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.
For many email is a productivity killer. Constant inflow of data is more of a distraction rather than productivity enabler. Yet at the same time email is the primary tool for communication, exchange of ideas and collaboration.
Jason Womack, a productivity and performance speaker and consultant, in his recent post for the Entrepreneur shares some of his favorite three tips in which you can improve your email management.
One that specifically struck with me is to bcc: yourself on an email that you need to follow up on and flag or move such email into a follow up folder so. This is an excellent way of making sure you have quick access to the items you need to keep and eye on.
To automate this process even further you can cc: your self not could set up a set of rules in your email client which would recognize that you bcc: yourself and would automatically tag or move messages into the right folder.
As in my day job more and more of my work is tied to email this will be an excellent solution which will simplify tracking of follow up items.
Be sure to check the other two tips as they are very handy too.
How to Transform Your Email into a Productivity Tool
Update 07 May 2013 – while working on setting up my rule to take advantage of this follow up method I realised that I can’t use the bcc: field when sending emails (bcc: means the recipients are hidden).
If you want to automate filing and still use above method include your email address in the cc: field. Then set up a rule to flag or categorise items for follow up when you’re the sender and your email is in the cc: field.
I tested this today and work flawlessly in Outlook.
Visualisation is a powerful technique which helps achieving goals, reducing stress and seeing yourself succeed. It’s widely used for example in sports, where during the intense hours of training athletes imagine themselves performing to their best and then winning the race. Since I’ve started to take part in triathlona and marathons I’ve used visualisation to picture myself going throughout different stages of the event. I think about the water, I see myself getting into transition area, etc. It’s very effective and it helps to reduce stress, calm the nerves and eases things off.
In his most recent book ‘Your Best Just Got Better‘ Jason Womack uses this technique to creating an ideal day. Jason asked me whether I would be interested in sharing my ideal day. Funny enough, I’ve just recently done this exercise.
My Ideal day
This is the first time I’ve done this visualization and I’m planing to repeat it regularly and observe the changes, notice what’s new and what remains unchanged. I think that over time this will be a source of great insights. So here it is – My Ideal Day:
I get up at 5:55 am and jump straight into my running gear and go for a very easy 5K run, enjoying the morning weather in the Irish countryside. When I’m back, I take a quick shower, have a light breakfast of organic porridge, milk and banana and enjoy my first cup of freshly made latte. After breakfast I go to my home office/study room, sit at the computer and write for 1.5 hours. I then take a short break and spend some time with my wife as she gradually gets on with her day. Then I go back to writing and work for another 90 min. Once I’m done I go off to meet with my clients. We talk, exchange ideas, look for solutions to problems. Then I’m going to a local coffee shop for a lovely gourmet sandwich and the second cup of coffee. I quickly scan through my messages and check my calendar and tasks. I’m back at my home office where I work on a presentation that I will be delivering later that week to a group of freelancers and entrepreneurs. I finish work at around 6 pm. At that point I move my focus onto my family, spending time playing, talking and cooking. In the evening I sit down in a nice comfy chair and I enjoy an interesting book.
Even though it’s not true yet, I’m working towards making such day my reality. I realize it might take me some time yet I firmly believe that one day those things will be true.
If you haven’t read Jason’s book I highly recommend it. It’s packed with actionable ideas and food for thought. I encourage you to find out if your best can get better!
Jason also offers a chance to win your ideal day for details head over to WIN Your Ideal Day.