• Laura Stack • Al Pittampali • Chris Edgar • Graham Allcott • Francis Wade • Art Carden • Leo Babauta • Mike Vardy • Michael Sliwinski •
#9 (June, July, August 2011)
magazine Exclusive Interview
On being Super Competent and Finding Time
More articles on: 4 Starting your day productively 4 Making meetings really work 4 Living more while needing less
From the Editor
Promises unbroken By Michael Sliwinski, Editor
t’s the end of August and we’re delivering (as promised) the issue #9 of your favorite productivity magazine. We’re slowly making sure the magazine is getting more regular and hopefully #10 will appear on your iPad (or computer) right in time for October. Unsurprisingly this issue is about accountability and keeping promises. Let’s keep ours.
Meet Laura Stack Laura, the Productivity Pro®, is the first woman to be featured on the cover of our magazine, and she’s a fantastic person. She’s a regular contributor and has been active in the “productivity industry” for almost two decades. That’s a lot for a person who’s barely in her forties.
We had a great chat, and I learned a lot from her. We obviously share the same passion for productivity and the great Zig Ziglar has been an inspiration for both of us, too. We’ll also dive into the principles behind Laura’s latest book, “SuperCompetent” as she explains how everyone can get a grade A on the competence and productivity real–life test. One of the keys to this is... you guessed it: Accountability. The main theme of the magazine is reinforced with other articles from our great contributors: Art Carden reviews his new favorite book “The Promise Doctrine” Francis Wade explains how we should move to Time Management 2.0, Graham Allcott and yours truly give you two different (yet somehow similar) ways to approach your morning, Leo Babauta explains his minimalist mindset (a recent inspiration of mine), Chris Edgar wants
! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog
Productive! Magazine web site | Nozbe – Simply Get Things Done!
us to be accountable to ourselves by digging out our inner productivity, and Mike Vardy, as always, finishes up with a humorist approach to productivity, explaining his conversion to Eventualism.
Promise me to share this magazine :–) No, you don’t have to do that. However I’d appreciate it very much if you sent this magazine to your friends and family and recommend our iPad app to your fellow iPad–owning–colleagues. Yours productively, Michael Sliwinski
Editor in Chief Productive! Magazine
Table of contents 04
10 12 14
16 18 19 21 22 23
Michael Sliwinski On Being Super Competent: Making Time Interview with Laura Stack Al Pittampali Why you need to kill your weekly staff meetings
Productive!Magazine www.ProductiveMagazine.com Sponsor: www.Nozbe.com
Chris Edgar 3 Keys To Developing Inner Productivity Graham Allcott Morning Pages: A simple technique to turbo–charge your creativity Francis Wade Time Management Training in the World 2.0 Michael Sliwinski Prepare your next day in the evening Art Carden Review of The Promise Doctrine Leo Babauta Live more, need less Michael Sliwinski Productive! Show Videos Mike Vardy How I Became Eventually Productive
Your Online tool for Getting Things Done – available in your computer browser, mobile phone and on your iPhone. Chief Editor: Michael Sliwinski
Technical Editor: Piotr Wozniak
Technical Advisor: Maciej Budzich
Editorial Team: Lori Anderson
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.
Interview with Laura Stack, the Productivity Pro®
On Being Super Competent: Making Time Meet the Productivity Pro® who’s been studying, researching and speaking on personal productivity exclusively since 1992. It’s her business, life, passion and what she’s all about.
Michael Sliwinski: You say productivity is your passion. Why productivity? Laura Stack: Well, I admittedly have always been fascinated by human performance, potentials, and time management. I saw Zig Ziglar when I was 14 and I knew back then that I wanted to be a speaker. I was in one of the strange families, where my mother would actually send me to motivation conferences. My father was an instructor at the Air Force Academy. He had a Ph.D in philosophy and my mother had a degree in psychology. I’ve skipped several years of school, I did my undergraduate in college in 2.5 years and I had my MBA when I was 21. I had the record, at that time, at the University of Colorado for the youngest MBA. I’ve always been driven this way and it was a very natural progression for me to get involved in the personal productivity industry. I worked as a trainer in a corporate setting for a few years and I decided I needed to open my own company so I opened my doors in 1992. I’ve been speaking professionally now for 19 years.
MS: Your newest book, which I highly recommend is: “SuperCompetent”. LS: Thanks, this is my 4th book. My first, “Leave the Office Earlier” came out in 2004 and then “Find More Time: How to Get Things Done at Home” was done in 2006. Then I wrote “The Exhaustion Cure” in 2008 because the readers were saying, “how do I get the energy to be productive”? And then “SuperCompetent” came out in August 2010. My next, “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do” will hit stores in May 2012.
MS: So, in “SuperCompetent” you are talking of six keys that help you be competent, to achieve your goals: Activity, Availability, Attention, Accessibility, Accountability and Attitude.
I saw Zig Ziglar when I was 14 and I knew back then that I wanted to be a speaker.
and that’s pretty much it. So, if I’m not talking to clients, if I’m not researching, if I’m not writing, if I’m not standing on a platform then I’m not doing my job.
LS: So, SuperCompetent is kind of a summary of the work I’ve been doing for the past 19 years and I have found six basic things to be true of people who perform at their productive best. It all starts with activity. Basically, knowing what you should be working on. And this seems kind of like common sense, but I think it is true for so many of us that have a hundred and seventeen things to do everyday and we often pick incorrectly what it is that we should be doing. So, that’s the first key. What are the activities that need to fill your day?
LS: Yes. And transitioning from actually doing a lot of the work yourself to leading your company and managing other people is a huge shift for many entrepreneurs, and its a shift that indeed many people don’t make. And they still, years later, are spending midnights assembling marketing materials, doing $10–20 an hour work instead of doing the $250 an hour work and really moving their companies forward.
MS: It’s like with this ladder that you climb up the wrong wall. You climb very nicely, but that’s not the wall you should be climbing, right? LS: Sure. We get so occupied by other things that we first have to get back down to the core of what am I supposed to be doing? Why am I here? What is the ultimate responsibility that I have? In my company for example, as the president of The Productivity Pro, I’m responsible for building my brand, and for speaking and bringing in the business,
MS: In my case it was really hard, I started Nozbe – as a one–man–shop. It’s a problem because you are used to doing everything. And then at some point you have to just figure it out, you’re not really good at all this and you need help.
MS: And as for your career, how do you switch between client work and speaking? LS: I’m mostly a professional speaker. That’s my passion, that’s my love, I like to get on the platform. About half of my speaking is at conferences doing keynotes and break out sessions, the other half is more in the trenches training in corporations doing half day and full day workshops and seminars. The book writing, all of the work with newsletters, and all my social media is ultimately moving me towards speaking, training, and consulting engagements, because that’s what I love the most and that’s where the majority of our revenues as a company come from.
I’m mostly a professional speaker. That’s my passion, that’s my love, I like to get on the platform.
I’m now also the president 2011–2012 for the National Speakers Association. My business all rotates around professional speaking.
MS: So being a Zig Ziglar with very nice hair and make–up? LS: Oh, thank you, that’s sweet. You know Zig Ziglar is a personal hero of mine. I’m 42 and though I’ve been in this business for many years, I feel like I’ve just started. I have so much excitement and enthusiasm still about productivity and it’s such an exciting topic and luckily one that is still very much in demand.
MS: Oh, increasingly so, because of the pace that everyone is running at right now. LS: You know, that’s fabulous and that’s where a lot of people get their motivation. Fundamentally, the principles, the foundations of productivity have never changed. In “SuperCompetent” I’ve really tried to reinforce evergreen truths.
Facebook is the new water–cooler.
You know, people just say “I just don’t have time”, well nobody really has time. You have to make time. You have to know what it is you have to work on. You have to make time for it. You have to focus on it. You have to be organized around it, and always be accountable for your results, trying to improve and never giving up. That’s it.
MS: From one of our previous interviewees – Michael Hyatt, I learned a lot about accountability and responsiveness. He said, always, that his key to success was that he was always quick to respond to people. LS: It’s hard to do... I know what you are saying. Accountability to me, I define a bit differently, in terms of teams, keeping your commitments, in doing what you said you would do, meeting your deadlines, and always looking for more efficient ways to do things. It’s kind of a state of mind.
MS: Yes, and the other thing is Attention – people lose it on Facebook for example. LS: Oh, Facebook is the new water–cooler. Oh, we can talk about how we make connections, I mean you can spend whole day updating your profiles and you know everything about the web... but how is that really contributing to your revenue? Entrepreneurs need to put the Facebook in a box and recognize that it is just one more distraction if you are not careful. It’s self control and self discipline. So, while I would say it is important to be responsive I really think we have to control our obsessive compulsive email disorder :–)
MS: Tell me, how is your work–life balance? I mean, you have three kids and a husband, how did you manage to run a successful company for so many years and then have it work with you and the family? LS: Again it comes down to really understanding what am I trying to create in whole context of where I spend my time. The biggest thing in my life to me is to be a mother and a wife and if I fail there I fail everywhere. My kids are 10, 11, and 16, and I’m just like everyone else, trying to run a house and I’m married and I’m in business. For example at the beginning of each year I block out 4 weeks of vacation on the calendar and it’s non–negotiable. It’s hard if you don’t create the boundaries for yourself first. You know, people just say “I just don’t have time”, well nobody really has time. You have to make time. Fortunately, we
possible to compartmentalize while the kids are home, because I see a lot of parents sort of half way paying attention to their children, still really working, or they slip back into the office a little bit. So again, these are personal boundaries that we have to decide what they are for ourselves and then choose not to break them. And that comes down to discipline.
MS: This problem is especially difficult for us, because we love our work so much, that we have to really set up our boundaries for ourselves. LS: My husband and I, for example, have a date night. We try to go out every Saturday night, and grandma comes over or my daughter, who is 16, can babysit, but it is on the schedule. See, if your workout time isn’t on the schedule, your date time isn’t on the schedule, your
...transitioning from actually doing a lot of the work yourself to leading your company (...) is a huge shift for many entrepreneurs, and its a shift that indeed many people don’t make... also work from home, and my husband works for the company as well, so he’s here when I’m on the road.
MS: You’ve been in business for so many years and still 24 hours is 24 hours. I mean there is no way to bend it. LS: It doesn’t change and for me productivity is all about love. It’s figuring out how to love your work, your family, and to get it all done. And I think you can have it all, just not all at the same time. I really try to force myself as much as
Sunday with the family isn’t on the schedule, you allow your life to evolve kind of willy–nilly and you don’t get all those elements in. It took me 255 pages in the book “SuperCompetent” to explain these very easy 6 things, but that’s fundamentally what we have to do. I fly over 100,000 miles a year. It’s a job hazard of a professional speaker: I do travel. I try to be careful about being home at night. You know, fly out, spend a night, wake up, give a presentation in the morning, and fly home.
MS: So you first saw Zig Ziglar when you were 14, and when did you first talk to him? LS: When I joined the National Speakers Association. Zig Ziglar is a member, so I was so thrilled of course to meet him and explain how important he was in the role of getting me into this crazy business of speaking and so I have had the honor and the opportunity of seeing him on many occasions now.
MS: Your future right now is the presidency of the National Speakers Association, more speaking engagements... and a new book? LS: Sure. I write a book every two years. So I have a new one that I’m working on. I’m always writing. I give about 80 speaking engagements a year, so I learn a lot in the trenches, on the road, talking to people, learning and hearing what’s on their minds. I’m always trying to be fresh and relevant. So, yes, you will see a new one from me in 2012 and I will continue my message of productivity. I can’t imagine anything that would pull me away from that right now. At least in the very near future, I imagine I will be doing exactly the same thing I’m doing now. a
! Laura Stack Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker (now president of the National Speakers Association). She’s the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc.
! Links: Laura on Twitter | Laura on Facebook | Laura’s Web Site: The Productivity Pro
Laura’s Newsletter | National Speakers Association
Productive! Magazine â€“ like Wired Magazine now also available as a native iPad app!
...just like your favorite Productivity Application
Nozbe web app syncs with native iPad and iPhone apps... and Evernote!
Whether youâ€™re a huge corporation, small business, or an entrepreneur â€“ killing old processes, traditions, and rituals that have outlived their usefulness is a mark of a leaderand a pragmatist, someone who is concerned with increasing productivity and eliminating waste.
ÂŠ Petr Vaclavek / Shutterstock
Why you need to kill your weekly staff meetings
By Al Pittampali
hen Jack Welch stepped into his role as CEO of General Electric, he noticed a foot high stack of papers on his desk upon arrival every morning. It was an overnight worldwide sales and inventory report that was assembled daily by a small team. It showed how much (down to the unit) was in each one of his warehouses all over the world. One day he asked his staff, “Why am I getting this report”? “I’m not sure, that’s just the way we do things around here” they replied. So Jack killed the report. There is no process that needs to be considered for the chopping block more than regularly scheduled staff meetings. Just do a twitter search for #meetings and you’ll see the tweets of some pretty miserable people stuck inside meetings, searching for the answer to an obvious question: “Why am I here? What’s the point”? Why do we have staff meetings? Let’s explore the 3 most common purposes of regularly scheduled staff meetings, and why they may have outlived their usefulness. To make decisions and resolve issues. If you’re trying to make a decision inside of a meeting, good luck. Large groups are great at disagreeing, but horrible at agreeing. Democratic decision making with a large group of people is almost always a recipe for disaster, and can cause stress and anguish for all. And even if there aren’t any issues to discuss, having a regularly scheduled meeting guarantees you’ll invent some.
To get critical info to your staff. Using a meeting to communicate information and announcements
Democratic decision making with a large group of people is almost always a recipe for disaster, and can cause stress and anguish for all. is like washing your dishes with Evian water, it’ll work but it’s really expensive, and somewhat absurd. Think about it: 20 people at $100/hr, comes out to $2000 in a conservative estimate. With so many other communication options available, people abhor the idea of being herded into a room just to be force fed information they could have gotten through less intrusive means.
To socialize and network with our colleagues. Let’s face it, we’re social creatures, we love to find any excuse we can to connect with others and meetings are one of them. Unfortunately, you may want to slow down and chat, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. It’s not fair to hold others who have more pressing things to do hostage, just because you want to socialize.
So how do we kill the weekly meeting and not only survive, but thrive? Here are 3 things you can do.
Force individuals to make decisions, not meetings. One individual should take responsibility for a decision. Sure, she can consult with people individually if she needs input, but she ultimately needs to make the decision herself. Now, if a meeting is necessary to get buy–in from the group, alter a decision, or coordinate the resulting action plan, go ahead and call one.
Use email, audio, or even video to communicate info. Let people consume this info on their own time. They’ll thank you. Here’s the deal though, we have to create a sacred pact, you’ll agree to cancel the weekly meetings, but all must read the memo.
Schedule a dedicated social event instead. Camaraderie, networking, and team bonding are critically important. But doing it under the guise of a meeting is silly, misleading, and ineffective. Not only is it a bad way to get things done, but it’s a bad way to socialize. If you want to have a social gathering, do it. Just make it short, make it voluntary and make it fun. So, here’s my challenge to you: kill your regularly scheduled meeting tradition for a month. If you miss it, you can blame me. But once you realize you don’t miss it, let it die... forever. a
! Al Pittampalli Al Pittampalli is a meeting culture warrior. He’s on a mission to change the way organizations hold meetings, make decisions, and coordinate action. His book/manifesto: “The Modern Meetings Standard” was published on August 2nd through Seth Godin’s “Domino Project”.
! Links: Al on Twitter | Al’s Blog | Al’s Book: “Modern Meeting Manifesto”
3 Keys To Developing Inner Productivity Why are people still hungry for productivity advice, even with so many ideas and techniques out there? I suspect one reason is that most approaches don’t address one of the biggest obstacles to working efficiently – our own minds. By Chris Edgar
© Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock
s I’ll bet you know firsthand, it’s hard to get much done when our minds keep drifting off into the past or the possible future – replaying arguments with loved ones, worrying about the size of the bonus we’ll receive this year, and so on. The usual “tips and tricks” – efficient ways to organize email, make to–do lists, hold shorter meetings, and so on – can be useful, but they won’t do much to help us get more done if we can’t focus our attention. The good news is that what I call “inner productivity” – the mental and emotional state we need to work at peak efficiency – can be cultivated.
Many methods for doing this have been around in the East for thousands of years, but are just beginning to enter the “mainstream” in the West. I’ll describe what I see as the three basic elements of inner productivity – Attention, Intention, and Foundation – and some exercises for developing them within ourselves.
We’re most efficient, and produce our best work, when our task has our full attention. 1. Attention We’re most efficient, and produce our best work, when our task has our full attention. Often, our awareness is only partly focused on our project, and the rest of it is lost in memories and possible futures. How can we build our capacity to hold our attention on our work? One helpful technique, which comes from meditation practice, is to notice the sensations you’re feeling in your body – whether it’s a warmth, tingling, tension, or something else. A great way to start doing this is to train your awareness on part of your body that’s in contact with an object, such as your feet on the floor or your back against your chair. Focus your attention on the pressure of the object against you. Although our thoughts are often lost in the past or future, the sensations in our bodies are always happening right now, and thus focusing on them helps to bring our attention back into the present and onto the task in front of us.
As you practice this exercise over time, you may find that, when distracting thoughts arise in your work, you begin naturally, unconsciously bringing your attention back into your body and thus into the present.
2. Intention Another common reason we find our attention floating away from our tasks is that we aren’t working with a clear, compelling goal in mind. Perhaps there’s no grand vision behind what we’re doing – we’re only working to pay the bills, or we just feel like “we’ve got to do something”. Or, although we have a definite goal – maybe, for instance, buying a bigger house – that goal comes from a desire to meet others’expectations, and doesn’t deeply move us. In these situations, I’ve found, it’s helpful to connect with our desire to contribute to and serve others. A yoga technique often called “breathing into your
3. Foundation An important, but often overlooked, factor in our productivity is how comfortable we feel with ourselves. If we’re constantly afraid of making a mistake in our work, as if a setback could destroy us, we’ll over–think and second–guess everything we do, and we won’t make the kind of progress we want. According to yoga, there’s another energetic center at the base of the spine called the “root chakra”. Breathing into the root chakra gives us a sense of grounded–ness and stability. Doing this can be very useful when you’re feeling anxious at work. To breathe into the root chakra, put your attention on the base of your spine, where the spine meets the pelvis. If focusing on that area is difficult, place your hand on your lower back, and concentrate on the sensation of pressure there. With your attention on the base of your spine, take a few deep breaths. When
An important, but often overlooked, factor in our productivity is how comfortable we feel with ourselves. heart” is a wonderful way to do this. According to yoga, there’s an energetic center in the heart area called the “heart chakra”. When we “open” the heart chakra by breathing into it, we feel our sense of compassion for others, and our desire to give to the world. To breathe into your heart, clasp your hands behind your back at the level of your heart, and stretch out your arms. Then, breathe deeply so your upper chest rises and falls with the breath. (You may even be able to do this without getting out of your chair.) Feel the warmth and openness in your heart area, and notice any tension melting away.
you do this, you’ll likely feel a deep–seated sense of solidity, and that paralyzing worry will start to fade. a
! Christopher Edgar Chris Edgar helps people find focus, motivation and peace in their work through his writing, speaking, and workshops. He is the author of “Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work”
! Links: Christopher on Twitter | Christopher’s Web Site
Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work
ﾂｩ leedsn / Shutterstock
A simple technique to turbo窶田harge your creativity and get your day off to the best possible start
A few years ago I had the pleasure of being given a copy of Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. It had a transformative effect on me, and removed my long–standing songwriters’ block. One of the tools in the book, the Morning Pages, is something I still use occasionally today (although I do wish I was more disciplined with it and used it every day as Julia prescribes). By Graham Allcott
t’s a great technique, not just for artists, but really for anyone who needs to create value out of information, be creative, avoid procrastination, or just work out what the hell is bugging you at the back of your psyche. It works like this: take 3 pages of A4 paper and a pen. Note: the techies and iPhone app freaks amongst you will try to find a more elegant solution. Don’t. The primitive nature of the tools are part of why this works!
OK, it’s early in the morning. You’ve poured your coffee. Sit down with the pen and paper and write.
OK, it’s early in the morning. You’ve poured your coffee. Sit down with the pen and paper and write. Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop writing until you have filled 3 sides of A4. That’s it. This is an exercise on listening to your mind. Some may find this is a gentle form of meditation and since I’m no expert on that, I’ll just say that it’s probably true. If you can’t think of what to write, you must continue the rhythm of the writing anyway. Just write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until something else arrives in your mind. Once your 3 pages of A4 paper are done (which in my experience usually takes about 20 minutes), you put them somewhere no–one else will read them. I personally also developed a little add– on task to this: My mind often blurts out new ideas or actions that are not in my system so I use it as a place to capture and collect these, marking them with a star, and then at the end of my 3 pages I just run through and transfer any starred items into my GTD system.
to the page. Getting started. This acts as a ritual to show you that you have the motivation to start. Secondly, it allows your mind the time to blurt out all the gunk and release it – all the worries or anger, ideas or excitement that might otherwise preoccupy you all day are gone, and you feel much more focused. Thirdly, you’d be amazed what you find going on in there when you really listen to the voice inside your mind. You’ll find amazing creative ideas you never knew you had in you and you’ll find things you might have been stressed about that you can easily address. In the information–overload culture we live in, we so rarely spend time listening to ourselves, and valuing our own thoughts and instincts. The Morning Pages is a really simple tool to help us do just that. a
Any artist will tell you the hardest part of creativity is showing up to the page. ! Graham Allcott Graham specializes in personal organizational systems, strategies to deal with the information overload and ‘action management’. A naturally ‘too strategic to be organized’ person
This sounds so simple, so why is it so powerful?
who has trained himself to be productive through-
Well, first of all, any artist will tell you the hardest part of creativity is showing up
tems and developing the power of good habits.
out the development of personal work-flow sys-
! Links: Graham on Twitter | Graham’s Think Productive!
Time Management Training in the
Back in the mid 1990’s, before the first PDA was introduced, professionals used multi–tabbed organizers like DayTimers. They showed the world that their owners were serious about productivity. Today, there’s hardly a paper diary to be seen, and instead we have smartphones. Unfortunately 62% of their owners admit to using them to play games: the most popular category of applications. Furthermore, in the same study, productivity was cited as only the 10th most popular use, at a mere 22% of users. By Francis Wade
owadays, when we claim to be more productive, we indicate our ability to tweet from trains, read email on beaches and surf the internet while lying in bed. The most productive person has the most extreme stories. Many can’t complete a meeting or conversation without giving in to the “Blackberry Itch:” the thought that something better is happening in cyberspace that is more interesting, and we might be missing it, so let’s check.
How did this happen? When did greater convenience become equated with “enhanced productivity”? Where did these new habits come from? Should smartphones be taken away? Is it too late to save companies from widespread attempts to save time that only make things worse?
Getting Left Behind The good old days were much simpler. Back then, we were encouraged to think about time management and personal productivity in terms of habits and practices, without bringing in technology at all. Those who knew a thing or two about the sub-
ject wrote books and taught seminars that gave precise practices to follow, and new jargon to use. The sometimes unspoken but clear message was “follow my rules, or else you will fail”. Some of these recipes were quite good, and “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, is one of the very best cookbooks in the bunch. In our brave new world, new technology is driving new habits. The tail is now firmly wagging the dog. Your father’s time management system may have only been about his habits and practices, but in today’s world your system is likely to also be about: ! your choice of gadget (smartphone, cellphone or none at all) ! the software you use to manage your email (Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo Mail, etc.) ! the web services you employ (Nozbe, Remember the Milk, OmniFocus, etc.) ! the capture software you prefer (Evernote, OneNote, etc.) ! the number of channels through which you receive messages (email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instant Message, phone, etc.) – the sheer volume of messages you receive daily that place a demand on your time For many of us in corporations, our choices tend to be driven by some guy or gal in IT who sets software policies and limits individual choices. Changing companies can be cause for a complete change in individual systems, and sometimes not for the better. Just ask Apple users who join companies where the iMac is “not supported” and therefore forbidden. Obviously, the old approach of giving out strict instructions and detailed recipes is coming to an end.
Introducing Time Management 2.0 If Time Management 1.0 was all about following other people’s recipes, and those recipes have stopped working, then
In our brave new world, new technology is driving new habits. The tail is now firmly wagging the dog. you and I must find a way to take care of ourselves. We must own and take charge of our own time management systems in a way that is new. In the world of video gaming, the most exciting new games, like Little Big Planet, actually teach users how to create their own characters, contests, worlds, weapons, skills and more. Software companies like Media Molecule have found innovative ways to teach their users how to pull off these tricks, and have been surprised by some who have gone further than they ever anticipated. In a noteworthy example, one gamer created a virtual, working computer within a game. In Time Management 2.0, I’m among a handful of writers who are trying to make the same thing happen. How can you and I, as users, learn how to craft our very own time management systems that are custom built for our lives, as if we were learning to develop our own personal recipes for our favorite dishes? Fortunately, (and maybe surprisingly,) there are a LOT of people who are coming up with their own systems, even if they don’t ever name them. If you are reading this edition of Productive! Magazine and were able to set the time aside to get to this point, then I imagine that you are using a time management system that works pretty well in some ways! I also imagine that your system is unique, idiosyncratic and “all yours”. You put it together over several years, pulling together a mix of habits, gadgets, software and other components, using a process of trial and error. Perhaps you used hints from a variety of sources to arrive at something that works for you. If I were to give you a book, or put you in a time management class it’s likely that
you would do the same. Take bits and pieces, and use them to modify your system. You are VERY unlikely to drop your current system all at once, and pick up a new one after just a few hours. As you might expect, the research that’s been done points to this phenomena in all areas of adult learning the involve behavior changes. While some feel guilty at this fact and blame themselves for being bad students, the next best step is not to try harder to drop our current system. It’s better to accept our genius for adaptation, and to work with it, not against it. While some would interpret the lack of uniform behavior as a failure of the instructor and his/her method, I think it’s a valuable clue. It tells us how to help people develop their own systems by giving them some “self–programming skills”. This clue, and others like it, is the starting point for the process used in Time Management 2.0: 1. Each of us has a unique system, and if you want to improve it, start by understanding how it works, or doesn’t work. 2. Use this understanding to paint a picture of the desired end–result using sound design principles. 3. List the habits, practices, gadgets, software, etc. that need to change to fill the gap. 4. Use a calendar to spread the changes you want to make over time. 5. Focus on no more than one or two changes at a time, and once the desired level of mastery is accomplished, move on to another.
repeated whenever an upgrade is desired, or being contemplated. When I upgraded my system from one that’s PDA–based to one that’s based on a smartphone, I was able to use this process to make some critical choices before making the purchase. These steps also explain why traditional Time Management books and training have not been successful with more people. They assume time management training to be a one–time event for a particular kind of person, in a particular kind of life situation that never changes. If anything, the recession has taught us that those who stay stuck are doomed. Being flexible is the key to survival and success, and the rate at which life is changing is forcing us to adapt new practices at a faster rate than ever before. Anyone who isn’t continuously upgrading their skills in this area is likely to be left behind, and the new training must equip us with what we really want to learn: how to help ourselves. a
! Francis Wade Francis Wade resides in the Caribbean, where inspired by differences he’s discovered between time management in Jamaica and North America, he’s been able to sit back and reflect on what it takes for professionals to be productive anywhere in the world, regardless of their culture and background.
These 5 steps can be undertaken by any professional at any level of time management skill, and the process can be
When not working, Francis is an enthusiastic triathlete.
! Links: Francis on Twitter | Francis Time Management 2.0 blog
Prepare your next day in the evening There are just a few productivity tips that always work. If you follow them, improvement is guaranteed. It always astounds me when I test these out and see immediate results. One of these tips is to prepare your next day in the evening before going to sleep. Sounds easy and trivial. But it’s really powerful. By Michael Sliwinski
It takes only 5 minutes to create a to–do list for tomorrow That’s it. Just in the evening review your day, decide what’s REALLY important that needs to be done tomorrow and write these tasks down on a piece of paper. Limit yourself to 3–4 tasks that need to be completed as soon as possible. Don’t open your Nozbe or other task manager – put these 3–4 tasks on piece of paper next to your computer. Close your email programs and other apps, including most (if not all) of your browser windows. The next day when you walk to your computer you’ll have the task list next to it. You’ll open your
computer and you’ll know exactly what to do. It’s that easy. I know it’s still hard to withstand all the temptations to check email, Facebook, Twitter... but don’t go that way... just proceed to complete the tasks you’ve set out to do.
After that you’ll have a really good day Once these tasks are done, you can proceed to email and other activities. You can open your task manager to check other tasks and manage your projects. You can quickly check off the things you’ve done in the morning with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Now the day starts and you have a head– start on completing the most important actions for today.
My last 2 weeks have been uber–productive That’s right. For the last two weeks I’ve been religiously, every day, compiling my lists of tasks “for tomorrow” and each day was just perfect. I feel I’ve done so much! The thing is – we’re just humans and we tend to be side–tracked by other people, projects, and events. However, with the golden list “for tomorrow” I’m guaranteed I’m going to get the big things done before I enter the reaction mode of email, social networks, and responding to the other folks from my company.
Added bonus – your mind is working when you sleep That’s another thing – some tasks I set out to do the next day were quite complicated, but since I had defined them in the evening, my mind was working on them while I was sleeping... and when I woke up I suddenly had most the answers and never felt “stuck”. I don’t have any scientific evidence for that but only a gut feeling that’s how it works. My last two weeks proved me right. Trust me.
Don’t go to sleep without a plan for tomorrow That’s the key to my everyday productivity. A small trick that gets a job done. a
! Michael Sliwinski Michael Sliwinski is your chief editor of the
The next day when you walk to your computer you’ll have the task list next to it. You’ll open your computer and you’ll know exactly what to do. It’s that easy.
Productive! Magazine and a host of the new Productive! Show. Every day he’s trying to help people get more done with his web application Nozbe – now also available as a native iPhone or iPad app.
! Links: Michael on Twitter | Productive! Magazine | Productive! Show
Nozbe – Simply Get It Done! | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog
Review of the Promise Doctrine: A guidebook and system for consistently delivering on your promises! – by Craig P. and Jason W. Womack. I first heard Jason Womack on a “Productivity Show” podcast in 2006, when he was still with the David Allen Company. Jason is one of my favorite thinkers on productivity, and “The Promise Doctrine”, which is co–authored with his father, is his long–awaited (by me, anyway) book on productivity.
It brings a lot to the table and will make a fine complement to the productivity bookshelf of people who are already familiar with other productivity thinkers like David Allen (Getting Things Done), Tim Ferriss (The Four–Hour Workweek), and Steven Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People).
By Art Carden
efore I dive into the book itself, a brief digression is in order. One of the most important principles in economics is that trade creates wealth. It allows us to specialize and to use our time and energy in ways that are more productive–i.e., that allow us to achieve more of our goals. The publication information is telling about the myth that trading with poorer people around the world will bankrupt Americans: “Conceived, written and designed in the United States of America. Printed in China”. International trade allows Americans to specialize in advanced thinking on personal productivity, and we’re all richer for it.
“Do what you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it” The short lesson in economics aside, the book’s central theme (unsurprisingly) deals with making good on your promises. Indeed, I was surprised (and humbled) to find myself quoted in the preface regarding the ideal for promise–making and promise–keeping: deliver more than what is asked for before the deadline. As devotees of organizational systems know, we have more options and opportunities today than anyone who has ever come before us. It’s a dizzying and wonderful time to be alive. Nonetheless, we have to constantly adapt our organizational systems to these changing possibilities and opportunities. The book begins with a Foreword by author Marshall Goldsmith, who points
“The Six Elements of the Promise Doctrine” (promise, perform, hurdles, renegotiate, trust and celebrate) out that good promise–making and promise–keeping is an important part of good business ethics. The ability to make wise promises like this is a skill that can be learned from practice, repetition, failure, and reassessment. Is it easy to say “yes” to every request? It is. But it isn’t wise. The Promise Doctrine is a quick read that isn’t designed to be read, ingested, and discarded. It’s essentially a workbook. There are regular exercises and assessments throughout, and it coaches the reader through various steps along the way with lots of white space, bold headings, and offset questions and statements that make it easy to skim. Their “one central principle” is simple to remember but deceptively difficult to practice: “Do what you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it” (p. 11). They express this in a specific practice on page 13: “Make important promises, and keep them”. Once again, it’s easy to say and very hard to do. Often, we get ourselves in trouble when we make short–run concessions with long– run consequences we don’t fully appreciate. I, for one, do this far too often, and I would suspect that if you’re reading this you do the same. Exercises and implementation begin in earnest in chapter 3 and an instruction on p. 17 to “carry this book with you for at least the next 14 days” because “every page of ‘The Promise Doctrine’ provides tools, prompts, and guides that clear the path for promise making and promise keeping”. They make good on the promise, as the rest of the book consists mostly of exercises and “The Six
Elements of the Promise Doctrine” (promise, perform, hurdles, renegotiate, trust, celebrate) and then fold–out pages discussing each of these elements. The fold–out pages are especially interesting in terms of book formatting, but they capture the essentials of what they are trying to communicate about each element in single (large) pages. Design–wise, I found these a little difficult to handle (the stiff foldouts in the latter part of the book make it difficult to thumb through from front to back). Reflect for a moment on how much more productive you and the organizations with which you interact could be if there were a near–certain expectation that what people (including you) promised would be delivered on time, every time. I’m sure you would be much more productive and likely much happier. You wouldn’t bind yourself up in unproductive commitments and relationship–damaging, or trust–eroding strings of broken promises. Craig and Jason Womack offer a simple handbook that can help you avoid this through well–managed commitments. a
! Art Carden Art Carden is Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and an Adjunct Fellow with the Oakland, CA based Independent Institute.
! Links: Art on Twitter | Art Carden’s page
Live more, need less The more I focus on living, the less it seems I need. By Leo Babauta
hat does it mean to focus on living? It’s a shift from caring about possessions and status and goals and beautiful things… to caring about actual life. Life includes: taking long walks, creating things, having conversations with friends, snuggling with my wife, playing with my kids, eating simple food, going outside, and getting active.
That’s living... not shopping, or watching TV, or eating loads of greasy and sweet food not for sustenance but pleasure, or being on the Internet, or ordering things online, or trying to get popular. Those things aren’t living – they’re consumerist pastimes that tend to get us caught up in over–consumption and mindlessness. When I focus on living, all those other fake needs become less important. Why do I need television when I can go outside and explore, or get active, or take a walk
with a friend? Why do I need to shop when I already have everything I need – I can spend time with someone or create, and I need very little to do that. These things I do now – they require almost nothing. I can live, and need little. And needing little but getting lots of satisfaction… that’s immensely rewarding. It’s an economy of resources that I’ve never experienced before. These days, I need nothing but my loved ones, a text editor, a way to post what I create, a good book, simple plant– based food, a few clothes for warmth, and the outdoors. a
! Leo Babauta Leo Babauta lives in San Francisco and is
Why do I need to shop when I already have everything I need – I can spend time with someone or create, and I need very little to do that.
married with six kids. He’s a writer and a runner and a vegetarian and he loves writing blogs: “Zen Habits”and “Minimalism”. He’s a published author of a bestselling book “Power of Less”.
© olly / Shutterstock
! Links: Leo on Twitter | Leo’s Blog: Zen Habits | Leo’s Blog: Minimalist
Productive! Show Videos
David Allen, Constant Improvement and Cool Offices As always, here are the three new (and very short) Productive! Show videos to help, inspire, and motivate you to get even more done.
By Michael Sliwinski
David Allen on Getting Things Done ad 2011 (Episode #34) We just celebrated porting Productive! Magazine issue #1 to the iPad and for that I interviewed David Allen of GTD (Getting Things Done) fame. Had a blast learning from David what he’s up to this year and how we sees productivity.
Areas of Constant Improvement (Episode #16) Listening to Tony Robbins I realized that a small change in our mindset can have a huge impact on the way we see and do things. Like changing our role from “Father” to “Super–dad” can empower us to be a better parent. And there are more tricks like this.
Productive Office – rooftops of Warsaw (Episode #15) I work from home. Yet very often I love to change my work environment and sometimes I crash my friend’s offices or choose really cool cafeterias to work from. It’s always fun to “stir the cup” a little and change the place you work.
! Links: Hope you enjoyed these short productivity videos. Click here to browse all episode archive.
How I Became
government, things could be done in such a slow and eventual manner that it would barely be noticed at all. Especially if one was able to spin it in the right (or “left” way. Not only was I clean in body thanks to my shower, but I was clean in mind thanks to that golden moment that Colbert had bestowed upon me. I was no longer ignorant. I call that shower my “golden shower”. Without diving into the depths of hardcore productivity I would never have been able to develop the methodology, ideology, and philosophy known as Eventualism – not even eventually. I strongly believe that you have to know your enemy so expertly in order to fight back against it. The power that comes from knowing the opposite of what you’re saying is the first step toward believing in the opposite of what you’re saying. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it… eventually. a
I’ve never had the opportunity to tell the story of how I eventually became an Eventualist before, but when Shenee Howard asked me to tell a story for her “EightThirtyFive Initiative” I only hesitated because the word “initiative” was mentioned. I eventually got past that, and decided to offer up my origin story... an origin story that is rivalled You see, I was so only by the story of the word origin itself. By Mike Vardy
Back in 2007, I was addicted to productivity porn It sounds far less sinister than it is, mainly because I wasn’t addicted to actual porn. But let me assure you, productivity porn is a problem that is sweeping the globe, and I had fallen victim to it. I was all about getting more productive with my work. I was trying every system out there, from good old–fashioned paper and pen to the most complex productivity software. I was getting really good at learning about how to be more productive, but was making little progress on actually becoming more productive.
It was during an episode of The Colbert Report that I had an epiphany. I realized that my bio on my Eventualism blog says that I had the epiphany while I was showering. This is also true. You see, I was so obsessed with productivity that I was watching television while showering. I was living on the edge, both in terms of handling my time and handling my electronics.
obsessed with productivity that I was watching television while showering. ! Mike Vardy Eventually self–pro-
What Stephen was saying resonated with me
fessed productivity ex-
Much like he had been persecuted by what was being done by “the left” I was being persecuted by what I had “left” to be done. My mind was blown – as I’m sure that last sentence blew yours. I came to the realization that, much like
new productivity ide-
pert, founder of the ology: Eventualism. Eventually launched a new podcast “ProductiVardy”. Author of several eBooks on productivity and... eventualism.
! Links: Mike on Twitter | Mike’s Blog: Eventualism | Mike’s Podcast: ProductiVardy
Get the newest book by Laura Stack