Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Browsing Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

pic courtesy of Amazon.com

The Heath Brothers, authors of Made to Stick, on why some ideas, companies, etc. stay in our minds and others don't, in Switch posit the idea of a rider on an elephant trying to stay on a path.

The Rider is analytical logic. The Elephant is feeling, based on empirical evidence. The Path is all goals.

The Heaths suggest directing the Rider via crystal clear instructions. These include finding what's already right, scripting critical moves, and pointing to the destination. Motivating the Elephant to stay on the Path happens by igniting/finding the feeling, shrinking the change, and growing your people. Shaping the Path means tweaking the environment, building good habits a bit at a time, and rallying the herd.

Teacher, Bart Millar, had two attendance problems. As a former teacher, I can relate. Boy, can I relate. Anyway, he needed to make some changes to get these kids to class on time. He could have attempted a rational approach appealing to their rational riders to control their emotional elephants, which wanted to show up whenever they felt like it, by letting them know their grades would suffer, and with them, concomitant opportunities. He could've asked for their empathy for his position, "Hey, you know how hard it is to teach effectively when I can't use all my class time for teaching?" Effective? Not so likely.

What Miller did was genius. He brought in some old couches, put them in the front of the room, and allowed early birds to sit there if they wanted to. Tardiness problems solved.

That's tweaking the environment.

Amazon has changed the environment for book buying, and now book reading with the Kindle.

Instead of confronting the hard change problem: How do we persuade people to buy more? They did what Chip and Dan Heath call shrinking the change, and building new habits, by asking an easy change problem: How do we make it easier for people to buy?

Voila! How many of us now buy differently than we did 10 years ago? Likely everybody reading this blog. Amazon led the way.

The Heath brothers say their favorite story in Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard is that of Jerry Sternin.

Little wonder, as Sternin is famous for making change with the attitude: “You cannot think your way into a new way of acting, you have to act your way into a new way of thinking.”

Sternin went to Vietnam to save children's lives. He found many intractable, systemic problems. Poverty, lack of education, lack of clean water. Jerry Sternin had no chance to change those. What he did have a chance to impact were individuals. He got mothers in one small village to study lack of nutrition there. He then asked if they knew any childeren who, despite the endemic malnutrition, seemed to be doing fine? Any who were perfectly healthy despite their environment? Yes, said the mothers, there were some children like that.

Next, he had the mothers of the malnourished children ask the mothers of the healthy children what they were doing right. they found little differences made big changes. Malnourisehe stomachs are smaller so some mothers fed 4 smaller bowls of rice a day, rahter than one or two larger ones. Tiny shrimp and crabs, thought to be adult food, were added, along with sweet potato greens, giving kids more protein and vitamins. Then Sternin got those mothers to teach the other mothers.

With the help of those with the most to gain, Sternin managed to make a dent in na big problem, without changing any of the underlying systemics.

This is what the Heaths call Finding the Bright Spots: Ask What is working? And make that the focus.

You can hear a fifteen-minute podcast interview with Chip and Dan here at Amazon.

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath is worth picking up on, and passing along to co-workers and bosses.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It was 28 years ago today . . .

I earned my most honest dollar ever. Playing a Neil Young song.

Go figure.

And read about it here.

And don't forget to read the follow-up post here.

Was free-writing about it this evening. Here's a little of that:

. . . finding it there and then, as that guy--likely 3 to 5 years less than my "24 and so much more"--purposefully striding across the square, looking me in the eye, and HANDING me the DOLLAR, not just tossing it off in the case or even humbly placing it in, as at an altar, but handing it to me, eyes up and locked, all a purpose, handing me that dollar in exact appreciation.

The most honest dollar I've ever earned.

One of the great moments of my life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Pragmatic Alternative recommends. . .

pic courtesy of TedsTake.com

. . . Washington Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis's new book, The Business of Happiness.

Leonsis, whose famous 101 List is a model for anyone, spent years studying the mechanics of happiness.

What makes someone happy? Relationships, Community, Self-Expression, Giving Back, Pursuing a Higher Calling.

Everything we're doing at Brazen Careerist.

Hear Ted speak about all these, here: http://fora.tv/2010/02/24/Ted_Leonsis_The_Business_Of_Happiness.

I've had a personal email correspondence with Ted Leonsis for over ten years now.

Since 1999, when he bought the Washington Capitals from Abe Pollin--philanthropist, pillar of the community and mensch himself--Leonsis has dramatically raised the fortunes of his team, above all by connecting with fans, customers and clients alike, actively seeking input.

He asked fans for complaints about the team: about the game day experience, prices, parking, concessions, bathrooms--everything.

He compiled a list of 101 things fans didn't like, then systematically attacked those flaws, one by one.

That kind of enlightened ownership does more than sell tickets. After all, if the team weren't any good, there'd be empty seats every night.

What it does is gains permission. It gets buy-in. It buys patience and time and trust. Trust that things will be done right, that things will steadily improve. That these are shared values.

That "It's always about team, and there's always better."

And I never say "always."

So buy a copy of The Business of Happiness. Ted's idea of "the double bottom line" is crucial.

This one's for you, Penelope.

Oh, and Go CAPS!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why I Haven't Been Ready For Anything Recently...

...I'm still getting things done! Working at it--hahd--as they say in N.E.

So, that series I was working on for several weeks has hit a bump, and will return when I get a real system of CoPORDing in place and working daily.

Getting much better, but still re-working.

I find, in contrast to what David Allen suggests, that a top-down approach helps. I'm all too easily distracted by minutia, so his instruction to write it all down, in no particular order, and then rearrange later hasn't been working.

So, it's projects first. Ultimate goals on top, and priorize, organize and review in accord with them.

Goal here is to post more regularly, which will mean shorter posts, and will constitute a more active review process.

Biggest goal for this month: create a shirt a day--like this one front

and back

-- for the month. Starting late, so let's see if I can catch up.

At least a shirt a day every workweek day. That'd be 23 for this month.

And they won't be all about MD. I've got DE, NJ, MN, and CA lined up, along with the usual off-beat hilarity you've come to expect from the good folks at HepCatIndstries.

Stay tuned. . .

Meanwhile, I need a drawing board.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

What The Pragmatic Alternative Has Always Been About

pic courtesy media.eyeblast.org

Check out today's Face the Nation, featuring Sens. Lindsay A Graham and Evan Bayh, along with a compelling question from Bob Schieffer about yelling "Fire!" on a crowded Internet:


Pragmatic and alternative.

That's the idea!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Huck Finn!

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

Ernest Hemingway

On this day 125 years ago, February 18, 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York.

How do I know it was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York?

Well, since 1982, an analog of this Year of Superior Vision, 2010, I've been the proud owner of a facsimile First Edition of this Greatest American Novel.

And very proud of it I am.

I've read this book since I was in Second Grade. I've read it 15 - 18 times, and I started reading it again tonight.

I love this book. It is the quintessential American Novel. It examines the essential American conflict: freedom vs slavery, and without doubt the noblest character, the most human, the most loving is the slave, Jim.

Few moments in literature rival Huck's resolution in Chapter 31 to stand by his friend.

Motherless Huck, whose father is an abusive drunk, accepts on faith that his entire adventure down the Mississippi with runaway slave, Jim, has been sinful. He may not have good or proper breeding, but he knows right from wrong, and absconding with someone else's property is unequivocally wrong.

And Jim is property. Not a man. An asset. Capital. Physical plant. A factory.

Certainly not a father.

Though Huck knows nothing of karma, he's feeling bad about not having spoken up long ago. He's been carrying and protecting stolen merchandise, and finally resolves to clear his conscience by writing to Miss Watson, Jim's rightful owner.

Of course, he hasn't felt guilty until he learns "the king" and "the duke," two All-American confidence men, have sold Jim to a local farmer, and made him a slave again "and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars."

But Huck's feeling it now, acutely, and fears, "It would get all around, that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was to ever see anybody from [my home]town again, I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame . . . here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched . . . whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm . . . ."

The misplaced modifier is crucial.

Faced with the prospect of "everlasting fire," Huck resolves to pray. "But the words wouldn't come. . . . because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; is (sic) was because I was playing double. . . deep down in me I knowed it was a lie--and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie," Huck concludes.

So he writes a simple, one-sentence letter to Miss Watson telling where Jim is and where to send the reward money to get him back, and immediately feels better.

Then Huck begins to pray for his eternal salvation.

But not right away. First , he sits and thinks.

He thinks of how close he has come to going to hell. Then he thinks of the ease and joy of his life with Jim on the raft on the river. And he thinks of Jim looking out for him, and caring for him. And he remembers Jim saying Huck was the best friend "[he] ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now. . . ."

Then Huck looks down at the letter, and thinks:

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and says to myself:

'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up."

If you've never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, start today.

If you've read Huckleberry Finn, read it again.

I hear you can get it on Kindle for a quarter.

There's no finer story in any language.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 10 -- Creativity Shows Up When There's Space

Getting ready to write this latest post in the series, a further reinforcement of David Allen’s premise that the mind is truly open for business and cleared for takeoff--aka creativity--only when it is first relieved of its standard job as office space, I realized, “You know, I haven’t actually CoPORDed in a while.”

Yeah, it’s been at least a week, maybe a couple.

I can rightly attribute this to my focus on several key ongoing projects with multiple next actions, but the truth is, in so doing, I’ve neglected to write down everything as Allen instructs from the beginning.

And, as a result, some of the little stuff has been falling through the cracks.

So, before I go any further, allow me to CoPORD right here, right now.

Finish pulling up the rugs in bedroom. Too dusty. Must get rid of.

Call in prescription refill. Hey, wait, I’ve done that! But waiting on follow-up from pharmacy as to pickup/delivery instructions.

Dig out car from under latest 15” of snow.

Congratulate self for waiting till today to do so, when it’s above freezing and snow is beginning to melt anyway, making preceding job easier.

Call about Barbara’s gifts. I wonder if she’s reading this. Hey Babe!

This just in: help out neighbor downstairs in wake of snowfall. This falls into the urgent and important quadrant; won’t take less than 5 minutes, but needs to be done now.

Organize for yard sale in May. Designate other clothes for Goodwill. Get clothes, house wares, etc. to Goodwill. Throw out trash. Buy more trash bags. Plan dinner.

OK, you get the point. And this is just the beginning.

But I appreciate your indulgence in the utterly boring minutia of the warp and woof of my daily decisions-making.

What David Allen brings up in Chapter 10 of Ready For Anything: Creativity shows up when there’s space, is that getting it all down intimidates a lot of people because they fear there won’t be anything really there.

“Is that all there is?” is a pervasive angst among far more people than you might think. The worry is that with all one’s responsibilities, projects, even simple daily to-dos out and in the open, “Is that all there is?” will resonate and echo deafeningly.

So we insist on keeping it all “up here” with a smile and a tap of the forehead, convinced both that we’re managing just fine, and that we could be great, and will be eventually, once our awesome burdens ease up a little and we have time to see clearly again.

No, says David Allen. CoPORD! Get it all out. Review it all regularly. Manage it all in a completely integrated fashion. Only then will we be operating at the top of our game.

David Allen’s point in this chapter is again: Get it all on paper. A mind is a terrible thing to waste on office space. Holding it in clogs the pipes. Getting it out clears the pipes.

Clearing the paths is liberating and almost instantly puts the mind in flow, and flow is where you want to go.

Allen asks this question at chapter’s end: Are you ready for a bigger parade?

Well, are you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 9 -- If It's On Your Mind, It's Probably Not Getting Done

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life."

Robert Louis Stevenson

Allen comments on "mental karma." That goals as disparate as buying groceries or buying a company, when left in the same storage bin--one's mind--interfere with each other in importance, immediacy, real need vs imagined want.

Allen's solution is, as ever: "Write it down."

Process it. Review it.

Decide, "Do today." Or, "Maybe later."

But get it out of your head and onto paper, where you can reliably review the same data every day, even as you move projects to long-term or even not-at-all status.

Because doing so will be just as reliably moving forward the most immediate, most meaningful projects forward.

And the bigger reason: Maintaining a system that stores information reliably, so your mind is free to spend less time on pure processing and prioritizing, and more time on vision and creativity.

Allen's last point is that it takes adults years to fully incorporate his CoPORD model, but kids seem to take to it immediately.

It's true that the younger the mind, the more easily it learns huge masses of new information, so it stands to reason that younger minds will quickly adapt to Allen's methodology.

But learning is always preceded by motivation, and putting David Allen's good ideas and models to work must be proceeded by it.

Let's hope, not only that David Allen's ways get incorporated into curriculum, and that students quickly recognize its value, and so are motivated to practice it.

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monthly MeetUp Goals -- Feb 2010

In case you didn't notice, I skipped the monthly meet up goals for January.

Must be some anti-establishmentarianism stuck in my craw, resisting the norm of New Year's Resolutions, having my David Allen, Getting Things Done, CoPORDing well in hand.

At least, as a guiding hand.

Whatever. I didn't post goals for Jan, because I felt I really hadn't accomplished too many of my December goals, and frankly, was a little embarrassed by all that.

And I thought of posting in mid-Jan, and almost did, but have been busy with other things, and so, said to myself: Let it go. Post again in Feb, and keep on going.

"When you're going through hell / Keep on going..."

Therefore, herewith my Feb 2010 Goals:

1. Keep working on AOAYA. I've written / drafted three chapters, and have an outline for 72. Outline will be a-revising, but there's a modality, some framework, and I need to press on.

2. Keep developing "Let's Play SAT!" Sometimes tedious, but needs doing. I've got some good tips, not only for succeeding in the SAT, but also for developing better problem solving skills, better critical/analytical reading skills, and better reasoning skills, especially in the context of the SAT, but which are also transferable in all academic areas, as well as interpersonal and business.

Need to keep tips shorter and to point. On the other hand, Content is King!

Yeah, Content is King!

3. Hand make more t-shirts! Have made one so far, but problems uploading picture files have prevented me from presenting this beauty online. Look for regular production from HepCatIndstries this month, once the pic uploading problem is solved.

4. Also, look for a weekly 8Tracks song mix each week at HepCatIndstries.

5. Last, but not least, develop a copywriting blog--Yeah, yeah, I know: I don't have enough blogs yet. But this month I pledge to get really serious about my copywriting, so I'm putting that out here.

6. That's enough, don't you think?

7. Till next month...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

RFA: Chap 8 -- Closing Open Loops Releases Energy

Just read a fascinating article by Peter Bregman that dovetails nicely with this one. Bregman is one of my faves over at Harvard Business Review. Check it out.

Meanwhile, let's change this up a bit, shall we?

My most devoted readers and the rest of you Astuties out there, will duly note the one week delay on this post. Was pretty sick last week this time, and though drafted this piece on Sunday last, well, it's been a procrastination-fest for some reasons this week.

Did also preliminarily draft this week's piece, too, so there'll likely be a few following here in short succession, including the piece for the Monthly Goal Meet Up Goal Brazen Careerist Network.

Allen's point in this chapter is simple: PHYSICAL ENGAGEMENT, I.E. ACTUALLY DOING what's in your TO DO list creates a synergy and unleashes new energy.

It's like fusion.

No, fission.

Intention and action collide with HYPERFORCE--OK, MAYBE NOT HYPERFORCE.

But the collision itself is enough to effect entire new projects , new ideas, new bridges, among old ideas.

Me, I find it inordinately hard to let go of literally the smallest scraps of paper.

Every receipt tells a story.

Chronologically organized as my mind is, I find it difficult to impose other order -- hence this series -- but more to the point, I find it difficult to toss these bookmarks of my history, nor to organize them in any kind of display/collection.

Then there's any of my daughter's schoolwork, which I'm loath to give up. And there's a bunch of it.

Not to mention every scintilla of brilliance I've ever put on card stock, parchment, papyrus or refined wood pulp.

Notebooks, too. Lots of notebooks. Dating to '75.

And, of course, the organizing of the small treasures: photos found in an old notebook, book, box, bag, etc. I have containers w/in containers and putting things wanted in some order continues to challenge me.

I'd like to close a lot of these open loops and release that energy.

I've got books, clothes, cassette tapes, housewares and more. Free to good homes.

Contact me at this blog.

But my papers are priceless.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I'm no dispassionate reviewer.

I'm a fan.

Bought my first Godin book in '96, The Guerrilla Marketer's Handbook, co-written with the original Guerrilla Marketer, Jay Conrad Levinson.

These are only three sentences that show why you should buy Seth Godin's Linchpin:

1) "It's OK if i get fired because I'll have demonstrated my value to the marketplace. IF THE RULES ARE THE ONLY THING BETWEEN ME AND BECOMING INDISPENSABLE, I DON'T NEED THE RULES." (Emphasis mine.)

2) "Emotional labor changes the recipient, and we care about that. That's why emotional labor is so much more valuable than physical labor."

3) "Thinking About Your Choice: And it is a choice...to buy into the fear and the system, or to chart your own path and create value as you do. It's your job to figure how to chart the path, because charting the path is the point."

OK, OK. So these are three excerpts, not sentences.

My point is -- Seth Godin gets it, gets it, gets it.

In Linchpin, he gives it to you.

It's a gift.

Pick it up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 7-- Priorities Only Function at the Conscious Level

Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.

Kin Hubbard

Speaking of "open loops," those projects that require more than one next action to close, Allen opens Chapter 7 with a reminder of how deleterious they can be to one's "psychic RAM."

Allen says that when things of secondary importance stay there, and aren't constantly reviewed and updated, we lose track of them.

Then there are they are, double-demanding our attention, threatening to three alarm, to ICU. All because we "didn't have time" for the secondary.

Now they're all we have time for, and everything
else is secondary.

Allen says: "This syndrome does not self correct--it self perpetuates."

The reason, Allen suggests, is that current thinking in organizational management is very "ABC." While he acknowledges that certain projects have a greater upside, and so deserve more time and effort, the down side remains: we tend to ignore the less important entirely, until we can ignore it no longer.

That's where the "Someday/Maybe" file comes in.

We all have responsibilities, in the form of ongoing projects that need completion to move the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones forward.

But we need to remember the importance of PROCESSING our responsibilities at least daily.

Remember, first we COLLECT: brain dump all projects / open loops.
Get 'em all down on paper/word doc.

Then, we PROCESS to the level of immediacy.

The "Someday / Maybe" file is where we put open loops that we may want to act on, but DO NOT NEED to act on today, or even this month.
Things that may, in fact, fall away, to be superseded by others.

Simply put, no "right here/right now" commitment.

"Someday / Maybe."

Allen says:

If it's on the projects list, you need to decide next actions equally on each one and review the status of each regularly. It's okay not to take action on them, as long as you know what the action is and as long as it's a conscious choice. But most people avoid involvement because they don't stop to think what the action is and then miss countless opportunities to move it forward before it morphs into crisis.

Allen uses the example of needing new tires: "either you do you don't." There's not much of a slope there.
Problem is, a decision like this one on tires too often will go from "not needed" to "desperately needed."

The difference between an effective and an ineffective approach to this open loop is the difference between "Call tire store for prices" and "Call AAA to fix blowout."

That's why my car has an appointment with my mechanic to check its timing belt.

In closing Chapter 7: Prioriites Function Only at the Conscious Level, Allen concludes:

Clarify and define all the outcomes you've committed yourself to accomplish, small and large, and the actions required to move on them. Then you're ready for the real efficiency game of getting them all done as soon as you can, and feeling okay about how it's going with each one.

What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Ready for Anything: Chapter 6 -- Two Commitments in Your Head Create Stress and Failure

Taking on new projects is not necessarily a positive change. It may be a sign of recklessness and non-fulfillment. But going back to all levels of non-completion and completing them is a sign of positive change.


There are a few things I'm learning as I'm writing this series.

First of all, that it's tremendously therapeutic.

Addressing (gerund, kids, gerund) my personal DIS-organization issues in this very public manner is slowly making me more organized.

It's what someone I was reading recently--whose name's missing now--was saying about "hiring a Board of Directors" to keep you accountable.

Now, it's well known -- or at least easily look-up-able--that this blog is not commented on by many.

Still, it is in the public eye.

I'm not much adept at determining how many discrete page viewers I have per week, and which posts they're reading, but I know people do read this blog, and that awareness helps keep me focused.

Second, more than anything, the structure of David Allen's book keeps me focused.

As mentioned in Post 1 of this series, the fact that Ready for Anything has 52 chapters visibility than keeping me organized in a most constructive way.

52 chapters in 52 weeks. Launched on the first anniversary of Pragmatic Alternative, looking forward--clearly--to the second and -- by implication -- beyond.

The third thing is the nature of serendipity. Ready for Anything came to be the template for this year's posts because I couldn't put my hands on Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, the first David Allen book. It was buried under a stack of books and other stuff next the bed.

Knew I had it. Figured it was nearby, in a place of nominal importance. But could I find it?

Not so much.

Because I've committed to evaluating RFA each week, I've been able to begin to integrate CoPORD into my life. In another four weeks I'll have a better big picture idea of all my roles responsibilities projects, and goals.

Meanwhile, it's nice just to know where I put my copy of Getting Things Done.

Today I take great pride in having found an organizational template that works for me, and am committing to working that plan.

It's a good thing.

Because my lack of structure has stood in my way.

It's not a strength.

Enter David Allen and his GTD methodology.

Kind of like Elvis's "TCB." Only different.

In Chapter 6 of RFA, Allen answers critics who claim "getting things done" and CoPORD are "reactive" strategies.

That by focusing first on minutia/trivia, the micro over the macro, don't we then run the risk of staying in Covey's Quadrant IV: Important and Urgent?

"Hey, seeing the big picture, great idea!" says David Allen. "But might not the minutia, the trivia, the overflowing "In" box need to be reckoned with first? "Open loops," as Allen refers to them, must first be closed before we can hope to maintain effectiveness.

What are "open loops"?

Simply put, they're items on yesterday's "to-do" list that didn't get done.

They represent commitments to yourself to do certain things.

Things that didn't get done.

As a result, they take up way too much space in what Allen refers to as "psychic RAM." Because we know we haven't gotten things done we'd planned on getting done, these "open loops" take up--and worse, FRAGMENT-- space in our psychic RAM.

They slow down our operating speed by slowing down the speed of our processor.

It's just that simple.

And how do we close open loops?

By CoPORDing: Collecting. Organizing. Processing. Reviewing. Doing.

Over and over again, with a particular eye to closing open loops, or else putting them in the "Someday / Maybe" file.

It takes time, but as I'm finding out--and betting you will, too--it's time not just well-, but best-spent.

Then horizons -- now replete with mountains and oceans -- beckon.

And the paths are clear.

And you're positioned to choose effectively among them going forward.

It's a good thing.

If you know the point of balance, you can settle the details. If you can settle the details, you can stop running around. Your mind will become calm. If your mind becomes calm, you can think in front of a tiger. If you can think in front of a tiger, you will surely succeed.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 5 -- Infinite Opportunity is Utilized by Finite Possibility

OK, so four weeks later, how far have I come in my CoPORDing, Ready-for-Anything, Getting-Things-Done, David-Allen-run New-Life paradigm?

I know what I need to achieve and I know what I want to achieve, and my constant reviewing of these goals is keeping me focused on them.

In addition, my openness and forthrightness here only serve to confirm these commitments.

At least, I hope they do.

As my good friend, Neil Young, once said, "I know you know."

The thing I've least mastered is the filing system.

Because the failure of any segment of the pentagonal construction that is Getting Things Done a.k.a. CoPORD, leads the entire mass of one's organizational structure to diffuse, dissipate, and otherwise disengage, in Chapter 5 of Ready for Anything, Allen addresses, in an imagined 53-second radio/TV segment of a promotional book tour, the question:

"What's the one thing we do that gets in the way of being productive?" and answers thusly:

"It's not one thing but five things all wrapped together: People keep stuff in their head. They don't decide what they need to do about stuff they know they need to do something about. They don't organize action reminders and support materials and functional categories. They don't maintain and review a complete and objective inventory of their commitments. Then they waste energy and burnout, allowing their busyness to be driven by what's the latest and loudest, hoping it's the right thing to do but never feeling the relief that it is."

The more I devote myself to studying Allen's methods, the more I realize how effective they are.

Of course, my biggest stumbling block remains the heart of the matter: Organizing.

The best news for me, and maybe for you if you're a regular reader of this column, is Allen's response to what needs to be done, i.e. "What are the five best-practice behaviors to ensure that Getting Things Done gets done?"

Exactly those I listed in my Chapter 2 analysis, and which I lovingly refer to by the acronym, CoPORD.

Here's Allen's repetition of that essential message:

"It's a combined set of the five best-practice behaviors: Get everything out of your head. Make decisions about actions required on stuff when it shows up--not when it blows up. Organize reminders of your projects and the next actions on them in appropriate categories. Keep your system current, complete, and reviewed sufficiently to trust your intuitive choices about what you're doing (and not doing) anytime."

Allen then offers an even simpler distillation: "Focus on positive outcomes and continually take the next action on the most important thing."

Simple, no?

But if it were easy, we'd all be great.

David Allen seeks to make it easy, and all of us great.

Me, too.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 4 -- Getting to Where You're Going Requires Knowing Where You Are

"It takes about ten years to get used to how old you are."

You're gonna need a map, and you're gonna need to know how to read it.

Sure, you can hire GPS to tell you where and when to turn. But be ready to put up with the sighing "Recalculating," when you get off Chatty Cathy's chosen path.

Nope, you're gonna have to come up with answers to these six questions--then know them on a deep level, internalize them--in order to best position yourself in your world of hopes, dreams, and daily to-dos.

According to David Allen, in order to set your priorities, you're gonna have to understand that these six questions add up to one big one: What's your job?

1. What are your current tasks? Allen reminds us that these are those to-dos last mentioned, your current "next actions," and that the average person has "between a hundred and two hundred of these" every day.

What are your current projects? These are agreements with yourself about what you want to achieve in the relative short term. Getting the car ready for a 5,000 mile vacation. Getting your applications for grad school completed. Planning a wedding. Allen estimates most people have between "thirty and a hundred" projects.

3. What are your current areas of responsibility? You have these both on the job (teacher, coach, liaison to PTA, Class of '13 sponsor) and at home (care and feeding, finance and investments, recreation, education). Ten to fifteen of these we each have, says David Allen.

4. How are your job and personal affairs going to be changing in the next year? In other words: How will you be guiding your ship in the coming year? What are you trying to change? What needs to change in your business, home/family life, personal approach in order to achieve your next steps forward?

5. How are your organization, your career, and your personal life going to change? What are your longer-range goals for achievement and personal growth? What projects will you need to undertake to get there?

6. Why are you on the planet? What is your job as a human being? What do you need to accomplish before you die?
Who are you?

These are big questions on big levels. They get to the heart of what you want to do or be.

"Most people," says Allen, "want to do or be something in the future -- something different. But without a reality-based reference point of where they in fact are on all levels of life, they're like the Flying Dutchman, doomed to drift."

Clarifying your reality -- finding out where you are on your personal map of success -- tells you exactly where you are, and so, which way to turn next to get where you want to go.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: The Year of Superior Vision

20/20 vision is what scientists consider normal. It means you can see at 20 feet what you should see at 20 feet if your vision is healthy, aka "normal." If you have 20/40 vision, you can see at 20 feet what someone with normal vision can see at 40. Not as good. Read more about vision here.

But, if you have 20/10 vision, you can see from 20 feet what most normal people must be only 10 feet from.

20/10 means superior vision.

So, I hereby dub 2010: The Year of Superior Vision.

A Happy, Healthy, Prosperous 20/10 to all my readers.

How will you show your superior vision this year?