Creating the Perfect Time Management System

Over at the Clutter Diet blog, there was recently an article that should resonate with a lot of folks – especially those that are endlessly tinkering with a new time management system.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your time management system in order – but getting the “perfect” time management system can take the place of actually getting work done, which is what it’s all about in the first place.

The best thing to do is find an acceptable system, then use it – no matter what – for several weeks or more. If after that time something needs to be changed, make the change and run with it for several weeks more.

By following this system, you can prevent the system becoming its own time waster, and find the system that actually works for you as well.

New Years Resolutions: Are They Bad?

Recently, I came across some articles about New Years Resolutions and why they are bad. In particular, the most recent (and second!) issue of Productivity Magazine has these articles.

However, I think the articles miss the point. Most of the complaints have to do with the fact that a) New Year’s Resolutions occur once a year; b) New Year’s Resolutions are usually year-long goals; c) New Year’s Resolutions are often unrealistic or “designed to fail”.

These complaints are not valid for the process itself, but how it is carried out. The resolutions – the idea that we should re-evaluate at least yearly – is a valid one.

Better yet is to evaluate our goals once a month perhaps. What do I want to change this month? What will I focus on?

Also make these goals SMART goals. If your goals do not follow these guidelines – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound – then you are destined to fail. Perhaps the first three are the most critical (SAM?) as they define the failings of most New Year’s Resolutions.

Another thing: as a proponent of GTD principles, these goals would then translate into Next Actions – or generally, things to do. Without action, the goal remains static and nothing happens. You must make a change in order to make the goal succeed.

So go make some new goals for the next thirty days and make it happen!

A Productivity Reading List

If you are serious about gaining control over your time and your productivity, there are a number of books you should read. Here is my list of well-worn productivity books for you to consider – most of them seminal classics in their field:

  • How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein. This is a classic tome in productivity, and should be read by all. In particular, adherents of GTD will find parts of the process delineated here 30 years before David Allen brought it all together.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen. This is the modern classic and the definition of GTD. David is very readable, never boring, and always enlightening and delightful. If you want a treat, get the audio version also: hearing David read is also classic and wonderful.
  • The Time Trap by Alec McKenzie. Another time-worn classic on time management.
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. A psychology classic about “getting into the zone” and making it work for you and how it works.
  • The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential by Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan. This is where mind maps where first explained and created. After reading this, you’ll wonder how you ever thought computers could do mind maps – and will find out what mind maps are really all about.
  • Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman. This book is wonderful and describes how optimism in life and outlook is truly a benefit in all ways and all round (well, except one – you have to read it…)
  • The Memory Book by Harry Lorrane and Jerry Lucas. This is a fun, readable, and memorable book. This is quite possibly the oldest book I own (that is, I’ve owned it longer than any other). You will not regret getting this book – and won’t need any other memory book ever.

What’s on your shelf?

What’s Right with GTD: An Answer

Dustin Wax had an article quite some time ago titled The Trouble with GTD. He discusses a lot of points, and I think that they deserve an answer.  I firmly believe in GTD – that is, the techniques expounded in the book Getting Things Done by David Allen – and would like to answer some of his points.  I don’t think that most of them are fair.

For point one, Dustin says: …[GTD] feels like business, and for people whose business is not business – creative professionals, for example – it feels “external” to our real work (and identity).

This is just another example of an old complaint against being organized, which goes something like this: I’m a creative type, and organization stifles creativity.  This is simply untrue.  In fact, a new acolyte is often told (and rightfully so): you must write (or paint – or sculpt) some every day, without fail.  If you schedule your time at the easel or at the writing pad – is this not being organized?

Organization (such as GTD) frees your mind from the daily worries to be more creative, not less.

The second point that Dustin makes is that a solo worker or entrepeneur is somehow different and thus GTD can’t work for them.  One of the chief recommendations given to those who work at home or are self-employed is to separate the home office or work from the home and family.  Without this separation – and the concept of “the office” being separate from the home – productivity goes way down.  GTD helps in either case – it keeps you from forgetting what needs to be done.

The third point is a valid point: GTD does not handle the overall plan, the  life goals – in GTD parlance, the arial view from 50,000 feet.  However, GTD never claims to handle this level, and even suggests that other techniques work for that planning.

Dustin also suggests that the question David Allen poses (“Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?”) is some how wrong.  However, this question goes much further: it was perhaps first posed (as “What is the best use of my time right now?”) by Alan Lakein in his seminal 1973 work, “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.”

I believe in GTD and think that those who keep at it will find that it helps them, no matter how devoted you might be.  The more you implement GTD, the better you will be.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Write it down!

It’s one thing when your missus (system administrator geeks are almost always guys – almost) wants to know what you do all day – what do you say when your boss wants to know what you did all day? You best have a suitable answer!

This is yet another benefit to the GTD maxim: Write it down! But it’s not just from GTD. Researchers will say If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen. Lawyers say A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Details matter.

When you write something down, in the words of David Allen, you get it out of your head. You don’t have to try and remember everything your boss asked you to do: you’ve got it written down.

To follow through with the GTD method, you should write down the Next Action: what is the very next thing you have to do? Set up server smith isn’t good enough. How about: Configure Kickstart server for new server smith. Much better!