Those two things *are* actually related – keeping track of schedules while managing a project is pretty important. While I have managed to keep track of my schedule in planning the project of my upcoming Project Management class, I have still been surprised by the passage of time. The class starts tomorrow!! I’m finalizing content uploads and getting ready to start interacting with folks in the class. It’s not too late to sign up, though, if you want to brush up on one of the Top 7 Most In Demand Tech Skills of 2013 with me in a low-pressure and supportive environment!
Time will also fly by between now and my next real-world workshop – to be held in Maryland – on the use of the Getting Things Done time management theory in libraries on the 19th of February. I’m putting the finishing touches on that workshop too. Fortunately, nothing big (like, say, my 40th birthday on Feb 3rd or an upgrade of the ILS that I help to manage and 40+ libraries rely on that is happening the weekend of the 9th and 10th) will be happening soon… Also, I can’t forget that I’m writing a book on Evaluating Cloud Services for Libraries that will be due to my publisher in April. Between all of those activities – the class, the birthday party at my best friend’s house, the upgrade weekend, the book and the workshop, February will be an interesting month. It’s a good thing it’s so short!!
I’ll be speaking on Tuesday on Project Management for Web Designers and on Thursday on Techie Tips for Solo Web Designers at the National Association of Government Webmasters conference. It’s in Kansas City and is going to be, as always, both a fun and educational time! It’s not too late to register, either – if you are in the area and want to get some excellent education and networking time in, this is the place to be!
A screen shot from the A & E show Hoarders – each and every thing in this picture is a procrastinated decision.
Well. In a month. But it is coming! I’m not a big fan of many reality shows on TV, but watching Hoarders (auto-start music warning, be careful if you are at work and don’t want the TV show’s theme music to start blaring from your computer…) is one of my vices. One of the things that fascinates me is how the professionals on the show deal with the hoarding mindset and how they help people to get past it. It also brings home the GTD concept of decision making. Watching the people at the beginning, when they struggle to decide what to throw away, brings home the importance of that decision-making process.
This is an extreme example, to be sure, but it is a very real thing. While most of us don’t have the mental illness required to ignore decisions until they look like the picture to the left, each of the bits of paper in your inbox and voice mails on your phone and emails in your inbox can be the seed of a Hoarders-level mess.
I don’t profess to be anywhere near perfect in this regard (though watching a couple of episodes of Hoarders does motivate me to clean my house…) but I do try to keep in mind that making a decision is usually far less work than I think it will be and will be beneficial for me, in many different ways.
The Simple Way To Get Work Done – a 3 part system; make a weekly goal list – everything you want to do for the whole week gets listed into this “master” list, then each night make a daily goal list – everything that must get done that day goes into that list, during the day, work on the daily goal list until you are done. That’s pretty much it.
This system wouldn’t work for me, since part of my love for the GTD system is that I write everything down – if I have to try to remember that I want to do something between weekly goal list writing, I’d be a basket case! I do see the value in using the concept as a part of your GTD system, though. The weekly goal list can be done as part of the weekly review and can be just another list that you use in your list-management system in GTD. Same with the daily goal list – which I actually implement now as my “next actions” that are due on a particular day, really. This would give some structure and prioritization to the GTD system that David Allen didn’t put in there and would be a nice way to manage very important tasks. Put them on the list, work until they are done, continue on with the “extra” stuff that always comes up in the course of a work day (or, if you are lucky enough to be evaluated by work done rather than hours spent, go home!).
I’m not sure I’m going to start right up with adding a weekly goal list to my weekly reviews, but it will probably be in the back of my mind as I’m performing that review and may well influence how I decide to “get things done” in the coming weeks! That’s one of the reasons I am so enamored of the GTD system – it’s so easy to mash it up with another system and make them both work for you!
Reading through an excellent post on the importance of capturing information at The Cranking Widgets blog, I was reminded of how regularly I fail at this activity. I carry with me a smartphone with Evernote, Memos and unlimited texting on it, an iPad with all that and more and a moleskine notebook with a pen just about everywhere I go (phone in a pocket, iPad and notebook/pen in my purse). I still can’t manage to write stuff down when I should.
I used to use the Jott service, but it started charging for more and more of the stuff I used (occasionally) and I couldn’t really justify the price of the service for how I used it. It was handy to be able to call up a number and dictate a note that would be in my email when I got back to a computer, though. Now I keep thinking I can use Google Voice for that, but I’ve gotten out of the habit and I never think to do it (maybe I should reprogram my speed dial key that still goes to Jott’s number to my Google Voice number… hmmmm). Even then, though, I didn’t remember to write down everything that needed to be written down.
This post won’t conclude with a “and then, I got a brilliant idea and this is how I’ve solved that problem” statement, unfortunately. I’m still bad at capturing things, but I do think that running across articles and blog posts like the one I mentioned above is of great help – it will remind me, for a while at least, to write stuff down when I hear it/think of it/get told about it and maybe, just maybe, this time will be the one that sticks as a habit.
As many of you might know, I’m a proponent of the GTD time-management, personal productivity system. I’m doing much better than I have in the past at a couple of the areas that have consistently tripped me up – such as the ubiquitous capture part. I found myself the other day searching Amazon for a shower-friendly whiteboard because I keep getting ideas in the shower and have no way to write them down, but that is a topic for another day. Today, I’m going to talk about how I’m improving my Next Actions.
In the GTD world, Next Actions are the *very next thing* that needs to be done to move a particular project along. They can also be singular, one-off tasks that need to be done without regards to a project as well, but either way – it should be a single, atomic-level task that can be completed without any further delay. No more research needs to be done (that is what you were supposed to have “checked off” your next actions list before you put on the task that is the current next action), no decisions need to be made (see above about checking off these tasks) nothing more needs to be done but that next action. My problem has been that I don’t always do the thinking required to distill my projects down into the correct next action.
The other day, I was looking at my next actions list and discovered “write G-Apps article” on it (I’m considering an article about our year’s experience with using Google Apps – if you are interested in reading something like that, send me some motivation, will ya?). This is not a next action. The proper thing would have been to add that as a project, then consider the very next action to make that project a reality – namely, gathering statistics about our use of Google Apps – along with all the other tasks (gathering anecdotal stories about staff use, pulling together cost comparisons, writing up a mind-map “outline” of the article, writing the first draft, second draft, ad nauseum). I can’t just sit down and “write G-Apps article”, because I don’t have the information I need to start. That makes this particular “next action” something that is never going to happen unless I do the thinking and make the changes.
The next action – in this case gathering statistics about our use of Google Apps – is atomic. It can be done without me having to think about anything else that goes before it. I can log into our G-Apps dashboard and start pulling usage stats immediately, then check that action off and put the next “next action” onto my list for when I have time to do it.
This probably excessively long contemplation of next actions in GTD was inspired by Web Worker Daily’s article on Unambiguous To-Dos. In it, Amber Riviere says
The intention for the time slot has not changed, but the outcome has. I know now exactly how to use the time. I’m not contemplating what needs to be done; I already know that part. Instead, I focus on actually getting the work done, and at the end of the day, I can say that I’ve completed real steps that move me a little further in the direction I want to go.
This is the goal that I’m setting for myself with my next actions. Each and every one will need to be atomic – self-contained and un-splittable (please don’t email me with details on quantum physics – I’m making a metaphor here, not stating scientific fact, I know…). Once I can automatically phrase my next actions in verb-subject, atomic form, then I’ll be ready to move on to perfecting another part of my GTD process. Like ordering one of those shower-friendly whiteboards…