Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (5/6)

We are coming to the second last part of this chapter. I hope you find it useful so far, as I notice a few comments coming through on my email.

Let me use another analogy.

If you have never driven a sports car and never really had any experience driving one, it does not matter whether you have a license, know which buttons to press and when to change gears, as you would not be good in doing it, and you would not win the Grand Prix either. Make sure you know your goal, the Grand Prix. Find your trusted system for this particular job that needs to get done (e.g. if you never fly on a plane for work, what is the point of an offline reading list), and get going. Practise as you go along so you soon can drive that sports car and win the Grand Prix.

Additionally, do not try every promised productivity tool. Trust me, you will not need them all. Whilst I try a few tools at an early stage, I have a keen interest. Wait until a few people have tried the tools and pending trusted feedback, try to use them yourself. Not only do you save money, you also save time. Actually quite simple.

Time Management is really a buzzword these days. When I started being organised, age 10 or so, and I mentioned that before, I used to write my homework down for the day it was due not the day I got it. This way I could see what I had to do for a certain day rather than doing everything I got on my to-do list that day. This was 25+ years ago. Then prioritise and see the bigger picture.

There are some lists I use like the to-do house list, of things I need to work on around the house. It is great to put things down but….you need to re-visit the list and tick off the things you wanted to do.

Prioritising is difficult. The main thing is that you look what needs to get done by when and then by which priority. We all have 24 hours only in a day and get paid for 8 hours a day. We all go the extra mile but have a life outside work. Some days are better than others and if you are on a roll, why not do an extra hour and finish a project. But if you think you have to work until late at night every night, then there is likely to be something wrong with your productivity.

Important is to make sure your employer is happy with flexible working hours and if you are a manager, you usually work longer hours anyway to make sure you get all your things done. Having mid project stepping stones and progress checks are important. Again this depends on the project but for instance if you work on a proposal for a client across several departments, then work out a critical path and make sure all stakeholders deliver in time for you to put together the final project.

Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part (Tom Petty was singing about that), but have little things to do whilst waiting. Like checking a website, read a short article over a cup of coffee or signing off some bills. If you have an assistant make sure s/he puts all the things you need to sign off on one pile and when it gets time critical or if it takes you 10 or 15 minutes, then you get a nudge. This is more efficient than signing off every bill or payment you get at the time. Again, if you have common sense, these things come natural to you.

If not, hire a coach!

Other things include keeping admin and longer emails you need to think about until late at night as you can work undisturbed. I normally like to do them first thing in the morning as I have a fresh mind and do them before my inbox fills up again. This shows my personal preference again. I know a lot of people working until late at night whilst I try to keep the hours from 7 pm to 5 am to myself. But it is not unheard of that people get emails from me at 3 or 5 am when I am up and my mind is buzzing with some ideas.

I wrote about the 5am start before and really enjoy that routine.

Key is to have this system in place as it puts you ahead of the game. You have a trusted system, you do not let emails get the better of you and you have clear communication guidelines and principles and last but not least a goal to work towards to with a prioritised to-do list.

Sounds to good to be true. It is actually that easy.

From my point of view, put a good few weeks into the system and trial it properly, amend it, fine tune it and once it is set up, use it like a perfectionist. You never look back. You never ever miss an email again.

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (4/6)

Did you find your right tools?

Did you manage to install the apps you needed?

Did you at least try some?

Is there more you need to stay productive? Probably not to be honest. Have a good pdf reader installed, make sure you have a good system of saving files on your computer, so when you have a list of things to read on a plane whilst you are offline, you find them. For work reasons I always had a book or a folder with offline reading material. This could be anything from newsletters to industry reports. Whether you need a reminder to read them on the plane or remember automatically depends on your nature (as discussed before). Cloud Storage is useful for backing up documents you need to have access to anywhere anytime. Whether that is Dropbox, iCloud, Copy or a combination of all, again this depends on your own preference. Google Drive seamlessly integrated with all things Google and makes it easy in that sense. You don’t use Gmail, probably you won’t use Google Drive.

On the other hand if I have a busy flight schedule I never read but use the time to relax with a good glass of wine if it is an evening flight, and some good music, audiobook or podcast. The world is yours and you decide what works best. If you are buzzing and have lots of emails to write, put some heavy metal music on and get through those in your one hour flight and make it as productive as possible. If not, why not use the time to write down your brain drain or relax and make a list of what you want to do with your spouse/partner and children next weekend. YOU decide what is important. But I can tell you when to best do it. As a commuter with 90 minutes door to door I know exactly what you can do on the go with or without internet. It is a question of organisation and efficiency, prioritisation and goal setting.

Downtime is important. To anyone. Vegging in front of the television or playing with the kids, leaving the phone aside. Wow. Being disconnected?

Yes, that is something you should do now and then. The world will not stop with you having 2 hours of downtime. I find it difficult but I am still learning like many others. Disconnecting in this world is more and more important. How important is it to check your Facebook or to be involved in a Twitter discussion versus playing with your kids or helping your neighbour in the garden. It isn’t really. 

I guess one of the important rules in life in general is to not having to worry about being productive every minute of your life. Take breaks and let a few emails go unread. That makes you even more productive to be honest. Not answering every email particularly if you are in an email thread is cool, as you can wait for others to respond before making up your own mind and add your opinion. It is a bit of self discipline but overall a good strategy to get things done quicker and more effective. And this does not collide with the 2 minute rule as you can go through your emails at a later stage, then answer the quick ones and leave the other ones for later.

In regards to general time management and organisation the key is to have a goal. There is no point to start anything if you do not know where you are going and what you want to do. Begin with the end in mind is key for anything you do.

There is a religious quote saying ‘if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there’, and this is true for time management and organisation of your life too. This is really common sense, you can organise whatever you want in life, make the best to-do lists and set up the best reminder system, if you do not know what you doing and why and do not know where you want to go with it, then do not bother. You will not be a better manager or person if you do not know what you want to achieve.

Does that make sense?

Give a team a vision and be clear on what they need to achieve. And be clear on what you want to achieve and show in front of your boss. Use the trickle effect and shine! Make your team shine by showing off their results to your boss and shine yourself. Actually, quite simple.

Yet, did you check with your client or boss what they want to see in the first place?

What vision do they have?

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (3/6)

We finished last week with the question of how it all comes together.

The hardest part, I guess, is to get started. I assume you must read this blog for a reason and one reason might just be that you are generally interested in personal development. Having read a lot of personal development books, articles, newsletters and have had discussions with coaches, trainers and gurus in the field, let me tell you that the underlying theories of all productivity techniques are the same!

No one really invented the wheel new, it is only how you present the idea, in which context and how applicable it is to your lifestyle. It is all about different applications of the same principles.

Sounds basic but if you get the underlying principles and build your own system, you can forget about all the latest guru books. You become the guru. You will be in the driving seat.

I also believe that by having a strong mentor and coach, and this could be your spouse, someone who you can reflect your own opinion on, an industry friend to benchmark your knowledge and understanding, already helps to keep you sane in the first place when going on a personal development journey.

Let’s have a look at some basic ideas which I have used for many years prior to reading it in GTD:

– Have a notebook next to your bed so if you cannot sleep you can write down all the ideas that come to your mind. Today this is my phone.

– Nowadays have a good phone app for either voice recording (also useful when driving) or note taking (Evernote (http://www.evernote.com, also offers Penultimate) and Penultimate are recommended).

– Have a system you trust! What I use to keep it simple are different Notes on my iPhone rather than an application. Those notes have different titles like “to do in the house” or “shop in town” or “general to do” or “Sunday Column” where I keep my notes of what I want to write my blog about etc. You get the picture. The point is that it is a simple, cross device available system that allows for easy to do lists for different topics. Other systems I have used are RTM (Remember the Milk, http://www.rememberthemilk.com) which allows cross device and Outlook synchronisation. So it depends a little on your personal preferences. I personally try to keep my work and my life to do list separate and do not like to clutter my work system with personal stuff and vice versa.

If I find things interesting on the web and cannot read it directly I use a tool called Pocket (http://www.getpocket.com) as I find it easiest to use and read articles at a later stage. It also syncs nicely with Evernote.

My todo list of choice is 2do. I use it as a desktop, tablet and phone version to sync cross device.

I have been testing email clients like Cloudmagic and Mailbox, but seem to settle for the former. It depends on the functionality you are trying to have.

– Evernote really is probably the best system to date to keep all your web snippets, your personal pictures, your archive of the things you find on the web. With the pro version you get Penultimate which is a fantastic tool to replace paper note taking and backing it up digitally. With the new reminder function (2013) and their constant innovation on all sorts of features, it is hard to keep up on all of them. However, if you are looking for a secure, all round system, this is (at time of writing) probably the best out there with many tutorials available on YouTube (and my blog posts end of last year).

– The only problem with any system is to de-clutter it on a regular basis. Whilst a lot of people love the idea of having Gmail as a mail application over hotmail or Outlook (as the leading systems), the danger is that people never clear their inbox, answer to emails and search for emails rather than organising them in folders. The danger is to just dump everything and rely on the search function. Whilst this works to a certain extent, I believe the clearer the system is structured, Evernote or Gmail, the easier it is to find things in a context. On that note, I believe if you have more than 100 emails in your inbox, you do have a productivity problem. No one can work with that many emails in their inbox trying to stay on top of things. I have seen inboxes with 6,000 or more emails and whilst the person suggested she was on top of it I could have given you 10 examples per week of her ignoring my emails.

For mind mapping I enjoy using SimpleMind (http://www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/) as again it syncs flawlessly across my Apple devices. It of course is available for other operating systems also.

You noticed I am relying on Mac, as I believe the operating system is a lot more intuitive and hence makes me more productive. It just works.

So is that helpful for you? Systems vary, tools vary depending on what you do most. The underlying principle is the same. Whilst today was more about tools and ideas how to be more productive, have a read and listen to podcasts, google gurus’ blogs or search for tutorials online…..there are endless resources to sieve through to find your right combination of tools.

The best match is the one that gets you there. Where? You know whether, only you know where you want to go.

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (2/6)

Did you look up Eugene’s book. Did you order it? You might have even read it.

Another very influential book for me was Bob Seelert: Start With The Answers (Seelert, Bob (2009), Start with the answers: and other wisdom for aspiring leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey).

Bob said:

Find your own personal statement, identifying the values, beliefs, and principles you stand for – then live by it.

Nothing summarises personal development any better. Youness. Bob is a natural. You identify your vision, cross reference with your values and beliefs – make sure they are aligned. Live by them. Work towards them. Have a mantra and a mission statement for your life. Live by them every day. You will be successful.

And don’t forget. Success for you might look different to success for someone else. For some it is money, others happiness, others a big family. You define what you want to achieve. You define what is important to you. What is aligned with your inner self. Nothing else really matters.

Bob, in his book, talks, amongst many other things, about rules of turning around a business, being a hands on leader, a doer and not to be a senior guy that sits around in an office. To be successful you need to listen to everyone in the organisation, to your customers and shareholders, lay out a plan and stick to your short list of critical priorities (p.51).

Triggered by one of his chapters on the Myer-Briggs type I was identified back then as 11% emotional, 25% intuitive, 12% feelings and 78% judgemental. Maybe I have to redo the test, I think things might have changed in the last 5 years since reading the book. Trying to do another test online I come up with similar readings but less strong – hey I guess it is a personality test after all. I take personality tests with a pinch of salt but it gives you a great indication of what might be one of your underlying values. As discussed before, try to find out what you really want to do in life.

Bob speaks about a personal and company mantra. A strategic vision needs to be like a mantra, twenty words or less, and communicated to everyone. He states that customer service is key to a successful organisation and that you achieve success by knowing what is wrong underneath the service and changing it. Winning is about knowing where you are going and having the tools and the know how to use them effectively. I guess you also have to have the keys to the kingdom in order to do it. If you do not you can be the greatest manager or visionary, but if the senior guy who holds the key does not want or cannot understand you, you are wasting your time. I suppose that is why a lot of people start their own business to be put in the driving seat.

When managing a team, giving them time to do their own thing, develop creativity and work on personal projects is important. People make mistakes but if they learn from it, it is ok. Google is famous for letting employees work 20% of their time on a pet project. As a leader you need to set expectations for your people to be the best they can be and ensure they have everything they need to make it happen. Give them support, encouragement and principles. Start with the end in mind, give them a vision to where you and the organisation want to go. And similar is true with business relationships. Relationship marketing is about long term value of customer relationships and extended communication between advertising and sales.

So how does all that come together?

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