re: Never Mind the Pile

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

A large pile of tasks can make us feel anxious, annoyed, or apoplectic. We think that these feelings are a reaction to the pile–a call to buckle down, push harder, and make stuff happen.

Nope.

That feeling is the wiser part of us sending us a memo: “Never mind the pile. You’re fine. You’re just thinking about it the wrong way. There’s an easier, more fulfilling way. That pile isn’t a threat. Nor are the stories you make up about what would happen if you don’t do them correctly, on time, or to someone else’s satisfaction. What you fear is baseless. Action taken when buzzing low is always counterproductive. Be easy about it all. Things always work out. You will never get through the pile; you’re always adding more. Think of it as a “could do” pile, not a “to do” pile. Breathe. Get perspective. Enjoy the process. You’ve done this before. You’ve got this now. Yes. Feel good, raise your buzz, then act from the ensuing inspiration. Repeat. And enjoy the results.”

Better?

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: The stronger the feeling, the more imperative the memo.

Today’s photo credit: Allysse Riordan Piling up via photopin (license)

Productivity Boost From NOT Improving Your Productivity System

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

A productivity system helps us capture, organize, and plan things to do. Whether we use an electronic or paper-based system, we want it to be fast, seamless, and very easy to use. So we seek out the best techniques and tools to craft our system.

But that quest works against our productivity. It wastes our time and distracts us from doing our most productive work.

We may be wasting time. We can always find ways to make our system better. But we can spend way too much time finding, studying, and trying new techniques and systems that promise organizational nirvana. We then fall into the trap of over-tweaking our system instead of getting stuff done.

We’re missing the big productivity win. The more we focus on having the perfect system, the more likely we will become great at filling it with tasks but distracted from the biggest productivity win. This win is something that only we–not our system–can do: choosing what’s best to work on.  To do this well, we rely our systems but control the inputs and outputs. For the inputs, we decipher what each email, request, and idea that crosses our path means to us. For the outputs, we choose which things are best to work on now, which we should do later or delegate, and which we should trash. We mostly work these inputs and outputs during dedicated, relaxed daily and weekly planning sessions.

Put a moratorium on tweaks to (or wholesale swaps of) your system. Instead, build the habit of daily and weekly review sessions. Get good at pruning the inputs and choosing what’s best (most important, exciting, fulfilling) to work on next.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit:
Charles D P Miller
cc

Getting Unpleasant Stuff Done

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 1 min.

What’s the best way to get something unpleasant done? We can use various techniques to push ourselves to do it. Or we can find ways to avoid it until it goes away or becomes unbearable. But both of these approaches drain us.

A better way is to ask ourselves,  “What end result do I desire here? Why is that result important to me? What’s the very next step (perhaps even a minute one) I can take to move things along? Do I have the time and energy to do this now or should I defer or delegate it? What do I choose?”

It may seem that pushing or avoiding is easier or faster. Nope. This better way gets us into a very productive flow with a small investment in thought.

Flow, good leader, flow.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Dave McLear cc

Task Systems Too Full

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

Have you ever started using a new productivity system (app, list, notebook, cards, etc.) then abandoned it?

This usually happens because we let our systems get full of stuff to do that we haven’t done yet. As the pile of things to do grows, we add “do it today” flags and reminders to all sorts of items. It gets so unwieldy (and we often feel so guilty) that we go back to using email and fire-fighting to get stuff done.

Here’s the way out: instead of seeing items in our productivity system as a things to do, see them as things we are not going to do. Then, every week, we select three to four best next things we will do that week. And each day, we select three to four best next things to do that day, most of which will support the weekly things. (Lest you worry, we are remarkably effective at making these “best next” selections.)

Throughout the days and weeks, we complete what we chose to complete. We handle any truly urgent items as they come up. But we put most requests (emails, meeting takeaways, etc.) into our “not to do” list. Whatever doesn’t get done during a particular day or week goes back into the “not to do” pile. We can reselect them for the next week or day or pick all new items to do. If we complete everything for a day or week, we can choose to do the next best thing from the “not to do” list.

By actively keeping most things in a “not to do” pile, our systems remain manageable and we remain focused.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit:
Alexandre Duret-Lutz
cc

An Unusual Productivity Boost

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 1 min.

Here is a rather unusual productivity boost that takes just 2 minutes per day: set simple, quiet bedtime and waking up buzz-raising routines.

Each night before falling asleep, take a minute. Review what you appreciated that day. You may think of anything–an accomplishment, a happy thought, a kindness, a win–or several things, big or small. Then imagine how you want to wake up in the morning. For instance, you might want to awake calm, sure, happy, and ready to go.

Each morning when you wake up–in that moment before the weight of your emails, problems, and tasks hit you–take a minute. Recall how you wanted to wake up today. Then think of how you want to live this day. For example: ready, discerning, happy, and caring.

These two minutes do wonders for your productivity by setting the stage for better sleep, focus, and energy.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center cc

Drawing Your Way Out of Procrastination

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

One of the main causes of procrastination is confusion about what to do next. When we do not know the best next, small, discreet step we can take to move a project forward, we become overwhelmed with details, lost in possibilities, or stymied by what seem to be insurmountable obstacles.

The cure is remarkably easy: mind mapping. A mind map is like an outline. Both let us break big ideas into smaller chunks and break these chunks into even smaller ones. But an outline is harder to work with because it is linear (A, i, ii, 1, 2, iii, B…up and down the page), tough to rearrange, and heavy with text. Outlines force us to think about topics from top to bottom.

And if we could do that, we wouldn’t be overwhelmed, lost, or stymied!

By its graphical nature, a mind map lets us think through things better. It is more open and more visual. It helps us group ideas graphically across the page and it makes moving ideas around a snap. Mind maps let our ideas unfold completely. They help us brainstorm, see the big picture, and not lose any details. And they make navigating and communicating our ideas much simpler.

Next time you find yourself stuck, try mind mapping.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Mind mapping works great for team brainstorming and planning, too.

PPS: Here is an overview of mind mapping and how to build a mind map.

PPPS: You can draw mind maps on paper or a white board. I prefer using apps such as SimpleMind on my laptop, projected on the wall for team work, or on my smartphone.

PPPPS: The mathematically minded will see that a mind map and an outline are basically identical structures. But the visual aspects of mind maps make them so much more effective.

 

Today’s photo credit: Chris Gladis cc

the pressure

The Pressure We Feel

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 1 min.

We often misinterpret the pressure that we feel to do more, to be more productive. We think it means we need to get busy, work harder, and churn through more tasks on our task lists. So we do. And we long for relief and release.

But productivity is not how much we get done in a day or year. It’s how well and often we get done whatever advances our goals.

The pressure we feel is really the drive to set and achieve meaningful goals and dreams.

We start to know our goals by asking, “Generally, what three things are most critical for me to do in my role?” And each day we can ask ourselves, “What three outcomes do I want to see by the end of today, this week, and this year?”

Feel the relief?

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Wesley Lelieveld cc

simple

The Hard Way and the Simple Way

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter, What=Compelling Focus, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

Pushing ourselves and others is the long, hard way.

The fast, simple way is have a compelling goal, a high-buzz-quietly-assured outlook, a commitment to win-win, and a calm flow of inspired activity.

The reason we keep losing track of this is that the former merely seems faster and simpler.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Because pushing breaks way too much.
Today’s photo credit: Dawn cc

other people's tasks

How to Deal with Haftadoos

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

We resist tasks that we think we have to do. We resist because none of us wants to be told what to do. Yet we somehow feel obligated when others ask. As with anything we resist, wresting with these haftadoos wastes our time and drains our energy.

Of course, we are happiest and feel most productive when we work on our wantadoos. But what about all the things everyone else wants us to do? Can we be successful by only ever doing what we want to do?

Sure! We just need to do some choosing. Doing tasks that others have requested from us is fun, exciting, and rewarding–they become wantadooswhen we have chosen to do them.

Imagine every request from other people landing not on your haftado list but on your coulddo list. Put everything else that you might want to do on that coulddo list, too. When it’s time to select the next thing you’ll do, scan your coulddo list and pick the most compelling thing.

You’ll be surprised to see how many tasks requested by others you will end up choosing to do. And how great you’ll feel doing them.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Trey Ratcliff cc

waves

Productivity Secret: Never Get It All Done

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 1 min.

What does your to do list feel like?

We often feel ourselves pushed (from within and from outside ourselves) to make things happen. And this comes from an underlying belief that we can be done. We look at all that we could, might, should do and think, “Ugh. When I get all this done, then I can relax.” So we tense up and push.

But if we could get it all done, we will always choose (yes, choose) more things to do. So we can never be done.

Do not despair, though. As soon as we understand that we can never be done, that there will always be waves upon waves of new possibilities, opportunities, and tasks, we can let go of the tension and push. We see that it’s silly to maintain them. We can stop diverting our energy into that silliness. And we can ride atop those waves.

Sound paradoxical? Maybe it is. We will still get stuff done, of course. But with so much more ease.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: This also means we can relax now, not after “everything’s done.” See?

 

Today’s photo credit: Storm Surf via photopin cc