Mark Rogers posted yesterday on a day in the life of William Carey. His efficiency — among very complex tasks — was amazing.
Many employers have “good at multitasking” as a requirement for positions that they are hiring for. Here’s a good word on that from The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done:
The point is, when someone tells me they’re good at multitasking, I know that they’re inefficient. Saying you’re a good multitasker is the same as saying that you’re good at using a less effective method to get things done.
It’s like saying, “Bob is better at riding a bike than Chuck is at driving a car.” Even if that statement is true, Chuck is still going to reach his destination with greater speed and ease than Bob.
No matter how effective you are at switchtasking, you are still working less efficiently than you could another way. You are going to take longer to get things done than the person who focuses on one attention-requiring activity at a time (pp. 47-48).
The financial bailout, but just barely.
Financial bailout: $700 billion.
Lost productivity due to multitasking: $650 billion per year.
That number is from The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done:
2.1 hours: Average estimated lost productivity per person per day due to interruptions, based on a 40-hour work week.
$650 billion: Estimated annual loss to the US economy due to unnecessary interruptions plus recovery time.
If you move beyond the time frame of a single year, however, you see that multitasking is actually far, far more expensive than the financial bailout.
For the financial bailout was a one-time thing. Multitasking costs $650 billion every single year. So, after ten years, we have this:
Financial bailout: $700 billion
Multitasking: $6.5 trillion
Even if a second bailout were necessary, or the cost of the bailout went up, the cost of multitasking still far outstrips the potential cost of the bailout over a ten year period.
Add to this the fact that the bailout probably prevented damage to the economy that far exceeded $700 billion (I realize that there is difference of opinion there), and you have even less of a contest.
Lifehacker has a good interview with David Allen about his new book, Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life.
This was an especially interesting question:
Lifehacker: In your one-on-one training sessions, and in feedback from customers, where do you believe most folks fall off the GTD wagon? Is it a behavioral and discipline concern, or just a failure of focus over distractions?
DA: Most folks don’t take the GTD tools far enough to really get the benefits. They don’t really do a thorough and consistent mind sweep, externalizing all of their commitments into a system they trust. Then they don’t review their commitments (calendar, projects list, next actions for each project) often enough to build the trust that they’re doing what’s most important at any given time. They therefore still trust their psyche more than their system, which makes system maintenance more trouble than it pays off.
Read the whole thing.
(HT: Vitamin Z)
Yes, that’s the point.
They get in the way of less important courses of action.
This does reduce flexibility — the flexibility to do what is not worth your time. But you should not set or implement your goals in a way that blinds you to genuine, spontaneous opportunity.
There’s the rub.
Seth Godin had two good posts recently that relate to both sides:
Having goals is a pain in the neck.
If you don’t have a goal (a corporate goal, a market share goal, a personal career goal, an athletic goal…) then you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. If you don’t have a goal, you never have to worry about missing it. If you don’t have a goal you don’t need nearly as many excuses, either.
Not having a goal lets you make a ruckus, or have more fun, or spend time doing what matters right now, which is, after all, the moment in which you are living.
The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run.
It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.
I just heard Kurt Andersen quote E.B. White with this glorious phrase.
How willing is your organization to be lucky? What about you in your career and your marketing efforts? Or in the people you meet or the places you go or the movies you see or the books you read?
My closest friends each were found as a result of chance encounters and luck. So were my biggest ideas and some of my most successful ventures.
It’s very easy to plot a course for today that minimizes the chance of disappointment or bad outcomes or lousy luck.
I wonder if you could plot a different course, one that created opportunities for good luck?
It may not seem much in line with GTD, but I believe in having a general framework from which you approach your day. In other words, a basic schedule of sorts that gives some behind-the-scenes guidance for how to slot things in your day. This template is not something you literally put on your calendar, but is more of a mindset.
My thoughts on this are continuing to emerge, but it seems to me that there are four types of things you need to carve out time for in any given day:
Routines means your daily workflow routines, such as processing email and your physical inbox.
Releases are small actions that are not project related. GTD has you put these on your next actions list. I found that doing so actually ruined my next action list because I would always end up with six trillion mosquito tasks staring at me all day long. I’d want to do things just to get them off my list, and not because it was the most strategic use of time.
So now I group all of these mosquito tasks together into a project of their own, which I keep outside of my next action list. My “next action” on them is then “work through releases.”
Projects are any unique initiatives you are working on which have a beginning and an end.
People means interaction, networking, general management stuff, meetings, stuff on your calendar, and so forth. Obviously much of this is also involved in projects as well.
Within your projects each week, I’m thinking that it might be best to divide up time in this way:
This section really should have come before the above section on dividing up your project time. But dividing up your project time is of greater importance, so I put that first.
Anyway, let’s talk now about how much time these four overall areas should be given each day. This will vary for everyone. And it’s not rigid (except for, as much as possible at least, the first: getting your routines out of the way immediately). Again, it’s more of a lose agenda I keep in my head that is very adaptable; it’s not some firm structure.
Here are some initial thoughts:
Routines: 1 hour or less. Do these right away. Take that very seriously. Get in to work early and hammer out your email, review your RSS feeds, plan your day, and do any other daily routines. Get these out of the way in one batch early on so that you don’t have to keep trying to find time to finish them up throughout the day. They will only get in your way if you don’t nail them out immediately.
Releases: 1 hour or so. After doing your routines, take maybe 30 minutes to an hour to clear out non-project actions. These are basically the “next actions” in the GTD system. If you clear some out every day, you can keep up. Again, knock these out in a concentrated batch early in the day, before the phone starts to ring and new email starts to come in.
Projects: 2 hours or more. After your routines and releases are out of the way, turn to concentrated time on your priority projects. By this time it might be 9:00 or 9:30, so interruptions are going to start. That’s fine. Try to avoid getting interrupted, but if you got your routines and some releases out of the way, you’ll be able to handle interruptions better without getting too side-tracked. You can’t isolate yourself, anyway.
The amount of time spent concentrating on projects will vary with your job. For some people it might be a lot more than 2 hours a day. For others it may be much less.
People: I don’t have a time recommendation here. This could be the rest of your day, depending on the nature of your job. As long as you got in time to get rid of your routines and some standard action items, along with some concentrated focus on projects, you’re doing well and should be able to focus the way you ought in regard to meetings and interacting over your work.
Free: The core principle behind my above thoughts is to get in early and get routine stuff out of the way right way, and then make some progress on your next actions (releases). Then you can work in more releases as desired in between meetings and project work and be more discretionary in how you use your time.
In other words, be disciplined so that you can be spontaneous. If you aren’t keeping up with at least some baseline of progress at the very beginning of each day, the spontaneous time will never feel like it comes. You will always be trying to “keep up.”
What if your job is to do routine things? For example, processing insurance claims. That would go in the project time, except you would be doing operations (ongoing things that involve more than one step) rather than projects (initiatives that come to an end and involve more than one step). You’d still have daily workflow routines to clear out right away, such as email and your physical inbox and stuff, releases that may not pertain to your ongoing operational stuff, and some projects.
These are some loose, initial thoughts. The main aim driving my thinking here has been: If you want to be able to spend 70% of your project time on core projects and 30% of your time on advancement and learning projects, you need to be able to group your work into some type of “categories.” If you don’t, it will be harder to single out your project time from other time.
Simply doing projects, and even next actions, “whenever they work during the day” has never worked for me. In order to have the “whenever it works” time, I need to also have some designated time for them as well.
For those who haven’t already heard, David Allen’s latest book is now available: Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life. I haven’t read it yet, but when I do I’m sure I’ll be interacting with it in some posts.
Here’s the summary:
Why this book? Why now? GTD, now in 28 languages, has become a viral phenomenon around the world. An understanding of the reasons for that success and the principles behind the power of GTD opens a much broader application of the underlying formulae for success, across the whole span of life and work. “Making It All Work” illuminates the true basics of self-management – control and perspective – and how to get and keep both in any and every situation with solutions simpler, and more sophisticated, than you think.
David Allen shows us how to excel in dealing with our daily commitments, the unexpected, and the information overload that threatens to drown us. “Making It All Work” provides an instantly usable, success-building toolkit for winning “the game.”
“Making It All Work” addresses: How to figure out where you are in life and what you need; How to be your own consultant and the CEO of your life; Moving from hope to trust in decision-making; When not to set goals; Harnessing intuition,spontaneity, and serendipity; And why life is like business and business is like life.
Lifehacker has a good post from a while back giving a very useful productivity tip from Jerry Seinfeld:
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.
He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write.
Read the whole thing to get the details on how it works.
The author of the post, Brad Isaac, points out that this technique can be used in many different areas. He’s used it “for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.”
I’ve done a variation of this with some things as well, including eating less, trying to read 3 books a day, and getting up super early, and found it to be very effective (though the 3 books a day didn’t last too long!).
You can even implement this technique on your iPhone with the Goalkeep app.
C.J. Mahaney has been doing a good series of posts on time management over at the Sovereign Grace blog.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think GTD does very well with the runway and 10,000 foot levels, but leaves the higher levels less developed than I think they need to be. Mahaney’s posts hit the higher levels well, talking a lot about roles, goals, and scheduling.
There are a lot of reasons people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions, but I’m going to mention two that I haven’t heard many people think about.
Two of the biggest reasons people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions are:
- They don’t know where to write them down.
- They don’t know how they integrate with their other goals.
It is not sufficient to simply say “write down your resolutions.” If you don’t know where to write them down, that’s not helpful because you’ll write them down and then forget about them.
If you write your goals down in a Word document, for example, how are you going to remember to look at it? Or if you write them down on a piece of paper, where do you put that paper so you can review it regularly?
The other problem is: So you have these 3 new resolutions for the year. But what about the 30 other things you have going on in your life? How do you keep those 3 resolutions in mind so that they aren’t crowded out by everything else you have going on? And what about the 5 other goals you have which aren’t new year’s resolutions, but are just as important (or more so)?
In other words, your new year’s resolutions need to fit clearly within the wider context of your whole life. If you don’t see where they fit in relation to all of your other priorities, it is easy for them to simply turn into vague intentions.
This relates to the problem of where to write them down. The reason people don’t know where to write them down is that they don’t know how they fit into the wider context of their whole life.
Which takes us to the importance of a productivity system.
Your new year’s resolutions are really goals. Don’t let the term “resolution” throw you off. These are goals. Therefore, they need to be kept with any other goals you might have and they are accomplished in the same way: by reviewing them regularly, and breaking them down into “next actions” and/or “projects” to keep the ball rolling.
In other words, you need to put your new year’s resolutions (goals) into a trusted system that you review regularly. By making them a part of a “system,” your goals aren’t just a random document filed some where. Rather, it is kept along with all the other outcomes you are seeking to obtain and actions you need to take. This integrates it with everything else that you have going on, and makes it easy to review them.
I thought about going into detail on how to do this, but that risks too much detail at this point. If you are using Outlook or OmniFocus or something like that to manage your projects and next actions, then it’s simple: Just create another level called “Goals,” and put your goals (which includes new year’s resolutions) in there. Then review your goals regularly along with your projects and next actions.
If you use a paper planner, then just make sure that you have a “Goals” section in there, put your resolutions in there along with any other goals, and make sure to review it regularly (in the GTD system, that’s the weekly review).
If you don’t use any software or a planner to manage your life, then you could start simple by just creating a Word document. List your goals, projects, and next actions (creating a separate heading for each) and then maybe put it on your desktop so you can easily open it every day. (Usually I don’t recommend putting things on your desktop, but when starting out here this would be the main exception.)
There is so much more that could be said: how to organize goals, how to word them, how to break them down appropriately into projects. But takes us beyond the point of the post right now.
In sum, if you want to accomplish your new year’s resolutions, you need to not simply “write them down,” but write them down in a place that you review regularly and which reflects the wider context of your whole life.