Archives for the month of: April, 2009

I’ve been working out for about a year and a half.  When asked “How often?”, I usually respond “2-3 days a week.”  What’s my goal? 3 days a week. How often do I meet that goal? Infrequently. Why? Because I haven’t made this a habit.

Over the years I have started many “new habits” only to realize a week or so later that I’m not consistently doing what I intended to be doing. The failure to maintain the habit is usually surrounded by excuses of scheduling conflicts, being too busy, not at the right place at the right time, don’t have the materials I need, forgetting, and so on. It doesn’t take long for those good intentions to completely dissolve into the past.

So, what’s a good intentioned person to do? Here’s some guidance from a new book I just finished reading – Power of Less by Leo Babauta of zenhabits.net fame. Leo’s book is very accessible and enjoyable to read. For us GTDers it provides another perspective that extends the GTD system into our lives and actually improves upon it with a focus on simplicity.

Forming new habits is difficult, no question. Follow these steps to help make yourself more successful:

  1. Select one habit at a time – work on one new habit per month. This creates Commitment. Leo is very clear in that when working on new habits you should choose to work on only 1 at a time. Also, choose an easy goal to start with. Once you get good at new habit forming you can pick more difficult habits.
  2. Write down your plan – be real specific in what your goal will be each day, when you’ll do it, what event will trigger it (i.e. exercise right before lunch), and who you will report to (see #4)
  3. Post your goal publicly – tell as many people as you feel comfortable about your goal.
  4. Report on your progress daily – let those people to which you reported your goal how you are doing. This creates Accountability and Encouragement.
  5. Celebrate your new habit – after thirty days you will have a new habit. You still need to keep doing what you committed to doing, but it will be part of your daily routine.

Does it work?  Yeah…it does. I used this approach to lose weight. Combined with new eating habits from Weight Watchers I was able to shed over 20lbs\9kg. I wrote down my goal. Wrote down what I ate every day. Reported to a close group (my family) and celebrated each success!

If you’ve been to a GTD class or read the book it is asking you to do a number of new things that may not have been part of your daily\weekly\monthly routine before. A great way to start out is to choose one of those things (i.e. carry around a ubiquitous capture device and write down thoughts as they come up) and use the above technique to make it a new habit. Good luck and let us know how you make out!

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Part of the GTD 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow is “Review” (the others are “Collect”, “Process”, “Organize” and “Do”.)  As described by David Allen in Getting Things Done, “You need to be able to review the whole picture of your life and work at appropriate intervals and appropriate levels… . [Review] is where you take a look at all your outstanding projects and open loops…on a weekly basis.”

The GTD system is about getting things out of your head and written down or stored somewhere. Well, to make use of all that stored info you need to take the time to look at it every now and then.  David Allen suggests a weekly review. At which time you would (at a high level):

  • Collect loose papers and materials
  • Get your “inbox” to zero
  • Empty your head
  • Review action lists
  • Review past and upcoming calendar info
  • Review waiting for lists
  • Review your projects
  • Review trigger lists for personal and professional items (scan through all aspects of your life.)

I’ve found that for me (and the system is about what makes sense for you) a more frequent review is needed.  To help me get there, I’ve created a Daily Review Checklist. I use this at the start of my day to help ground me and focus my efforts for the day. I don’t do a deep dive into each of these, but I scan through to be sure that I am working on the right things.  Here’s my current list:

  • Check Lotus Notes calendar for the day (what meetings, appointments I have for the day.)  This helps me decide if I need to do any preparation for a meeting.
  • Get Lotus Notes “inbox” to zero. Process through all new mail and decide “Actionable or Not”, “Do it, Defer it, Delegate it.” Yeah, I do get my inbox to zero almost every work day.
  • Review Lotus Notes “@Work” folder. This contains my “next action” emails. Many of these were moved from my Inbox.
  • Review Lotus Notes”@Waiting” folder. This contains emails I’ve sent to others in which I’m waiting for a response. If the response is due, I can send a follow up email. If I’ve received the response I remove the email from the folder.
  • Review my “@Work” next action list in my organizer.  If you read about my GTD system you’ll know I’m a paper-based kinda guy.
  • Review my “@Wait4” list in my organizer.
  • Review maRSS reader for interesting blog, wiki, or dotMars posts that I want to add to my “reading”
  • Review Gmail and get inbox to zero (not real good a this one.)
  • Review Google Reader for interesting blog articles to add to my “reading”
  • Review paper-based Work folder for items I’ve placed there that may need action.

Overall, this daily review can take between 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on how many items are out there.  But when I’m done I have good feeling about my work and my day. I feel I understand what the most important things I need to work on today based on the time I have.