the time in the world as we zipped through the air to our vacation destination.

Three days later I bought two refurbished Pixel XLs from a trusted Amazon vendor (for less than the price of one iPhone) and they arrived at our home in Germany a day after we got home. All thanks to the hours of research I was able to do from the “comfort” of my airline seat with absolutely no internet connection.

If you don’t have one, you need a read later trusted system (supposing you read, I guess).

Go go get one, enjoy, and thank me later.

Oh, and for those that are curious, some pics. 🙂


How to Batch Process Email and Manage Co-Worker Expectations

Which do you think is more productive?

The decision should be easy.

This will be the simplest how to you’ll read today.

I’m also not going to explain why you should be batch processing email (or batch-processing any other low-value, low-payoff tasks). If you need an explanation, see above. Or, check out either of these two articles (the second one also addresses canned responses, which are also incredibly useful and discussed in my other posts here).

If you work at an organization that, for almost no good reason, operates on the “did you get my email” or “why didn’t you respond to the email I sent 30 seconds ago” M.O., not checking email for greater than five minutes may feel like an occupational safety hazard.

It is absolutely not though. 

And when people understand that you’re not responding to their emails right away for good reason, they just might join you.

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Determine when you’ll be checking your email (one, two, three times a day?)
  2. Create an out of office reply like the one below:


    If the email that you just sent me is urgent, please call me and let me know how I may help you (as I’m quite happy to do so). My number: 614-XXX-XXXX.

    Some background if you’re curious…

    In an effort to be more productive at work I have recently decided to batch process emails, as numerous studies have shown that productivity is severely hampered by continuously monitoring email.

    As such, I now read and respond to all emails between 3-4pm each day. If you need to reach me before or after this time period, feel free to call: 614-XXX-XXXX.


  3.  Check email only at carefully chosen intervals.

That’s it! Now get out there and stop answering email… so often.

Your boss will thank you (eventually).

How to Post Horizontal Videos to Instagram Stories (No Cropping Required)

Just a tiny micropost here to help add some information that was missing from the internet.

I was trying to find a video or tutorial that would show me how to upload horizontal videos to Instagram stories. I could not find a solution that did not require downloading apps or editing things on my computer. After watching one lengthy tutorial, I realised* this can be done very simply on your phone in a matter of seconds.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Shoot an amazing video holding your phone properly (horizontal)
  2. Open the video using Google photos
  3. Click the edit icon
  4. Rotate the video left or right 90 degrees (your choice)
  5. Save
  6. Upload to Instagram


*Apparently the voice-to-text dictation app on my phone is British.

How to Actually Relax on Your Next Vacation (and Return to an Empty Inbox)

If you’re interested four incredibly simple actions that can exponentially increase the quality of all your future vacations, read on.

Before we start however, a quick acknowledgement for those not yet aware of the importance of a relaxing and restful time away from work.

Bottom line: If you don’t disengage from work while you’re on vacation, you’re missing the point. There is a good reason that some of the smartest companies (with lauded culture) now require that you take vacation. Further, people that don’t take breaks from work can even become a liability. For crying out loud, Henry Ford started figuring all of this out almost one hundred years ago.

Anyhow, assuming we can all agree on these three basic things:

  1. Most supervisors are generally reasonable
  2. The tremendous value of an unplugged, stress-free vacation (i.e. not the one where you’re still working, but from the beach instead of a desk)
  3. Emails can be re-sent.

I will show you how simple it is to effectively disengage from work with a simple conversation, out of office message, and some personal courage.


Have a conversation with your boss before you leave. During this conversation, explain how much you’re looking forward to this time away to recharge and think on the business (instead of in it) from a relaxed vantage point. Carefully convey how not stressing about the work that you will be missing will be a major contributor to the stress-free nature of this vacation. Politely ask your boss if it’s OK for you to count on her to either (1) delegate to your co-worker (whom you have conducted a careful hand-off with) or (2) for her to handle all the minor “crises of the day” that come up while you’re away. Or, worst case, come to an agreement with your boss that if you are absolutely needed, that she will call you and not rely on email.


Use the following out of office message:

Regretfully, I did not receive the email you just sent to me, nor will I read it upon my return.

I am currently on vacation and will not be reading any emails received from 5-15 February. If your email requires action or contains important information, I respectfully request you pursue one of the following options:

  • Contact me upon my return on 16 February.
  • Contact Lukas Skarsgård at (XXX) XXX-XXXX or lukas.skarsgård@widgets.limo.
  • Forward your original email to me and include 16february@followupthen.com in the Cc line (how this works: https://www.followupthen.com).

Thank you very much for your consideration and understanding as I spend this limited but important time away from work.


While on vacation, do one of three things:

  1. Pause your inbox.
  2. Turn off the email sync option on your work phone.
  3. Leave your work phone at home (but be sure to leave a personal mobile number with your boss if he expects to call you for emergencies)


This is the personal courage part I mentioned earlier.

When you return to work and you open your email inbox, do exactly the following (these steps assume that you left work with zero emails in your inbox):

  1. Carefully avoid eye contact
  2. Select all emails (Ctrl+a)
  3. Archive all emails (or move to your completed folder)

And breathe a deep, satisfying sigh of relief as the world continues to turn, just as it always has, and always will.

Finally, if what you read is 100% antithetical to your current company culture, you may need to seek employment elsewhere. Why? Because your boss won’t sneak into the cemetery and scribble, “He was a great man who diligently checked emails whilst on vacation” on your tombstone.

Do it. Do it for you. Do it for your health. Do it for your family.

Here’s to your next enjoyable vacation!

How to Avoid a Terrible Airbnb (and Pick the Perfect One) for Your Next Budget Vacation


If you still aren’t already sold on the cost saving awesomeness that are Airbnbs, before I explain how to avoid a terrible Airbnb, I’ve taken a moment to list just a few of the reasons my wife and I have made the permanent switch.

However, if you’re already sold on an Airbnb and just need the scoop on reserving the best Airbnb for your next trip, feel free to skip ahead to the enumerated steps located just a quick scroll below.


The obvious reason for booking an Airbnb instead of a standard hotel is certainly the potential for large cost savings. Depending on your source, the savings may not always be worth some of the downsides (but I disagree). It’s also important to note that although hotels generally have a few options that affect price, when searching for the right Airbnb, there are a very wide variety of options that can greatly affect the final cost of your stay. I can say this definitively from my own personal experience – having used Airbnb to save up to 50% or more while exploring Europe these last two years.

Other key benefits to picking an Airbnb:

  • Options – Pay for only the space you need (i.e. Do you need a week of luxury or just a room with a bed to crash for a night?)
  • Proximity – How close to the action do you need to be? While there aren’t always hotels close to an event or location you may be interested in, there’s generally always an Airbnb close by.
  • Concierge services – Many hosts are known for their friendliness and are more than willing to assist you navigating the city or neighborhood.


Certainly, as with any travel situation, the risks of letdowns from a bad experience always exist. Although this can usually be avoided by carefully reading user reviews, sometimes things may just go awry unexpectedly. I’ve listed some potential drawbacks that should certainly be considered before booking an Airbnb:

  • Last-minute cancellations – Airbnb hosts are humans and things happen, so last-minute cancellations are certainly a possibility (but can also be successfully avoided, please continue reading).
  • Hardware failures – Unlike hotels, there are not rooms a plenty, so if the one and only shower head breaks, you may go a day without feeling “so fresh and so clean, clean” while a technician does their thing.
  • Extra chatty hosts – Not everyone values personal interaction, feedback, or assistance in the same way.
  • Varying comfort standards – Different people are accustomed to different standards of living across the globe. In Europe, crappy beds, extremely small showers, and tiny apartments without air conditioning are absolutely a thing – even in the summer time. Hotels know better and generally cater to the lowest common denominator (i.e. needy and/or pampered westerners). This is often not true for individuals renting out some of their extra space on Airbnb.

The good news is, if you read the simple steps I’ve outlined below, you can optimize all the benefits of an Airbnb and minimize or eliminate the potential risks that I highlighted above.

Ready? Here we go…


  1. Determine your location

This one is completely up to you (google maps FTW). Immediate considerations are of course proximity to the airport or your destination, parking requirements, public transportation options, and whatever else will make your stay the most enjoyable. Using the integrated Google map provided by Airbnb makes refining your options by location very simple. Although Airbnb will not give you an exact address (for good reason), it gives you a very good idea of the location.

  1. Determine your price range

There are several ways to go about setting your own personal price limit, and to a certain extent, the market will dictate this for you. A simple rule of thumb might be to find an inexpensive hotel in the same general area using google maps (making sure to select the same dates of your stay) and setting this as your starting price ceiling, perhaps. Sometimes I adjust my price after I’ve refined all my search criteria (step 4 below) and I see what prices are populating the map, like this:

As you can see, the prices fluctuate widely based on location, but low, median, and peak prices are easy to ascertain. All you would then need to do is pick your own personal limit.

  1. Determine your requirements

Next to location, your requirements will be the second major factor determining your Airbnb options and final price. Accordingly, if your basic expectations are not met your stay will ultimately not be enjoyable. As such, use the list below as a starting point to develop your own personal search criteria.

Some of your major considerations might include the following:

  • Air conditioning – in Europe and many other non-westernized locations, this is not a given. If you’re planning summer travel and don’t thoroughly enjoy sweating in your sleep, this might be something to make sure is included.
  • Parking – paid, free, available? These options can vary widely, and of course, can also have a big impact on price. Some locations have extremely limited parking available and asking potential hosts about the situation beforehand – or reading the reviews – are key to avoiding heartbreak in this category (if you’re bringing a rental car, of course).
  • Breakfast provided – if groceries or cereal are not your thing in the morning, make sure your host is providing a breakfast. If not, and you’re on a budget, make sure shared cupboard and/or fridge space is available instead.
  • Living space – do you need an entire house or apartment to yourself, or is a single room with shared common spaces (living room, bath, etc.) good enough? The less space and privacy you need, the more broad and economical your options necessarily become.
  • Pets – obviously a very important consideration if your best traveling companion has fur, feathers, or scales.
  • Language – if you’re traveling internationally, this could be very important. However, Google translate and voice dictation are truly breaking down the language barriers. So maybe this doesn’t matter all?
  • Treehouse – in case this is really important to you, it’s an actual option Airbnb. Beat that, Hilton.
  • Superhost – by selecting this option, you are assured that your host meets certain criteria that all but guarantee a great experience with Airbnb. Most importantly, Airbnb hosts cannot obtain or maintain superhost status if they cancel any reservations (with certain exceptions). The possibility of cancellation, of course, being one of the drawbacks I mentioned above. The entire list of superhost requirements can be found on Airbnb’s website.
  1. Last Step – Apply Filters

Using the More filters option and given consideration for the items listed above—and of course, your own personal preferences—simply update the filters to pick your perfect property. Toggling between private home, shared room, and other materially cost-affecting options will ultimately help you reach the perfect balance between price and amenities. I’ve also found that booking well in advance (2-4 months out) is key to finding gems at an affordable price.

  1. Final Notes

Some final things to consider when booking…

Beware of photos that showcase the city but are unrelated to the actual property. This practice seems rather common, as we ran into this during our Airbnb stay in Barcelona. It ultimately had no lasting negative impact, but if we were banking on a particular street view, this may have been a downer.

Be sure to confirm check-in and check-out times, as they can vary widely. This matters if you’re arriving on a late flight and your host isn’t thrilled with letting you in 11:00 pm. Some also charge extra for late arrivals. Conversely, if you’re arriving early (i.e. before check-in) and would like to drop off your bags to explore the city, make sure your host provides this option (Airbnb typically makes it clear if this an option or not).

If you book a room with a host that is not a superhost (to save money or other), I recommend reaching out to them to confirm your arrival date, especially if it’s on a holiday or an otherwise special date. I say this because my wife and I booked an Airbnb in Paris for New Year’s Eve a full four months in advance, and our non-superhost cancelled on us one month before our trip. This turned out to be fortuitous, as we ended up landing a much cooler (and unfortunately pricier), alternative accommodation. Although it was helpful and appreciated that Airbnb provided a discount on the new booking, it was not an experience we would like to repeat. Communicating with your host ahead of time could certainly mitigate your chances of enjoying a similar experience.

There you have it. These are all the things we’ve picked up from traveling Europe the last two years that I thought might be helpful to others. If you have any questions or additional tips, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a note.

Happy trails!