Balance Your System for Sanity

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To stay effective and sane, balance the complexity of your personal effectiveness system. If it is too complex, you won’t use it. If it is not complex enough, it won’t be useful.

Try the Barebone System if you would like to start a new system. Over time, you can add features that make sense and make the system really useful.

If you already have a system and it is too complex (i.e. you are not using it), simplify it. Experiment with taking away features until your system becomes manageable again. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Reduce categories: Lots of categories and categories-within-categories of tasks and reference materials make the system hard to use; it takes extra time and mental energy to know where to place and find things. Instead, put everything into a list with far fewer categories. The same way GMail uses its search tools to find archived emails without a plague of archive folders, you can use your intelligent mind (and your computer) to scan and search for any items you might need.
  2. Limit your hoppers: One way to slow down your system is to have too many hoppers, i.e. places to record potential tasks as you seek to keep them out of your head. If you have more than a single email inbox and a notebook, you may have too many hoppers. (If you are still jotting things down on random stickies or slips of paper, you may have too few hoppers.)
  3. Avoid organization orthodoxy: Your effectiveness system is yours. If any aspect of your system isn’t working, toss it. If I suggest or anyone else (including the developers of the organization software you might be using) suggests a feature or an approach, keep it only if it works.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Busyness and Angst: a Cure

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Sweetspot, What=Compelling Focus, Will=Our inner game
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Essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider wrote the following in his New York Times opinion piece called the The ‘Busy’ Trap.

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day…I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

Whoa. Tim, that’s quite a downer. And I agree. Busyness can be a decoy that keeps us from even asking, “Am I happy? What is true? What is important? Does my work fulfill me? What is most compelling and meaningful to me?”

Luckily there is a cure for both the angst and busyness. Here it is:

  • Find your SweetSpot. Take the time to explore and acknowledge what is most important to you. Discover or recover your sense of purpose, belonging, meaning, and success.
  • Live it. Your SweetSpot is a set of criteria for meaning and success in your career and life. From it you can find or create one or more projects, roles, businesses, or jobs that will let you bring your SweetSpot to life.
  • Help others to do the same. This is probably an optional step. There is a need out there for it. And it’s something that will feel pretty great to do.
  • Act naturally. Use the Effectiveness System to get to a state of confidence in both the things you do and the things you choose to not do.

I think you will do very well to subscribe to the idea that life–including work–is meant to be joyful, fun, free, and meaningful. (Even if you think life is none of this, tell yourself a different lie.) And there is no real need to cloud things up with existential angst or busyness.

 

In your corner,

Mike

3 New Habits for Back-to-School

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

How are you doing with the Effectiveness Habits and building your lists?

Back-to-school time is a good time to refocus on them. And it’s a good time for me to introduce three new habits.

The original seven Effectiveness Habits are:

1 Get it Out of Your Head Write down every current and potential task so your mind won’t have to remember everything.
2 Feel Good. Then Act. When you pause to feel better, your actions and the results you want come with much more ease.
3 MOD It Transform your Habit #1 mass of tasks, ideas, and potential tasks into Meaningful Outcomes and Doables.
4 Act Naturally Neither pushing nor avoiding, scan your list of doables to choose the very best thing to do.
5 Know Why Know the big picture and know why that big picture is compelling so you can put daily work into a meaningful context.
6 Refresh Refresh your system of lists daily and weekly so it stays reliable and so you continue to feel in charge.
7 Cultivate Access to You Dedicate regular time to discovering and accessing your deeper, who-you-really-are self for ease.

Continue to use these in good health!

Now let’s look at the three new habits. When I teach the Effectiveness Habits to individuals and companies, people raise the same set of issues:

  • I want to be helpful but I can’t get my own work done. 
  • I seem to spend all my time in meetings, responding to other people’s emergencies, and waiting for people to finish what I asked them for. 
  • How do I maintain my own effectiveness when other people derail me?

We address these common issues with three new habits. Listed below, I’ll publish more detail about each in subsequent posts.

8 Be Explicitly Win-Win Overtly state your intent to go for win-win. Learn what is a win for the other(s) and share what is a win for you.
9 Delegate and Negotiate Clearly Consistently seek clarity about who is doing what by when. Renegotiate when things go off the rails.
10 Make Meetings Meaningful Focus meeting conversations for effectiveness. Design meetings so the right topics are covered by the right people at the right time.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about these!

 

In your corner,

 

Mike

Take Breaks

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Success, Will=Our inner game
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If you have a lot of work to get done today, try taking a break. Or two.

Pushing hard for long periods is not that effective. It drains your batteries and dulls your abilities.

Instead, follow the advice outlined in a recent New York Times article: Work in short, focused sessions. Between these bursts, take breaks.

I can attest that breaks like these keep me in the zone of continued effectiveness. At the end of such breaks, I usually feel excited, refreshed. And I accomplish more with greater ease.

You can, too. Try even one extra break today. If, for instance, you have a 30-minute chunk of work to do, try doing 15 minutes, taking a break, then doing the remaining 15 minutes. Note how your feel before, during, and after the break. Then share your experience in the comments below.

 

Shameless Plug for Habit #7

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
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While we may prefer to focus on the concrete Effectiveness Habits such as MOD It and the Refreshes, there is treasure in the less concrete habits. Take Habit #7: Cultivate Access to You for instance. It helps you

  • Build your tolerance for life’s craziness,
  • Approach issues from more fruitful perspectives,
  • See the behind-the-scenes workings of what my friend Linda calls “that inner machine that is ticking away,” or the habits of thought that may need renovating from time to time, and
  • Tap huge reserves of creativity, confidence, and delight.

How about it, then? Are you ready to work this habit?

Sounds worth it to me.

 

To your continued success,

Mike

Enough of Productivity and Efficiency

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“Productivity” and “efficiency” are words that describe how we work, do tasks, get stuff done. Both words focus on increasing output per unit of resource. Fun, eh?

Let’s instead focus on “effectiveness.” It includes efficiency and adds judgment, balance, and a focus on overall desired results.

To your continued success,

Mike