Forget Inbox Zero…

 Posted by on 15 April 2015 at 10:00 am  GTD, Productivity
Apr 152015

Forget Inbox Zero… Yesterbox Zero is the sweet spot! With Yesterbox Zero, I have to have all of yesterday’s email processed sometime today by 9 pm (i.e. my daily stand-up meeting with Andrew and Arthur Zey).

As a result, I tend to answer only important or interesting emails on the day that I receive them (as opposed to fussing about every new email because I want to stay at Inbox Zero), and then I answer all the rest sometime on the next day, usually in the morning. Then, my inbox is clear to receive this day’s mail. So I delete the unimportant stuff, answer what I please, and leave the rest for later. (I’ve never been able to do a “reply later” folder, as GTD recommends… that’s just a black hole for me.)

As a result, since I cleared out my inbox after SnowCon (when I had about 20 messages languishing in my inbox, which took about 5 hours to process), I’ve spent just 1 hour per week on email. It’s amazing. I’ve felt oppressed by my inbox for years, and just this one small change has made so much difference.

12 Types of Procrastinators

 Posted by on 13 June 2014 at 10:00 am  Funny, Productivity, Psychology
Jun 132014

The 12 Types of Procrastinators… what kinds are you?

I’m a panicker, list maker, social sharer, sidetracker, snacker, gamer, watcher, and a perpetuator! So yeah, I’m a pretty stellar procrastinator!

The creator of this gem — Twenty Pixels — has awesome coffee mugs for sale based on it. Go check them out!

On a more serious note, check out these interesting articles on procrastination:

  • How I Stopped Procrastinating: Merrill Markoe writes “Here’s what I learned: First thing in the morning, before I have drowned myself in coffee, while I still have that sleepy brain I used to believe was useless — that is the best brain for creative writing. Words come pouring out easily while my head still feels as if it is full of ground fog, wrapped in flannel and gauze, and surrounded by a hive of humming, velvety sleep bees.”
  • Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators: Megan McArdle makes a compelling case that procrastination among writers is often the product of smart people relying too much on natural talent, as opposed to effort, and thereby adopting a “fixed mindset” about their work. That’s been a major realization for me.
  • To Stop Procrastinating, Look to Science of Mood Repair: Basically, look for the emotional root of your procrastination, then imagine yourself in the future to correct that.
  • The Surefire First Step to Stop Procrastinating: I often use this technique — whereby I make a deal with myself that I only have to work on this project for, say, 30 minutes, and then I can quit if I’m not into it — and it’s quite helpful. Maybe I should lower my threshold to 5 minutes though!
  • No Studying After 5pm: Using Parkinson’s Law to Kick Procrastination’s Ass: I have a tendency to delay work until the evening, then stay up too late working, and then not get enough sleep. Giving myself a clear deadline for the end of work might help me break that cycle — and make room for tasks that I can’t seem to fit into my day at present, like reading.

Now… get back to work!! :-)

Report on 2013

 Posted by on 6 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Animals, Horses, Personal, Pride, Productivity, Statistics Review, Year in Review
Jan 062014

So what did I do in 2013?  A whole heck of a lot, as it turns out.

First and foremost, I broadcast new episodes of Philosophy in Action Radio every Sunday and most Wednesdays — 80 episodes in total. 50 were Q&As, in which I answered 169 questions. 29 were interviews, and just one was a podcast. Happily, my listens and downloads increased by over 50% in 2013, to 371,621 in total. That’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself! You can read more in my Quick Year-End Report on Philosophy in Action Radio. Also, I wrote regularly for NoodleFood, publishing 653 blog posts. Oh, and I did a whole lot of behind-the-scenes development for the web site, including changing podcast hosts in July.

Apart from my radio show, my work efforts in 2013 were largely consumed by the editing, publication, and promotion of my first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. When I began working on it in late 2012, I never expected to do so much editing, but I’m very pleased with and proud of the results.

Now let’s look at some of the smaller events and projects, personal and professional.

The first quarter of 2013 was dominated by house repairs, mostly reconstructing the master bathroom and my office after the massive water leak discovered in December. That went well, with one notable and significant exception — namely, that the costly repairs done on the foundation to fix an occasional leak in the corner of my office didn’t work worth a damn. That’s a huge problem — not just because we wasted thousands of dollars on those repairs, but also because we installed new flooring, repaired drywall, painted walls, and re-installed baseboards on top of it. So fixing the problem again will require me to do repairs on all of that — yet again. Unfortunately, the company that did the work — Peak Basement Repair — has been nothing short of horrendous in response. They’ve attempted to wash their hands of any responsibility, and after going round and round with the owner’s wife, I don’t trust them one iota. I’m not willing to have them rip up my office, because goodness only knows whether they’ll fix the problem or just make a huge mess and cost me even more money. Hence, fixing that — with some better people — is on my list for 2014. But wow, I just wish that leak could magically go away. I hate having people working in my home with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

Just before those repairs began in earnest, my parents visited. That was the first time that I’ve attended the National Western Stock Show… and wow, so much fun! It was a delightful — and exhausting — visit. My parents are very adept at running me ragged with fun!

In the midst of all the house repairs, I planned and prepared for SnowCon 2013. That happened in March, and the repairs were done just barely in time for us to have guests and host events at our home. (It was down to the wire!) You can read my report on SnowCon 2013 for more details.

In the spring, I travelled quite a bit too. Just before SnowCon, Paul and I travelled to South Carolina to attend the wedding of Eric Daniels and Rachael Griffin. That was lovely! In mid-April, Paul had a medical conference in Tucson, so I joined him for a few days of that. In early May, I attended my 25th high school reunion at Garrison Forest School. In late May, Paul and I travelled to Atlanta for ATLOSCon 2013. My lecture on “Moral Amplifiers” was new work, and I was glad that people were enthused about it. As always, I enjoyed spending time with my ATLOSCon peeps… and best of all, Greg and Tammy! That Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio was only the second time that Greg and I broadcasted together in person, and that’s always so much fun. In early June, I visited my sister Meredith, her husband, and their awesome son Clyde.

All that travelling was delightful, except that it interfered with my attempts to get Lila back in work and in shape. The weather was not helpful either: when I’d leave, we’d have delightful riding weather, and then I’d come home to cold and snow. I wasn’t able to work Lila consistently until May, in fact: my first lesson with Martha Deeds wasn’t until May 16th. BOO! This year, I’ve packed a good bit of my travelling into January — although dammit, I’m still running into the same problem!

Oh, and I was supposed to visit Paul’s family in late June, but the fire risk was too high for me to feel comfortable leaving the beasts. So I stayed home, and Paul visited without me. I’m visiting them now… finally!

On a sour note, the first half of 2013 featured some horrible behavior and ever-worse revelations from close in-town friends. My life improved dramatically when I cut ties with them after [events], although that was very hard for me to do for [reasons]. After that, I decided to be more self-protective. So I’m far less tolerant of creepy, dishonest, malicious, or otherwise uncalibrated behavior from people. Life is too precious to waste on crazy and/or awful people, just because they’re Objectivists.

By June, my work with Lila was in full swing — finally! Happily, I began riding regularly with my former instructor Cyndi Meredith. She’s an excellent western trainer: I’ve learned tons from her. She’s also become a good and trusted friend, for which I’m very grateful. At Martha’s suggestion, I bought a new jumping saddle — a barely used Jeffries Elite — to replace the saddle that I’d been riding in since middle school. That was much more comfortable for me, as well as for Lila.  (She was having problem with her hind end in my old saddle, which cropped up again later in the year.)

Also in June, Martha asked me whether I wanted to compete on Lila. I wasn’t sure, initially. However, I woke up in the middle of the night saying, “YES YES YES!” So we scheduled my first competition for the one-day trial at the Colorado Horse Park in early August. Suddenly — and to my surprise — I became so much more serious about my training. Also, I had so much to do to prepare, including equipment to buy.

Late in June, I attended one day of a Pat and Linda Parelli Tour. I learned quite a bit about horsemanship from that.

In July, I finally closed the OLists. They’d been very quiet for ages — partly due to the collapse of the Objectivist movement after repeated WTFery and partly due to the increased use of Facebook for such communications. Some of the OLists have become more-or-less active groups on Facebook, which makes me happy. July also featured a lovely visit from our good friends Kelly, Aaron, and Livy. I enjoyed teaching Livy to ride Lila, and I loved watching Paul geek out with Aaron. Kelly has been such a good friend to me, particularly this year; I always enjoy talking with her — not just lots, but positively too much.

As our first event approached, Lila and I made rapid progress. Still, I struggled with some bad habits, particularly that of dropping Lila just before fences, just when she needed me most. Those failures were often really difficult for me to manage psychologically, particularly in the lead-up to the competition. I had to learn to ease up the pressure on myself a bit, even while still working hard to do my best. In late July, I took Lila up to Longmont for a dressage schooling show. We did all three training level tests, and I was really proud of her (and me).

August featured my first three-phase event! The big surprise was that Lila was quite scared in the stadium jumping phase, refusing the first fence and sucking back at every one after that. We made it through, however, and she was great in cross-country. (Paul was very excited and supportive, which surprised and pleased me!)  As a result of that experience, I took Lila to two schooling jumper shows — one in late August and another in September — to get her used to jumping unfamiliar courses. By the second show, she was more calm and relaxed than me!

Later in August, I attended Clinton Anderson’s Walkabout Tour. I learned more about good horsemanship in that, but I was disappointed by his belligerent attitude and the too-long breaks between events.

Lila and I continued to work hard — until everything ground to halt in mid-September. In Colorado’s torrential rains and floods, we only got about four inches, but that was enough to do damage to Lila’s feet. They softened, and a small bit of gravel got stuck in her hoof under her shoe, and eventually worked its way out her heel after many, many days. She was very lame for about three weeks, and even after that, she wasn’t quite right. I was very stressed, mostly because our second (and last) event of the season was fast approaching!

In early October, the weekend before that event, Paul and I headed off to Atlanta for a small workshop among friends on personality theory that I’d organized. That was really interesting for me, both personally and professionally. Also, it was tons of fun! (Next year, I hope to do a similar workshop of the psychology of productivity.)

Lila seemed sound on returning home, thankfully. I had just four days to ride her before the event, which was not nearly enough time! Still, we managed. Lila and I did well — definitely better in all phases than our first event. Alas, the dressage judge noticed a “shimmy” in her hind end, so we scored badly. Still, we were allowed to continue after that, and Lila was excellent. My mother came into town for that event, and that was a huge treat for me. Her support of my riding — and her good example and knowledge — means so much to me. Paul attended the event too, and he was very enthused and supportive, which I loved!

After that event, I began foxhunting Lila with the Arapahoe Hunt, which I joined in November. It’s very different foxhunting than what I did as a junior with my mom. It’s wide-open territory, and we hunt coyote. So it’s often fast and hard hunting, with few stops. Still, I love it, and I’m so glad to be doing it again.

Even more exciting, Martha invited me to train in the warm weather with her and other students in the equestrian mecca of Aiken, South Carolina for the whole month of February. HOLY COW! I’m going, and I’m so excited!!

November featured a quick but fun visit from Rory, plus a quiet and lovely Thanksgiving with our friends Howard and Susan.

In November horse news, Lila’s hind-end shimmy showed up again — worse than ever. At Martha’s recommendation, I took her to Dr. Diane Wagner — a holistic vet. The problem seemed to be chronic pain, likely exacerbated by wearing a boot (and hence, being slightly uneven) to help her recover from that bit of gravel in her hoof. The first treatment went well, and the second treatment was the icing on the cake. However, in the three weeks in-between, Lila had to be on just light work. BOO!

So that I’d have a horse to foxhunt, I borrowed Dixie — a very quiet four-year-old paint mare — from my friend Cyndi. She was very quiet in the hunt field, and I started her over fences in some lessons with Martha too. She’s a good girl, and she did well. She’s been a fun project for me, although she’s not what I’d want in a horse. I still have her now, but I’ll give her back to Cyndi in late January, before I leave for Aiken.

In mid-December, I noticed that my favorite kitty, Elliot had become quite skinny. I took him to my vet, and he’d lost a pound, which is a big deal in a cat. My vet diagnosed him with kidney disease, and that makes me very sad. I can prolong his life by feeding him as much as he’s willing to eat of a modified diet. I’ve been doing that, and he’s already gained a bit of weight. Meanwhile, Mae decided to become “Houdini Dog,” and she’s been escaping from both the dog run and our property fence by various methods. She’s very smart and determined, and I hope to solve the problem soon… but we’ll see what happens!

For my birthday on December 13th, Paul bought me a wonderful dressage saddle! I’d been searching for it for quite some time, and I found it the day before my birthday, then tested it on Lila on my birthday. It’s wonderful to ride in: it’s already helped me get a better body position in my flatwork.

My parents visited again over Christmas. We went out to Breckenridge for a few days to downhill ski (me) and cross-country ski and snowshoe (Mom, Papa, and Paul). Also, Mom and I were able to ride twice. It was lovely to have two good quiet horses — Dixie and Lila — for her to ride. I feel really lucky to enjoy spending time with my parents as much as I do.  They’re fabulous people, and they set a great example by living life to the fullest!

In December, I began planning SnowCon 2014, as well as making definite plans for SnowCon Tahoe in late January. Fun times!

Did I mention that kitty Merlin was cute and naughty all year long? He’s now a big kitty, at least in body, if not in spirit.  Also, Paul was his usual awesome self all year long, working hard and publishing a slew of fabulous columns on health care and related topics.

That was my 2013! Holy cow, that was a big year!  I think it was my best year yet, and I’m looking forward to making the most of 2014 too!

Concretize Your Task List

 Posted by on 10 July 2013 at 2:00 pm  Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology
Jul 102013

Ever since interviewing Andrew Miner on Getting Things Done last year, I’ve been working on improving my own personal method of “Getting Things Done.” (If you don’t know what “Getting Things Done” is… go read the book, Getting Things Done, pronto!) I’ve pared down my projects to focus on what’s most important to me, and I’ve also made excellent progress on a slew of long-delayed mini-projects.

In the process, I’ve learned that I usually need to be very, very concrete about my task list. Every item in my task list must be a single, clear, delimited action — otherwise, when I have time to make progress on some project, I won’t know what I need to do next. So I don’t register “update archive generation script” or “clean and oil tack” or “post The Paleo Rodeo” as single tasks any more. Instead, they’re projects, each containing four to six tasks.

I was worried that doing that would make my GTD system more complicated, even unmanageable. Instead, it seems simpler because I don’t need to repeatedly re-think what I need to do to advance my goals. Instead, I can just chip away at the next action, again and again.

So if the tasks required to accomplish some goal aren’t crystal clear to you, then perhaps try taking a few minutes to figure out what actions you need to do to make progress. If you’re too busy for that, just add “plan project” as your first task! That seems to make a huge dent in my tendency to procrastination.

In case you’ve not heard my interview with Andrew Miner about “Getting Things Done,” you can listen to or download the podcast here:

For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!


Lifehacker has an excellent article on how “Clearing to Neutral” can help you avoid procrastination. I’d recommend reading the whole article, but here’s the critical idea:

The main idea behind [Clearing to Neutral] is that you set yourself up for success. What that means is that any time you finish your activity, you do a little routine where you set it up so that the next time you start there is no friction. In other words, you setup your environment for next time.

Our friend … uses the analogy of cleaning a grill. In restaurants, the process of cleaning the grill is very important. It ensures the grill will last longer, the food will taste better, and you prevent any bacteria from growing. Before the restaurant closes, the cooks always clean the grill so the next day when they come in it is ready for use.

This is exactly the idea behind Clearing To Neutral and how you need to set yourself up. The reason we call it CTN is because whenever you finish an activity, you need to move everything so everything is in neutral position. When something is neutral, it is stale and you can do anything you want to it.

Now this is why the habit of clearing to neutral is so important: it prevents you from procrastinating in the future. By making sure you clean up your environment and toolkit, you ensure that the next time you need to use them there will be no friction at all. In other words, you make it easy for your “future self” to get started.

I’m not a neat and tidy person by nature, and I almost always prefer to move on to the next bit of fun rather than spend a few minutes “clearing to neutral.” Yet… it makes such a difference! I should, for example:

  • always clear out collected papers and other items from my bag when I return home
  • always put away tools and implements (scissors, superglue, pens) after using them
  • always put away books into their proper place after using them

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty fanatical about “clearing to neutral” in dealing with the horses — whether feeding, riding, or trailering. In those cases, I have a clear routine, and I feel like I’m cutting corners and burdening my future self unless every step is done. Developing those kinds of routines in the messier areas of my life could make a huge difference, I think!

Where do you need to work on “Clearing to Neutral”? Remember, if you clearly identify what counts as “Clearing to Neutral” in a given domain — perhaps even writing it down and posting it somewhere visible — you’ll be much more willing and able to do it when tired, distracted, or eager to move on to the next task. Make “Clearing to Neutral” easy, so that you can do it on autopilot.

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!


(I wrote this for Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter back in September 2012, but it’s still relevant.)

A few days ago, I was riding my horse in our neighborhood arena while a father was attempting to teach his son to ride a bike in the grass. The father would push the son forward on the bike, and the son was supposed to pedal. However, even from a distance, I could tell that the son was getting scared and freezing. Instead of pedaling, he’d put his feet down into the grass and come to stop. The father had an excellent opportunity to talk to his son about overcoming fears.

Alas, that’s not what happened. Even from a distance, I could hear the father yell to his son in frustration, “If you’d only pedaled when I told you!” and “Why aren’t you listening to me?” Obviously, that didn’t help the boy pedal any better!

The father was making a very serious mistake in taking his son’s failure personally. He was seeing it as a failure to obey, rather than focusing on the son’s actual problem — namely, the difficulty of overcoming fears. As a result, the son was not only deprived of useful help about managing those fears, but also burdened with feelings of guilt too. Even worse, the father was telling the son that the son’s own judgment (including his fears) were not nearly as important as obeying the father’s commands. Oy.

Happily though, the father seemed to muster some better control over himself after that burst of anger. He stopped yelling, and the tension seemed to ease. Hopefully, he realized his error. Hopefully, he’ll stop himself sooner next time.

I’m not immune from the error of atttemping to dictate others — whether children, animals, co-workers, friends, or husband. I suspect that I’m not alone in that! So here are a few suggestions, which you can take or leave:

When you find yourself growing frustrated by the fact that other people aren’t doing what you’ve told them to do, remind yourself that they’re not likely attempting to spite you. Perhaps you didn’t give clear instructions. Perhaps you’ve asked too much of them. Perhaps they saw problems with your plan that you missed. Perhaps their goals don’t mesh well with yours.

Instead of stewing over their failure to obey, consider how you might be genuinely helpful. You might want to ask them if they want help. You might want to clarify your instructions. You might want to just keep your mouth shut.

Whatever the circumstances, acting like a petty tyrant is always the wrong answer. Nothing alienates rational thinkers — young and old — more quickly.

Make More Progress

 Posted by on 9 May 2013 at 11:00 am  Advice, Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Purpose, Sports
May 092013

(I wrote this for Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter back in September 2012, but it’s still relevant today… and I’m still using the same technique!)

Just this week, I had my third horseback riding lesson with my new three-day eventing trainer. Lila (my horse) and I have made remarkable progress in just these three lessons, and my trainer has definitely noticed that. Hooray!

The main reason for my progress is that I’ve been ruthlessly purposeful about my training. After each lesson, I’ve taken notes on the main problems and exercises that we covered. (It’s a bit hard to take notes while on horseback!) Then I deliberately work on some of those issues every time I ride. Lila and I aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we are making very speedy progress. That steady progress makes my riding and my lessons so much more enjoyable and satisfying. (Ideally, I’d like to find a way to video record my lessons, as that would be even better than notes.)

So if you’re spending your valuable time and money on learning any kind of skill — whether via dance class, dog training, or a sports clinic — make the most of it! Take good notes as soon as you can. Then practice the advice in those notes as often as you can. You’ll likely notice vastly better results in very short order.

Apr 052013

Here, I offer you three tips on managing e-mail, partly inspired by the awesome podcasts of Manager Tools. (As with all such advice, your mileage may vary.)

(1) Don’t leave your email opening and running all day. It’s a major distraction from your work, and it leaves you feeling like all that you do is email. Instead, schedule blocks of time in which to process your email — and do nothing else. That focus will improve the quality of your emails, while decreasing the time required. (GAH. I need to start doing this again… and closing Facebook too!)

(2) Be willing to give very short replies to emails — or no reply at all. Just because someone emails you doesn’t give them a right to your time. Make sure that you’re not sacrificing what matters most to you in responding to other people’s emails.

(3) Make the purpose of your email clear to the recipeint at the outset: give the summary of what you’re telling or asking at the very top to set the context. Yesterday, I received a lovely email from a fan of Philosophy in Action. Alas, it began with two big paragraphs of personal history (700 words), and the request for an interview was left to the bottom. Not only might I have missed the request if I’d just skimmed the email, but I didn’t understand the relevance of any of the personal history as I was reading it. Putting the interview request at the top would have helped me understand the email better.

In essence, be focused, selfish, and purposeful in your emails!

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!

Buckling Down and Getting Stuff Done

 Posted by on 5 March 2013 at 12:00 pm  Personal, Productivity
Mar 052013

Today, I found this delightful tidbit from the Manager Tools Newsletter (free to registered members) in my inbox:

Sitting at my computer this morning, I wished for one of those movie montages. You know the ones where the cool music plays, and several hours or days or months pass, and magically the protagonist has written a book, found love or become fit enough for a marathon.

If there was a montage of my office this morning, 300 words would magically write themselves, with a quick intercut scene of me tearing out my hair and drinking more coffee. Then, we’d switch to my screen, where windows would open and close as I add the different elements to the newsletter. And in 2 minutes, it’d all be done, and I’d be out with my friends in a bar celebrating the amazing open and clickthrough rates.

Ah, real life. Real life entails of consistent action. Day after day I collect ideas. Day after day I write something, anything, to practice writing effectively. Day after day I start with a blank page and wait for a combination of inspiration and perspiration to write.

We’d all like montages. But as Manager Tools says about management, it’s boring. One on Ones every week. Feedback every day. Consistent Coaching. Persistent Delegation. Career success is relationships, relationships, relationships with results and transitions. What gets results? Day by day minor progress.

Benjamin Franklin famously had a list of 13 virtues which he worked on from age 20 until he died aged 84. Every week, he worked on one of the virtues. Sixty years is a long time to think about (and definitely requires a montage). But if you spent one week, and every day worked a little on that project you’ve been meaning to get to, how far would you get?

Wowee, I desperately want a house repairs montage… you know, the kind with snappy upbeat music and where the video sped up so that everything happens in a few seconds. I can’t do that — the whole process involves an unbelievable amount of decision-making, coordination, and little tasks. The good news is that I’ve been able to effectively use GTD to manage the work… and tons of progress has been made in the last few weeks, as you can see here:

Alas, in repairing some warped baseboards in the laundry room and exercise room, we discovered a whole lot of wet and mold, thanks to water coming from the boiler room. At first, I thought that our boiler might be leaking, but then I recalled that the kitchen sink backs up into the floor of the boiler room. That’s sheer insanity, on so many levels, but apparently that was common in the 70s. (I blame drugs.) That happened once before a few years ago, and the water flooded into the office immediately, and it took the plumber hours to figure out what the heck was the problem. This time, the clog was partial, so that area had been flooding just a bit… for many weeks, I think. UGH.

The result was that the drywall under the baseboards was sopping wet and moldy. I’ve been spraying the drywall on all sides twice per day for the past few days, and it seems to be drying out and clearing up nicely. However, after SnowCon, I’m going to cut into the drywall under the baseboard to see what’s behind the wall. We might need to tear out the drywall and reconstruct that area. Let me tell you, I’m not looking forward to doing that, so I hope that’s not necessary.

But, if necessary, I know that I can do it given all that I’ve done already. Plus, once SnowCon is done, I won’t nearly as stressed as I am now. Still, I hope that everything dries out nicely, so that we can just slap the baseboards back on. That would be really lovely.

Please, WTFairy? Pretty please with bacon on top?

Increase Your Productivity with Three Things

 Posted by on 4 December 2012 at 10:00 am  Advice, Productivity
Dec 042012

The super-awesome Manager Tools offers a really good newsletter to registered members with useful tips for work. They’re not always relevant to me, but many are indispensable gems that really make a difference in my productivity. To wit:

Do Three

There’s something magic about the number three. The idea that you can get three things done is not overwhelming but feels like progress. Three (of course) ways you can use three to things done:

One: Pick the next three things you need to do. Write them down on a post it or a piece of scrap paper. Do them. Every time you get distracted and think – what was I supposed to be doing? – go back to your short list. When you’ve done the first three, do another three. You’ll be amazed at how many completed postit notes you’ll end up with. I find this helps on days full of interruptions or when I’m feeling a little High I.

Two: At the end of the day, pick the most important three things for you to do the next day. Write them down. Do those things FIRST, before email, before phone calls, before any meetings. If you use this technique, you’ll always be working on your priorities.

Three: If your list is very long, pick three like things, and do just those. Three phone calls, three emails, three pages you need to print, three pieces of filing. If you like stability, do three more of those things until all that group is done. If you like variety, do three of something different.

None of this is rocket science. It’s all about overcoming inertia, often caused by overwhelm, and getting moving. Once you’re moving, things become much easier – you’re buoyed by the progress you’re making. It doesn’t matter if you’re entry level or the CEO, some days we all need a little help to get past our own flaws. Try a little three today.

I’ve begun implementing this technique this week, and I’ve found that I’m far more focused and productive. Right now, in fact, the three things on my list are:

  • Process inbox (that’s emptying my email inbox)
  • Wednesday Radio, Step 2 (that’s promoting the upcoming live broadcast)
  • Sunday Radio, Step 4 (that’s promoting the posted podcast)

Right now, I’m on the first task. The newsletter was sitting in my inbox, just waiting to be blogged. And now I can delete it and move to the next email. Hooray for getting stuff done!

You can find all the past newsletters of Manager Tools here. You can register with them — it’s free! — here.

Now … what are you three things to do next?

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha