Processing power

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image by German Chocolate Ladies

The Getting Things Done methodology uses processing stage to deal with all the inputs of your life. The main premise is to ask question “What’s the next action?”. There is no doing involved in there. It’s simply making decision about the things that enter your life. Processing stage may appear as a waste of time, one might say “I could get so much done instead of processing all that stuff”. In fact this is a highly beneficial as it allows to sort out things that need to be done. You can concentrate on those things rather  than going through unclear and ambiguous ideas to find something to do.

What’s your processing power?

The number of inputs coming towards us is increasing. Paradoxically we invite more and more information to enter our space by joining social networks, getting always connected smartphones signing up to newsletters. With dozens or even hundreds of inputs it’s very difficult to keep on top of things. When that happens it’s very easy to let the inbox keep overflowing as it’s may be too overwhelming to go through all those items.

If you’re struggling with keeping on top of things you could try one of the two. Take a drastic measure and cut out of your life as much as possible and leave just bare essentials or you could try to improve your processing power by making quicker and more consistent decisions.

How can you improve your processing power?

Look at stuff once

Look at the stuff only once and don’t let it go it until you make a decision about it. Have you seen any mine disposal team at work? Once they come across a mine they need to make a decision about it either flag it, digit up and disarm. Leaving stuff for later is simply not an option.  It shouldn’t be an option for you either.
Every time you pick up a thing and not make a decision about it you add to your pile of stuff to be processed. You will look at that email or note again and again.  
Do the math if you look at things at least twice that means 3 items in your inbox are now equal to 6 before you do them. 

Pass it on to the right bucket.

First of all don’t leave it your inbox see above. Once you’ve picked an item put it into the right basket and move on.
I some cases it might be difficult to make that decision. Does it go to Next Actions folder, Someday or Projects?
If you’re in such place simply put it into someday or tickler file. This way you will be able to revisit the idea or during weekly review. Another handy thing to do is to create a separate Google calendar to act as a tickler file. You will keep track of those things and not clog the main calendar.

Be ruthless.

Often time the number of inputs simply exceed our capacity regardless of how fast we process. Sometimes you could spend whole day processing things and you never get anything important done. So be ruthless if something doesn’t click delete/trash it and move to the next item. Don’t spend ages agonising whether you will do or what’s the right place for the thing.

The way I see it is that if the idea is really important it will come back to you in some way. Also if you are not ready to do anything with it it doesn’t matter when it shows up if you  can’t do it you don’t need to keep it. Idea will pop back in perhaps during your weekly review or maybe you will read something that will cause it to reappear. What ever the method it will get to you some how.

 

Processing helps you sift through the inputs that come your way. Instead of looking at inbox full of emails that can be everything and anything  you can go to action folder a do some actual work. Sometimes it can be a daunting task but if you stick look at things once and put them into right places than it may not be as bad as it looks. On the other hand processing can be fun you get to organise stuff into folders, sections, lists but remember once you’ve done your processing it’s time to look into actions bucket and start knocking some actions off.

Steven Pressfield interview

Couple weeks ago I came across an interview series at Lateral Action Blog. At the time there were two interviews one with Jason Fried of 37 Signals and second with Steven Pressfield which really caught my attention.

Steven Pressfield is well known author of novels with background in WWII. He also writes about ancient strategies of waging war campaigns. In addition he is the author of “War of Art” which is one of the most popular books on dealing with creativity and resistance.

Below are quick notes form listening the audio:

Your fate is in your hands.

This sounds like an obvious thing but it’s easy to let it go. It’s easy to switch to a reactive mode where you let other people – parents, bosses, spouses -  tell you what is that you need/should/ought to do. It may seem like a great option but have a think. Whose interest those people have in mind is it yours or theirs?

Be professional and approach life from the professional perspective.

There is something uplifting and encouraging when you look at yourself and world around you from the perspective of professional. Regardless of where you work and what you do keeping that attitude will always result in something positive.

Traits of Professionals (minute 20 -22)

  • patience, puts hours of work to build something.
  • accept adversity and don’t associate personality with business.
  • splits himself into two – one is the owner, another is the worker.
  • don’t give up.

I found this hugely insightful especially in the context of rejection. It’s not you that is being rejected it might be your offering or the person might have a bad day and say no to everybody. Separating the two gives you space, a buffer zone so you can keep sane even it things aren’t going where you wanted. Other important virtue is patience, in today’s world we expect to get instant gratification and results. Building business is not that straightforward you need to put real effort into your venture to succeed. 

Power of one hour a day – devote one a day and build your success.

An old proverb  says that 1000mile journey starts with one step. Sometimes it may be hard to see the progress but by putting that one hour a day over the time things will change and move in the direction you want. It’s very similar with “snowball effect” first it’s small and insignificant but over time it grows and makes difference. So putting that one hour a day may seem like nothing but over time it will yield results bigger than you thought.

Don’t need to neglect/quit that day job, just focus on what can do.

Often times pursuing our passions seems like we need to leave everything behind, quit day job etc. This may not be necessary or practical especially if you’re just starting. Simply focus on what can you do that brings you closer to your passion, spend that one hour a day doing that and see what happens.

Making important changes in life is like turning a battleship it’s slow and takes time.

Again with increasing speed of life we tend to expect the results now. We want instant gratification and if it’s not there we abandon the idea and look for some thing else. But important life changes take time and are often times slow, very slow. Although you may have impression that some people lives change in an instant just have a look closer, if you can talk to them see how it really was.

 

These notes are filtered through my views and interests. I picked up those things because seemed important to me. Yet I’m pretty sure you’ll find something interesting for yourself.

Please head to Lateral Action page to get the full interview there.

Time Blocking

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This is the final post of what became a three part series about looking at your time, where it goes and what to do with it.

When it comes to working through your day there are generally two approaches. Free fall where you let the loudest, shiniest, most recent thing to take over your day. There is no structure and the only aim is to move  through as many actions as possible.
On the other hand you could look at your day and give it a structure. Schedule some very specific time to work on some important projects. Perhaps these are not the most attractive things you could do, perhaps they are thing the you dread doing. Yet they need to get done and if you don’t have any one to delegate to you have to do it yourself.

Time Blocking what is it?

Time blocking is one of the classic techniques for making sure that your time goes where you want it. This is where rubber meet the road. You’ve looked where your time goes using time map. You’ve planned it using budget, now you need to execute it. Time blocking is exactly that, it helps you follow through on the decisions you’ve made.
It’s very simple to use. All you have to do is pick up a calendar, select an action/project you want to work on and set the time and put it in a calendar. The aim of this is to block any other activities and get focused on that one thing. 
 

Benefits

  • Direction – using time blocking you can add a shape you your day. You can make a choices about the tasks that are important to you and you can devote your time to them. Instead letting yourselt to freely flow through the day you can make sure some of it is used for the right things.
  • Focus – is about getting fixed on one thing and giving it maximum of your attention. Blocking time precisely let’s you do that. It works two fold.  You can focus on the task at hand and work through it. You can also focus on actions that allow you making progress in the direction of your goals and plans. Getting enough focus will help to limit impact of the distractions around you like, your colleagues wandering around, people talking over the phone, pinging email client, etc.
  • Close off on overdue items – some items on your todo  may seem to be more attractive that others and unfortunately that means the second group is always pushed back. Whether you want it or not those tasks still have to get done. What you can do is simply block some time for those type of menial tasks and have them off your list.
  • Reminder – often times it’s easy to get caught up in spinning world of incoming email, co-workers asking favours. Day just whizzes through and you just can’t remember doing anything meaningful. Blocking time will work as a reminder of what you supposed to do. If you use electronic calendar you’ll get a pop up message or text from Google. This works even with paper planners. Next time you look at it you will notice that you ought to be doing something.

I recommend watching this video by Gina Trapani which is a great summary of how time blocking can be used during the day:

(via Fast Company)

Time blocking is very simple but effective technique. Sometimes it might be very easy to over use it. Blocking out full day for different tasks is not the best idea. Although you need structure for your day you also need flexibility. Days are not linear there is always something different happening that you haven’t planned for.

If you liked this post please share your views. Do you block time for some tasks? Does it help? Do you get more done?