Baby Steps

“Change on a Large Scale Happens in Small Increments” – Jacob Marshall

As we get closer to the start of 2010 and the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution” phase, it’s so important to think on a smaller scale, rather than set big goals right off the bat. Too many people say they’re going to lose 20 lbs or workout 5 days a week, when they currently never workout. That’s a recipe for failure every time.

Keep it simple and small, then you can build on it. Instead of 5 days a week, start at 2 (if you were at zero), then after a couple weeks of success set another goal for 3 days/week. Then, you can build from there. This gives you little successes along the way and helps you build confidence.

As for now, enjoy the Holiday Season. Spend time with friends and family and disengage from your “work” as much as possible. You owe it to yourself and you’ll come back firing on all cylinders in 2010.

All the best. I thank you for all the kind words on the blog. I’m really excited about 2010 and taking the next step on this journey with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me any thoughts or suggestions on how I can make this better.

God Bless and Be Well,

What is GTD (from the GTD Website)

I’ve had a lot of questions since I started writing about what GTD is. I was going to write my own words and found the following on the GTD site. It does a much better job than I would’ve done. This was written from David Allen himself:

GTD® is the popular shorthand for “Getting Things Done®”, the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.

Piloting a productivity seminar for a thousand managers at Lockheed in 1983, David has continued to test and refine the techniques and principles we now know as GTD – a powerful method to manage commitments, information, and communication. This pioneering and proven system is the result of those twenty plus years of David’s consulting, private coaching and organizational programs with over a half million people internationally. GTD has well earned its recognition as the gold standard in personal management and productivity for many of the world’s best and brightest people and companies.

Sophisticated without being confining, the subtle effectiveness of GTD lies in its radically common sense notion that with a complete and current inventory of all your commitments, organized and reviewed in a systematic way, you can focus clearly, view your world from optimal angles and make trusted choices about what to do (and not do) at any moment. GTD embodies an easy, step-by-step and highly efficient method for achieving this relaxed, productive state. It includes:

* Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
* Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
* Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
* Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)

Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility. The system rigorously adheres to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the “how.” The only “right” way to do GTD is getting meaningful things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy. Coaching thousands of people, where they work, about their work, has informed the GTD method with the best practices of how to work (and live), in that most efficient and productive way.

GTD’s simplicity, flexibility, and immediacy are its attraction. Its ability to enliven, enlighten, and empower is its magic. What, indeed, is GTD? More than meets the eye…

A Couple Thoughts on the Importance of Giving

One of my favorite quotes in the world is from former tennis great and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe.

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

It’s a pretty famous quote and I don’t think you can say it any better. We get so wrapped up in our jobs and sometimes forget about what’s truly important. I’m not just talking about giving money, although I believe that’s important too. Giving your time to someone or to a cause is even better than simply giving money. If you’ve done this, and I’m sure most of you have, you know how it makes you feel. The person on the receiving end of your giving is getting a special gift from you, however, you’re the one that’s really getting the special gift.

If you live by this “giving” virtue, there is no doubt you will be better off for it and so will a lot of other people.

I typically write about ways to be more productive and make the most out of your day, but I think this is one of those things that, if done consistently and sincerely, will give you such meaning and positive energy. When you have both of those, you’re well on your way to rocking your 1440.

A Message On Perspective

My family received a Christmas card today from one of my mother-in-law’s best friends. The husband in the family had a stroke last year and is truly blessed to be alive. Although he’s had many obstacles along the way, they are taking the glass half-full approach. There’s a quote in the Christmas letter that I’d like to share with you.

“The burden of suffering can seem like a tomb stone hung about one’s neck, while in reality it is only the weight which is necessary to hold down the diver while he is diving for pearls.”

How about that for perspective.

3 Ways to Listen More Effectively

I had a colleague say to me once, “you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason.” I’ve never forgotten that. Have you ever noticed yourself drifting off when someone’s talking to you or found yourself not being able to hold back b/c you want to say something. I know I have. This is one of the hardest things to change. The first step is to be conscious of it. Let me first make a confession. I’m not very good at this. If you ask my wife, Michelle, what the one thing she would change about me, she would say that she would want me to listen more and better. I guess the first step is admitting your shortcoming, right?

I believe there are three keys to listening more effectively in your professional life and at home:

1 – Single Task
2 – Minimize Distractions
3 – Pay Attention

Here are my thoughts on these three:

1 – Single Task:
There used to be a lot of people that talked about how much you needed to multi-task. We’ve seen that change. The more you multi-task, the less you will really get accomplished. Pick a task and see it through. I guarantee you will be more productive (and you will get that sense of accomplishment with each completion). This goes for listening. Be fully engaged. If someone’s talking to you, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Don’t cut them off. Try to minimize the 500 thoughts that are going through your head. Look them in the eye and give them your full attention. Make them feel like you are in tune to what they’re saying.

2 – Minimize Distractions:
If you’re working and in a meeting put your blackberry or other device away. You can check it every once in a while, but don’t keep it out. If it’s out, you’re going to look at (a lot). And, please, turn off the vibrate notification for emails. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where someone’s phone is vibrating every 2 minutes. This is very distracting.

If you’re on a conference call, minimize or shut down your computer as much as possible. Of course, there needs to be some flexibility here. If you’re not an active participant but simply need to be on the call, it’s ok to get some other things done. However, if the call is an important one, do what you can to stay offline and off your computer.

The same goes for regular phone calls. I used to be guilty of this a lot. You’re on the phone with someone and you’re surfing the net or sending emails out. Do you think you’re giving that call it’s rightful attention? Definitely not.

3 – Pay Attention:
I want you to start to think about listening the next time you’re talking to your colleague, your client, your wife, your children, etc. The more you’re aware of it, the better you will get.

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” – Kenneth A. Wells

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What works for you? Is an improvement area at work, at home? If you start paying attention, really paying attention, and you’re noticing an improvement, I’d love to hear about it.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. It was recommended to me last year by Julie Ireland of the David Allen Company and Mike Williams (Zone By Zone Blog – great read, by the way), as I engaged in some tele-coaching and conversations. This book is a great complement to Getting Things Done.

The core message is that you have to manage your energy and not your time to achieve results. We get so caught up in “time management” and ABC prioritizing, etc., that we many times fail to look at what really drives performance.

Think of yourself like an athlete. If you’ve played any sport, you know that you go through periods of intense activity followed by periods of rest and recovery. Look at boxing or wrestling. Two to three minute periods, followed by a minute or so of a break. Do you really think a boxer or wrestler can perform at their peak if they didn’t get that rest/recovery time? Same for a basketball player, hockey player, football player, soccer player, weight lifter. The list goes on and on.

I plan on writing a lot about this topic, as I find it the most important part of being productive. How many of you find yourself going down internet rabbit trails throughout the day, and your mentally exhausted? The reason is you lose your focus after a certain amount of time if you don’t allow yourself to recover.

Loehr says that you should take a break at least every 90 minutes. I believe this is different for everyone, although 90 is a good starting point. For me, I actually try and break my day into what I call Sprints. I work in 25-30 minute intervals typically and do focused work for that time. Then, I take a break. I highly recommend getting away from whatever you’re doing and getting some fresh air if you can. This can be 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever you need to recover. Another key aspect of this is to track your time. I actually set my blackberry alarm for 25 minutes. For example if it’s 1:40pm, I will set me alarm for 2:05pm and then get after it. As soon as 2:05 hits, I take a break. The reason you need to set an alarm is that time will get away from you.

Remember, this is unique for everyone, so tinker with your “Go times” and “rest/recovery.” I’d love hear feedback on what you find works for you and if you try any of these tips.

Stay tuned for more on managing your energy. There’s an awful lot to talk about.


Situational Awareness

I love this term. David Allen has used it to describe the constant input we receive and the ability to react to it. He’s used a reference to pilots, especially fighter pilots who have to react to critical situations in a moment’s notice. Of course, most of what we do everyday is not life or death. For a fighter pilot, it is.

You have to be able to adapt. It’s great to set goals each day and engage your task/next action list, however, if new input comes in that needs to be a priority, you have to change focus. I’ve experienced this today. I have my daily goals lined up. I’m engaging with my next action list, and bam, I get off a couple conference calls and I have some new input that I need to act on right now.

So, what do you do? Well, here’s what I do. I have a whiteboard in my office. You can do this on a piece of scratch paper, or anywhere you can get your thoughts out. I simply grab what has my attention. I make a list (takes me a minute), then I think about what I’m trying to accomplish (the desired outcome). Then right next to it, I write down the next action.

Right now, I have 9 items I thought of, 3 of which are critical to do right now…so, I stop what I’m doing and/or what I had planned and engage with those 3 actions.

Be prepared, because the unexpected will happen a lot. As I stated above, you have to be able to adapt. Life will bring plenty of these experiences. It’s how fast and in control you can switch focus that will bring you the best results.

Welcome to 1440 – my blog inspired from my dealings with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, the ground-breaking productivity methodology that has helped many individuals achieve great success at home and in their professional lives.

1440 is the number of minutes we have in each day, where we have an opportunity to achieve what we’ve set out to do. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that there are many obstacles to accomplishing what we want to. Email, Phone Calls, Web Surfing, Office Interruptions…you name it. Today, there are countless things that divert our attention.

This is an ongoing game that we’re playing. Either master it and reach your potential, or live in a state of mediocrity. I plan on providing insight from my experiences (both struggles and successes) with doing the best I can each and everyday.

I leave you with a great quote by Winston Churchill:

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

We will all encounter many failures along the way. The true test of a person is how you pick yourself back up and continue to reach for greatness.

I wish you well and look forward to interacting as we take this very exciting journey.