What can go right

The post What can go right is definitely worth pondering on.

My takeaways are as follows:

  • It’s easier to focus on what can go wrong (wondering why?)
  • Definitely more things can go wrong (not sure if all wrong outcomes are realistic)
  • It’s more difficult to protect against them, although you can take some measures you can’t cover all bases.
  • It’s more difficult to control them – earthquakes, flooding, accidents come to mind.
  • It seems that less things can go right (is it because we don’t dream big enough?)
  • Yet paradoxically there is a better control over them – it’s the daily actions that lead to outcomes we seek.
  • It’s more satisfying to do something right – cut the grass, write a blog post, play with your child, go out for a dinner with a loved one.

If you were to draw up a list of what is not worth losing? So far I came up with the following.

  • Family
  • Health
  • Soul

What about you?

Planning 2013

As we’ve entered year 2013 is few days ago I wanted to share two ways of planning you might consider when thinking of this year.
First one by Chris Guillebeau  is a fairly extensive process of completing a yearly review along with planning new goals, defining actions and steps necessary to achieve them. Important part of this approach is to specify clear outcomes you want to achieve whether it’s the amount of money you want to earn, number of blog posts to publish or clients to reach out to. The second important element of this is to detail some steps necessary to achieve it.

How to conduct your own annual review

Second approach by Kaihan Krippendorff focuses more on the high level aspects of yearly resolutions. Rather than specify goals you define areas of focus that you want to focus on or projects you wish to accomplish. Once that done define what you want to be true for each element at the end of the year and work backwards setting up milestones for each quarter. Each day spend some time looking at these items and feel how it is to have these items done.

Strategy tracking tool

This year I will be using the second approach when defining my areas of focus for this year.

One more important element to remember is to keep things flexible. Idea, goals, plans that are true today may not be valid in 3 or 4 months. Keep your mind open for new opportunities never know when they might show up.

Happy Planning!

2013 is coming.Start planning.

2013 is coming. Start planning.
We were less than a month away from 2013 so it’s the best time to start planing your next year before the Christmas time kicks in.

This last couple of weeks is a great time for reviewing your year, looking back at your projects, goals and accomplishments. Once you know what have your done time to think about the future. Figuring out the direction in which to go isn’t always easy. If you’re in this place, not sure where to look, what areas to focus on I have a great set of links for you .

It’s personal planning model by Gordo Byrn who’s endurance athlete, coach, writer and entrepreneur. He list some key headers, topic that he considers and analyses when going into annual planning mode. This should give you a great head start in the planning process.

Personal Planning

Seeing he old personal strategy document can be a good inspiration and reference point. You can find a sample document in this Google Doc

I personally find Gordo’s advice very influential and promoting me to consider new things. If you what to read more of this stuff head over to his excellent blog

Avoiding time inflation

Lifestyle inflation is a concept whereby any increase in the income is spend on consumption rather than saved or invested for the future.
A very similar conclusion can be made to managing time. Something I call time inflation can be applied to your day. The main premise is that any extra time you get due to canceled meetings, calls etc is wasted on checking email or browsing the internet.

Continuing with such approach is not most effective way to use the time available. after all once it’s gone it’s gone.  There are three basic factors that contribute to such situation yet they can be easily overturned.

No plan

Very often we don’t plan our days so if we get unexpected window of time we don’t know what to do with it. If next meeting is in 2 hours and nothing interesting showed up to do it’s easy to quickly check the web, look at email, twitter etc.

To counter that make sure you have a list of small tasks you can accomplish in 15minutes or less. Any time something get canceled or delayed look at that list and see what you can do. Also make sure that your list is updated regularly.

No habit of checking master task list

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You can start thinking of all the different things you could do but that will waste more of your time. Rather than come up with different tasks, it’s best to refer to your master list and select something to complete.

If your don’t have a habit of looking at your list one way to develop one is to surround yourself with few different reminders. You can stick a not on your monitor saying “check master list”, you can also set up reoccuring appointments in your calendar prompting you to check the master list.

No master list to work from

Where do you keep your tasks are they scattered around on dozen sticky notes, different files or notebooks? How do you know which is the one most up to date?

In order to make your work easier create a single list of all your tasks. This way there is only one place to refer to and it’s always easy to find something to focus on. If you want more granularity categorize your tasks based on few criteria that fit your workflow. This may include time needed, energy, location etc. Once in place your master list will make it easy for you to get stuff done and not to lose any tasks.

Best ideas from “Eat that frog” book

Eat that frog by Brian Tracy is one of the classic books on time management, personal productivity and effectiveness. Although it has been published quite a few years ago it still contains a lot very useful and practical advice. This also means that despite the progress in technology, systems basic work problems like getting things done, focusing on important items, achieving goal hasn’t been resolved. Therefore this week I wanted to share a selection of the best tips and ideas from the book which you could use to become more effective and get more done.

Plan every day in advance

Planning every day is one the single most effective techniques you could use to ensure consistent progress, yet it remains one of the most underutilized or ignored. Tracy points out that every minute spend planning saves up to 10 minutes in execution. Whether this is correct or not planning your day a night before is definitely very effective and powerful technique. You may be put of by the required time to completed a daily plan but if you look at up close it isn’t that difficult or time consuming. Simply in your last 15 minutes of the work day pull out pen and paper and your master task list. Then select few tasks which are really important to you and write them down on paper. I try to complete my plan each day and I find that selecting 3-5 items is really enough. Less than that won’t be challenging nor satisfying and more that will be cause of disappointment of too many unexpected things pop up. Lastly once you’re done with your list put it on top of your keyboard or screen so it’s the first thing you see in the morning.

Apply 80/20 rule

If you are looking for a way to establish what’s important and what brings most of the effects 80/20 rule should clear a lot of things. In its basic form principle says that 20% of activities will amount to 80% of outcomes regardless of the area and context it’s measured. To take that further 80% of your time is spend on activities that yield only 20% of results. This may sound quite depressing. So how do you leverage the 80/20 principle in your favour. establish your key result areas – what really important? establish your 20% most impact tasks projects – what are the projects which yield most return? start your day by focusing on your 20% high impact tasks – see daily planning above look out for activities that 80% that consume your time and bring very little value.

Take one item at a time

People used to take pride in ability to multitask which seemed like a perfect skill for solving all problems of more work and less time. Unfortunately this strategy creates more problems that in actually solves. Constant tasks switching can cost you up to 5 times in time necessary to complete a task. To avoid that, first select one action and work on it until it’s done. If you lose focus and put your attention somewhere else try to get back to the original task and attempt to finish it. Repeat the process until done.
To assist with that try to remove or reduce distractions. Turn of the email, internet, send calls to voicemail.

Create large chunks of time

Majority of important work requires a large uninterrupted time to complete. Whether you work on a presentation or write a report it will not be possible to finish it in an hour. In order to take advantage of those large chunks of time set up your day so that you plan them above other things. Use your calendar to block sufficient amount of time, then eliminate distractions and get to work. Before you start make sure you have a clear indication of tasks which you want to accomplish during that session. Alternative method is to refer to your project plan and start working in the next set of tasks.

Slice and dice bigger tasks

Are you familiar with a question, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite a time. The same applies to large tasks and projects. As mentioned above big and importat things usually take time to accomplish. It’s not always easy to see the end. To begin slicing your big project start with a list of all possible tasks you will have to do in order to take the project to successful completion. Then select one task and work on it. Each completed task will help you satisfy the need of making progress and seeing some results.

Eat that FROG

Lets be honest work does not comprise of only interesting and cool projects and tasks. Very often we need to deal with the boring, unpleasant and downright pointless activities. The simplest strategy to deal with such thing is to do it first thing in the morning. Do it quickly and move to something else.

Prepare before you begin

Very often we start working on something only to realise that we were going in the wrong direction or missing some key tools, people or skills to accomplish it. Tracy suggest that before you embark on something big make sure you have everything you need at hand. Setup your work area so that it will support completing the tasks. If you’re writing a report make sure you have the research and the necessary data. Also to avoid distraction clear off the stuff you don’t need for this task leave only what’s necessary. If your mind happens to wander off there will be fewer things to put your attention on. My own suggestion is to always make a plan before. This ways you have a clearer picture of what you want and what needs to be accomplished. My preferred method of planning is to use mind maps. If you prefer a more ordered approach simple outline will do the trick as well. You can read about my favourite software here.

“Eat that frog” is a little book packed with many practical ideas and techniques for improving your personal effectiveness and productivity. If you’re looking for something that will give a bunch of different tips in a bite sized form this book is definitely one to check.

Weekly Links for 7th of November

 

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links for 24th of October

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Kick start your day

IMAG0361
The way you start a day has a big impact on how you are going to feel at the end of it. There are lots of different ways to do it and below are just two suggestions.

Free form

Some people don’t like plans, they prefer to go with their gut feeling and focus on whatever seems right in the moment. If you’re one of those below should be helpful.

Clear you mind – each morning take a piece of paper  and write down the ideas, thoughts which are floating in your head. 

See what stands out for your and select three items and focus your efforts on those.

Structured approach

If you follow any productivity system and you’re used to keeping various of lists, make reviewing those your priority for each day.
Sounds obvious and simple but it’s not always easy. There were many time when before I managed to open my task list I got sucked into the email and my day was gone. To prevent that and get few things done start your day with REVIEW and PLAN:

  • Review your project list and pick three projects you want to move forward.
  • Review your action list and select three items you want to finish first.
  • Focus on the three actions first, one at a time.
  • Once you’re done with those look at the projects and pick one, make as much progress as you want and them move to the next one.

Perhaps any of this won’t be easy or even possible to achieve each day but once you make a habit it will become more natural.

Do you have any tips for kick starting your day on a good note? Please share them in the comments.

Weekly Links 2nd May

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Guest Post – Managing Content w/ a Dashboard Pt. 1
  2. The Two Types of Procrastination
  3. If It Won’t Fit On A Post-It, It Won’t Fit In Your Day
  4. What Are Your High Value Activities?
  5. How to Harness the Power of Momentum

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

GTD Projects – summary

This is a last post it the series describing basics of GTD projects. While I don’t think I’ve covered everything that’s there it should be just enough information to get you started.IMAG0063

Below is the list of topics that I’ve covered.

  1. GTD Project Series: Natural planning model
  2. GTD Project series – project tools
  3. GTD Projects series – software list
  4. GTD Project Series – executing a project

Just to summarize in couple sentences the main concepts.

Firstly everything should be a project,  at least every outcome that takes more that two steps. Why is that? Mainly because it forces you to keep track of all your open projects and secondly in your busy life it’s easy to drop a ball when you juggle a lot of them.

When ever you finish something you can check your project list and see what’s out there. If you’ve been tracking your projects even on a simple list, it’s almost guaranteed that you will be better at completing things and following through.

We all want clarity and whether we realize that or not, we like the routines and to follow a path. By referring to the planning model and establishing the purpose, vision and actions we are getting a clear vision of what we want to achieve and how to go about it. No need to re-think what’s next, just use the plans.

You will hear that tools are not they factor to increasing productivity and that’s true. No tool will enforce the right behaviours as you rather abandon the tool then change your habit. Yet finding a good set off applications can reduce the friction of tracking projects and actions. So as long as you don’t obsess with finding the perfect tool and master what you have spending some time searching good software will payoff.

I hope you’ve found this series useful. Please share your best practices or problems you’re facing when working on projects.

Weekly Links for 12th Feb

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. The lure of distraction…
  2. 7 Must Read Success Lessons from Stephen Covey
  3. Tips and Tricks for Smart Project Planning
  4. Why the 80/20 Rule Could Make You Less Productive
  5. 10 Ways to Stop Multitasking & Be More Effective

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links post for 22nd January

 

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. How to Be Successful When You Can’t Plan Ahead
  2. You are in control when you can see it all
  3. 10 Tips for Teachers Using Evernote – Education Series
  4. The Complete Dropbox for Educators
  5. Why it’s ok to be obvious

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links for 4th December

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work

  2. Working On What Counts

  3. New Productivity tool – Wunderlist

  4. Reach Out and Touch Someone: How the Power of Personal Connection Creates Blogging Success

  5. Springpad Helps You Get Things Done

  6. The Autofocus Productivity Method: Stop Maintaining To-Do Lists and Start Getting Stuff Done

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Time Budget

Over a week ago I’ve covered topic of time maps. This time I try to explain the concept and benefits of using something called time budget.

What’s a budget?

Budgets are widely popular in the financial world. In very simple terms it’s a list of all the income/revenue streams coming in and all the planned expenses in a period. Each year every country would announce it’s budget plans. This is pretty significant event for the financial markets. Based on the content of the budget proposals economists and analysts try to forecast the future growth and economic conditions of a country.

On smaller scale families and individuals are advised to keep a budget to monitor their spending and income to build future wealth and financial stability. 

In general terms budget is a framework, a plan which details areas of spending and the available resources. The net difference between both will indicate if you have anything left or whether you’ve overspend the available supply.
Budget also works as a boundary which indicates whether you’re spending too much or too little.

What’s a time budget?

In this context a time budget would be a plan detailing available hours against the activities you want to spend that time on. Time budgets can be created for weekly,monthly or even yearly intervals giving you a wide perspective. Similarly to financial budget you would have fixed commitments like eating, sleep, work, commute, shopping and more flexible appointments like exercising, going out, visiting friends and so called free time. Once your budget is read then you can review and you can decide whether you can afford to spend your time on some activities or should you spend it on something else.

How it’s different from time map?

Time maps as we  described them last time show your time and commitments as they  are. Their main purpose is to provide you with a higher view of your current situation. Time budget looks into the future. Budgeting is really a planning process where you look at your commitments, needs, wants and try to figure which are sufficiently important to have your time. Setting time budget is more about taking control of your time and not letting it slip through your fingers.

Benefits of having a budget.

Setting up a time budget can bring a number of benefits:

  • Focus on important areas – by creating time budget you can pinpoint areas of higher importance and give them sufficient amount of time. If for example getting into shape would be your top agenda item, then you could create a budget that would take into account 1h of training each day. Consequently you would reduce time spend on other areas in order to set aside time for exercise.
  • Less time wasting – with increased focus on important items, you would reduce the time that’s wasted. When setting up budget you would identify elements that don’t take you anywhere and in fact should be eliminated from your schedule.
  • Progress on goals – setting up a budget can be a significant boost to making progress on your goals. Simply bringing them to your attention and setting a side sufficient amount of time will allow you to start making a progress. No more saying “I don’t have enough time”.
  • Sharpen your attention – Some activities like deep thinking or creative work require significant amounts of time. Unfortunately those are mostly pushed to the back as there is never the right time, mood etc for them. If your work, goals depend on having creative/uninterrupted time making an allotment in the budget will help you with that.

How to create?

Creating a budget is relatively easy and involves just a handful of steps.

  1. List the activities your want to accomplish in a week or or a month.
  2. Estimate the number of hours you need to have for each task or commitment.
  3. Add all of the together and compare against total available hours i a week or month(24h in a day, 168 in a week, 708 in a month).
  4. Remember to leave few free hours as there always are some unexpected or unplanned thinks popping up.

For example I try to sleep not less than 7-7.5 hours per night so every week  that means 7.5h x 7days = 52h per week.
Another big chuck of my time is used for my day job, that including commute takes around 9,5h x 5days = 47.5h per week.
Other rather fixed activities that I spending my time on is eating/cooking which takes around 2,5h a day which = 17.5 per week.
Since triathlon is one of my hobbies I need to dedicate sufficient time to keep in shape and that takes around 6-7 per week.
When I add all above I’m using  124 hours on activities that are somewhat fixed but I also have 44 hours a week that I can plan any way I want. Some of it will go toward spending time with my wife, going out, some will go to reading and learning, cleaning, shopping etc.

Once you’ve created your initial budget then you can analyse it and decide if this is what you what or are there any elements that should come forward or should be pushed back. It’s very much a balancing act.

Budget is very much a pro active tool. It’s planning tool where you learn how to use the main resource of your life – time. It gives you a chance to create a framework of commitments for coming week or month. It can help you model new behaviours or introduce new way of using time. Time budget also puts your need and desires in the perspective of what is really available to you.