Always Be Ready

Always be ready (ABR) is a concept I picked up from Jason Womack’s book “Your best just got better”. It’s about being ready to make the most out of small opportunities of free time that show up unexpectedly.
To leverage those times you need a list of small actions which you could do anytime and anywhere with minimal set of tools or preparation.
In the book Jason talks about writing thank you cards, drafting an article, making a car reservation all this while he waits for a delayed meeting to start.

Although this approach is very similar to using GTD context as the key factor for task selection, there is a twist to it. Instead of using context as a location or tool you sort your tasks based on the time required. The simplest approach is to tag tasks based on their expected duration as either less or more than 15 min. Then when a little free time pops up you can refer to it and do something quickly.

On daily basis we make plans, update our calendars but sometimes things change. Planes are delayed, trains are missed, meetings postponed or canceled. The crucial element of recovery from such situation is our default response. What do we do when we have 20 or 50 min of free time?

For me it used to be browsing the web, checking the email and simply some unproductive stuff until the next scheduled appointment. Now I’m gradually changing that and leveraging the ABR approach for my benefit.

What makes ABR successful is having easy access to the task list or at least the subset of it i.e. the small tasks which take less than 15min always with me. For my home system Remember the Milk serves me very well as I can access it on my phone or computer and have my tasks easily marked as either longer or shorter than 15 minutes. At work it’s bit different as Outlook it little less flexible however I started to apply categories to my task so that I can sort through them easily.

Probably more difficult is the change of behaviour. The change of the default response takes some time but it’s a good feeling to be able to use that window of time to do something meaningful regardless how small task it may be.

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