Tuesday, 2 February 2010

How to get more done tomorrow – part 1

My name is Rob Meyer and I've got too much to do and not enough time to do it all. In fact, if I stopped going to meetings today and quit reading my mail, I could spend the next six months on my "to dos" and not be finished. Does this describe you? Wasn't software supposed to fix all this?

Just about everybody I know in the industry, whether at NAG, our customers or others I talk to on a daily basis struggles to keep up. Is there a tool we can use to be more productive and get a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of each day? The answer is yes but it's (mostly) not computer software, it's in that other software between your ears.

For all the modern hardware and software we have today, the challenge of getting and staying organized and productive is getting worse, not better. Our daily weather forecast calls for a blizzard of data with occasional intervals of information and insight. Over the years I've read a number of books, tried various software packages and other approaches but one of the more recent ones I've read has proven very useful though not a panacea. It is "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, and no, you can't borrow mine because I pull it out every few weeks to reread a few pages and strengthen my resolve.

I can't begin to tell you everything worthwhile in this book but I can give you a couple of ideas that you can start using tomorrow. One of the greatest impediments to getting and staying organized and product is a poorly written "to do". For example, if I diligently write on my action list "Get personal finances organized" I will likely be looking at this entry every week for the next six months without any discernible progress because it's not at all clear what I should actually "do" to "get personal finances organized" or how I will be able to tell when it's done.

Actually this is a useful description of a project so hold onto the concept. A better description of an action might be "balance checkbook" which has a reasonably well defined process associated with it and a definable conclusion (my balance equals the bank's balance and all debits and credits are accounted for).

To get more done tomorrow take a look at your list of actions to do (surely you have one written down?) and rewrite the ones where you can't articulate quickly the measure of being "done". Don't lose the thing you replace because it might be the overall goal of a larger project. Now, when you actually complete your reformulated action "balance checkbook" two things should happen: a sense of accomplishment for getting something done quickly followed by the critical question, "now that's done, what is the next action?" And on you go until the big project (get personal finances organized) is completed.

The absolute, iron-clad rule to all of this is to write down an "actionable" next step. Well, not quite iron-clad. Next time I'll talk about the 2-minute rule.

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