From the Google blog:
People tell us all that time that they’re getting more and more mail and often feel overwhelmed by it all. We know what you mean—here at Google we run on email. Our inboxes are slammed with hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages a day—mail from colleagues, from lists, about appointments and automated mail that’s often not important. It’s time-consuming to figure out what needs to be read and what needs a reply. Today, we’re happy to introduce Priority Inbox (in beta)—an experimental new way of taking on information overload in Gmail.
Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important—bologna, or “bacn.” So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.
You can learn more about how this works and how to get started using it in the full post.
This is explained very well in the Gallup book 12: The Elements of Great Managing, by Rodd Wagner and James Harter. The book is “based on Gallup’s ten million workplace interviews–the largerst worldwide study of employee engagement.”
They make the point — rightly, I believe — that “most employees who feel generously compensated repay the gesture.” For this reason, companies that pay with a generosity of spirit are likely to perform better financially than those that don’t. The reason is that when employees feel that they are being treated well with their pay (rather than the minimum the company could get by with paying them), they tend to match the gesture with more effort. It also tends to result in higher engagement (because of the thought behind their pay — not because of being driven by money), which also results in greater performance for the organization.
Here is what they have to say in their own words:
Most employees who feel generously compensated repay the gesture
One truth reemerges in various permutations throughout this book. It is that human behavior usually doesn’t conform to the logical or mathematical assumptions behind many personnel strategies. This certainly holds true of the tug-of-war over an employee’s salary.
The traditional view assumes that a company should pay as little as possible to secure someone’s services, whether that amount is just a little more than a competitor would pay or the lowest amount for which the worker will settle in his salary negotiations.
The often-overlooked flip-side of that strategy holds that the employee will do the minimum required to make his salary and his bonus. The company wants maximum work for minimum pay, while the employee wants just the reverse. Between these competing forces, the wage is settled, giving both sides a tolerable, antagonistic compromise.
But a funny thing happens in experiments where one person offers a wage and another person decides what level of effort to give in return. If the “employer” offers an above-market wage, the “employee” usually matches it with more effort, even when the worker can get away with doing less. “This suggests that on average people are willing to put forward extra effort above what is implied by purely pecuniary considerations,” wrote researchers Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter. With conscientious, engaged employees, generosity of pay begets generosity of effort.
While money itself does not buy engagement, it appears an employee’s perception that the company is aggressively looking out for his financial interest leads to productive reciprocation. More than just the money, the thought counts.
The research points to a choice that executives must make. Do they want a workforce that thinks, “I have to fight for every extra dollar they begrudgingly pay me,” or one that feels, “If I look out for my company, they will look out for me”?
Simple questions reveal where a company stands. If a talented employee does something extraordinary or repeatedly distinguishes herself, will it be her manager or the employee herself who initiates discussion of a raise? Does the company spend more to attract outside stars than to cultivate internal ones? Does the company realize its talent is underpaid only after a competitor woos them away?
In matters of pay, as with the 12 Elements, what employees enthusiastically do for the company depends heavily on what the company eagerly does for them.
I mentioned briefly the other day that I’m starting work on a book. I’ll give more details on what the book is about and so forth shortly.
I thought it might be fun not only to talk about the book itself (float ideas, post some early drafts parts of chapters, and so forth), but also talk a bit about my process as well. After all, it seems very fitting, when writing a book on productivity, to peel back the curtains a bit on the productivity process involved in creating that very book.
So, even though it is a bit out of order to talk about the process before what the book is actually a bit, here’s the first snapshot for you.
Listen carefully: Your weaknesses are not what you are bad at, and your strengths are not what you are good at.
Your weaknesses are the things that make you feel weak, and your strengths are the things that make you feel strong.
This means there is incredible hope for growth. For when we say “your greatest opportunity for growth is in your area of your strengths, not your weaknesses,” we do not mean: “if you are bad at something, you don’t have much hope of ever getting better at it.”
There might be something that you are initially bad at but which you could become excellent at. For if it is something that makes you feel strong, then it’s not a weakness and you won’t be stuck. You just need to work on it — and work hard — and you will experience tremendous growth.
Having a right definition of strengths and weaknesses keeps us from a fatalistic mindset. It says: “It doesn’t matter what you are bad at. If there is something you want to accomplish, identify what makes you feel strong and seek to accomplish it along that path. If you currently aren’t good at something but doing it makes you feel strong, great news: you will be able to experience tremendous growth in that area if you work hard at it. And if there are legitimate areas of weakness (things that weaken you) that weigh you down, you can navigate around them by identifying your strengths and leveraging them to pass by your weaknesses.”
My friend Zach Nielsen has just released his first jazz album. Zach blogs at Take Your Vitamin Z and is very gifted musically. The album is called “Songs in a Minor Key” and is available in iTunes or AmazonMP3. It’s five EP songs for less than 5 bucks. He discusses the album a bit on his blog.
In contrast, I’m working on my first book now.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1-4:
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
In The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, DA Carson points out that there is a nice surprise in this text which is contrary to everything we might expect:
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this paragraph of 1 Corinthians is how it ends. With the final day of judgment in view, Paul might have been expected to say, “At that time each will receive his rebuke from God.” But instead, he says, “At that time each will receive his praise from God” (4:5c).
How wonderful! The King of the universe, the Sovereign who has endured our endless rebellion and sought us out at the cost of his Son’s death, climaxes our redemption by praising us! He is a wise Father who knows how to encourage even the feeblest efforts of his children. What this way of concluding the paragraph shows is that in this case, God judges less sternly than the self-appointed judges in the church.
In this world, we can get so accustomed to hearing criticism. It’s built in to the fabric of things. In school, parent-teacher conferences are often centered around what the student is doing well, and then “areas for improvement.” Employee reviews often focus on what someone is doing well, and then “opportunities for growth” [= weaknesses]. And the truth is, of course, that we all have multiple shortcomings that can be rightly pointed out.
And so we would most of all expect the Last Judgment to end in the same way. But it won’t. Instead, for those who follow Christ, the Last Judgment will end with commendation — with praise — from God himself to us. He will not say “Here are the few things you did right, but look, you really screwed up here, here, and here.” Instead, “each will receive his praise from God.” I’m sure that the things we should have done differently will indeed be clear, in a non-condemnatory sort of way. But God’s focus will be on what is right, and that’s the note on which the Judgment will end (for believers). And we see this not only here in 1 Corinthians 4:4, but also in the Parable of the Talents: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
For believers, the dominant note of the Final Judgment is not rebuke, but praise.
This is one of the most enlightening articles I’ve ever read on the subject of time management. It puts words to a dilemma that I think many people (including myself) have felt keenly, but haven’t quite been able to put our finger on. Here’s the core idea:
There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.
When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.
Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.
When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.
He then goes on to give some helpful thoughts toward a solution at the end — both in terms of enabling managers and makers to be in sync and in terms of helping those who need to (and want to!) function in the realms of both manager and maker.
(HT: Josh Sowin)
From the book It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It [note: I'm not necessarily recommending the book in this case -- haven't looked through it enough --, but this was a helpful quote I took a picture of when I was thumbing through it in a bookstore]:
Don’t internalize failure. Remember that failure is an event, not a person. When you do fail, allow yourself to feel the disappointment. That’s reality, and an important part of it. But don’t internalize disapproval. Just because you failed at something doesn’t mean your a failure. Shake it off. And try something again.
I feel like I could write a trillion words on the subject, and I hope to write on this in more detail in the coming months (we’ll see). Ajith Fernando captures the essence of my thoughts very well in his article To Serve is To Suffer. He’s hitting a note that you rarely see these days, and I think he’s right on:
I have a large group of people to whom I write asking for prayer when I have a need. Sometimes my need is overcoming tiredness. When I write about this, many write back saying they are praying that God would strengthen me and guide me in my scheduling. However, there are differences in the way friends from the East and some from the West respond.
I get the strong feeling that many in the West think struggling with tiredness from overwork is evidence of disobedience to God. My contention is that it is wrong if one gets sick from overwork through drivenness and insecurity. But we may have to endure tiredness when we, like Paul, are servants of people [emphasis added].
The New Testament is clear that those who work for Christ will suffer because of their work [emphasis added]. Tiredness, stress, and strain may be the cross God calls us to. Paul often spoke about the physical hardships his ministry brought him, including emotional strain (Gal 4:19; 2 Cor 11:28), anger (2 Cor 11:29), sleepless nights and hunger (2 Cor 6:5), affliction and perplexity (2 Cor 4:8), and toiling — working to the point of weariness (Col 1:29). In statements radically countercultural in today’s “body conscious” society, he said, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16); and, “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4:11-12). I fear that many Christians approach these texts only with an academic interest, not seriously asking how the verses should apply in their lives.
The West, having struggled with the tyrannical rule of time, has a lot to teach the East about the need for rest. The East has something to teach the West about embracing physical problems that come from commitment to people. If you think it is wrong to suffer physically because of ministry, then you suffer more from the problem than those who believe that suffering is an inevitable step on the path to fruitfulness and fulfillment. Since the cross is a basic aspect of discipleship, the church must train Christian leaders to expect hardship. When this perspective enters our minds, pain will not touch our joy and contentment in Christ. In 18 different New Testament passages, suffering and joy appear together. In fact, suffering is often the cause for joy (Rom 5:3-5; Col 1:24; James 1:2-3).
In short, suffering is not just persecution. As Paul’s own example shows, it is also the pain, tiredness (2 Cor 6:5 — even “sleepless nights,” in which I would also include all-nighters), seasons of extensive work (2 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:9), confusion (2 Cor 4:8), emotional pressure (2 Cor 11:28; Gal 4:19), and “non-mind-like-water” mental “weights” that come our way as we are simply being faithful. These things are not automatically signs that we are working too hard. They are often part of the path, and they are supposed to be.
TOMS Shoes has a really good concept:
One for One
TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about. The TOMS One for One mission transforms our customers into benefactors, which allows us to grow a truly sustainable business rather than depending on fundraising for support.
Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk:
•A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
•Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
•Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.
They are worth checking out.
This was Clayton Christensen’s commencement address to the Harvard Business School’s class of 2010. It is fantastic. Here’s an excerpt — but the whole thing is worth reading:
When people who have a high need for achievement—and that includes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
The term proactive means more than you may realize. Here is a good explanation from Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits:
While the word proactivity is now fairly common in management literature, it is a word you won’t find in most dictionaries. It means more than merely taking initiative [emphasis added]. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. [Which means that] our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
Look at the word responsibility — “response-ability” — the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.
Because we are, by nature, proactive, if our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, by conscious decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to control us.
In making such a choice, we become reactive. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.
Reactive people are also affected by their social environment, by the “social weather.” When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values — carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values.
Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.
There’s no getting around the need for hard work. It’s a given. It comes with the territory.
However, there is a big difference between hard work and workaholism. You work hard to get something done. A workaholic, on the other hand, works out of compulsion — fear of some sort. Workaholism is unhealthy and destructive. Hard work is healthy, invigorating, and can be practiced up until the day you die, whereas workaholism leads to burn-out.
We know some effective leaders who work only 40-50 hours per week, but who nonetheless classify as very hard workers — their level of intensity and concentration when at work is incredibly high. Conversely, we know some workaholics who work 90 hours per week and are basically ineffective. More is not necessarily better.
From Jim Collins’s book Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company:
1. People execute well if they’re clear on what they need to do. How can people possibly do well if they don’t have a clear idea of what “doing well” means — if they don’t have clear goals, benchmarks, and expectations?
2. People execute well if they have the right skills for the job. The right skills come from talents, temperament, and proper training.
3. People execute well if they’re given freedom and support. No one does a good job with people looking over his shoulder; when people are treated like children, they’ll lower themselves to those expectations. Also, people need the tools and support to do their job well. To use an extreme illustration, imagine how difficult it would be for Federal Express employees to make on-time delivery without reliable trucks.
4. People execute well if they’re appreciated for their efforts. All people want their efforts to be appreciated. We’ve consciously chosen the term appreciated rather than rewarded because it more accurately captures that excellent performers value respect and appreciation as much as, and often even more than, money.
5. People execute well if they see the importance of their work.
This is very perceptive and right on, on all fronts. If you miss even one of these components, you have a recipe for frustration among your people.
Below are the notes from a presentation I did a few years ago on my overall planning system. It also outlines some of the major kinks that GTD has (in my view, at least) and the ways I’ve sought to iron them out.
I do some things differently now and have simplified some things, but this has been my best attempt so far to outline a comprehensive, integrated approach to getting things done in a way that tries to minimize the kinks and rough spots in an “out of the box” GTD implementation.
I’m going to do three things: Give a really brief summary of GTD, identify some key things I’ve found to be lacking in it, and elaborate on how I think you build up the areas that are lacking into a total system.
Basic Principles of GTD
- Get everything off your head and into a trusted system that you review regularly.
- Make front-end decisions about the next action and intended outcomes for every input that you allow into your life.
- Organize reminders of projects and next actions in appropriate categories.
- Keep your system current, complete, and reviewed sufficiently.
- Trust your intuitive choices about what you’re doing (or not doing) at any time.
Things Lacking in GTD
- Weak on the higher altitudes—those above 10,000 feet.
- No valves and dams to keep you from overwhelming yourself with too many active projects. Most people I know who utilize GTD have 40, 60, or 100 projects. Nobody can execute that many at once, and it diffuses your efforts. You also get into the “ringing effect,” with projects bumping into each other, thus reducing efficiency.
- Insufficient detail given to how to handle time-sensitive and repeating tasks.
- It can feel like you are never done when you manage your life by pure next action lists with almost no due dates. I found that the next action list sometimes needs to be governed by “time zones.”
- The concept of “project plans” can really be built on.
- There is no corresponding type of plan for “operations,” which are just as important to our lives as projects.
- Consequently, there is no good place to put those “notes to self” like “eat less,” which are not so much beginning-and-end actions as they are standard operating principles.
- Insufficient attention is given to the need to be proactive. Why are these things on your list in the first place?
- When determining what to do next, my intuition tends to identify not just the next action I want to do, but the next ten. And it needs a place to document that in the next action lists themselves, so it doesn’t have to always “re-think” the determinations it made.
- This also happens with projects. When determining the next action on a project, I tend to think of ten next actions, not just one. I need a place to keep those. A more developed concept of project plans can really do something here.
- I don’t know what A-Z filing is. It seems to be the bad filing system I had before I even read David Allen.
- Little attention is given to how to best document ideas and insights you just want to keep for reference, but aren’t large enough to warrant a whole document.
- Tends to generate a lot of mosquito tasks. Mosquito tasks are killers. You need to know how to group them.
Building Upon GTD
Planning System Components
- Action and horizon lists
- Filing system
Beyond Projects: Creating Your Lists
The Six Lists
The six lists you need are:
- Next actions
- Mission statement
Where do you create these lists? Each list is a different task folder in whatever software program you use (such as Outlook or OmniFocus).
Key principle: You implement the higher levels by breaking them down into the lower levels.
The Next Action List
- Have the GTD contexts, and also have two categories for time-sensitive tasks: “Action calendar” for tasks you don’t want to do until the day they come up, and “daily” for planning specific things you want to do that day. “Action Calendar” is where repeating tasks go, and “Daily” is where you can prioritize and sequence specific things you need to do today, tomorrow, etc. Put a “@” in front of these categories so they go to the top; do not use the “@” in front of the other contexts.
- The next action does not always have to be super granular. If the next thing you need to do on a project is work on it for 3 hours, just put that. Trying to put the literal first action will not accurately represent what you have to do, so you won’t trust your list.
- Use your calendar to govern your list when needed. Create time zones.
- Some next actions need to be large. If you need to give 4 hours to a project, don’t just list the first action on it, like “call Fred.” On the other hand, don’t transfer to your next action list all 20 actions you think will be involved in that 4 hours. Instead, create a next action that represents what you will truly be doing—“work on project x for 4 hours.” Then, for specific details on what actions you’ll be doing, keep those in the project plan, and work from that.
- Have a distinct category for mosquito tasks. For example, “Home Computer: Mosquito.”
The Projects List
- Create a category between someday/maybe and projects. Divide your projects list into “current” and “upcoming.” Move as many as you can into upcoming, keeping the number of active projects as small as possible. Complete them as fast as possible, and move projects up from upcoming in your weekly review. This is really just a “10,000 foot tickler.”
- Use project plans by listing all tasks that come to mind for the project right in the Outlook note field for the item. Organize the list in sequence. Keep additional data in there that you might forget about, such as status updates, rationale, ideas to process, contact info, whatever you need. The principle is: List steps, keep details, review, translate to NAs.
- Use project plans to incubate next actions that you can’t move on yet in the project.
- Have a “monitoring” category for projects others are doing that you need to keep a watch on and toss input into. So your project categories are: Current, Monitoring, and Upcoming.
The Roles List
- Understand the difference between projects and operations. Roles contain your operations.
- Don’t limit yourself to seven roles, as Covey recommends. That’s not realistic. Put all of them in there. Then, group them into 6 areas: Personal, family, household, financial, social, professional.
- Create an action plan for each role, just like you do for projects. In that action plan, list the responsibilities for the role, and any strategies, principles, or operating principles.
The Goals List
- Understand goals as initiatives for change. Keep operational goals out of here, such as “to jog three times a week.” (Put that into your role plan for “exercise.”)
- Understand goals as groups of projects.
- Use goal plans, like you do project plans. Further, use them to incubate projects that you can’t move on until other projects pertaining to the goal are accomplished first.
The Mission Statement
- Have an ultimate objective, which is the mission sentence.
- Include in the mission statement other components as needed, such as vision, leading principles, values, and so forth.
- Categorize this list—don’t just have one catch-all. Categories can be thins like “Agenda Items to Maybe Discuss,” “Books to Read,” “Household Projects,” “Financial Projects,” “Skills to Learn,” “Movies to See,” “Next Time At…,” “Restaurants to Go To,” “Things to See and Do,” “Trips to Take,” etc.
- If you have a lot of items, it will be too much to review in a weekly review. So create another list that is just for items you want to review each week.
- Each higher level gets broken down into the lower levels.
- Keep dependencies in the plans for the outcome above. This way, each list is lean by only having what is current.
Being Proactive in the Weekly Review
- Don’t just mindlessly review and update and create actions for what is already on your lists. Ask why the items are there and whether they should be there at all.
- Pick 3-4 current projects that would make the biggest impact to things if you moved them forward. Schedule time to work on them.
- Review what you learned from the week before.
- Create a journal entry.
- Concept of big rocks.
Setting Up a Topical Filing System
- Have these major file categories: Pending, Projects, Operations, General Reference, Archive.
- Organize the project file by project name; I guess that here we have A-Z.
- Organize the operations file by department, and department by sub-functions. At home, organize your operation files by your roles.
- Organize general reference by major knowledge area. Always move from general to specific—don’t create a file called “California.” Create a file called “Travel: California.” Then it will be grouped with “Travel: New York,” and etc.
- Put small ideas you want to keep, but aren’t big enough for a full document, and things you want to make record of in journals.
- Have a journal for each topic and operational area that interests you.
Carrying out the Daily Workflow Processes
- Capture everything. Use a running journal. Process it like your in basket. Also keep paper pads and pens everywhere, and a pen in your wallet (for when your running journal isn’t with you). If your cell phone has a voice notes feature, use it to capture ideas quickly when you can’t write (like while driving), and process it like your in box.
- Plan daily.
Handle based on horizon it pertains to:
- Action (create next action, and make sure it really is an NA)
- Project or project support (create project, file, add to project plan as status update, task, etc.)
- Operations support (create operation, file, journal, add to support document)
- Reference (file, journal)
Summary of Updates
- Horizons. Set up the 10,000 – 50,000 foot levels.
- Dams. Build a dam in your project list to keep from overwhelming yourself. Divide the projects list into current and upcoming.
- Date-sensitive tasks. Set up an efficient way to handle day-specific tasks by creating a distinct context for them.
- Repeating tasks. Create a repeating task/tickler category in your next action list.
- Next action governors. Use your calendar to manage your next action lists when necessary.
- Operations plans. Become equipped to handle not just actions that can be completed, but operating principles that can’t be. Create action plans for your roles.
- Proactivity. Be proactive about what you do. Don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities. In the weekly review, pick 3-5 key projects to focus on that week and schedule time for them.
- Filing. Don’t simply have general reference. Have specialized reference divisions of: pending, projects, and operations. General reference is for everything else—just stuff of general interest. Don’t file A-Z, but by category. In operations, by department (at work) or role (at home). In general reference, by major topic.
- Journals. Use journals to keep track of short but significant thoughts. Have a journal for each major subject that thoughts occur to you on, and a regular life journal for events and general things.
- Set up certain recurring tasks to keep your system in motion. General examples are daily tasks to process in, process notes, process email. Area-specific ones might be pay bills, process financial data, review website, etc.
- Project plans. Implement project plans in the note field for the task in Outlook. When you seek to think of a next action on your project, and you think of five next actions rather than just one, use the project plan to list the other four, so that they aren’t cluttering up your next action list.
Appendix: Principles on Work
- 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.
From his book Leadership:
I believe that if you read enough about something, you’re going to unravel its mystery, and will ultimately understand the fundamentals in a deeper way than simple observation would provide. Then, if you have an inquiring mind, you can apply yourself to that subject and have success in ways not experienced even by those who have spent much more time on it.
At the Seth Godin Live event in DC (about two weeks ago now), I asked Seth: “There are so many things to do that clamor for our attention and make it hard to focus on what we really want to do. How do we keep these things from setting the agenda and instead carve out the time to do work that matters?”
His answer was great. To slightly paraphrase, he said:
The issue is not “How do I find time to work on projects?” Rather, a Linchpin says, “I create projects that matter. How do I then carve out the time to work on the stuff they think is my real job?”
That is great advice. You’ll notice that this is simply another variation on the fundamental principle of time management: put first things first.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you just get “all this other stuff” out of the way, then you’ll have the time and energy to focus on the most important (and thus, usually, most challenging) things you have to do. It does not work that way.
Instead, make working on the most important things — which Seth would define as emotional labor in projects that are worth doing and that you deeply care about — your primary work. Then, fit the other things in when you can.
One last thing: It’s not that the “other things” are always trivial or unimportant. Many of them (though not all) do need to be done. But the thing is that if you do them first, you’ll rarely get to the most important things. On the other hand, if you do the most important things first, you’ll find that you have the time you need left over for the other things.
This is not exactly breaking news, either, but it’s well worth pointing to nonetheless: Crossway has now released the ESV Study Bible for the iPad and iPhone. You can find them in the App Store.
The app is simply fantastic. They really nailed the user interface and the very challenging puzzle of how to make it easy for the user to access the study Bible notes without interfering with simply reading the text itself. There was clearly some detailed, user-oriented thought that went into developing this app. This is what we need more of. It is a great service to not only make the Scriptures and God-centered content available, to make them easily available in a user-centered format.
Thank you, Crossway!
It’s not exactly breaking news, but if you haven’t heard: OmniFocus for iPad was finally released on Friday. Here’s a quick summary from PC World:
OmniFocus for iPad isn’t just some gussied up version of the iPhone version either: the app’s been redesigned for the iPad from the ground up. You can organize tasks into projects, folders, and sub-tasks and nest them until your heart is content; tasks themselves support detailed options like start dates, due dates, repeating schedules, audio notes, and photo attachments.
If you want to organize your tasks by category or specific context (“things to do while you’re at the computer,” for example [by the way--I think that's a bad idea!]), you can do that too. And if those contexts involve specific locations–your local supermarket and post office for example–you can look at a map to quickly get an idea of where all your tasks might take you.
If you’re an OmniFocus user on the Mac and/or the iPhone, OmniFocus on the iPad will happily sync with them, making sure your tasks are always up to date, no matter which device you’re on. If you ever run into problems, The Omni Group even offers free customer support via both e-mail and phone.
You can get OmniFocus for iPad in the App Store here.
From Rod Rosenbladt’s chapter “Christ Died for the Sins of Christians, Too” in Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation:
I hear the reader asking, “Well then, is saving faith just a matter of knowing facts?” Hardly, and the Reformers knew that. They distinguished between historical faith and saving faith.
Historical faith has human speculations as its goal or end. It is an intellectual acceptance of facts concerning Jesus’ life, work, and death; nevertheless, it comes only from the human mind, acknowledging the facts, but remaining basically uninvolved with the One that caused the facts to happen. And the key phrase that Luther used was that the person who just has historical faith believes that none of this is pro me, or for me.
Once a person comes to accept that this whole action summed up in the Nicene Creed is for me, then, said Luther, we are talking about the kind of faith that saves. There we have an active embracing of the Son of God and his self-sacrifice.