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• Luis Miguel Urrea Guia • Michael Hyatt • Leo Babauta • Jocelyn Glei • • Stephen Smith • Howard Flomberg • James Mallinson • Andrew Filev • Michael Sliwinski •

#5 (August 2010)


Exclusive Interview

Luis Miguel

Urrea Guia

4 Cultivating Good Habits 4 Getting Focused Easier 4 Making Meetings Work

4 Productivity on the iPad

Sponsored by


From the Editor

Our Magazine joins Productive Firm to receive regular updates By Michael Sliwinski, Editor


am very happy to offer you this

additional in-depth articles and books.

newest, fifth issue of your Productive!

This is why we are launching a new

Magazine. This is a breakthrough

productivity membership site called

issue as I believe we have nailed the

Productive! Firm and both this magazine

way this magazine will be published in the

and my Productive! Show will now be

future and it’s going to be an exciting time

a part of this site. I’m sure you’ll love it.

for you and for our small team.

be interviewing people who are highly Members of Productive Firm will also

We have some really fantastic authors

productive... but are regular people like

receive inside scoop before the magazine

you and me. So I chose one of my closest

publishing regularly for us and we decided

gets published, will be able to read

friends and one of the most famous

to give you a new issue of the magazine

the entire, uncut interview with each

Spanish sculptors – Miguel Guia.

every two months until the end of this year.

issue’s guest and more. Speaking about

In December, based on your feedback,

our guests, this time we decided to try

readership and the experience gathered

something different and you probably

complete name) is a sculptor, an artist who

publishing this magazine, we’ll decide how

don’t know the person on the cover of

also runs a series of successful companies

often to publish issues in 2011.

the magazine. But believe me, you want

in Madrid, Spain. We used to work closely

to get to know him.

together on some projects and I was

We want to give you more productivityrelated content, not only with this magazine but also through short videos,

Allen and Guy Kawasaki... and I should


Sponsored by

Luis Miguel Urrea Guia (that’s his

always amazed how he got stuff done. He I got many emails from people saying I focus too much on celebrities like David

quickly became my productivity guru and actually he inspired me to build the first

magazine version of Nozbe – my GTD productivity app. In the interview Miguel Guia explains his way of approaching productivity and cultivating good habits that help him get more done. Continuing the theme of successful entrepreneurs and productivity in small companies, we’ve got great articles by our regular contributors like Leo Babauta (who was our featured guest in the last issue of the magazine), Michael Hyatt and others... Hope you like the new changes to the magazine and how it is coming together. I’m sure you’ll love this issue of your favorite productivity magazine and now, without further ado I encourage you to prepare a beverage of your choice, sit in a comfortable armchair, and grab the iPad to read this new issue of the Productive! Magazine. Enjoy! Yours productively,

Michael Sliwinski (@MichaelNozbe) Founder, Nozbe – Simply Get It Done!


Sponsored by


Table of contents

05 08 10

Productive!Magazine Sponsor:

Your Online tool for Getting Things Done – available in your computer browser, mobile phone and on your iPhone.

Michael Sliwinski Ditch the bad habits and cultivate the good ones Interview with Luis Miguel Urrea Guia

Chief Editor: Michael Sliwinski Technical Editor: Maciej Budzich

Michael Hyatt Scheduling Time in the „Alone Zone”

Editorial Team: Lori Anderson

Leo Babauta Frictionless Work: How to Clear Your Life of Non-Essential Tasks

Delfina Gerbert

Dustin Wax


Howard Flomberg Quick&Dirty Guide to: Meetings – how to make them work


James Mallison Getting Things Done… FASTER


Andrew Filev Focusing on Getting Things Done with Project Management 2.0


Stephen Smith Kanban Changes the Perspective


Michael Sliwinski 7 ways the new Apple iPad will increase your productivity


Sponsored by

Tribute: Marc Orchant (1957-2007) The Productive!Magazine is dedicated to the memory of a productivity guru, great blogger and a very close friend, Marc Orchant who passed away on 9th December 2007. All articles are copyright © by their respective authors. Productive!Magazine is copyright © by Michael Sliwinski. Getting Things Done® and GTD® are the registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.


Jocelyn Glei 10 Laws of Productivity


Productive! Magazine Interview with Luis Miguel Urrea Guia

Ditch the bad habits and cultivate the good ones by Michael Sliwinski

Q: Who are you and what do you do for living? I’m Luis Miguel Urrea Guia and I’m a sculptor and painter

Q: Please tell me more about what inspires you as an artist? My passion is to make art accessible to everyone with sense of

known under a nickname “Miguel Guia” and I’m also an owner of

beauty, as a sculptor and painter I’m completely in love with art

several businesses and a senior semi-professional athlete – I’m

and as a second generation of an artisan family, throughout the last

the residing champion of Spain in “hammer throw” my senior age

ten years, I have intended to bring back more dignity of art pieces


to homes in all over the world.


Sponsored by


Q: What is the rhythm of your day? How do you work? I have intense days, although for a while

As a sculptor and painter I’m completely in love with art.

I have been organizing my time well. I get up early and spend my day on advancing

there are people who can’t live without it. I just

all the necessary matters. My work order is

personally prefer to sleep well during nights

topic and the main points of each action,

to prepare ideas early, analyze what steps

and use every minute of the day constructively

if I have to call I add the phone number,

need to get done to achieve my daily goals,

(and simply enjoy the whole day).

some commentary about the person and

and concentrate totally on these since the very start.

As I have said before, I write down the

the main purpose of the call. Now, at Q: What is your system of productivity

the time of the phone call I have all this

like? How do you use it on daily basis?

information right here in my notebook.

Q: Spain is famous for “siesta” – a midday 2-3 hour nap. I heard you didn’t believe in them? Well, it is not really a matter of belief, it’s a Spanish custom and I respect it. I know


Sponsored by

So, to start with I have a notebook

The most important part of my “system”

always on my table and I write down all the

is a blue or green marker – once a task

things I want to do on a given day. I do my

is done, I cross it with the marker. This is

best to see them all through and if I can’t,

very rewarding as it relaxes me as the day

I postpone them for the following day.

progresses to see the page fill in with green.


You have to schedule your day to have enough time for work, trainings and enjoying life. Q: I know you are an early riser. Why is getting up early so important to you? For many years now I have preferred to enjoy the light, peacefulness and good vibration after good rest. No one bothering me with daily things. I’m the first person in the office and I’m getting a lot done before anyone shows up. This way I’m progressing very well throughout the day. I have an expression that perfectly describes this: “if you don’t get up early, you’ll keep on running the whole day with your tongue out of your mouth” trying to catch up with everything. Q: How did practicing sports influence

not allow the company part to destroy

to an organized life. Getting up early, sports

your way of working and self-

the artistic essence of our projects, and

and strength of will are always a good


the business part does not allow the

start. It’s about a conscious decision how

business topics influence the former. As

you want your life to be and how you want

a sportsman, as I have said before, all the

to live it.

Since early childhood I have been practicing sports that required a strong

effort and dedication that is used in this

discipline and compromise with the

field helps me to work better with my team

trainer and colleagues from team.

at work, too.

About „Miguel Guia”

With years, this routine translated into a certain way of living. You have

Q: What tips would you give to people

to schedule your day to have enough

who do not know how to organize

Luis Miguel

time for work, trainings and enjoying life.

themselves and do not know where

Urrea Guia is a

This kind of physical and psychological

to start?

famous sculptor

fitness is required in sports like athletics or american football. They help you

and painter, I have been giving little hints all though

a national

develop your will to make the extra effort

this interview. To organize work well, it is

athlete and a

and to pursue your goals.

essential to prepare all the topics in the

businessman. He lives and works in

morning and work through them before all

Madrid, Spain in Europe. His mission

Q: What differences are there between

the interruptions and daily office life makes

is to bring world-class art to every

being a boss of a company, sculptor and

you resolve them improperly.

home (under nickname: „Miguel Guia”) and he’s committed to getting it done.

sportsman? In this life it is all about habits, good As a boss and an artist I’m a bit of

He takes inspiration from masters like

ones.. or the bad ones. You just really need

Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, although

to get rid of all those bad habits and pick

none of them wins. My artistic vision does

up new ones that will help you in your path

Picasso, Dali or Chillida among others. His web site:


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Scheduling Time in the „Alone Zone” You schedule time for large meetings, small meetings, conference calls, and phone appointments. If you are like many leaders, you often feel that your life consists of nothing BUT meetings. As a result, there is no time to complete the work you volunteer for, agree to, or are assigned in those same meetings. What can you do? Simple: Schedule time for you. by Michael Hyatt


ou need time for what Jason

2. Weekly appointments. I literally block

Specifically, I try to work on projects

Fried and David Heinemeier

out time on my calendar with the clever

that require extended creativity. I plan

Hansson, authors of Rework,

title of “Office Work.” I generally do this

in advance which projects I am going to

call “the Alone Zone”:

on Sunday night as I prepare for the next


week’s meetings. When I am really on the

Long stretches of alone time are when

ball, I do this a month in advance. The

I am sometimes asked, “How do you

you are the most productive. When you

beautiful thing is that when someone asks

get it all done?” Part of the secret is by

don’t have to mind-shift between various

for that time slot, I can legitimately say, “I’m

scheduling time to get it done. What about

tasks, you get a boatload done. (Ever

sorry, but I already have a commitment


notice how much work you get done on

then.” It’s a commitment to myself.

a plane since you’re offline and there are zero outside distractions” (p. 105).

3. Quarterly reviews. I schedule a day and a half by myself each quarter. I have

But this kind of alone time doesn’t

About Michael Hyatt

written about it on this blog before, so

happen by accident. Like everything else

I won’t repeat myself here. However,

Michael Hyatt

in the leader’s life, you must be intentional,

this is a time when I can reflect back

is the President

if you want to be effective.

over the previous quarter and then look

and CEO

forward to the coming quarter. It’s an

of Thomas

opportunity to poke my head above the

Nelson, the

clouds and see where I am going with

largest Christian

my business—and my life.


I personally schedule four kinds of alone time:

company in the world and the seventh

Long stretches of alone time are when you are the most productive.

largest trade book publishing company in the U.S. Michael has written four books, one of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Hyatt serves as Chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association

1. Morning time. I typically get up at 5:00

4. Travel time. I am never more productive

(ECPA). He has been married to his

a.m. I do my most important tasks right

than when I am in an airplane. However,

wife, Gail, for twenty- eight years. They

away, including exercise and reading.

I have to be very intentional. I upgrade

have five daughters and two grand

I also try to get done my single most

when I can. If that’s not possible, I get

daughters and live outside of Nashville,

important to-do item before I leave

an exit row seat. (It’s difficult to be


for the office. Why? Because I know a

productive when the person in front

thousand interruptions and distractions

if you has their seat reclined, and

Michael’s blog:

await me once I arrive.

their head is practically in your lap!)

Michael on Twitter: @MichaelHyatt


Sponsored by

Time and Project Management for Busy Professionals and their Teams

Nozbe web app syncs with native iPad and iPhone apps... and Evernote!


Frictionless Work: How to Clear Your Life of Non-Essential Tasks “It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher by Leo Babauta


ow much of your day is spent doing administrative tasks, and not creating or doing other important work?

Imagine this for a moment: you have no administrative tasks, only the core work that you love doing.

How much time do you spend responding to emails and IMs and social networks,

Is this a pipe dream? Perhaps for some,

making payments, doing paperwork, filing,

who have little control over their work. But

sitting in meetings, driving, doing errands,

if you have a larger degree of control, let’s

and so on? How much of that could be

explore the idea of “frictionless work” or

cleared up for more important work?

even “frictionless living”. If you have little control, consider a

Imagine this for a moment: you have no


purpose. Today, I have a few successful blogs and a handful of successful books. Only a year ago, that required a lot of administrative work — so much so that I hired an admin assistant to help out, and outsourced other work.

administrative tasks, only the core work that


you love doing. Your day has been cleared

My Frictionless Business

for creating, building, doing high-impact

I know I don’t have a typical job, but that

and outsourcing are not hassle-free … each

projects. Isn’t it lovely?

didn’t happen overnight and I did this on

comes with work of its own: email or phone


Sponsored by

But assistants, employees, delegating,


By radically rethinking your work, you might be able to eliminate a lot of admin tasks. a tiny minority of readers used, eliminated

What Are Your Admin Tasks?

my need for that admin work or for hiring a

Take inventory of your work: what admin


tasks take up your time? Add to this list over the course of the next couple of days,

- I stopped doing work that required me

because you’re probably forgetting some.

to do paperwork or admin work. That meant losing some income from consulting and

Now ask yourself: which of these can be

other business, but it also meant a lot more

eliminated? Many of you will probably answer,

free time for what I love doing.

“Very few”, because you’re used to the way things are done. “This is how things are done.”

- When a guest writer submits a guest

But that’s an artificial limitation — instead, ask

post, I no longer format the post but require

yourself how it can be changed. How might it

the writer to format it and submit for my

be possible? Think radically different.

review. Mostly now I just need to read over the post and hit publish.

To eliminate tasks, you might have to make major changes over time, but the

- I got out of a bunch of ad networks that were always asking me to do admin

beauty is that you’ll also be freeing up time. Consider some examples:

work. That was a loss of income, but it also simplified my website. Now I sell one ad a

require forms to be filled out digitally,

almost no work — the advertiser presses a

perhaps online? This will eliminate a lot of

Paypal button to reserve the ad, and emails

work, and if the database is set up right,

me the ad image and link code.

eliminate filing.

- I eliminated email, for the most part, © Paulus Rusyanto -

If you spend a lot of time on calls or

except for collaborative projects (which are

email, can you provide other ways for

few and far between). My email time went

people to get info or get things done?

from half my day to a few minutes a day.

Perhaps put up an FAQ online, so common

calls, following up, checking the quality of work, doing contracts, reviewing terms,

If you do a lot of paperwork, can you

month (which I’m also eliminating), and do

questions are answered (like Google does - I sell ebooks automatically through

for its product support), or provide web

clarifying, firing, searching for a better

e-junkie, and affiliate payments are also

pages where people can automatically

employee/contract company, paying, filling

computed automatically.

download products or get other things

out tax info, and on and on.

done without you as the bottleneck? Or - I now have almost no admin work to

The better solution is to simplify. Eliminate non-essential tasks. And so I did, slowly:

run my blogs: I write, and publish. Once a


month I log into my Paypal account, send out affiliate payments, and transfer money

- I eliminated comments from Zen Habits,

can you route those requests to someone

Also unsubscribe from newsletters and

to my bank account (and from there, my

notifications and so forth, so you don’t

cutting back on a huge amount of work

bills are automatically paid and money is

have to spend time processing them in your

for me. Comments turn a major blog into a

automatically transferred to savings).

inbox. Consider each email that comes

forum, where the blogger is the moderator. It takes hours to moderate a major blog, and

in and ask yourself: “How could this be This is not to brag. I know I have it easy

while I outsourced that for months, it was

compared to most, but this has all been

always a major headache that required a lot

done gradually and on purpose. I created

of work. Eliminating comments, which only

this frictionless work.

eliminated?” Can you eliminate meetings, or at least get out of them? How can you get the info


Sponsored by


magazine without meetings? How can projects get done without the meetings? If you worked at home, you wouldn’t

I now have almost no admin work to run my blogs: I write, and publish.

have to commute, or do a lot of other tasks associated with working in an office. It’s not always possible, but often you can work

commitments as possible. You’d be free to

towards that goal.

… well, do what you love most.

However, there will likely be a temptation to fill up your freed time with more email, social networking, blog reading, and so

Can you drop clients or parts of your

I can’t claim to have done this

on. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this,

business, losing a little income but

completely, but I have made huge progress

but before you do, consider how you really

eliminating all the admin work that goes

towards a frictionless life. Of course, I still

want to spend your time. Do you want to

with it? The free time could be spent

have chores to do (washing dishes, laundry,

remove the friction just to fritter it away with

creating something that would more than

etc.), but I’ve eliminated a lot of personal


make up for the loss of income.

tasks: I’m a big fan of doing nothing, of

Can you eliminate features that aren’t

I don’t pay bills anymore. I either

solitude and relaxing and playing. So if

completely essential, so you don’t have to

pay them in advance if I get a big lump

that’s how you use your free time, I’m

do all the work to support those features

payment, or I set up automatic payments

jumping with joy. You might, however,

(similar to how I eliminated comments)?

each month. In fact, because all my

spend this time creating, and that’s one of

transactions are electronic, I never go to the

the true wonders of creating frictionless


work and a frictionless life. Spend your

Can you stop worrying so much about growth, customers, competitors, statistics, and so forth — and focus instead on what

time doing what you love, living your I don’t file personal paperwork anymore.

you love doing? A great quote by web

I’ve gone paperless, so all documents

designer and developer Sam Brown: “I

that I needed to keep are scanned, and

used to stress a lot about my business, my

everything else is already digital. Even

clients, the amount of work I was doing and

contracts are done digitally.

beautiful. You’ll be glad you did. “The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” ~ Frances E. Willard

my competitors – but the minute I stopped worrying about all of that and focussed on

passion, making something new and

Housework is minimal. Admittedly, my

just doing great work that I was happy with

wife does the laundry, but we share in

it really made a big difference, to me and

cooking and cleaning duties, and most

my business.”

of it is painless as we have a pretty sparse

About Leo Babauta

home. It’s fairly clean all the time. If you think a task is necessary under the current conditions, consider changing the current conditions. These are just a few ideas and

Leo Babauta Errands are minimal too. Mostly it’s

(soon moving to

and we moved last year so those are within

San Francisco)

walking distance. So we often walk to

and is married

questions to get you started, but you can

those errands, getting a nice workout and

with six kids.

see that by radically rethinking your work,

enjoying the outdoors in the process.

He’s a writer and a runner and a vegetarian and he loves writing Zen

you might be able to eliminate a lot of admin tasks.

There isn’t much else we have to do,

And free up time for what truly matters.

Habits - his blog that in a couple of

except things with our kids and each other.

years became one of the top blogs

The fun stuff. Much of the friction of living

on the Internet with 100K+ readers

has been eliminated.

subscribed and counting. He’s a

Frictionless Life


lives in Guam

going to the grocery store or post office,

published author of a bestselling book

This concept of eliminating admin work

A Warning

can apply to your personal life as well.

It’s not always easy to change your work

Imagine your personal time with as

and your life to get rid of the friction of admin

Leo’s blog is „Zen Habits”

few chores, errands, paperwork, and

tasks, but once you do, it’s simply lovely.

Leo on Twitter: @Zen_Habits


Sponsored by

„Power of Less”


© Kelly Young -

Quick&Dirty Guide to: Meetings – how to make them work ”Terri, there’s a product meeting at 3 o’clock” “3 o’clock on a Friday? What lamebrain set it up?” “Check the Email, Terri” “Oh.”


o Terri, Ernie, Terri’s boss, Greta and four or five of their closest

by Howard Flomberg Sound familiar?

- Terri adds insult to injury by asking Greta to take notes.

It is said that a camel is a horse designed

friends go into the meeting.

- Marv wonders where the coffee is

by a committee (*1). This saying sums

Heck it’s only been scheduled

- Ernie wants to talk about the monthly

up the popular opinion of committees

for one hour. What can possibly go wrong?

status report

and meetings. The general consensus

- Terri’s boss follows Ernie down that path. Shall I list problems that come up?

is that a committee can do nothing successfully. Let me rephrase that: an

After the prerequisite hour, Terri tries to

unorganized committee can do nothing

- Terri’s boss takes over the meeting

call the meeting over, her boss, however

successfully. You can easily substitute the

- Bill and Brett want to know why this

has decided that since everyone is here –

word “meeting” for the word “committee”

let’s talk about the Christmas party.

they are essentially interchangeable as

meeting was called.


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An unorganized committee can do nothing successfully. You can easily substitute the word “meeting” for the word “committee”.

6. Don’t schedule meetings on Fridays please! Especially during the spring and fall. 10:00 in the morning is always a good meeting time – it’s long enough before lunch so that they can still sneak out for an early lunch. 1:00 is deadly.

far as accomplishments. Most qualitative

Here’s how you do it:

People will straggle in. they will be

methodologies and decisions involve

1. Prepare an Agenda. Without an agenda

sleepy and non-participatory. If you

(evolve in?) meetings. In many, if not most,

you are wasting everybody’s time.

schedule a meeting for 3:00 (especially

cases meetings become massive time

The agenda should spell out, in some

Friday at 3:00) you will get what you

wasters. In an uncontrolled environment,

real level of detail, the reason for the

deserve. If I am an invitee – I’ll totally

meetings can and frequently do become

meeting as well as the topic to be

forget it.

confrontational. People tend to go off in

discussed. See the example above.

tangents and the reason for the meeting rapidly becomes lost. So, how does one

7. The memo must go out at least one 2. The names in the agenda

full business day before the meeting.

control a meeting? Or can a meeting be

memorandum are in alphabetic order.

Two or three days would be much


Yes there are people who look at these

better. More than three days would

things as an indication of political

invite people to conveniently forget.


power. Head that one off. As a matter

When you see the person in the

To: H. Aardvark, C. Jones, L. Lopez,

of fact, alphabetize the names in all

hallway, you might remind him(*2)

memos that you write.

once. Any more than that and you will

M Miles, P. J. Peterson, S. Sutra and Z. Zaplitney

see him avoid you like the proverbial

From: H. Lee

3. Topic, time, date and location are

plague. One of my favorite ways to

Date: 07/04/76

prominently placed at the top. Insure

remind someone is to joke – Don’t

Re: Corporate strategy, 07/05/1776

that everybody knows the location of

forget Terri, you’re bringing the booze

the meeting. A fast email the day before

to the meeting.

Meeting Room A. at 10:00 a.m.

the meeting containing this information We will be meeting next Thursday to discuss the orientation of our new product,

is not a bad idea. Sending out more

8. At the beginning of the meeting review

than one email IS a bad idea.

the agenda. If someone wants to add

the American Revolution. The Specific Topics to be discussed are:

something relevant to the agenda – ask 4. Each topic has a brief description.

if everyone agrees. If it’s not relevant,

Tactics – will we fight in an open plain or shall we be hiding behind trees? Uniforms – Mr. Washington has requested Buff and Blue, however Mr. Rogers-Clark insists that forest green would give us a decided advantage Living quarters – shall we have the

Without an agenda you are wasting everybody’s time. If there is to be a decision, indicate

see the discussion below on the

the choices. Any more detail is not

“parking lot”

men supply their own tents or can we

needed. This is your guide for the

standardize? If we standardize, we need to

meeting. Stick to these issues. Putting

appoint a subcommittee to recommend a

too much information just invites more

than one and a half hours. Schedule

supplier and pricing.


another session if there is a need.

Rank Structure – Mr. Washington insists

Here’s why – you have six (?) people 5. When you send the agenda out, ask

in a small room. In today’s offices’ you

Boston contingent feels that the men

for an RSVP. If you are emailing –

need a wrecking ball to open a window.

should elect their own leaders.

generate a return receipt. You want

Of course you close the door. Now you

How shall we decide these issues?

to head off the “I didn’t know about

have a bunch of Homosapiens all busy

Please email your acceptance to the

the meeting.” If they approve a return

converting oxygen to carbon dioxide in

meeting. If you cannot make this meeting,

receipt, they’ll show up. If your

a room with poor ventilation. And you

please tell me who will be representing you.

company uses a scheduling program

wonder why you get sleepy? It’s oxygen

like Outlook© use it.


on traditional military ranks; however our

- “Lighthorse” Harry Lee


9. Do not allow the meeting to go for more


Sponsored by

magazine 10. The Parking Lot. So Terri brings up

13. If you notice each item in the agenda

this memo out immediately, even if you

her favorite complaint – the striping

is phrased as an “Action Item” For

have to stay late to do it. List each action

in the parking lot. She is concerned

example: Living quarters – shall we

item, who it is assigned to and how will

that someone might trash her ’71

have the men supply their own tents or

it be reviewed. Don’t forget the use a

Gremlin. Set up a “Parking Lot.” Have

can we standardize? If we standardize,

return receipt. If you ask: “Please let me

a place to record topics that need

we need to appoint a subcommittee

know if you disagree” you probably will

resolution outside of the meeting. It

to recommend a supplier and pricing.

not get any response until it’s too late,

should be either a black/white board

Discuss each item. If it is too large or

and someone has been ticked off. More

or a large sheet of paper in plain view

important to settle at the meeting have

successful is the language: “I assume

to everyone. So you now say: Terri,

someone follow up on it or schedule

that if no one responds by the end of

we really do need to discuss that,

another meeting. If you ask, ”Who

the week then there are no corrections”.

let’s put it in the Meeting Parking Lot.

wants to follow up on this?” in most

Always take an active position.

This is your secret weapon! You can

cases you will be greeted by a wall of

get poster sized “yellow stickies (*4)”

silence. Ask someone with an interest

from your office supplies vendor. Stash

in the topic to follow up. “Terri, can

thing! One learns by screwing up. We

them somewhere. Once someone finds

you follow up on this?” Everyone is

all do. When I was interviewing for a

out that you have the stickies, they

relieved that you didn’t ask him or her

consulting spot, one of my favorite lines

will disappear. Take one sheet and

and is staring at Terri. You now have

was “I’ve been doing this for many years

put it on the wall. Label it “Parking

peer pressure working for you. At the

and I’ve made a gazillion mistakes. You

Lot”. The parking lot is where you put

end of the meeting, review the action

get them all for free” Hopefully I’ve saved

those items that will take you down

items. Note who has taken the action, if

you from some of them.

17. One last point – Spell check the damn

the wrong path. But by posting them you have assuaged Terri’s ego. Her idea has been recognized and not ignored. You’ll find that in a relaxed environment, after a while when someone brings up an item that is not

Set up a “Parking Lot.” Have a place to record topics that need resolution outside of the meeting.

appropriate, you’ll hear a chorus of “parking lot” and laughter. 11. Danger Will Robinson! If at all possible, do not invite your manager (or your

an action has not been resolved either

*1. I really love camels :-)

schedule a meeting to discuss it, or

*2. Is my use of “him” offensive to

appoint a volunteer.

anyone? If so please accept my apology.

manager’s manager for that matter). If you do, the meeting becomes his

*3. I am NOT a doctor or a chemist. This 14. Ensure that every issue is either

is a totally non- -scientific guess – but it’s

meeting. If you must invite him –

resolved or assigned to a person at

based on years of experience

establish privately the procedure that

the meeting for resolution. After the

*4.I call all Post-its “Yellow Stickies” no

you are going to follow and get his

meeting, review each Parking Lot

matter what color they are. That should

support. If he refuses to follow your

item. Have someone assigned to it. A

be my worst habit..

wishes – get your resume in shape. This

sneaky way to control these items is to

one can be a career ender if handled

ask: Terri, you brought up ‘Parking Lot

poorly. Try and make that discussion

Striping” can you follow up on it? Terri

with your boss light. Review the agenda,

will never do that again.

ask for his opinion, let him know you’ll give him a full report, before he says he’ll be there. 12. Again, if a topic is brought up that

15. Another real important item – If you

Howard is a

must ask someone to take notes –

Retired Systems

NEVER ask a woman. She will hate you

Analyst, Adjunct

for the rest of your life.

Professor and

is not on the agenda – steer the conversation back to the agenda –

About Howard Flomberg

Author. He lives in 16. After the meeting send out a memo

reschedule a meeting to discuss that

promptly reviewing the decisions and

point or put it on the “parking lot.”

any topics assigned to someone. Send

Denver, Colorado. Howard on Twitter: @hflomberg


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Getting Things Done… FASTER © Vivid Pixels -

When it comes to maximizing how productive you can be there is a lot of talk about adopting frameworks like GTD or Covey’s Seven Habits, cutting down your projects list to the essentials, finding the right tools, avoiding procrastination etc. However in this article I want to discuss another point to increasing your productivity that tends to get overlooked – speeding up your work so that that you will be getting things done faster (for the purposes of this post lets call it GTDF).

Pick a set time on a clock or stopwatch and then see how much you can get done before the time runs out.



Sponsored by


by James Mallison magine a manufacturing plant. The

Of course there is a catch to all

quicker products can be brought

this. We also don’t always have to

through the construction line to

work quickly through our work, though

completion, the more productive the

with our jobs becoming stressful and

plant is considered to be. Why can the

demanding it is becoming increasingly

same approach not be applied to your

important to achieve more in less time.

own work? You may not be a machine

Also, some projects don’t suit well to

who works 24/7, but the benefits are still

being done faster, especially those

clear – get your work done more quickly

that require lots of brain power and/

and it will leave you with more free time to

or creative thought. However there are

play with.

those projects that you can work at more

magazine quickly with negligible loss of quality, or as David Allen would call them, the widget cranking projects.

Get enough sleep. Eat healthy and take exercise.

With all this in mind, let’s look at how we can work faster…

to work where you won’t be interrupted,

out-dated it slows down the entire

disconnect the phone and turn the TV off.

production. Likewise you need to have

Set time limits

While it is difficult to keep focused for

systems in place that help you achieve

One of the most basic but effective ways

any length of time, for those periods we

your goals with minimal complications.

to speed up your work is to set time limits.

are able to shut the rest of the world out,

GTD is very reliant on speed, with David

There are two fundamental approaches to

it’s important to take advantage of it.

Allen stating that if you can’t add a next action to your system within a few

using time to your advantage:

Maintain energy levels

seconds you simply won’t do it. The same

Well maintained machines don’t get tired or

applies whether you are trying to clean

how quickly it takes you to do the task or

have off-days, and though we as humans

dishes with poor quality washing liquid,

project, log the time, and then regularly

cannot maintain 100% energy levels all the

or trying to save files over a poor quality

challenge yourself to beat that time. It’s a

time, there are measures we can take to

network. Find and develop the right tools

simple but effective way of keeping your

stay as alert and energized as possible and

for all the jobs in your workflow and if

motivation high using your competitive

not try to work at an high pace when our

something doesn’t work quickly enough

drive, while allowing you to gradually

energy levels are low (you wouldn’t try and

for you, replace it!

improve your overall speed and efficiency

drive a car on an almost empty fuel tank

over time.

would you?). Discussing ways of keeping

Lay the groundwork

energized and alert is a topic worthy of

Imagine again, the setup of a

it’s own post so I won’t discuss it in detail

manufacturing plant with its mass

here, however in brief:

production setup. It is a finely tuned and

The more traditional approach is to see

Pick a set time on a clock or stopwatch and then see how much you can get done

intricate system which is able to create

before the time runs out. This is useful if you have limited time and want to become

Get enough sleep. The average person

a set number of products quickly and

more disciplined with how you use it. For

needs around eight hours to gain the full

effectively. You can mirror this by having

example, recently I decided to clean out

benefits, though this can vary from person

habits, approaches and best-practices

the storage cupboard. However I had to

to person. Note, that getting too much

in place in your life that encourage fast,

fit it in with my other work, so when I had

sleep can be nearly as bad as not getting

efficient functioning. Knowing what works

some spare time I gave myself a thirty


for you and continually optimizing that approach is key to getting things done

minute time limit and set a challenge to see how much I could clear out before the alarm went off.

Each person naturally feels more alert at

faster. That way you don’t let your bad

different times of the day, which is where

habits, like procrastination, and lack of

the night owl and early bird terms come

knowledge, like not having had any training

Keep focused

from. For instance, if you do your best

to use a particular software, slow you

Manufacturing plants are active most

work in the morning, you can also do your


of the time, if not 24 hours a day and

quickest work.

though you obviously can’t be expected to be that active, it is important you stay

Eat healthy and take exercise. This

James Mallinson

focused as long as possible on what you

doesn’t really need much explanation but

are doing so as to build up momentum

if you are physically healthy you’re also

and in turn speed up your work. For

mentally healthy and this really helps with

James Mallinson comes from the UK

instance, if you have the TV on in the

your energy and focus levels.

and is an aspiring author. He started

background as you do your work (as I

Organize IT nearly two years ago after

am doing while writing this) it’s difficult

Use the right tools

he began dabbling in productivity,

to keep focused long enough to get

Manufacturing plants have huge, often

and wanted to share his tips and

any momentum (hence this is taking

complex systems in place specifically


longer to type than it usually would). As

designed to do their job quickly and

Blog: Organize IT

much as possible find a chunk of time

productively. If one machine is old and

James on Twitter: @JMallinson


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Kanban Changes the Perspective From Wikipedia: Kanban is a concept related to lean and just-in-time (JIT) production. The Japanese word kanban is a common term meaning “signboard” or “billboard“. According to Taiichi Ohno, the man credited with developing JIT, kanban is a means through which JIT is achieved. by Stephen Smith


anban is a signaling system

or implement the Kanban process.

Morning Pages entries, or when I am reading.

to trigger action. As its name

I personally like to use index cards but

Cards are also generated by tasks that are

suggests, Kanban historically uses

you can use slips of paper, sticky notes, or

assigned to me, or to someone on my team,

cards to signal the need for an item.

even digital applications – online or for your

via an input mechanism such as telephone or

mobile device.

e-mail. Each new card then simply goes into

However, other devices such as plastic markers (Kanban squares) or balls (often golf balls) or

For the purposes of this article, let’s think

the Queue and each morning I can assess the

an empty part-transport trolley or floor location

about our Tasks and Projects as index cards,

situation, choose the tasks that I feel are most

can also be used to trigger the movement,

then you can translate the concept to your

important (or urgent), and move them into the

production, or supply of a unit in a factory.

own version of this system. First, imagine

Work In Progress (WIP) zone.

It was out of a need to maintain the level of

that each card contains a single Task or Next

improvements that the Kanban system was

Action to be completed. Everything on your

caveat here – the Kanban board is not

devised by Toyota. Kanban became an effective

list can be written on a card which will then

a replacement for your calendar when it

tool to support the running of the production

be put on the Kanban board in one of two

comes to the time-specific information

system as a whole. In addition, it proved to be

zones: The Queue or Work in Progress (WIP).

that you need to manage. Remember

an excellent way for promoting improvements

In the image of the bulletin board, above,

that according to the principles of Getting

because reducing the number of Kanban in

you can see that it is divided into three

Things Done only three things are to be

circulation highlighted problem areas.

Zones: the left-hand side is for storing

entered into your calendar:

cards that are yet to be acted upon;

1. Time-specific actions

a good one, showing how the Kanban

the center area is for cards that you are

2. Day-specific actions

system can be used to manage enormous

working on, or have prioritized to be part

3. Day-specific information

projects and collections of tasks, such as

of your list of “things to do”; the right-hand

an automobile factory. Most of us don’t run

zone is for collecting and organizing the

that you use to tell you where you need to be

car factories, but we can still benefit from

Tasks and Next Actions that have been

and when you need to be there, or when

the basic principles of Kanban – which are

completed, these things are Done.

something is scheduled to happen. Your

The wikipedia article on Kanban is

so simple that they will amaze you.

That’s it. Because your calendar is a tool

Kanban board is where you manage Tasks.

How Tasks Enter the Kanban System


I would like to mention an important

Use these two tools together for planning

Create a System That You Enjoy Using

My process for generating Next Action and

your activities. For example, during your

As the above article excerpt mentions,

Project cards is quite basic, they usually come

Periodic Review you may decide that there are

there are many ways to “do” Kanban,

to me while I am making my daily Journal/

some Most Important Tasks that you would like


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magazine to assign as time-specific (or set a deadline for completion). Enter these in your calendar, or create a Next Action Card with a due date on it.

Simple space limitations will remind you that one can only work on so many things at one time.

Put that card in the Queue zone. When the assigned time arrives, and

own energy level, and the external

your calendar reminds you of the Task,

circumstances then choosing those Next

move that card from Queue to WIP. This

Action Cards that fit the situation.

method will work whether you use a paper planner or a digital calendar/PDA.

Write the date of generation on any card that you put into the Kanban system.

I am finding that this system of managing

This will aid you in deciding if an item has

our activities is very helpful to actual

gone stale, is not not as important as you

productivity. A daily assessment of Next

once thought, or perhaps its urgency has

When you are Done

Actions to be completed keeps priorities in


One of the best features of this system, for

perspective, avoiding the mindless churn

me, is in the moving of Next Action Cards

that so often happens when we get caught

from the Queue zone into the WIP zone, for

into the Done zone. This gives me a simple

up in the day-to-day routine of handling the

the same reasons listed above.

and easy way of reviewing exactly what was

“fires” and interruptions. It is very important

accomplished in the previous period (day,

to be able to prioritize our activities, because

was completed, in order to make periodic

week, month, whatever scale you operate

the tasks and projects shown on this board

reviews more effective, especially in

on). The real beauty of this system is that it

are things that we do to support the main

tracking your accomplishments.

replaces messy handwritten lists and gives

objective of our jobs – to ensure that our

an instant overview of what is happening

guests have a superior dining experience.

been delegated to others, and keep them

right now. This is especially helpful in

This happens out on the restaurant floor, not

in the WIP zone, with the date that the task

recognizing when there are simply too many

in the office or at a computer.

was assigned and the date that it is due.

Write the date that a card was moved

Write the date that the Next Action

Make cards for Next Actions that have

Use a spatial reference for prioritizing

things happening at once. The concept of the overview provides a tool for managing your

Moving from Lists to Next Action Cards

Next Actions, more important tasks should

current workload and the backlog of Tasks in

Changing your personal productivity tools

be placed in the top left of the appropriate

the Queue and creates a “Pull” mechanism

can be a cause of stress and anxiety, so

zone, as this is where your eye is trained

for adding new tasks to the WIP zone.

I recommend starting slowly, perhaps

to look first when scanning a “page” of

with a few sticky notes on the wall used in


The “Pull” occurs when a task is

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it

completed and a space is created when

conjunction with your current system. Learn

the card is moved to the Done zone. As

to capture inputs onto these sticky notes, or

comes to the usefulness of the Kanban system

the cards move from left to right across the

perhaps in a similar fashion on your digital

for your productivity practice. Searching

board I am able to see and measure the flow

device or smartphone. Then take some

Twitter and Flickr can give you plenty of

of work that is being completed. This visual

time to practice and learn the technique of

inspiration for enhancing your own system.

sense of accomplishment is very gratifying!

assessing the Tasks and Next Actions that are

Please consider sharing your thoughts and

in progress, or are simply waiting to be started.

experiences with Kanban, I’ll be happy

Kanban and Delegation

to publish a summary or follow-up article.

A list with tens or hundreds of items

I use a Kanban board both in my home

it unwieldy and in drastic need of

office, and in my office at work (I manage

perspective. Simple space limitations

a restaurant in a small resort hotel). As you

will remind you that one can only work

can imagine this system comes in very

on so many things at one time. Filling in

handy for delegating tasks to my team.

the Queue and WIP zones can force you

Stephen Smith

Each of my supervisors takes a look at the

to prioritize your Next Actions, assess their

is currently

Kanban board at the beginning of their shift,

validity, and perhaps push them back into

a restaurant

in order to see which tasks or Next Actions

the Queue for a more appropriate time. Or

manager who

have been assigned to them for the current

simply decide that a particular item on a list

uses basic

work period, and they can also see what is

is not worth doing after all.


planned for them in the future (in the Queue). For example, projects can be completed

About Stephen Smith

principles to

Tips for Maintaining Perspective and Next

enhance the guest experience.

by multiple people as they can assess

Action Value

each upcoming Next Action by evaluating

Here are a few tips for making your

His Blog:

the time required to complete it, their

transition more painless and beneficial:

Stephen on Twitter: @hdbbstephen


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Focusing on Getting Things Done with Project Management 2.0 Let’s have a look at a typical project manager’s day. In the morning, he comes to his office and checks his e-mail for messages with project updates. He then spends hours calling his team members, e-mailing them or meeting them in person to collect all the information he needs and to make sure that everything is well and on track...

by Andrew Filev

... and after that, the manager has to

indispensable piece of information buried in the thousands of messages that you have

“project secretary” job to a minimum and

The updates also need to be communicated

in your inbox? What if you weren’t CC’d on

concentrate on the leadership part of the

to the upper management. So the project

that e-mail? It gets even worse when you

management job? How much more efficient

manager has to make reports and hand

need to quickly share information that’s lost

and productive would the whole team

them in to the company’s executives to

in your inbox with a newcomer.

become as a result? Experts say this is

keep them aware of the project’s progress.


The manager also has to follow up on

This knowledge, buried in e-mails, causes

clients’ feedback or partners’ actions.

project managers in too many organizations

During the course of the day, he constantly

today to waste hours on transferring

popularity of Enterprise 2.0 principles

has to resolve issues through another

information from e-mails into their project

applied to project management. Project

endless series of e-mails, phone calls and

management systems and back. As a

Management 2.0 relies on the same


result, their productivity and efficiency are

concepts as Enterprise 2.0. The power of

damaged by this unnecessary routine.

many, also known as collective intelligence,

Instead of being a project leader, a project

helps to build, maintain and evolve an up-

manager turns into a project secretary.

to-date picture of operations. Flexible

Looks familiar, doesn’t it? E-mail is still the most popular project communication tool. An employee on an average project gets between 30 and 100 e-mails per day.

The change comes with the growing

Project Management 2.0 tools merge this Traditional project management systems

picture from various pieces, giving a perfect

The majority of these e-mails contain tasks,

often are not integrated with e-mail.

example of what enterprise social software

change requests and discussions, so it’s

Systems like Microsoft Project are designed

researchers call „emergent structures.” The

hard to overestimate the knowledge buried

with the top-down project management

software supporting these two concepts,

in e-mail inboxes every day. This knowledge

approach in mind and aren’t suited well

collective intelligence and emergent

often bypasses project management tools

to leverage collective knowledge in an

structures, open new opportunities for

like Microsoft Project.

easy way. It means they create dozens

boosting your own efficiency and your

of needless, routine jobs for the project

team’s efficiency by cutting the daily routine

manager. Therefore, instead of helping

and leaving more room for creativity and

mail? Or forgot to send a reply to an urgent

project managers, these systems make the

leadership. They make a project manager’s

request? Was it ever easy for you to find an

manager’s workload even bigger.

life easier by bringing three major benefits:

Have you ever missed an important e-


What if managers could bring this

merge these updates into the project plan.


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magazine Reducing routine work Project Management 2.0 practices and supportive tools eliminate the need for extra meetings, phone calls and e-mails,

Naturally, software will not do the whole job alone, but it empowers people and multiplies their efforts.

thus saving you time and letting you focus on getting things done. The best tools in

generation technologies enable managers

this area are integrated with e-mail. They

and other members of the project team

organization more productive lays in

The key to the making the whole

don’t break the habitual workflow, allowing

to view projects differently. Project

gaining efficiency for the project manager

project participants to communicate via

participants can pick any reasonable sub-

and his team. Project Management 2.0

e-mail messages. At the same time, they

set of tasks, create a view with these tasks

tools and practices become a catalyst to

automatically absorb information from e-

and share the view with someone who

important innovations on the organizational

mails, which usually bypasses project

needs it. It means that more people can

level. They let everybody from team

management systems and is traditionally

collaborate and contribute to the project

members to project managers and

buried in the team’s inboxes.

work productively.

corporate executives focus on getting things done and spend less time on

With project management 2.0 tools,

Each of these views can be changed

routine tasks. Naturally, software will not

this knowledge is shared and available to

by team members as the organization

do the whole job alone, but it empowers

everybody on the team at any given moment

and its environment changes. The whole

people and multiplies their efforts. Project

in time. Just imagine: there’s no need to call

structure evolves with time. Managers, who

Management 2.0 democratizes project

and ask your peer to find the important e-

have access to more perspectives and to

management, bringing it outside of

mail from a customer who wanted to make

broader views, can align multiple projects,

enterprise project management offices to

changes in a project schedule. Tasks, clients’

avoid scheduling conflicts and set the right

other departments, as well as to small and

requirements, status updates, ideas and

priorities. Flexible, many-to-many structures

midsize businesses. It makes companies

project discussions are all captured by a

that allow creating, sharing and easy

more agile, projects more controllable and

single system, are shared among the project

merging of views are an important part of

people more productive.

participants and are available at any given

the Project Management 2.0 approach. This

moment in time. So even if you need the

approach enables collective intelligence

information when nobody is in the office,

and leads to collaborative planning. In turn,

you can still get it immediately. No need to

collaborative planning makes organizations

call your employee on Saturday evening

more productive and transparent.

About Andrew Filev Andrew Filev

when you suddenly need to know where the project stands. Besides, there’s no need for

Giving the complete picture of all projects

has been

the manager to manually adjust project plans

Upper-level managers can access the


and individual team members’ schedules.

global organizational view, which gives

software teams

them a clear picture of where the business

since 2001

stands. Project Management 2.0 tools

with the help

avoid micromanagement by allowing team

merge individual employees’ to-do lists

of new-generation collaboration

members to mark updates of their part of

into one picture that is always up-to-

and management applications.

the project work in the shared collaborative

date. It means that corporate executives

His best practices are based on

environment. This gives the project manager

are constantly in the loop with what’s

implementation of Enterprise 2.0

the up-to-date picture of where his team

going on in the project. The information

software in project management.

and the project stand. The top-down

is always at their fingertips. As a result,

Now Andrew is an expert in project

control comes in when the project manager

the organization’s leaders can adjust

management, a successful software

aligns and guides those activities. Project

strategic plans to changes in the business

entrepreneur and the CEO at Wrike.

Management 2.0 practices and tools let

environment much faster. It becomes easier

com. Andrew’s ideas about improving

you gain harmony between top-down and

for them to rapidly and cost-efficiently

traditional project management

bottom-up management styles.

recognize changes and adapt to them. The

are reflected in his popular Project

whole organization becomes more agile

Management 2.0 blog.

Project Management 2.0 lets you to

Providing multiple project views

and therefore more competitive, thanks

Besides giving an up-to-date picture

to very simple tools and the powerful

Visit Andrew’s Project Management Blog

of internal project operations, the new-

practices of Project Management 2.0.

Andrew on Twitter: @andrewsthoughts


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7 ways the new Apple iPad will increase your productivity With the iPad many believe the era of traditional computing is over. The PCs and Macs are not going to be mainstream. The iPad-like devices are. They are great for mass content consumption and... productivity. Here’s how. by Michael Sliwinski


he Apple’s iPad is still causing

2. Pinch and zoom photos, tap articles

more messages at the time just because

lots of controversy all over the

to make them bigger and better for

of the cool interface of the new email

Internet and since it’s just been


app - the „paper-like” feel to the email

shipped, one can already find

Again, nothing new for the iPhone

messages and ease of use will encourage

a number of ways the iPad will improve

users, but on this kind of device it’s

you to get email done. Of course, the only

your productivity:

unprecedented - just pinch and zoom or

thing problematic here is the performance

simply tap to read an article better, to see

of the on-screen keyboard, especially

1. There’s no „right” way to hold it, it

more details, to make sure your eyes are

for people like me who are touch-typing.

rotates automatically to adjust to you

not working too hard. This will make it a

But you can get a bluetooth keyboard for

iPhone users know this already, but

perfect computing device for people with

some serious writing.

for many folks this can be a new

sight problems.

4. Single-tasking will improve your focus,

thing - you can just grab the iPad and


it rotates to adjust to the way you

3. Process email inbox to zero beautifully

it’s a feature, not a bug!

grabbed it. It doesn’t force you to think

The beautiful all new interface to email

People complain about the fact that you

„how to hold it” - just grab it and start

will make processing messages to zero

can be in one app at a time on the iPhone

playing with it.

fun and cool. You’ll be inclined to process

and will do the same on the iPad... but


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The beautiful all new interface to email will make processing messages to zero fun and cool. this actually helps boost your focus and

7. Books will encourage readership -

decrease distractions. You’ll get more

you’ll read David Allen’s book again!

done, one app at a time.

The iPad is to serve as an eBook reader. You can get all of the issues of this

5. One email message at a time in vertical

magazine on the iPad’s iBooks software


and read it on the go. It is the most elegant

Similar to the point above, iPad has

eBook we’ve seen so far. It’ll help you

another focus-boosting feature in its email

read more and learn more... also about

client - when you rotate the screen you see


the email message in a beautiful vertical view and you see only this message, no

Elegance helps getting things done

inboxes, no folders, no clutter, just the

I’ve highlighted many times in this post

message that you can give full attention

the iPad’s aesthetics and the fact that the

to. Similarly other iPad apps work this

apps coming with it also look gorgeous

way, making the iPad the ultimate „focus”

and I’m telling you - interacting with


pretty tools makes you want to use them more. I should know, I’m using the

About Michael Sliwinski

Interacting with pretty tools makes you want to use them more.

Michael Sliwinski is your chief editor of the Productive!

6. Beautiful calendar will encourage

Macbook Air and enjoy working on it

Magazine and

planning your Weekly Review

every day.

now a host of the new Productive! Show site. Every

The calendar app on the iPad is incredibly similar to the good old-school paper calendars

How will the iPad improve our

day he’s trying to help people get

we used to carry around with us. I’m sure this

productivity? Will the apps really deliver on

more done with his web application

app will encourage more order and better

the iPad? Time will tell, but since it’s just - now also available as a

planning... and who knows, maybe we’ll finally

a bigger iPhone/iPod Touch, I’m sure this

native iPhone or iPad app.

be able to schedule your GTD Weekly Review

device can be a real productivity booster

Michael on Twitter: @MichaelNozbe

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10 Laws of Productivity

You might think that creatives as diverse as Internet entrepreneur Jack Dorsey, industrial design firm Studio 7.5, and bestselling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami would have little in common. In fact, the tenets that guide how they – and exceptionally productive creatives across the board – make ideas happen are incredibly similar.


by Jocelyn Glei ere are 10 laws of productivity

of an iPhone app by sketching on paper?

we’ve consistently observed

Once you’ve road-tested your idea on a

among serial idea executors:

small scale, you’ll have loads more insight on how to take it to the next level.

1. Break the seal of hesitation. A bias toward action is the most common trait we’ve found across the hundreds of creative professionals and entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed. While preparing

Break each project into smaller chunks that only take a few weeks or a month to complete.

properly as you start a new project is certainly valuable, it’s also easy to lose

3. Protoype, prototype, prototype.

insidious habit can make it impossible to

yourself in planning (and dreaming)

Trial and error is an essential part of any

ever really complete anything. The best

indefinitely. We must challenge ourselves

creative’s life. As Ze Frank says, usually when

way to avoid it is to write down a simple

to take action sooner rather than later. The

we execute an idea for the first time, it kinda

statement summarizing your objective

minute that you start acting (e.g. building

sucks. The important thing is to synthesize the

at the start of each project. (If you have

a physical prototype, sharing a nascent

knowledge gained during the process to refine

collaborators, make sure there is agreement

concept with your community), you start

the idea, and create a new-and-improved

about the objective.) And then – this is the

getting valuable feedback that will help

version. Serial idea-makers like Jack Dorsey,

part we overlook! – revisit it regularly. When

refine your original idea – and move

Ben Kaufman, and Studio 7.5 all attest:

scope creep starts to happen, you’ll notice.

forward with a more informed perspective.

Prototyping and iteration is key to transforming a so-so idea into a game-changing product.

5. Work on your project a little bit each day.

2. Start small.

Rather than being discouraged by your

With projects that require a serious infusion of

When our ideas are still in our head, we

“failures,” listen closely and learn from them.

creative juice – developing a new business plan,

tend to think big, blue sky concepts. The

Then build a new prototype. Then do it again.

writing a novel, or just learning a new skill – it’s

downside is that such thinking makes the

Sooner or later, you’ll hit gold.

incredibly important to maintain momentum.

barrier to entry – and action – quite high. To


Just as when you run everyday, the exercise

avoid “blue sky paralysis,” pare your idea

4. Create simple objectives for projects,

gets easier and easier, the same thing happens

down to a small, immediately executable

and revisit them regularly.

with your brain. Stimulate it regularly each day,

concept. Can you trial the idea of a multi-

When working on in-depth projects, we

and those juices start to flow more freely. As

day festival with a smaller performance

generate lots of new ideas along the way.

Jack Cheng argues in a great blog post, “Thirty

series? Take an idea for a skyscraper and

This can lead to a gradual expansion of

Minutes A Day”: “the important thing isn’t how

model it in miniature? Work out the flow

the project’s goals, or “scope creep.” This

much you do; it’s how often you do it.”


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The beautiful all new interface to email will make processing messages to zero fun and cool. or a month to complete. The dual benefit

on the research and writing that yield

of this approach is: (1) making the project

those bestselling books. When you’re

feel more manageable, and (2) providing

in execution mode, keep in mind that

incremental rewards throughout the

“unexpected opportunities” also mean

project. It’s crucial to pause periodically to

distraction from the work at hand. Saying

take stock of what has been accomplished

no is an essential part of the productivity

– even if there’s a long way to go.


With projects that require a serious infusion of creative juice, it’s incredibly

10. Remember that rules – even

important to maintain momentum.

productivity rules – are made to be broken.

© Illustration by Oscar Orozco

8. Prune away superfluous meetings

Did we say develop a routine? This and

(and their attendees).

other tips here should only be followed as

Few activities are more of a productivity

long as they are working. If forward motion

drain than meetings. If you must meet

has become impossible with your current

(and this should be a big “if”), make

routine, try something else. Whether

sure everyone knows what needs to

it’s taking a long distance trip, popping

be accomplished from the outset. If

into the art museum, walking around the

people are present who don’t help out

block, or talking to a perfect stranger,

6. Develop a routine.

with achieving that objective, let them

make sure you occasionally shake up your

Part of being able to work on your project

leave. Qwest COO Teresa Taylor, recently

normal routine. Breaking habits offers new

a little bit each day is carving out the

interviewed in the NYT’s Corner Office,

perspective and helps recharge us to head

time to do so. Routines can seem boring

starts her meetings with the question,

back into the fray.

and uninspiring, but – on the contrary

„Do we all know why we’re here?” and

– they create a foundation for sparking

then follows with, „Does everyone need to

true insight. In his recent memoir, What

be here?” To trim the runtime of internal

I Talk About When I Talk About Running,

meetings, you can also try the standing

famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami


writes about how a rigorous routine –

About Jocelyn Glei J.K. Glei is

rising at 5am and going to bed at 10pm

9. Practice saying “No.”

the Director

every day – is crucial to his impressive

Creative energy is not finite. Seasoned

of the 99%,

creative output. (In a side note: Alex Iskold

idea-makers know that they must guard

Behance’s think

derives a series of lessons for start-up

their energy – and their focus – closely.

tank, which

entrepreneurs from Murakami here.)

Take author Jim Collins for example. His

focuses on what

books Built to Last and Good to Great

happens after inspiration, researching

7. Break big, long-term projects into

have sold millions of copies. His business

the forces that push ideas forward.

smaller chunks or “phases.”

acumen and insights are in demand.

She also regularly consults with a wide

Yet, “even though Collins demands over

range of creative clients to assemble

motivated for year-long or even multi-

$60,000 per speech, he gives fewer than

strategic plans — addressing concept,

year endeavors, break each project into

18 per year.” More than that and Collins

design, execution, workflow and

smaller chunks that only take a few weeks

wouldn’t have enough time to focus

staffing — to facilitate the launch and/

To help manage expectations and stay

or growth of content-driven ventures

To avoid “blue sky paralysis,” pare your idea down to a small, immediately executable concept.

both online and in print. Web site: The 99% 99% on Twitter: @the99percent


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Productive Magazine #5