Scott Berkun’s book The Art of Project Management (now issued in a new edition and renamed Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice)) is the best book I’ve read on project management. It is fantastically helpful.
The other day I came across these brief notes I had jotted down a while ago from the book. They are very incomplete, hitting on just a few of the key things that stood out to me.
But sometimes, that’s what can be most helpful. So here they are, in case they might be timely for you as well:
- Requirements vs. specifications. Requirements are the what, and specifications the how.
- The three perspectives: Business (including marketing), technology, and user. User is most important but also most often neglected.
- The importance of planning: “Plans provide an opportunity to review decisions, expose assumptions, and clarify agreements between people and organizations. Plans act as a forcing function against all kinds of stupidity because they demand the important issues be resolved while there is time to consider other options. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend four hours sharpening the axe,’ which I take to mean that smart preparation minimizes work.” (p. 41)
- On thinking outside the box. It’s not always best to say “think outside the box.” Eliminating boxes is not necessarily the hard part—it’s knowing which boxes to use and when to use them. Constraints are ever present. Art of Project Management, 93. “Do whatever you want with the box. Think in the box, out of the box, on the box, under the box, tear apart and make a fire out of the box, whatever, as long as you manage to solve the problems identified as the goals for the project” (p. 94).
- Where good ideas come from. To generate good ideas, ask good questions.
- Open issues list: “An open issue is anything that needs to be decided or figured out but hasn’t happened yet. It’s essentially a list of questions, and it should encompass anything that needs to be done, prioritized by its potential impact on engineering” (123).
- Different types of requirements and specs: Requirements, feature spec, technical specs, work-item list (the description of each programming assignment needed to fulfill the feature spec), and test criteria and milestone exit criteria (prioritized cases for the new functionality, along with goals for how well the code needs to perform on those cases to meet the quality goals for the milestone).
For those of you who haven’t yet informed yourself on what Facebook Connect is, here is a helpful summary.
Here’s the brief summary:
Facebook Connect is the next evolution of Facebook Platform, enabling you to integrate the power of Facebook Platform into your own site. Enable your users to:
- Seamlessly “connect” their Facebook account and information with your site
- Connect and find their friends who also use your site
- Share information and actions on your site with their friends on Facebook
I think there are some very exciting things that will be happening because of this!
It can be useful to do a quick estimate of the time it will take to accomplish each of the projects on your project list.
I’ve never really done that before. I used to think that doing so would be an unnecessary exercise that would only serves to take time away from actually getting my projects done. And, beyond that, something that would evoke stares of disbelief from any who heard about it (“you actually do that?? what a waste of time! I just get everything done without any effort, and certainly without wasting in time in trivia like that!).
But I just did it (took less than 2 minutes) and discovered that I have about 63 hours of work staring at me simply from my list of current projects.
That’s very useful to know!
Assuming that I could devote 6 hours a day simply to project work (no email, no new tasks that come up, no meetings), it would take me just over two work weeks to finish that (assuming working only 40 hour weeks). And then, after that, there are a bunch of upcoming projects waiting in the wings.
When I factor in the doing of operational and routine things, that’s probably about a month’s worth of work.
It might be easy to conclude, then, that I have too much work on my current list.
But that’s not necessary too much — it just says that I am looking out about a month at a time on my projects list (not in due dates — many of the due dates are farther out — but in terms of work length). Having about a month active at a time is probably not necessarily a bad thing.
Now, I do try to keep my projects list as short as possible, and so maybe a month’s worth is to much to have on there. I do have more projects than normal active right now.
But the main issue is: Without having done this estimate, I wouldn’t know what quantity of work my projects list really represents.
But now that I know that, I can ask the next question: Is this what I really want to get done over the next month? If I did no other projects over the next month, would I be happy with the result? If not, what should I take off the list, and what should go on in its place?
The payoff in those questions is very high. But if I had not estimated the length of my current projects, my default would have been simply to try to cram new stuff in when it came up — without really knowing the trade-off in time delays it would cause.
Now, I can be more informed about those decisions and make sure I really am getting the right things done over the next month.
With spring here (although it doesn’t feel like it yet in MN!), I’m looking forward to grilling again.
For those out there who like to grill, here is my all-time favorite book on grilling: Weber’s Big Book of Grilling. It is filled with great grilling recipes to try out, along with all sorts of tips and sage advice on how to grill with excellence.
Eric Ries has a great article on how to build companies that matter, based on a model that he calls the lean startup.
The way for the lean startup approach has been paved by recent technological innovations such as web 2.0 and has been made even more relevant by the current economic crisis.
Here’s the intro:
We’re living in a time of renewed possibility for startups. Major trends – from the pain of the economic crisis to the disruption of web 2.0 – are breaking the old models and paving the way for a new breed of company. I call it the Lean Startup.
The Lean Startup is a disciplined approach to building companies that matter. It’s designed to dramatically reduce the risk associated with bringing a new product to market by building the company from the ground up for rapid iteration and learning. It requires dramatically less capital than older models, and can find profitability sooner. Most importantly, it breaks down the artificial dichotomy between pursuing the company’s vision and creating profitable value. Instead, it harnesses the power of the market in support of the company’s long-term mission.
Tim O’Reilly has recently been advocating that as an industry we focus on building stuff that matters. In response, I want to try and present a way of building startups that can realize that dream. In particular, he as articulated three principles:
(1) Work on something that matters to you more than money, (2) Create more value than you capture, and (3) Take the long view.
Ries then goes on to present an approach for startups that builds on those principles.
Here is a quick list of some of the main tools I use:
- Laptop: MacBook Pro 15″ [I have the version prior to the one found in this link]
- Email: Mac Mail [I bring my Gmail and work mail into here]
- Calendar: iCal
- Contacts: Mac Address Book
- Task Management: OmniFocus
- Capture tool 1: Moleskine journal
- Capture tool 2: Jott for iPhone
- Mobile device: iPhone
- Web browser: Firefox
- Feed reader: NetNewsWire
- Keeping up with Twitter: Tweetdeck
- Twitter on my iPhone: Tweetie and sometimes Twitfire
- Office tools: Microsoft Office for Mac [but considering a switch to iWork at some point]; also use Google Docs a lot — great for sharing documents without doing attachments
- Diagramming, creating flow charts and org charts and etc.: MindManager and OmniGraffle
- Financial Management: Quicken [have to run this on Windows on my Mac -- I don't recommend the Mac version; I'll be doing a post on financial software for the Mac coming up]
- Running Windows on my Mac: VMWare’s Fusion
- Computer backups: Time Machine
At some point I will provide more detail on each of these and how I use them, but a straight list is hopefully a good place to start in the meantime.
Note that this list is just the electronic side of things (with the exception of my moleskine notebook for a capture tool), and I’m probably leaving several things out. I also have recommendations for the physical side — what type of stapler to get, what type of physical in box, and so forth.
Note that most of the above software is for the Mac. When I was on Windows, I used Outlook for email, calendar, contacts, and task management — and was relatively happy with it because I customized things very heavily (for details, see the David Allen Company whitepaper on Customizing Microsoft Outlook for GTD).
(Thanks to one of my readers for suggesting this post!)
The Washington Post has a Q&A with David Allen where he answers readers questions.
How does prayer relate to productivity? In many ways. One is: Focus on the important not just in your actions, but also in your prayers. Make sure you are praying for the most important thing of all.
On this, see John Piper’s great post, The Most Important Prayer Request in the World.
How do you keep track of your books to read?
If you do GTD and have a “books to read” list, do you consider that to be a type of project list, a type of next action list, or some other type of list?
That’s the mantra at IDEO, which they apply not only to the design of their products, but also to their organization itself.
Now, before getting into that, a quick aside. This principle, that “enlightened trial and error outperforms the planning of flawless intellects,” is quite profound. It is based on the reality that we are finite, and is in fact one of the key lessons of human history.
For example, it shows us why central planning doesn’t work as an economic system. Or, better, the failure of central planning as an economic system manifests the truth of this principle (which we can now use to discourage new attempts at increased central planning, BTW!).
The mass collaboration of the internet is also powered, in part, by this principle of enlightened trial and error — in this case, the enlightened trial and error of essentially millions of people collaborating (directly and indirectly) on a massive scale because of technology.
For example, the team at OmniGroup created the task management application OmniFocus. But they encourage user feedback and even gather data on how their program is used. They are continually building out and improving the program on the basis of how people actually use it and on the basis of what the users identify as potentially being most important to them.
That is only one small example of how many things, even though ultimately developed by a company, are now developed “in collaboration with” large groups of real people. There are also many other forms of mass collaboration that are now happening (on this see the excellent book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything).
We are just on the cusp of some very powerful changes that will come about from this new way of working and thinking, made possibly by the web (and now, especially, web 2.0 functionality).
So this principle is very, very significant and has very wide application.
But back to IDEO.
IDEO shows that of the many areas where this principle is relevant, an easily overlooked but quite fascinating application is to the arena of organizational strategy and design.
Here is what we read about IDEO in What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management:
IDEO’s mantra is that “enlightened trial and error outperforms the planning of flawless intellects,” a philosophy it applies not just to the design of its products but also to itself, its organization, and how it conducts business.
It has built an experimenting, do-what-it-takes culture. IDEO had made a good living by designing products for the high technology industry. But during the technology crash of 2001, it needed to reinvent itself, and it did. The company began designing products for consumer goods companies like Procter & Gamble. And it even got into the business of designing experiences, which helped it garner business figuring out how to design hospital emergency rooms, for instance, to make things less confusing and fearful for patients.
Here’s the application:
So, instead of sitting in meetings and spending time preparing fancy PowerPoint presentaitons, develop your strategy adaptively, by using your company’s best thinking at the time, learning from experience, and then trying again, using what you have learned.
Building and experimenting, mistake-forgiving, adaptive culture provides a competitive advantage that lasts, because that sort of environment is much more difficult to copy than some dogmatic strategy. Under almost all circumstances, fast learners are going to outperform even the most brilliant strategists who can’t adapt.
Michael Gilbert had a helpful article last spring in Nonprofit Online News called Playing it Safe is a Trap: Five Syndromes in Online Marketing.
That’s a great title, and I’d say the concept applies to much of work and life — not just nonprofits and online marketing.
His five points in the article are:
- Seeking safety in best practices
- Seeking safety in the wrong metrics
- Seeking safety in self-promotion
- Seeking safety in cautious language
- Seeking safety in control
Here are a few helpful excerpts:
When it comes to communicating with their current and prospective stakeholders online, nonprofits will often choose the path that feels the safest to them. They do this in regard to their methods, their metrics, their language, their content, and their management practices. I argue that such a choice is anything but safe and indeed is responsible for some of the most serious and common mistakes that a nonprofit can make.
Ultimately, we seek to control things that needn’t be controlled, in our desire to avoid the uncertainties that come with the kind of communication practices that truly light a fire in people. Indeed, we are simply afraid to light that fire because at some point it will no longer be in our control. We set up time consuming approval processes, elaborate branding requirements, and many other mechanisms to ensure that the communication of our staff and our stakeholders all remains firmly managed. Even our notion of “viral marketing” tends to involve setting things up to encourage our stakeholders to do exactly what we tell them to do.
This is not the place to describe the alternatives to these fear avoidance tactics. (Indeed, I sometimes feel like all our other work is about such alternatives.) But it’s important to note that the alternative isn’t just random risk taking. That’s a straw man that we set up to justify our actions. The overarching alternative is simply to practice letting go, a bit at a time. The more we allow anxiety and fear to guide our decisions, the more power we give them and the harder it is to break free. Breaking these five patterns is a good place to start.
Thomas Sowell has a great column from the other day on the housing crisis. Here are the first two paragraphs:
Someone once said that Senator Hubert Humphrey, liberal icon of an earlier generation, had more solutions than there were problems.
Senator Humphrey was not unique in that respect. In fact, our present economic crisis has developed out of politicians providing solutions to problems that did not exist– and, as a result, producing a problem whose existence is all too real and all too painful.
Read the whole thing.
Why can it be such a challenge to manage time? In her book Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern points out that it comes from the way we view time.
Most people think of time as intangible. In the journey from chaos to order, it is often easier to organize space than time, because space is something you can actually see. Time, on the other hand, is completely invisible. You can’t see it or hold it in your hands. It’s not something that piles up or that you can physically move around. (p. 9)
When you are organizing a closet, for example, you can see how much stuff you are dealing with, and therefore whether it will all fit. But when it comes to time, it is hard to conceptualize since time is invisible. Yet as long as your time remains elusive and hard to conceptualize, “you will have difficulty managing your days.”
So what is the solution?
Change your perception of time and develop a more tangible view of it. You need to learn to see time in more visual, measurable terms.
But how do we do this? We recognize the analogy between organizing time and organizing space.
Just as a closet is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of objects, a schedule is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of tasks. Your days are not infinite and endless. When you think of it this way, time is not so intangible and elusive. In fact, each day is simply a container, a storage unit that has a definite capacity you can reach.
Once you understand that time has boundaries, you begin to look at your to-dos much differently. Tasks are the objects that you must fit into your space. Each one has a size, and arranging them in your day becomes a mathematical equation. As you evaluate what you need to do, you begin to calculate the size of each task and whether you can fit it into the space.
When you start seeing time as having borders, just as space does, you will become much more realistic about what you can accomplish, and much more motivated to master various time-management tools and techniques to help you make the most of your time. (p. 11)
If time management feels like a continual challenge, it can be easy to think that this must simply be the way things are for you. Even those who are pretty good at time management often run into snags and challenges that create drag, and it can be tempting to think that this also is the way that some things just have to be.
But the good news is that there is hope. I think the main reason good time management can feel elusive is because we simply haven’t sat back to identify the causes of time management ineffectiveness.
When you bring clear definition to what causes your time management challenges, you can actually see a way forward in addressing them.
Julie Morgenstern, in her book Time Management from the Inside Out, helps us here by providing a “three-level diagnostic” that helps you zero in on the causes of your time management problems.
The Value of Identifying What’s Holding You Back
Here is how she introduces her diagnostic:
When people struggle to manage their time, they very often jump to the conclusion that they are internally flawed somehow, that they are born incompetent in this area of life. Or they throw their hands up in resignation, convinced that “out of control” is just how life is supposed to be in the modern world. Both of these perceptions are totally inaccurate and self-defeating.
Once you learn the skill of diagnosing time-management problems [emphasis mine], you will stop wasting time and energy beating yourself up or working yourself to exhaustion. You will simply run the problem through the following three-level diagnostic, accurately zero in on the cause, and get to work on the proper solution. Swift, clear, accurate. Now, that’s a time saver! (p. 19)
The Three-Level Diagnostic for Time Management Challenges
Morgenstern explains that there are actually three possible causes to our time management problems. Sometimes, of course, more than one are at play. But having these categories in mind helps us diagnose the cause so that we can actually see hope for a solution.
The three levels are (pp. 20 – 21):
- Technical errors
- External realities
- Psychological obstacles
By knowing these three levels, we can then know better where any inefficiencies are coming from and thus how to effectively address them.
These are easily resolved mechanical mistakes. You need a skill or a technique you don’t have… Once you understand these errors, you simply make the appropriate adjustments to your approach and you’re all set. Problem solved.
Technical mistakes are not always so easy to resolve — I think that there are a few involved right in the basic GTD methodology which I’ve been trying to resolve for years, and the path to identifying solutions was challenging.
But most of the time it is easy to make a few tweaks to our mechanical errors or inefficiencies. Often, the case is simply that we don’t know the process for managing a certain type of task or input most effectively. Once we learn that, the problem is solved. That is one of the things that this blog exists to help out with. And even the technical snags where solutions don’t come easy at least have the hope that there is a solution out there to be figured out.
External realities are “environmental factors that are actually beyond your control. You didn’t create them, and they put a limit on how organized you can be.”
It is nice to realize that some challenges, indeed, originate from outside of us! When it comes to external factors, we need to first stop blaming ourselves and then find a way to mitigate them through tactical system approaches and strategic mindsets (like “first things first,” and so forth) as effectively as we can.
Psychological obstacles are
hidden, internal forces that prevent you from achieving the life you desire. If you have conquered all of your technical errors and external realities and are still feeling out of control, it’s likely that you have a psychological force working against you.
In other words, sometimes we are our own worst enemies! But there is still hope here: “When you realize what’s causing certain self-sabotaging habits, you can begin to break free of their control.”
Applying the Three Levels
Applying this diagnostic is simple. “Each time you look at one of your time-management problems, as yourself, ‘Is my problem technical or external or psychological?’” You can then begin to address it based on the actual cause and come up with an appropriate solution.
Since it’s often a “combination of forces that create time management problems,” note that you need to “consider all three levels of errors and obstacles when diagnosing what is going wrong.” If you don’t do this, we might end up with a partial fix — for example, “you will remove the external reality that’s preventing you from accomplishing certain tasks but the psychological obstacles will remain.”
In sum, when you encounter obstacles in your time management — both persistent and occassional — don’t just accept it or immediately jump to a solution. First, identify the cause — is it technical, external, or psychological (or a combination)? Then, half the work of creating an effective solution will have been done, and the rest of the path will often illuminate itself.
One key GTD principle is that if you have a thought that you want to act on, but which you can’t act on right away, you write it down. You then process it later along with the rest of the stuff in your inbox (or capture tool).
I am a big believer in that principle. And I also see that it has a slight down side: the more ideas you write down, the more time you have to spend processing them — thus taking time away from literally doing things (or just doing nothing).
As a result, sometimes I try to have a very tight filter over what I actually write down when it comes to actionable ideas. But this also has a trade-off: some of those ideas don’t come back, and if they are good, that means they won’t happen.
Maybe in some way or another the best of them end up coming back (though it is interesting that David Allen observed once that “if you have to have the same thought twice, that’s inefficient”).
However, I think that there are at least six such ideas that probably won’t. For over the weekend I had about six really good (in my opinion!) ideas for blog posts which, in my desire to save time and not overwhelm myself with input, I didn’t write down. (Plus, I was also outside — although that’s no excuse, because I am now using Jott for iPhone as my capture tool.)
Now, they are gone — I cannot remember them at all. The one thing I do remember about them is that they pertained to current, ad hoc observations on certain things — examples of productivity problems and how to deal with them, and so forth. Their ad hoc nature is probably one of the main reasons that I can’t remember what they are anymore. There is one other thing I remember about them, I guess — I found them interesting (though maybe I forgot them becasuse you wouldn’t have!).
Regardless, here we see an immediate, real-life example of the pros and cons of writing things down (or not)!
Gmail now has an “undo send” feature.
In the last post (actually, two posts ago now), we saw that it can be very helpful and clarifying to define the deliverables on your projects.
This leads to the reason knowledge work can be so hard. Not hard in the sense of heavy lifting, but in the sense of — for lack of a better word — “mystifying.”
The challenge of knowledge work is that, usually, we have to define our own projects and deliverables. I often find myself looking back fondly to when I was in school, and all of the “deliverables” were handed to me on a silver platter (= syllabus).
You didn’t even really need to keep a project list — all of your “projects” were defined for you, with detail, right there in the syllabus. (Although if I had it to do over, I would keep a project list now.)
I didn’t know about David Allen back then. Yet, “knowing what you were not doing” was simple. I kept on top of things by simply saying to myself every once in a while “Hmm, I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing? Better look at the syllabi from my classes.” (That’s very GTD-ish, by the way.) This worked very well, and I actually think that there are some lessons to be learned from this (more on that down the road, hopefully).
The challenge in the world of work (and business of life, even if you are in school) is that you don’t have people defining all your projects for you. You do have people assigning you things, such as your boss. But you also have people “requesting” things. And then, for the most part, you are responsible to know what you need to do in order to accomplish the purpose of your position (or life at home — parenting, keeping up the house, etc.).
There is variation here, of course. For example, some positions might indeed largely consist of work that is defined very clearly and assigned by a boss or customer workflow or etc.
But regardless, my point is that we all have an ever-changing “syllabus,” most of which we have to create. And we have to create it in real-time.
The result is that, in addition to being skilled in actually doing our work, we also have to be skilled in defining our work. And there are some interesting trade-offs there: define your work poorly or inadequately, and the doing of your work will suffer. Additionally, time spent defining your work takes away time from doing it. On the other hand, define your work well, and that will pay off rich dividends in the doing of your work, in terms of both time savings and quality improvements.
Figuring this all out is, possibly, one of the greatest opportunities for increasing knowledge worker productivity on a large scale — and bringing more sanity to life at the individual level as well.
My kids are very excited about the first day of spring (today). They are celebrating with ice cream and just plain enthusiasm.
Fox News has an interesting article today on the science of the equinoxes and solstices. Here’s one interesting piece:
At the North Pole, the sun rises only once a year — at the start of spring. It gets higher in the sky each day until the summer solstice, then sinks but does not truly set until late September, at the autumn equinox.
Here is a practice that is very simple, but very powerful.
Whenever you have a new project (either created/identified by you or assigned to you), one of the first things you should do is define the deliverables for the project.
The deliverables on a project are the specific work products that you have to produce in order to complete the project.
For example, if the project is to create a new policy on this or that, the deliverables might be (1) collected research of the various policy options and then (2) a completed policy document. If the project is to set up a new room in your house, the deliverables might be (1) furniture (2) stuff for the walls and (3) a room that is arranged and put together.
Defining the deliverables is really just a component of asking “what’s the intended outcome?” It helps to clarify what the project means and, therefore, how to complete it.
Now, here’s the most important thing about this: Defining the deliverables directs your attention to outcomes rather than activities.
Activities are not necessarily productive. Many of the activities we do are not necessary. When you think about your projects, if you think first in terms of “doing activities” to get them done, your mind will probably create a lot of unnecessary work. This is only natural — if you think that doing a project means doing activities, that’s where your focus will go and your mind will have no shortage of ideas.
On the other hand, if you think first of deliverables, your mind is directed right away to outcomes instead. This will immediately filter out a whole bunch of activities and cause you to identify and focus in on only the activities that are actually essential to the project.
This will save you time and provide you with better results.
Mindtools has a good overview of a decision-making tool called the Six Thinking Hats. This tool helps improve your decision making by enabling you to look at a decision from all angles.
“Six Thinking Hats” is a powerful technique that helps you look at important decisions from a number of different perspectives. It helps you make better decisions by pushing you to move outside your habitual ways of thinking. As such, it helps you understand the full complexity of a decision, and spot issues and opportunities which you might otherwise not notice.
The hats are:
- White hat: focus on the data available.
- Red hat: look at the decision using intuition and emotion.
- Black hat: look at things pessimistically [my least favorite! -- but it will help make your plans tougher].
- Yellow hat: look at things optimistically.
- Green hat: look at things creatively.
- Blue hat: this stands for control, which means directing attention to the most needed hat when circumstances require. For example, if ideas run dry, directing focus to the green hat, or directing focus to the black hat when it’s time to create contingency plans.
For more details and examples, read the whole thing.
This is an amusing story from Greg Mankiw’s blog that also shows how free markets improve the allocation of resources.
The belief that spending drives the economy is pervasive. It manifests itself in two sub-categories: First, the belief that consumer spending drives the economy and, second, the belief that government stimulus spending assists the economy.
We’ll look at each of these in turn, and then show how this relates to the topic of productivity.
David Allen has a good article in Businessweek on Time Management in the Age of Social Media.
Here is an especially interesting observation:
The challenge is that each of those social media involvements can represent another virtual in box, with an implicit assumption that you should think about and deal with what lands there. If “processing” those additional streams of input is simply a matter of scanning to see what’s of interest to you, that may not take much time; and you can simply drop in and out on a whim. That’s no different than channel surfing, other than the added seductiveness of interactive rabbit trails to pursue.
But if you are expected—by yourself or others—to be more familiar with the content, or to contribute and respond to content directly, you’re going to have to be judicious in how you manage your social media commitments. It’s not as innocuous as another cable station, unless you have specifically downgraded your expectations of how you’re going to be involved.
From To Do Doing Done:
Successful time management is not about getting more done in a day; it’s about getting the things done that matter most. Just trying to get more done every day is life in a squirrel cage running faster and faster to nowhere. Getting done what matters most leads to a life of balance, personal satisfaction, and inner peace. Choosing the tasks to be done is more important than any system of completing random tasks. The tasks we manage on a daily basis need to flow up from the pyramid base of our values. If tasks aren’t related to our values, why would we devote our time to them? (p. 67)
I would tweak two things. First, I would not want to say that getting done what matters leads to inner peace. I don’t think it is possible to find inner peace through any form of productivity, even the right kind where we are genuinely getting the right things done. If our inner peace depends upon any productivity approach, or even just getting done what matters, we are still going to fail often and thus are just setting ourselves up for frustration. But if by “inner peace” she just means a life that is not chaotic, which is functioning well, and is aerodynamic and effective (and thus more pleasant), then I would definitely agree with that.
Second, I would add that it is not enough for our tasks to align with our values. For it is possible for our values to be wrong. Our values must align with correct principles in order to be truly useful.
There is a broad scope of values that align with correct principles, so there is much room for personal uniqueness. But values aren’t the end of the story when it comes to defining the right things to be doing. Values must be based on something deeper — namely, correct principles.
Being organized, whether with your space or time, is all about being ready. It’s about feeling in command so that you are prepared to handle all of the opportunities, distractions, and surprises life throws your way. We live in a complex, fast-paced world filled with infinite possibilities and opportunities. When you develop good time-management skills, instead of being overwhelmed by it all, you celebrate it. You know what to choose. You feel clear and focused, ready to take on life.
This observation on how organization is about being ready echoes the title of David Allen’s second book, Ready for Anything. When you are productive, you are ready for what comes your way.
I would add (and so would the author, Julie Morgenstern, but she just didn’t emphasize it as much here) that being organized is also about being able to execute on your priorities.
So their are two aims and benefits of organization: being ready to deal effectively with what comes your way, and being able to chart the course you want to take. There are both reactive and proactive components to productivity.
Ultimately, these two come together, for even in responding to the unexpected things that come our way, we want to do so in alignment with our priorities. Being organized means you know what those priorities are and that you are able to able to act on them, both in responding to the opportunities and surprises that come your way and in charting the course you want to take.