Tom Peters writes:
I see far too many of my clients, good people with good motives, obsessing on pleasing Wall Street analysts, and taking actions that may well reduce their stock’s value two to three years out. They have slashed budgets on many longer-term strategies, such as research and development, talent retention and development, even preventive maintenance on their equipment. All of it in the name of improving margins and a short-term increase in share value (or so the analysts say).
In a recession, costs often do need to be cut. But do not make cuts that will put your organization in a worse position two or three years down the road. Do not sacrifice the long-term for the short-term. In other words, don’t sacrifice the important for the urgent.
One example that Peters gives is cutting back on leadership development. Leadership development yields important long-term results. But in the short term, cutting back on it is an easy way to improve margins.
Don’t be tricked. Making those cuts for the sake of the short term will result in a weaker organization in the long term, unable to maximize the opportunities that will exist when the economy turns (and, even more importantly, which still exist right now).
When you do need to make cuts in things, first make sure you are prioritizing right and then, second, figure out how to be creative in getting the same impact (or as much as possible) for less monetary investment.
He gives other examples which are also worth taking a look at.
Here are some key points from an article summarizing Jim Collins research on catalytic mechanisms for improving organizational performance.
Catalytic mechanisms are galvanizing, non-bureaucratic links that turn objectives, such as Collins’ concept of the BHAG, into performance.
There are several characteristics of catalytic mechanisms.
First, they often produce results in unpredictable ways. “Unlike traditional systems, procedures and practices – which may lead to bureaucracy and mediocrity – catalytic mechanisms let organizations achieve greatness by allowing people to do unexpected things, to show initiative and creativity, to step outside the scripted path.”
Second, they have teeth. “In contrast to lofty aspirations a catalytic mechanism puts a process in place that all but guarantees that the vision will be fulfilled.”
Third, rather than being designed to get employees to act in the right way, “catalytic mechanisms help organizations to get the right people in the first place, keep them, and eject those who do not share the company’s core values.”
Fourth, they have an ongoing effect. “Unlike electrifying off-site meetings, exciting strategic initiatives, or impending crises, a good catalytic mechanism can last for decades.
One-on-one’s are weekly 30-minute meetings between a manager and each person that reports to him or her.
The guys at Manager Tools say that they are the most effective management tool that they know of. They have a series of three podcats on one-on-one’s along with a worksheet that provides some additional details.
I found the podcasts so helpful that I took some notes over them. Here are my notes.
The purpose of 1:1′s is communication. A culture of communication, in turn, is a key ingredient of organization-wide alignment and coordination across departments. Communication is the most important lever an organization has for performance.
- Regularly scheduled.
- Rarely missed. This means “always reschedule,” instead of canceling. [I would say that sometimes, it just won't be possible to reschedule and a week will have to be missed.]
- Primary focus is on the team member.
- Take notes. Keep in a notebook or electronically, and in each meeting refer back to follow-up items.
Here is the standing agenda that seems to work best:
- 10 minutes: Them. Agenda items they bring and whatever they want to talk about.
- 10 minutes: You. Agenda items you’ve brought; updates that will be useful to them to know. Touch base on status of projects and quarterly goals if desired.
- 10 minutes: The future/development. (If there is time left for this.)
To prepare, they suggest that it can be helpful to review 5 questions. [What I basically do is review notes from the last meeting and pull together agenda items I've collected along other items that come to mind (updates that will be useful, etc.).]
Anyway, here are the five questions they suggest:
- What things in my notes from last meeting do I need to follow up on? Then write them on your agenda.
- What do I need to be sure to communicate to this person?
- What positive feedback can I give this person?
- What adjusting feedback am I going to give this peson?
- Is there something I can delegate? (“There is a gross under-delegation epidemic in America.”)
From Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, which I read last fall and really enjoyed:
In today’s mass societies, it takes only 1 percent of people making a dedicated choice — contrary to the mainstream’s choice — to create a movement that can change the world. (p. xiv)
As many of you have probably seen, my friend Justin Taylor is mentioned in the cover story for next week’s Time Magazine, 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now. My pastor, John Piper, is mentioned as well.
They didn’t mention Justin by name, but they mentioned his blog, Between Two Worlds. Great work, Justin!
I’m always forgetting how to spell this, and spell check never seems to suggest it when I need it, so I’m putting it here:
And, its anti-particle:
I recently watched a very helpful message by Andy Stanley on Systems. He made the very, very illuminating point that systems trump intentions and mission statements.
Here’s what that means. You might have a great mission statement, but systems are what create behaviors. So if your systems are out of sync with your mission, then your results will be off-mission too.
This will be true in spite of the best of intentions. Even if everybody in the organization wants “change,” the change will not happen if the systems are set up in a way that produces and rewards the opposite behavior.
Your systems must align with your strategy, which must align with your mission. Intentions and even mission statements are not enough. You must have people that give attention to making sure that your systems align with your principles and the results you want to produce.
Vision is essential. But it is part-one of a two-part picture. The second component is your system. Organizations — including creative, bold, and visionary organizations — need to have good systems in order to be effective. Otherwise you may just be a crazy maker.
As an aside: This is why I’m not a big fan when people say “I’m great at vision, but I ignore the details.” To me, that seems irresponsible. It’s like saying, “what I like to do is create a bunch of work for people that I don’t like to do myself.” True, leaders can’t get too deep into the details. But they will have to delve into some — and then make sure that they have and can effectively give strategic direction to the other leaders on their team that are good at systems.
I would be really interested in knowing how many hours a day everyone out there spends doing email.
How much time do you spend on email each day?
How many emails a day do you get?
And, if desired: How do you feel about that?
Jakob Nielsen, the web usability guru, makes a point about large monitors that I completely affirm:
Big monitors are the easiest way to increase white-collar productivity, and anyone who makes at least $50,000 per year ought to have at least 1600×1200 screen resolution. A flat-panel display with this resolution currently costs less than $500. So, as long as the bigger display increases productivity by at least 0.5%, you’ll recover the investment in less than a year. (The typical corporate overhead doubles the company’s per-employee cost; always remember to use loaded cost, not take-home salary, in any productivity calculation.)
Apple and Microsoft have both published reports that attempt to quantify the productivity gains from bigger monitors. Sadly, the studies don’t provide credible numbers because of various methodological weaknesses. My experience shows estimated productivity gains of 5-10% when users do knowledge work on a big monitor. This translates into about an 0.5-1% increase in overall productivity for a person who does screen-focused knowledge work 10% of the day. There’s no doubt that big screens are worth the money.
I personally use a 2048×1536 display, and I wouldn’t even call that a really big screen. Within the next 10 years, I expect monitors of, say, 5000×3000 to be in fairly common use, at least among high-end business professionals.
Starting at 1600×1200, users rarely stretch their browser windows to the full screen because few websites work well on such a wide canvas. Big windows are magic for working on spreadsheets, graphic design, and many other tasks, but not for the current paradigm of Web pages. Today, big-screen Web users typically utilize their extra space for multiple windows and parallel browsing.
In sum: Get a big monitor — at least 1600×1200 resolution and 24 inches. It might cost a little more, but in a very real sense it may be wasteful not to.
As an aside, here is a very interesting comment that he makes on where the web may be going as monitor resolution grows even more. Very, very interesting:
To serve Web users with truly big screens in the future, we’ll probably need a different paradigm than individual pages. Perhaps a more newspaper-like metaphor or a different information dashboard will prove superior down the road.
A study by two UCLA economists argues that FDR’s policies prolonged the Great Depression by 7 years.
This should come as no surprise to those who understand some of the basic principles of economics, as articulated in books like Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell or Free to Choose by Milton Friedman or Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt.
Also, a recent book called FDR’s Folly delves into the Great Depression in detail and shows very specifically how FDR’s policies prolonged and deepened the Great Depression. What is unique about this particular study is how it also seeks to quantify that impact specifically.
Here are some very helpful excerpts:
“Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,” said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA’s Department of Economics. “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.”
“President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services,” said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. “So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.”
“High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns,” Ohanian said. “As we’ve seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market’s self-correcting forces.”
“The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes,” Cole said. “Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened.” [emphasis added]
(HT: Justin Taylor)
I recently came across a helpful article by Rick Warren on defining your life’s mission.
Warren, obviously, is most well-known for his book The Purpose Driven Life. Now, I would want to say that we should be promise-driven people rather than purpose-driven. (The promise is the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection for us. God acts on our behalf. Therefore we can work.)
I doubt Warren would disagree with that. I see it as very important for understanding the role of a mission statement correctly. In sum, a mission statement is not the ultimate motivating purpose in our life. God’s work on our behalf in Christ is. Our purpose — and motivation for it — flows from that.
Now, within this context, I think that personal mission statements are useful and important. They help guide your direction in life so that you are not aimless, but rather focused on what is most important for you to be doing.
In this regard, I’ve found that Warren’s article provides very helpful insight into creating an effective mission statement. He points out that there are really five questions to address:
- What will be the center of my life?
- What will be the character of my life?
- What will be the contribution of my life?
- What will be the communication of my life?
- What will be the community of my life?
What is so unique and helpful about this is that we often think of a mission statement simply in terms of what we should do — the ultimate, overriding aim that we are to achieve in our life.
But Warren points out that our mission involves more than just what we are to accomplish. It involves what we say through our lives — the overriding message we communicate in all we do — and, further, our mission should not be conceived apart from a context of relationships with others.
His thoughts on the center of your life echo what Covey has to say about that in The Seven Habits. Covey speaks of the problems that come from being possession-centered, or career-centered, or self-centered, or person-centered, and advocates being principle-centered. I think that the true and ultimate expression of that is to be God-centered, and Warren hits that well here also.
Anyway, enough commentary. Read the whole thing.
I’ve mentioned often that GTD is very good at the lower altitudes (projects and actions) but not as developed at the higher levels (goals and roles). Within the proliferation of online task management tools in the last couple of years, many of them also reflect this same strength at the lower levels, but less developed approach to the higher levels.
Recently an online service named GTD Agenda was pointed out to me. It is a productivity tool that was designed for implementing GTD with both the higher levels and lower levels in mind. So — after having this on my project list for far too long! — I’ve given it a quick spin to see how well it does.
As I talk about what I think it does well and what its gaps seem to be, this post might also give you a small window into the big picture of my own productivity approach.
I recently came across the outline of a presentation I did a few years ago and found these six principles that I listed as type of appendix at the end.
I don’t know exactly what to call them. They are definitely not comprehensive philosophy of work — far, far from it. They seem to focus on unexpected places where work comes from. I think I originally wrote them down after a particularly busy and frustrating week when new work just kept showing up, no matter how much I got done.
If I were to summarize their main point of these six insights, it would be: Don’t be fooled into thinking that the way to get all your work done is simply to do your work. That’s a necessary component, but it will not lead you to the sometimes very elusive sate of being all caught up.
I find these principles helpful to keep in mind. At some point, maybe it will be worthwhile to craft them into a more systematic article. Here they are:
- People create work. For example, even if you go on vacation in order to do no work, the maid still needs to come to make the bed, take out the trash, and clean the room each day.
- Work creates work. Doing one task often triggers, leads to, uncovers, or requires another. And then another…
- Work takes work to manage.
- Greater efficiency does not necessarily mean less work, but rather usually means that more work will be attempted — which is greater in volume than the slice of time saved by the efficiency. This has been the case with increased energy efficiency through the twentieth century, and it is no different with increased time efficiency.
- The larger the number of dependencies among your tasks and in your life, the less lean you are and the more complicated your life is. Seek to minimize dependencies.
- You will never reach the end of your lists.
That’s the title of an article I recently came across again in my files, from a couple years ago in Fast Company. Sure, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it’s actually a pretty good principle.
Here’s what it says:
Smart organizations ignore the urgent and focus on the important.
Is it realistic to ignore the urgent, though? Well, here’s the problem: Focusing on the urgent just causes more urgent things to come up. The only way to really minimize the appearance of the urgent is to focus on the important:
Smart organizations understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.
Ignore the urgent so that you can do the important things that are necessary to make the urgent fires stop happening in the first place.
Let’s define creative. Cause it seems like to me that the way we often use the term in church work today misses the point.
Some people fancy themselves as being “creative,” or ”creative-types,” because they have a lot of ideas. Cool. You have ideas.
So does my 3 year old.
That doesn’t make you creative.
An idea without implementation isn’t creation.
By definition, being creative requires that you create something.
True creative people don’t just dream it — they do it…or oversee the strategy to get it done.
True creativity results in a product. Not just an idea.
We’ve all met people who shy away from the hard work of action steps because they “don’t do the details.” They’re “more into the creative side of things.”
But as far as I can tell, the Chief Creator didn’t just think about light, stars, and human life…the proof of His creativity is the tangible detailed expression of His vision.
That’s what I appreciate so much about our creative team at Elevation.
They imagine — then they implement.
Otherwise, they know they’d just be playing make believe.
And we don’t give paychecks to big boys and girls for playing make believe.
What will you create today?
Don’t settle for conceptualization. Bring it into existence.
Simply having great ideas does not make you creative. By definition, being truly creative means you actually create something. So there are really two components of creativity. As a semi-motto of GTD that I’ve seen goes: “Make it up, make it happen.“
Mindtools has a good overview of the Action-Priority Matrix.
The Action Priority Matrix is a simple diagramming technique that helps you choose which activities to prioritize (and which ones you should drop) if you want to make the most of your time and opportunities.
It’s useful because most of us have many more activities on our “wish lists” — whether these are bright ideas to pursue, exciting opportunities or interesting possibilities — than we have time available. By choosing activities intelligently, you can make the very most of your time and opportunities.
You unfortunately have to register to read the whole thing (What’s Not Best!), but you still get to see the four quadrants, which are:
- High impact, low effort: Quick wins
- Low impact, low effort: Fill-ins
- High impact, high effort: Major projects
- Low impact, high effort: Hard slogs (now called “thankless tasks” in the article, but I like “hard slogs” much better)
The president and CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers has a helpful post on his daily reading habits.
TechCrunchIT has a good Q&A on the social web with Google’s Kevin Marks. Right away, his comments on the first question are very significant:
Q: We keep hearing that “Google wants to make the web more social.” What does that mean?
Everything on the web is more interesting when it takes place with friends. Today’s social networking sites are the online contexts where you and your friends go to be social, and the time we spend on them shows the attraction.
But the model of going to a single website to interact with other people is changing. In the future, we expect everything on the web will become more social, augmenting the many things you already do on the web. Whether you’re shopping, deciding what to read, or researching a topic, knowing what your friends, or family, or the people you respect think about that product, book, or source of information is a vital part of the web.
I call this the “social cloud,” meaning that “social” will be integrated with the web so that you don’t think about it anymore. Charlene Li calls this same idea “social networks become like air.” The web itself is like this — following links seems like second nature to us because we know a URL can take us anywhere. Social isn’t there yet, but that’s the highest level goal of the OpenSocial project — to make interacting with people a natural part of how we use the web.
A “tickler file” is part of the standard GTD approach; most productivity folks also recommend having one. It allows you to “mail” actions and items to yourself in the future.
I have an “electronic tickler.” Instead of doing 43 physical folders (one for each day of the month, plus one for each month) and doing this manually, I just have a specific action list in my productivity system called “Action Calendar.” I keep my tickler items on that electronic list.
Here’s how that works. Every item on that list has a due date. “Due date” there really means “do on.” I check that list every day (well, most days) and the items with that day’s date are things that need to be done or brought to my attention on that day. I ignore everything in the future. The point of this list is that you don’t need to think about anything in it until the day it comes up.
This is a great way to keep track of repeating tasks that need to be done on a certain day. For example: changing your furnace filter every month or so. I have that as a monthly repeating item in my action calendar (probably every 6-weeks, actually, but you get the point). When it comes up, I change it. During all other times, I don’t need to think about it.
Another instance is processing notes you capture in your “capture tool.” You don’t want to just capture action items and other stuff you need to process, and then just leave it to your brain to remember to do it. I have a repeating task in my action calendar to process my notes.
An action calendar also works well for single items that come your way, and which you have to do at a certain time and cannot do until them. For example, when we moved and started our new trash service here, the company sent us two coupons for two free months. The problem is that you can only use them in two (future) months which they designated.
We received the coupons in November or something. The months they were to be used in were February and March. So, I created action calendar items for the first Saturdays in February and March that said “return [name of garbage company]‘s billing coupon for free month.”
As you can see in this example, there was along with this a physical item to keep — the coupon I had to send in. Hence, I do keep one physical file for tickler items. I call it “pending.” It’s actually for more than just physical tickler items. It’s for any paper-based support material I need to keep which pertains to non-project actions. Paper-based support material for my electronic tickler fits in here great.
I thought to write this post because the action calendar item to send this in for March just came up. So I grabbed the coupon out of my pending file and sent it in. (Now I’m writing this post.)
Now, someone would say, “Paper is old-fashioned. That company shouldn’t have sent you actual paper coupons to send in.” Well, sure, but the fact is that they did. You have to be able to deal with the fact that not everything is going to be electronic.
I find this balance — keeping my tickler items electronically, but then when necessary keeping any physical support material in a single (rather than 43) physical folder that the electronic item then points me to — very useful.
I do also have other physical files beyond this one “pending” physical file, because the reality is that you do have paper to deal with. But that is for a set of upcoming posts (as soon as I can!).
A few months ago at Barnes & Noble, I came across a useful set of reference tools called SparkCharts. They provide a basic outline of the major facets of all sorts of subjects. Thus, they can be a good refresher on many subjects that you would have learned in school, but which are important to still remember today.
Here are some of the ones that I picked up and found helpful:
- World History
- United States History Pre-Columbian to 1865
- United States History 1865-2004
- United States Government/Civics
- Western Civilization
Here are some other ones that I see also exist:
- Constitutional Law
- Weights and Measures
- Western Art History
- Music Theory and History
Sparkcharts don’t serve as a substitute for reading actual books on a subject, but can be useful as a reference tool for giving a quick overview or refresher.
We’ve had to recently learn some of the best practices about how to arrange a room. Having just moved, we wanted — as much as possible — to know what we are doing as we get furniture for rooms that didn’t exist in our prior house.
We are probably a bit odd here — a lot of people probably just wing it or somehow automatically know how to do everything. I do not fall into the category of people that can figure out how to do any new thing perfectly, simply by following their gut, in 5 minutes.
So I have some type of unavoidable impulse to do a bit of research before embarking on any new ground or endeavor so that I can do it on the basis of effective principles, rather than just following my gut. Hence, I’ve even researched things like how to organize my closet (perhaps I am the only person on the planet to do that!; but I want everything humming along smooth, with minimal drag); how to design a room is the latest example.
This is not comprehensive, because we just didn’t have the time to figure this out in full. But, here’s a collection of the best insights we’ve found, pulled together loosely into an overall process.
Designing a Room
Here are the steps for designing the room. By the way, the first three correspond to the “define purpose and principles” and “outcome visioning” components of the natural planning model. The fourth corresponds to the “brainstorming” step. I then leave it to you from that point to carry out the “organizing” and “identifying next actions” components.
1. Define the Room’s Function
Determining the purpose of something is central to everything you do, whether it’s design a room or manage a project (or figure out your life).
You can have multiple functions in a single room (see, for example, the work by Sarah Susanka and one of her books, like Not So Big Solutions for Your Home). If you do this, you just need to designate the primary function versus secondary functions, and create alcoves for the secondary functions.
2. Define How You Want the Room to Make You Feel
Rooms are not merely utilitarian. They should make you want to be in them and even be somewhat inspiring.
3. Define Your Style
This relates to the prior step, obviously; it is really a way of fleshing that out more. HGTV (hate to admit it, but we’ve been watching it lately) has a helpful show called “Find Your Style” which follows a useful process here. The approach centers around figuring out your style (their website gives 10 Tips for Finding Your Style and gives examples of various styles as well) and then identifying four elements to design the room around. I’ll let you check out their website or the show if you are interested in more details here.
4. List the Furniture You Will Need
The specific pieces you need will flow from the function of the room (step one); the style of the pieces will flow from how you want the room to make you feel and your design style (steps two and three). If you need to do some painting or change carpet to get the room to reflect your style, note that here as well.
5. Think Unconventionally About Some Rooms
By the way, also remember to be creative. For example, if you have a dining room: Do you ever use it? We’ve turned our dining room into a den / kids play area. We love it. Heidi has her desk in there (one that looks decent and doesn’t make the room feel like an office), and then we have a neat cube bookcase from IKEA and a small table for the kids.
Right next to this is our living room (another room that we wouldn’t have chosen to have if it had been possible, but which is working out for the best), and it is fun to hang out in the living room while the kids play in the what-was-supposed-to-be-dining-room.
Together, the living room and den (former dining room) have become a fun place to hang out as a family, away from the TV (which is over in the family room). I see it as a much better use of evenings to hang out over here with the family and do constructive things, rather than defaulting to watching TV.
That’s not rocket science, I know. The thing is this: the design of your house makes certain behaviors more likely than others. Having turned the dining room and living room into rooms for family interaction away from the TV makes it more likely for us to default to constructive things in the evening rather than TV. Some people, of course, would say you can also accomplish this by not having a TV at all. I see value in the TV; I just don’t want it to be our default.
When it comes time to arrange the furniture, here are some of the key principles we’ve found. These principles should probably also affect the way you go about deciding on what furniture to buy in the first place, and in fact are probably iterative with all four steps above — so think ahead to this stage when you are in the design phase.
These five principles summarize the article How to Arrange & Design a Room, which I found to be a helpful perspective on this. I’ve added some of my own thoughts, plus principle two.
1. Place the Largest Pieces First
The article notes: “The major piece for the primary activity of the room must be considered first — the sofa in the living room, the bed in the bedroom, the desk in the office. This piece in most cases should face the focal point of the room.”
2. Know the Focal Point of the Room
Since the furniture should be arranged in light of the focal point of the room, this means that (a) every room should have a focal point and (b) you need to decide what that is. There can also be secondary and tertiary focal points. The furniture should be arranged to focus on the primary focal point, however.
3. Then, Place Pieces Relating to the Main Piece
This gives a helpful ordering of priorities: Place the main piece(s) first, then the pieces relating to it. Note that it relates to purchasing furniture as well as placing it. You identify and purchase the main piece of furniture (say, the couch) first because that gives guidance to the rest of what you do.
Often times there are many different directions which you can take when it comes to the secondary pieces. You are going to feel scattered — and the room will probably lack unity — if you try to obtain those pieces before knowing the color and style of the main piece.
When placing the secondary pieces, remember whenever possible you should “keep pieces of similar scale together” and “try to balance pieces of furniture opposite one another.” For example, “a pair of upholstered chairs is visually more balanced across from a sofa than a pair of small scale occasional chairs.”
4. Add Accent Pieces for Secondary Activities
Examples would be a reading corner in a bedroom or a kids play area in the family room or an office area in kitchen (or dining room or front room).
5. Place your Furniture Where it Looks Best
Well, that’s a bit too obvious. Sorry!
6. Guide Traffic Patterns Through Furniture Arrangement
You can set up the furniture to create the traffic patterns you want to have. Also, “leave a minimum of two and a half feet for walkaways and avoid flowing traffic through a conversational grouping if possible. Guide the traffic around the room’s perimeter to create a less disruptive environment.”
Here are two helpful online articles:
Here’s a helpful book that covers various aspects of room and house design: Not So Big Solutions for Your Home.
And here’s how to Find Your Style over at HGTV.
You cannot get everything done. Things will be left undone.
Therefore, be intentional about that. If things are going to be left undone, be sure that it is the right things that are left undone.
How do you do that? It’s one of the reasons you should have a list of goals, projects, and actions that represent a complete inventory of your work. By seeing everything that you have to do, you can identify more easily — in light of the big picture — what to delegate and what to just plain get rid of.
Project completion often comes in waves: 3 projects completed one day, 0 for the next two, then 1 more completed, and so forth. (I’m speaking of projects here in the GTD sense of multi-step but non-routine outcomes, rather than the more traditional sense of “fairly large initiatives that produce a unique service, product, or result.”)
It’s probably unavoidable that project completion will always come in waves to some extent. But in the midst of this, it’s easy to forget that if you consistently completed just one project per day, that would really add up. It would mean:
- 5 projects completed per week
- 20 projects completed per month
- 240 projects completed per year
Many of those projects would be small 1-3 hour things. But in the midst of that mix would also be several very large projects as well.
If your project list seems long and you sometimes struggle to identify what is best to do next, it can be helpful to remember this: Pick one project each day that you can complete, and get it done. Then pick another somewhat larger project, and do a decent chunk of it.
Even if you feel like this is small progress, over time this will really add up. After even 10 days, you’ll probably feel that you are actually moving along at a pretty good clip.
Last of all: It may be risk to say this in the event that there are people out there clearing out 1,000 GTD-defined projects per year, but in my opinion, anyone who can consistently complete 240 projects a year just might be a productivity super star. (Assuming that those projects are the right things to be working on!)
To keep Basecamp from getting lost in all of your Firefox or Safari tabs, you can create a Basecamp icon on the menu bar on your Mac. That way, you can launch it just like any other program, without first having to launch your web browser. Simon Dorfman explains how.
You can also use this approach to create stand alone menu bar icons for other sites that you use a lot, such as Gmail or your blog admin page.
(HT: Josh Sowin)
Sprinkled throughout Getting Things Done are short call-outs with useful quotes from people and short summaries of insight from the section. These are an easy-to-overlook but very useful feature of the book.
I thought it might be helpful to list some of these call-outs from chapter 3, “Getting Projects Creatively Under Control.”
You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. — Alvin Toffler
The goal is to get projects and situations off your mind, but not to lose any potentially useful ideas.
The most experienced planner in the world is your brain.
Have you envisioned wild success lately?
If you’re waiting to have a good idea before you have any ideas, you won’t have many ideas.
Outlines were easy, as long as you wrote the report first.
When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. — Will Rogers
Don’t just do something. Stand there. — Rochelle Myer
Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim. – George Santayana
People love to win. If you’re not totally clear about the purpose of what you’re doing, you have no chance of winning.
Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect. — Ann McGee Cooper
Often the only way to make a hard decision is to come back to the purpose.
If you’re not sure why you’re doing something, you can never do enough of it.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. — Albert Einstein
The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas. — Linus Pauling
A good way to find out what something might be is to uncover all the things it’s probably not.
Plans get you into things but you’ve got to work your way out. — Will Rogers