Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “GTD”

Why the 20 Minute Rule and Ignoring Yourself Increase Productivity

Thinking a lot about the apparent contradiction in the following: Is the best way of being truly mindful, creative and in the ‘here and now’ to be continually running a slot management and priority review system?

I know I’ve read about it many times in David Allen’s (see links in right bar) work, but it’s been difficult to make stick previously. Something’s definitely shifting. Again, I think it’s a left brain/ right brain thing. Let me explain.

My left brain, in Taylor’s words ‘chatters’. It’s continually raising into my awareness my commitments, to do list, undone business etc. It’s function as an awareness system has shortcomings. Dragging my focus onto those things that my other-than-conscious cannot currently sort on it’s own doesn’t help if I can’t consciously act now to sort those commitments or issues. They end up bouncing round my head and weighing heavy on my chest (at low moments)

So what to do? Accept that mindfulness and the ‘here and now moments’ are paid for by lots of little actions. These actions are normally dismissed: ‘I’ve only got 20 minutes, I’ll start thinking about that big project that’s been on my task list for weeks in that big slot I’ve got tomorrow afternoon’

Wrong. Why? Because 1. You’re already thinking about it. Have been since you committed to do the task and put it on a list. You can’t stop (consciously or otherwise) until you’ve started the momentum towards a goal you’re crystal clear about. 2. Why not do 20 minutes now? Pen to paper and start to list everything you can think of that you’ll have to do to achieve your goal. End the slot with a time commitment to just another 20 minutes tomorrow. (in that big slot tomorrow afternoon that will probably suck in loads of distractions, so you’ll only have another 20 minutes anyway)

Repeat the above every day for a week and you’ll have given the project that’s been hanging in your thoughts and on your chest 100 minutes intense focus. Set a deadline and you’ll be near completing it.

Do the above across all the things in your task list. It may cause a balloon of work (and make it seem you have even less time in the here and now) – but it’s a hump you’ll overcome to achieve efficiency.

If you notice, it’s virtually accidental. An afterthought to use a 20 minute slot rather than re-reading the emails that have been squatting in your inbox (which you never get round to because you’d never get anything done in 20 minutes, would you…….)

The point of the above in relation to a contradiction between a system and creativity?

We’re using our logical left brain to accept the shortcomings of it’s chatter, to then accept a system that it doesn’t believe in, to facilitate something at the polar opposite end of logical and analytical.

Seven Simple Rules for Personal Productivity

An interesting shift has again taken place over the last few holiday weeks.

The need for, and value of, the inputs for my self improvement remain fairly suspended. I am still in a consolidation and gestation mode. Simple structures are however re-emerging from my explorations over the previous years. They are moving into position for seemingly one purpose only: to accelerate my productivity and effectiveness.

So, in this absence of striving for improvement and instead just letting things ‘be’, what are the seven simple steps for my own personal effectiveness?

1. Set objectives/ target/ goals. What is your vision of a successful outcome? Obvious (and a bit of a no-brainer considering my focus with Scarlet Monday), but often forgotten or not explicitly articulated. Write it down or say it out loud for maximum effect. Get your left brain to marshall all your other-than-conscious resources.

2. Set some timescales. You need time for 3. and 4. below and then for your first chunk of action towards your goals. Very important, and the place most people set themselves up to fail. Whether you like it or not, there’s a lazy, pleasure seeking, work-shy version of yourself hidden inside you that suddenly appears as soon as you make something/set something too onerous for yourself to do. Don’t scare the lazy you into resistance. Make it a quick first couple of slots. I find myself working best in 30 or 45 minute max. chunks.

3. Brainstorm within your tight timescale all the things you have to do to achieve your target/ goal: Mindmap/ blank sheet of paper/ write a list. Don’t expand or self-correct. Start a flow or dump. Because you’ve programmed your own internal satnav in step 1., the aim of this step is to get the flow going. Your internal resourcefulness will keep working on ideas long after you’ve stopped this step: just make sure you keep something close to hand to take note of these ideas on. Time-bounding this to a 30 minute chunk helpfully stops you getting stale.

4. Lay out a rough plan or sequence of activity. Again, within the timescale you set in 2. above, do a set of rough prioritisations. The main aim of this stage is not to create a sophisticated decision-tree/ sequential programme plan/ chart. It’s to do enough to stop your brain chatter about the other actions you need to take to complete your goal when you’re actually taking an action. It allows you get on with the very next action you undertake in the next step.

5. Start your very next action (VNA). Just start it. I know that all personal productivity advice tends to say this. There’s a reason. You start and something nearly magical happens. Your lazy work-shy fades away. Your normally fairly silent/reticent creative personality comes to the fore and starts to get to work. And continues working until the task is done – even if you’ve reached the end of the time you’ve given the task. Now this may not sound right to you, but believe me. As long as you’ve taken the steps 1-4 above, you’re in a perfect place to make this magic start. If you leap in at this step then you’ll swiftly slide down the slippery non-productive/ procrastination/ resistance route. Why? Because you’re not in the right mindspace/set. You’ve not done all that your logical left brain needs to shut up and allow your right brain to relax into resourceful action. Past this, overall you won’t have been ruthless enough with yourself on the time and step management to stop taking too long in planning and not enough in just doing.

6. Stop at the end of your first action time chunk/ slot. That’s right: stopping is a step in doing more. From my view, avoiding wasting big blocks of time by trying to maintain your energy, focus and passion on one action past 30-45 minutes counteracts any possible inefficiency from picking up, getting up to speed, starting work again and then stopping at the end of the timeslot.

7. Continue the previous VNA/start another VNA in the next time slot suitable.

Repeat 6 and 7 until goal achieved.

With thanks to the simplicity of a set of project action steps in Tracy’s Eat That Frog (see sidebar) for guiding the above.

The Value of Vision and Goal Setting

Optometry by S Nada

Optometry by S Nada

I read something fascinating at the weekend that really made me think. In David Allen’s book ‘Ready for Anything’, he entitles chapter 26 ‘The value of a future goal is the present change it fosters’: ‘It’s value is not about achieving something in time, but rather about how it changes the substance and quality of the decisions you’re making in this moment’…. ‘Imagining a positive outcome forward in time provides a believability of the scenario and matures the consciousness. In spite of ourselves, we begin to act as if it has truth’

Now how powerful is that?: It doesn’t matter what the goal is, or whether it is achieved. What matters is the present change that it catalyses and that this change is of value to you.

This thought was then compunded by further reading of Claxton’s Hare Brain (yes, I know it’s taking me forever to read)

Claxton made a comment about how the unconscious can take a set of inputs and act as if they were true. It will not question in certain circumstances the validity of the inputs unless they are tagged or raised within the conscious as being invalid: ‘the more vividly you can get someone to fantasise, the more likely they are subsequently to misrepresent this experience as a true memory’

To tie the two together therefore for you to see what I’m getting at:

1. We create a fully formed vision of a successful outcome (particularly using NLP techniques)

2. We consider in the first instance that this is a valuable vision or goal

3. We ensure that the vision or goal is as wild or inspiring as we want it to be (but we have to believe it to avoid the conscious stopping movement towards it)

4. We start to act as if it were true and unconsciously do all that we can in the present to take action to deliver

Job done.

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