Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ready for Anything: Chapter 3--Knowing Your Commitments Creates Better Choices of New Ones

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in elimination of nonessentials."

Lin Yutang

By now CoPORD should be on its way into your daily life.

But what if it isn't? What if you’re still balking at the structure of daily CoPORD? You're more of a once-a-weeker, you say, even a once-a-monther.

"Say it ain't so, Joan!"

On the other end of the rainbow, maybe you're so tightly controlled, everything so hyper-structured, that new ideas can't find their way in, or you sub-sub-bury them so from the start, you can't find later where they went. Or your ability to box things up quickly impairs your view of broader horizons.

As Allen says, "Concentration is the key to power in physics and in life, and to operations is the lubricant for the efficient flow of that energy."

Allen's only emphasizing the obvious in this chapter. The trick is maintaining the equilibrium between concentration and cooperation, between energy and matter.

Remember: Sometimes the obvious answer is the answer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ready For Anything: Chapter 2--You Can Only Feel Good About What You're Not Doing When You Know What You're Not Doing

This is second in a series of 52 posts using David Allen's Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work & Life as a prompt for reflection, writing, and ultimately, action!

Since last week's post, I've begun to implement David Allen's Getting Things Done principles.

I find Allen's principles can be remembered easily by using the mnemonic CoPORD: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, Do!

First comes the brain dump: Collect all your "need to dos" in a notebook, a file, word doc, etc. Just put them all down. Any and all goals, jobs, from taking the car in for an oil change, to changing the litter box, to re-purposing blog posts, to writing a new vocabulary list for my Let's Play SAT! blog, to creating an innovative new reading program, to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But I haven't put down everything I need to get done in the next, oh, 30 years or so, God willing. Still need to put down EVERYTHING. Allen hypothesizes that many of us don't do this because we're afraid we'll find too little in our inner lives.

Not my problem: I simply haven't sat down long enough to get it all down, or to add new data to my old list. Think I'll give myself 5 full pages and see if that works.

Not to mention a couple more hours this weekend.

And yeah, I don't need to win the Nobel for Literature, but Allen doesn't distinguish between needs and wants. Just put 'em all down. Both ultimately come under the heading "to do," and come with concomitant "next actions."

Processing refers to finding those next steps for every item on one's "To Do" list.

When deciding which to do next, you first must figure out what the actual doing looks like, a step most of us miss. Even as we begin to adopt these productivity principles, we'll miss.

But figuring out just what the next step looks like for every one of our to-dos is liberating. It makes Organizing so much easier.

Organizing what to do next is the natural next step in any process of organizing oneself for greater productivity. Seems too obvious, but most of us organize before figuring out exactly what next actions we're organizing.

Allen's insistence that we see our next actions for each goal first is what makes his principles so potentially galvanizing and liberating. Life changing. For by assessing what action attaches to each of our goals, we free our minds up to come up with our next great idea.

Don't forget to write it down then and there.

This is an idea Allen emphasizes again and again, and the focus of the first 13 principles of Ready for Anything.

Because many of us easily fall back into the modality of "Do something, anything! Just stay busy. Organize my daily "busy"-ness, sure, but perspective and reflection? Later. Tomorrow, 'at Tara'."

Which is fine as long as it gets done.

But what needs to get done, and shows the importance of the first three steps most clearly, is Reviewing your goals, next actions, and proposed order for doing them.

At least weekly.

Penelope Trunk, whose Brazen Careerist network I'm a proud member of, does it daily. I'm beginning to. But not only do the next actions get reviewed, the goals and next steps themselves are re-collected, re-assessed, reorganized and kept current, ensuring that one's most essential goals are the ones worked on first and most often.

Longer term projects are put into separate folders. They're incorporated into the big picture, because some things can't be accomplished in two minutes, Allen's plus or minus time-frame for taking immediate action on a to-do.

I give myself 2-5 minutes, because I know myself well enough to know there aren't too many things I can do in two minutes, but keeping administrivia under 5 minutes per action is a goal worth pursuing, while at the same time keeping the concomitant pressure to perform each in under 2 minutes at bay.

Cut yourself some slack. Know yourself. but make Getting Things Done in a systematic way a goal of yours.

'Cause step 5 is Do!

So do Do! your CoPORDing!

When you're really doing it everyday, trust me, you'll be very happy with your new perspective on it all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seth's New eBook

Download it here:

Features reflections by some of today's most ahead-of-the-curve entrepreneurs and business leaders, such as Penelope Trunk, Dan Pink, Tom Peters and Gary Vaynerchuck. Even Seth himself.

Pass it on:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Taking David Allen's Advice: aka Happy Birthday, Pragmatic Alternative!

52 weeks ago I began this blog.

Tonight, to celebrate the first anniversary of this blog, I’m starting a series entitled, “Taking David Allen’s Advice.”

In case you don't know, David Allen is the world's leading personal productivity expert. His book, Ready for Anything, has 52 chapters, just enough to provide a prompt for the next 52 weeks.

And I turned 52 in ’09.

And now you know . . . the rest of the story.

Page 2!

Although these 52 chapters started out as random observations, they’ve been re- arranged by Allen himself, and ORGANIZED into four parts:

1) Clear Your Head for Creativity

2) Focus Productively

3) Create Structures That Work, and

4) Relax and Get in Motion.

Chapter 1, “Cleaning Up Creates New Directions,” begins with the admonition to get your house in order.

Does he know me or something? I’ve been called everything from a hoarder to a clutterbug. Neither of these quite captures the truth, and I do own many valuable forms of media: from books to magazines, to old copies of the Washington Post. From CDs to cassettes to LPs. I’ve probably got a few old 78s lying around somewhere. OK, maybe not, but you know I’ve got 45s.

Keeping a house--or car, or desk, or any open space, really—free of extranea or “stuff” just isn’t my thing. I see open space, I see a place to put something.

Now I like the look of open space. I really do. And I like having open space--I really do. But keeping a space clear and open has long been a challenge. Realistically, it always will be. There’s always something more interesting to do than tidying up. And really the problem is much deeper than that for me: I can draw a connection from one thing to any other thing. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but that doesn’t mean a more circuitous path doesn’t connect the two points.

We call it the scenic route.

And while I understand the organizing principle of “like with like,” thanks to my investment in Organizing for Dummies, it is never going to be a primary skill.

Yet, Allen insists that clearing the way, literally, opens the path to creativity. With the physical clearing of space comes clarity of vision, says Allen, so when you see various paths, he argues, you can quickly decide which one is best. “The more you sweat in peace,” he quotes an ancient Asian proverb, “the less you bleed in war.”

Allen suggests “cleaning up, closing up, and renegotiating all [our] agreements with [our]selves and others . . . weekly.”

Or, as I put it, “It’s not enough to think outside the box. You still need to know where the box is.”

To this end, Allen suggests using some sort of idea catching device, whether Blackberry or 3 x 5 cards (my preference).

Whatever. When ideas hit, be prepared to catch them and cage them in your idea storage device, so you can harness their power when you have more time.

Allen’s chart for information/time management is at the top of this post. Well worth printing out and keeping in front of you until it becomes second nature. Even following his guidelines 4 days out of 7 will be a big improvement for lots of people.

Or maybe that’s just me.

What about you? Are you organized to the point of anal retentiveness? Or is your style laissez-faire to the point of, “Don’t clean my space! You’ll ruin my organization!”

Whaddya think? Speak up! Weigh in! Come on, don’t be shy.

And, if I do say so myself, Happy Birthday to The Pragmatic Alternative: All of One / And we’re still not done!

PS Special birthday shout out to Penelope Trunk!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monthly Meet Up: December Goals

Wasn't feeling too well for much of month, so relatively little accomplished.

Let's review:

Monthly Goals for November '09

1. Primary goal is now developing the HepCat Industries blog and brand. At their best any of my blogging efforts are entertaining, insightful and, ah, educational.

HepCat Industries encompasses and incorporates those three strengths best. Need to further reach out to the graphic design community in an effort to create visually interesting t-shirts and net presence, and need to trust my own design capabilities, my own ability to flesh out my vision, pick up the tech pieces later.

OK. Did start the new blog. Dropped the "u" in Industries, to match the link to cafepress store. Planning on producing hand-drawn and hand-colored shirts for holiday wear and moving forward. Put at least 10 on line here, at HCI blog, and via Facebook.

2. Re-frame Pragmatic Alternative as a once a week blog, or at least a couple, three times a work, instead of an every day blog, which it hasn't been for a while. A better way to grow that brand, as well as the HepCat Industries brand, which is inherently more umbrella-like.

Little work done on PA in November. Laid up in bed. And not in the good way.

4. It's NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month, for you neophytes.

First attempted this in '06, for few words. All still there, but that story's for another day. Or year. Not too much to incorporate into AOAYA, but many tangents. They're both all about sex, death, politics, and love.

It's all about sex, death, politics, and love.

Bought Eric Maisel's What Would Your Character Do? to aid in the construction of characters for novel. Wrote a few 100, maybe 2000 words near beginning of month, but again, not feeling well, and so, not much accomplished. 1,000 word the other day had some value, though drafty. Will carryt on here. Have organized a few trusted friends to critique. That's a positive.

5. Keep 'em (monthly goals) all integrated best by focusing on HCI as the central organizing idea.

HepCat Indstries will see growth in December, due to production of hand-made, hand-colored t-shirts offered for sale. There will be more production.

Spending extra time on Let's Play SAT! brand and blog is the most important goal for December. Continue to write book and make regular entries on blog. Write new word list, and publish first list in pdf form.

Not sure how I overlooked this one: Score at least 2100+ on the SAT.

Managed this one just fine, in fact, should have been 2200 even. Official SAT Study Guide indicates an essay score of 10/12, paired with a multiple-choice score of 48/49 in Writing = 790. They only gave me 770. When I wrote asking why, College Board gave me the run around, offering to re-score my test for another $50.

I wasn't questioning the number right out of 49--I remembered answering them all correctly
; ^ ) --but the discrepancy between their official "guide" to scoring, and their actual scoring. When I pointed this out to their representative, she simply repeated the offer to re-score, again avoiding the simple question: Why does The Official SAT Study Guide show a result of 790, while my score remains at 770?

No matter. Be nice to get a straight answer, but 770 is still a 99th percentile score. Scored 800 on Critical Reading, also a 99th percentile score. Broke 600 on Math, 610, a 77th percentile score. When I scored 620 in high school, that was a 95th percentile score. Goes to show how many more are intensively prepping for SAT these days. Total = 2180.

Will redouble efforts to develop Let's Play SAT! blog, and keep working on SAT prep book.