Today I’m joined by Michael Hyatt, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and co-author of Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Michael blogs, podcasts and develops online courses on leadership, productivity and getting your product offerings heard above all the noise. He and his team, Michael Hyatt & Company, serve a readership of nearly a million every month. We’re going to take an inside look at how he uses WorkFlowy in the behind-the-scenes ideation, organization and collaboration of his hugely successful products.
FRANK: Michael, I recently listened to a podcast with yourself and Stu McLaren on “6 Tricks for Training Yourself to Persist When You Want to Quit” – and here’s something you said that caught my attention:
What I have to remember is that in order to say no, I have to be committed to a bigger yes. So when I say no to that great speaking engagement, what I’m really saying yes to is staying home with my family or staying focused on a bigger project that I know is going to have more longer term value.
So thanks a ton for saying yes to this interview. I’m sure the WorkFlowy community will benefit from the (WorkFlowy) insights you have to offer.
MICHAEL: I’m glad to do it, Frank. There’s a lot of cross-promotion going on in our space. But I made the commitment years ago that I would only promote tools I actually use and personally believe in–which made this an easy yes. I’m a WorkFlowy enthusiast and I believe it’s a great fit for the high achievers I serve at michaelhyatt.com.
FRANK: In April of 2012 you commented,
I have been using WorkFlowy for the past week, along with my team. We are all really impressed with how simple yet powerful it is. It works more like we think. I am not sure yet what it will mean for my workflow. I think I will still use Evernote for storing documents, receipts, and web clips, but Workflowy could well replace my task management system.
Right from the get-go you somehow knew you were sitting on something phenomenal. Now, 4 years later, what does it mean to your workflow? I mean, I know that WorkFlowy is an essential part of your productivity toolbox. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of just how essential it is in the “back stage” of your projects and life in general. What is the extent of it?
MICHAEL: You’re right. WorkFlowy has become an integral part of my productivity toolbox. I use it every single day. As I anticipated, I still use Evernote for storing documents and web clips. But WorkFlowy has become my preferred tool for content creation. I naturally think in outlines, so WorkFlowy is a perfect fit for my mind. It’s the first place I turn when I’m outlining a new post or working on a larger project. The ability to organize all my ideas hierarchically has served me well. Plus, thanks to your book, I’ve tweaked WorkFlowy using Stylish and some custom CSS. I love the fact that I can customize it to suit the look and feel I want.
FRANK: Back in 2014 you mentioned a slew of the popular task management apps that you’d run the gauntlet with: Asana, Basecamp, Daylite, Flow, Nirvana, OmniFocus, Remember the Milk, Things, Toodledo, Trello, Wunderlist, ZenDone, Evernote… and WorkFlowy. And then you added that you always came back to Nozbe. We’re now another 2 years further down the road: at this stage, is there even just a teeny, tiny crack in the door for WorkFlowy in terms of task management? What would make you jump ship and dive head first into WorkFlowy for task management – if you haven’t yet done so?
MICHAEL: That’s a really interesting question. I will say that I tested using WorkFlowy for that purpose but I’m still very committed to Nozbe as my task manager. I realize WorkFlowy serves that need for many people, but I think you have to find something that works the way your brain works. There’s not one solution that works for everyone. For me, Nozbe works best for task management and WorkFlowy works best for content development. I really have fallen in love with it as a content tool.
FRANK: What, to you, are a couple of the outstanding things you’ve found about WorkFlowy that don’t play out quite as well in any other app you’ve tried?
MICHAEL: I really appreciate the simplicity of the formatting and how intuitive it is to use. The tool doesn’t get in the way of the work. Many other tools are too clunky and you find that the tool distracts from the real work at hand. That’s never the case with WorkFlowy. Another favorite feature of mine is the ability to drag and drop entire sections. Every content creator knows how much a piece of content evolves. I go through multiple iterations between my initial idea and the final product. So the ease of rearranging my outline is a major plus. It’s also a big help that WorkFlowy allows for so many keyboard shortcuts. I’m a major productivity geek and I’m obsessed with finding the most efficient way of doing things. So keyboard shortcuts are essential. But I’d have to say my favorite feature is the seamless collaboration.
FRANK: You mentioned “seamless collaboration”. Could you paint a picture and let us in on that?
MICHAEL: I use it as a collaborative tool primarily with my content team. For example, I have a new productivity course coming out called Free to Focus. We started by outlining the entire course and all of the deliverables in WorkFlowy. We then fleshed out the content. The four of us would all drop in ideas or write entire sections of content right there in WorkFlowy. At a few points in the process, we reorganized content – rearranging the sequence of lessons or switching the placement of illustrations. The collaboration was completely seamless thanks to WorkFlowy. In fact, I’m recommending WorkFlowy as a tool for outlining content and creating workflows in that course.
FRANK: I’ve kept (loose) tabs on you over the years, and I know you’ve got a lot going for yourself with multiple projects. Would you allow us an inside peek at any list(s) of your actual behind-the-scenes prep work in WorkFlowy?
MICHAEL: Absolutely. As I just mentioned, we’ve been using it to develop my new productivity course, Free to Focus. It’s a 21-day total productivity system designed to empower you to Achieve More by Doing Less. Here you can see the three modules and the nine lessons in the course:
Now I’ve expanded out a few of the lessons (Lesson 2 – Evaluate; Lesson 4 – Eliminate; and Lesson 5 – Automate):
This allows you to see the structure and the main points of each lesson, including some notes I’ve left for my team about the slide deck. If we expanded them out even further, you’d see what I actually planned to say in each lesson:
You can see that we’ve even centralized the key visuals for the course here. We’re using Evernote links for the sharing of these files. I’m excited that WorkFlowy plans to develop a feature that would enable us to embed images directly into the outline, but mixing in Evernote or Dropbox links is a functional solution in the meantime. Here’s what one of those links opens:
This is the Productivity Flywheel™ that visually displays the content of the course.
Or here’s my initial sketch of the foundational tool of the course, which I initially called The Free Time Matrix:
After discussing further with my content team and graphic designer, we actually wound up turning this into a compass – The Freedom Compass™ – which is designed to help you spend more time on work you love and less time on everything else. The link to that is included in the outline, too. By dropping in Evernote links, we were able to centralize all of the key elements here in WorkFlowy including images. I highly recommend it for anyone working collaboratively with a team. It’s a truly seamless experience.
FRANK: I’ve gotten wind of a free upcoming summit you’re hosting with a handful of well-known intentional living authors and gurus. What, where, when, who, why, how??
MICHAEL: Yes, I do have a special online event coming up. In fact, I’d like to invite your readers to join us. To celebrate the release of the new course, we’re having a free online productivity summit the first week of September called the Free to Focus Productivity Summit. I know your readers would love it. It’s a series of free, exclusive interviews with productivity thought leaders. We’ll have Cal Newport, who wrote “Deep Work”; Greg McKeown, author of “Essentialism”; Gretchen Rubin; Sean Covey; and several others who are reshaping the way we think about intentional living and working. I’ve done several of these interviews already and they’ve been mind-blowing. Your readers can watch them online for free at freetofocus.com/summit. It’s all about finding the freedom to do the work you love, accomplishing what matters most, and recapturing quality time to spend on your health and the people you care about. I know that you guys at WorkFlowy have those same objectives so I wanted to extend the invite to your readers. It’s the least I could do to say thanks for having me on the blog. As I said before, I’m all-in when it comes to WorkFlowy so it’s been a real pleasure to do this interview. I hope your readers will enjoy our Summit interviews in turn. They’re only available for a limited time, but they can sign up for them now at freetofocus.com/summit.
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The tendency to want explore other productivity apps is not motivated by “a really smart and/ or successful person is using it”, but rather by wanting to find a tool that is easy to use and efficient. The feature about these other apps that is attractive is the way they enter and associate tasks and events dates more or less automatically. However, that benefit is outweighed by WorkFlowy’s ability to enter new items quickly, see as much or as little as you need, and navigate efficiently. For example I composed this reply in WorkFlowy at my convenience when i could collect my thoughts and when I had the blog article open, I could copy and paste if into blog comment area. I don’t think I could have done that as easily with one of the other apps. It is also nice that the hyperlink to the WF blog is located at the bottom of this page.
Thanks for the interview. I am just noticing this post. I received the freetofocus.com/summit the week they were active. Michael Hyatt did not mention WorkFlowy in his video so I was not aware until reading the interview. His endorsement of WorkFlowy is nice.
I confess that as a result of this interview I was tempted to explore Nozbe and Todoist over the weekend. Some of the graphics and automatic features are nice, but even though WorkFlowy entries maybe a little more “manual”, it is nice to have more control over my WorkFlowy “layout” and not be “locked in” to the structure of some other apps. With the ability to put task & event dates as tags (#161003) and filtering by the date tag, Chrome extensions, and”hacks” contributed by you Frank (WorkFlowy book and this blog) and other WorkFlowy users and services like Dropbox, etc., think I may have gotten the need to explore out of my system, at least for a while. It seems to be much more relaxing to enter and keep things in WorkFlowy. Thanks.
One might be lured into trying an app simply because a really smart and/ or successful person is using it. I have tinkered with many an app, as much as, if not more than WorkFlowy. I’m a babe when it comes to WorkFlowy (really late adopter)… but one thing I’m sure of, once you get bitten by the “outliner” bug, there’s no remedy for it.
Hi Frank, great interview. I loved the Michael said “The tool doesn’t get in the way of the work.” That’s such a great point and one of the reasons I love Workflowy. Quick question – I assume the word count at the top of certain lists is automatic… how did he do that??
Hey Martine, I’m thinking that Michael gets one of his team members to count the words one by one… Either that or a copy-paste into an online word-count app. I also remember the Japanese team that came out with HandyFlowy and MemoFlowy also came out with some bookmarks that did a letter count… And then you can divide that by an average of X amount of letters/ word. I Googled it some time back… But it depends on the level of sophistication of your writing 🙂
Hey Johann, your doodle looks interesting 🙂
So how do you automate your workflow/ integrate Evernote with WorkFlowy?
The automation is in the capture step. Tasks are sent to Evernote via IFTTT. But, Evernote is terrible at formatting lists. So I use Workflowy to think through all my projects and add Evernote links with source data as notes to my Workflowy outline. So, I leverage Workflowy with Evernote by keeping my outlines clean and simple with a focus on problem solving whilst Evernote captures the details for when they are needed.
Here is how I integrated Workflowy with Evernote: http://wp.me/p4JbCp-1L