Weekly Links: habits, 40h work week, handwriting and productivity rules

The power of habits — and the power to change them | Daniel Pink

Most of us look for ways of changing habits or learning how to establish them. Charles Duhigg wrote recently “The Power of habit” which looks at the nature and science of habits. The book is already on my reading list and Daniel Pink has a brief conversation with the author.

40-Hour Work Week – The Magic of Sustainable Growth

Does working more than 40 hours per week really make sense? Is the work that is done when we are pushing the 50th hour really of quality? Luis Suarez (an IBM employee who dumped email) looks at the research supporting the argument behind 40 hour work week. Not only extra hours don’t contribute to performance and overall business outcomes but they also negatively impact our creativity and ability to create real value. It’s very good and interesting read and I absolutely recommend it.

Typing for output. Handwriting for recall

Although use of paper notebooks hasn’t died off the overall trend is toward digitization of writing and taking notes. Digital notes provide many different benefits and there is no doubt about that, yet  still paper provides some form of freedom that makes brainstorming, doodling much easier and effective. Steve from Recording Thoughts blog provides his views on why paper works for him and where the most benefits occur.

My Personal Productivity Rules

Whether you follow a system like GTD or not you follow some rules and have some habits that help you get things done. We mostly apply them automatically and never think they are there. Yet from time to time it’s good to take a stock of things see what works and what could be improved. The first step is to list your productivity rules and see what shows up. LJ Earnest shares her productivity rules that help her stay productive and effective – perhaps you will find some interesting ones.

Frictionless is not structureless

One of the recent episodes of Mikes on mics podcast had a very interesting conversation about using paper templates to help sustain better productivity. Micheal Schechter made a good point that he needs structure to help him with the planning and thinking hence templates are excellent solution. In his eyes, these forms reduce the friction that a clean sheet of paper would have as they provide guidance and boundaries to his mind. Such approach might be very specific to Micheal but it’s got me thinking about interaction between friction and structure.
Very often we think of frictionless as totally rid of any structure, totally free. However frictionless really means to remove unnecessary obstacles, barriers so that things can flow smoother within a set of boundaries – structure.

Lets take it to the field or productivity. Frictionless productivity is not about getting rid of methodologies like GTD or Covey. A lot of us need them to help keep the focus and make sure we stick to the road and not drive throughout the fields. We want to maintain a system, an approach that let’s us organise thinking, tasks, projects etc. It’s not possible to act on every single idea or request the very moment it comes in hence you need a support structure.

Removing friction is about finding ways of accomplishing more in an easier fashion within the methodology of your choice. For me it’s been GTD and although I’m still not 100% where I would like to be, I do apply it every time I can.

When I’m looking at friction in my system I look at it in the context of the GTD workflow.

  • Are there any better ways to capture my ideas?
  • Can I organise my tasks in a more efficient way?
  • What steps can I remove or automate?
  • Are there ways of automating data flows between the apps I’m using?
  • Can I take better advantage of the features available?
  • What behaviors, habits decrease my effectiveness?

I don’t expect to always find an immediate solution, very often it takes time for an idea to pop up, sometimes I need to accept that my current tools can’t be pushed any further. I like this process/analysis as it allows me to look at the things I use and how to improve them.

Weekly Links: KustomNote, knowing your audience, procrastination and target list

KustomNote

If you find standard Evernote notes boring and dull KustomNote might be solution for you. It provides ability to create beautiful templates that can be accessed from the web and sync with your Evernote account. Some of the examples were really good. They are one of the contender in the Evernote’s DevCup so if you like it you might give them your vote.

5 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People

The title say it all. This great looking video is a reminder of things we usually forget about.

Map your procrastination

Four simple questions to find the root cause of your procrastination. The will help you identify the triggers, patterns and action that cause you to procrastinate.

Target list

Making progress on many things we are involved isn’t easy. One way to counteract that is create a list of few things that you want to accomplish. I’ve been doing that by putting small note cards on my wardrobe door. Each time I would pass near I would see what needs to be done.

Weekly Links:Project workflow, have a life, good books and mastery goals

Get It Out. Get It Planned. Get It Done.

An excellent overview of project workflow by Micheal Schechter from the idea stage to implementation. Absolutely recommended read.

Why Killing Time Isn’t a Sin

Life is not all work and getting things done, there are things we love to do just because… My favorite quote from this post: “Life is for living, not productivity.”

10 Must-Reads to Tap Into Your True Potential

Looking for some good books to read this summer. Lifehack.org has really good collection. Definitely worth checking them out.

Why performance goals are ruining your productivity and what to do about it

Very often we see meeting goals in black and white, we either meet them or not. This can be discouraging or even devastating. Tara in her recent blog post provides some interesting take on goals rather than seeing them through yes or no lens, think of them as a process of becoming what you want.

Why I use task manager

Explosion

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of different swiss-army-knife applications. These are the programs that blend tasks, notes, clippings, ideas, etc. all in one place. Perhaps this is a good approach as you have everything in one place, easy accessible and easily searchable. It’s minimalistic approach that has a merits but taken to extreme can hinder the effectiveness rather than help it.

My preference is to keep tasks and project list separate from other elements of my system as and it’s not because GTD principle says so.

Modes

Having a dedicated system/application to manage task switches my brain into different mode a doing mode. When looking at all the item in my Remember the Milk account I focus on the outcomes and completions. I purposefully look for items that I want to accomplish in a given moment. The items in my RTM account mostly relate to specific actionable things, there is no more thinking required.

One place

If I decide that I need to do something then it can only go into one place – my tasks manager. Although I use other tools like Evernote or Moleskine notebook they have completely different purpose. I see them as containers for my thinking, notes, scribbles and sketches. But once an action has been defined it will end up in RTM.

Structure and binge

Task manager provides a solid structure for managing tasks and actions that I or others have committed to do. Rather than chase things around places, I have one location to refer to.

From time to time I like to tackle a large number of small actions that have accumulated in my lists. I call it a binge action day. A dedicated task manager is perfect for such occasion.

Not all work

As I try to keep every tasks and action there I always come across a variety of things todo. Just work would not be too encouraging and I’m pretty sure I would avoid the application like a plague. Instead I have fun, tricky, odd tasks which make the process of using RTM much more pleasant experience.

Weekly Links: Evernote templates, short lists, unproductive truths, Tony Schwarz

Evernote template challenge

I’m big fan of Daniel’s work. He’s running an Evernote template contest now and you can win a yearly subscription to a Evernote’s Premium Account. Closing date 30.07.12.

ShortCal

Need to plan few days and send that list to someone? This is a very neat tool just for that purpose.

5 Common Time Management Truths That Can Make You Unproductive

Not every advice works for everyone, very often best productivity tips contradict one another.Timo posts interesting critique of some of the commonly referred productivity concepts.

How to clear your inbox, make decisions and generally get things done

The Washington post has an interview with David Allen about GTD and his work.

Video of Tony Schwartz at the 99% Conference

Excellent video from 99% Conference of Tony Schwarz talking about productivity, work misconceptions and making the most out of your creativity. Really worth 30min of your time.

GTD – thinking, getting more done and lists

It’s easy to reduce the Getting Things Done methodology to a system that focuses on creating bunch of lists to help you do more. This is very redactive approach as the system has much more to offer.
I think that GTD is more about thinking rather than simply doing more. Time and energy are very limited resources so making most out of them while we can is critical.
On the face of it, GTD is about list and contexts, tools (big one) and calendar. However if you look past that it’s more about thinking, reviewing your priorities, needs and wants. Getting really clear about our stuff that what’s GTD is about.

I will never be able to do everything nor should I have to, yet I want to be happy and to have a successful (thousands of definitions) life. Marrying the two together is not easy task but with assistance of systems like GTD it’s possible.

GTD forces you to evaluate things that are on your plate, through weekly reviews, defining what you really want through looking at various levels of life and lastly breaking things down to the smallest action. The “what’s the outcome” and “what’s the next action” are pillars of thinking that remove a lot of ambiguity.

Sure in the end your will have to put things in some sort of system on some sort of list. List make things easier for us but whatever is on those lists should be a result of thinking framework that GTD provides.