When Was Your Last Weekly Review?

Life comes at us quickly. As we deal with all the input and projects throughout the week, it is important to dedicate time to regaining a lay of the land. The best way to do so is the Weekly Review.

The Weekly Review is a GTD staple. In fact, David Allen has repeatedly stressed that the review is one of the most important things a knowledge worker can do to stay current and focused. To help practitioners, he had created a guided Weekly Review on his website. The video comes with the following note:

Experience what David Allen calls the “critical success factor” with GTD, by going through a complete GTD Weekly Review. You’ll get a taste of all 11 steps of the process, with helpful advice along the way. Please note that this recording has not been edited to remove the several minutes of silence for you to do each of the 11 parts of the review.

David has repeatedly stressed that the Weekly Review is a “critical success factor” to engrain a GTD practice. What does it involve? The first step is to Get Current:

GET CLEAR
COLLECT LOOSE PAPERS AND MATERIALS
Gather all accumulated business cards, receipts, and miscellaneous paper-based materials into your in-tray.
GET “IN” TO ZERO
Process completely all outstanding paper materials, journal and meeting notes, voicemails, dictation, and emails.
EMPTY YOUR HEAD
Put in writing and process any uncaptured new projects, action items, waiting fors, someday/maybes, etc.

Read the rest of the article to learn about the other two steps.

If you haven’t done a Weekly Review recently, I encourage you to do so at your earliest opportunity. The clarity that comes from a thorough examination of all your open loops and commitments is time well spent. The result will be more items accomplished with less stress. Now who wouldn’t want that?

Thriving in Uncertainty

With all the rapid changes happening around us, it seems like the only certainty is more uncertainty. While some enjoy the chaos, the everchanging landscape makes it hard to set worthwhile goals that can be realistically achieved. Rather than give up, is there a way to cope with uncertainty?

Tiago Forte explores this question in a recent post on this website titled How to Thrive in a World of Uncertainty. It is part of his exploration of the concept of 12 Favorite Problems. In this piece, he shares an important shift to our thinking that makes all the difference.

Goal-setting was once central to our conception of what it means to navigate the future successfully. But goals can no longer serve as guides to an unfolding future that we have so little control over.

But this doesn’t mean that we have to throw up our hands in defeat. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to influence our fate. It just requires us to make a shift from leading with goals to leading with questions

What does he mean by this? In essence, he proposes a way to embrace the uncertainty and use it as a force for creativity and accomplishment.

Questions ask you to start with what you don’t know but would like to discover. They draw in others to pitch in and make their own contributions. They serve as open invitations to collaborative projects, versus the solitary path of individualistic achievement envisioned by goals.

In a world of uncertainty, questions are more powerful than answers. Answers serve you for a season, but a question lasts forever.

Read the posting to learn more about this shift in perspective, including three values proposed by physicist Richard Feynman that can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.

Being Thankful at Thanksgiving

Of all the holidays celebrated in the United States, Thanksgiving may be the most universal. After all, not everyone enjoys the gift giving bonanza at Christmas. If you are not in love Valentine’s Day is painful and many people sleep through New Year’s Eve. Thanksgiving offers everyone a chance to share a meal with friends and loved ones for one quiet day.

As you gather around the table this week, I suggest you take time to share something that you are thankful for from this past year. Think of it as a preventive measure. After all, it is too easily to fall into the negative, whether around politics or personal preferences, and no one enjoys arguments over mashed potatoes and stuffing. Keeping the discussion focused to the items we are thankful for may offer a great boost of joy at the table and beyond. This is because gratitude has many positive benefits.

According to an article on Healthline, written by Bethany Fulton, gratitude offers many scientifically proven benefits. One of them is improved relationships.

Gratitude not only improves your physical and mental well-being; it may also improve your relationships.

Gratitude plays a key role in forming relationships, as well as in strengthening existing ones.

When it comes to romantic relationships, gratitude can help partners feel more satisfied with each other. One 2010 study showed that partners who demonstrated gratitude toward one another reported increased relationship satisfaction and improved happiness the following day.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Additionally, being grateful also increases your optimism.

Being an optimistic person can have plenty of health benefits, including healthy aging, according to a 2019 studyTrusted Source. If you’re not naturally optimistic, gratitude practice can help you cultivate an optimistic outlook, as suggested by a 2018 study.

In an older 2003 study, it took just 10 weeks of regular gratitude practice for participants to feel more optimistic and positive about their present lives and the future.

Learn more benefits by reading the whole article. And to everyone celebrating this week, have a very happy Thanksgiving.

The Key to Mastery Is Not What You Expect

Many coaches instruct their clients that the best way to be good at something is to practice it over and over again. It is thought that narrow repetition of a specific move, skill, or technique will lead to mastery. However, it seems there is a better approach that will generate lasting benefit.

In an article on Scott H, Young’s web site, he points to recent research that supports the idea that variability is even more important than straight repetition. This is due to the idea of contextual interference. Young explains:

Contextual interference occurs when you practice the same skill, but vary the situations in which it is called for.

For instance, you could practice your tennis backhand by being served backhand shots repeatedly. Alternatively, your coach could mix things up: serve you backhand shots interspersed with balls that require a forehand shot.

Or imagine preparing for a calculus exam: you could study all the questions that require the chain rule, then all the questions that use the quotient rule. Instead, you might shuffle these questions together so you can’t be sure which technique is needed.

Young goes on to point out why contextual interference improves mastery. One of the reasons is:

Identifying problems correctly and ensuring the correct technique is associated with the problem. A major difficulty in learning isn’t getting knowledge into your head—but getting it out at the right time. Practice that repeats the same technique in narrow situations may result in skills that aren’t accessible when you need them.

Learn more about the advantages of variability in your training by reading the rest of the article.

12 Grand Challenges

What is the future of Local Government?

This past weekend fifty-one delegates from across the country came together in Omaha to shape that future. The event was the Local Government 2030 National Convening. With a purpose to discern the lessons from the future, the group worked over two days to find ways to break down silos and create the groundwork for change. I was honored to serve as a Super Delegate to help guide the work and keep everyone thinking big and bold.

A starting point for the Convening was provided by the National Academy of Public Administration. As a way to set out the problems facing government and inspire answers, they devised the Twelve Grand Challenges in Public Administration. These challenges are part of an agenda for change. As the Academy states on its website:

As the world moves quickly from the industrial age into the information age, new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased. But the public sector has often been in a reactive mode—struggling to adapt to a rapidly evolving international, economic, social, technological, and cultural environment. Over the next decade, all sectors of society must work together to address the critical issues of protecting and advancing democracy, strengthening social and economic development, ensuring environmental sustainability, and managing technological changes. And governments at all levels must improve their operations so that they can tackle problems in new ways and earn the public’s trust.

Each of the twelve challenges focuses on a specific goal. For example, one of challenges is to “Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service.”

Federal, state, and local governments deliver vitally important services to the American people each and every day. If it is an important need, public agencies at one or more levels of government are likely to have an important role in meeting it.

Learn about all the Twelve Grand Challenges in Public Administration and more about the Local Government 2030 National Convening through the links provided.

The Fear That Should Scare You the Most

It is the day before Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve Eve?) and most people’s thoughts turn to frights! This is the season when we enjoy being scared. Of course, fears stay with us the entire year, but in the spirit of the spooky season, now is an ideal time to consider the fear that scares you the most.

Shola Richards has looked fear in the eye and blogged about it. In a post titled, Never Too Late, he shared the one thing that he fears the most. It is not snakes, vampires, the dark, or taxes, but something much simpler and profound.

I have always found it so strange when people say that they’re fearless. Let me tell you upfront that I’m not one of those people.

Just like most rationally thinking human beings, I have fears (quite a few, to be honest). And without question, this is the fear that scares me the most:

Looking back on my life and realizing that I haven’t lived fully.

How is that his greatest fear? Shola proceeds to tell us exactly why over the next few sentences.

If you are going to be afraid of something, don’t be afraid of what may happen if you decide to fully live your life and chase your dreams.

Instead, be afraid of what will happen if you decide not to fully live your life and allow the ghosts of “what might have been” to haunt you relentlessly for the rest of your days until you finally die with a pitiful whimper.

That’s freaking terrifying to me. It should be for you too.

Through this post, Shola is issuing a challenge. What plan or dream for your life is being left to gather dust on the shelf due to fear of failure or ridicule? Just as on Halloween we face illusionary frights then laugh about it afterwards, why not do the same with the fears around your goals?

Face the fear and see what happens next.

It may not be as scary as you fear.

Five Meeting Rules from Ray Dalio

Bad meetings are inevitable. Good meetings are fortunate. Great meetings are designed.

Meetings are a core component of knowledge work. However, very few people are trained on how to run them effectively. A focused, structured meeting benefits all the participants and moves everyone closer to their goals. Therefore, it is important to understand how to run a successful meeting.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, has thought very deeply about the workplace. In addition to the unique methods that comprise the Bridgewater culture, Dalio has set out specific rules for productive meetings. A recent article in INC magazine focused on five of them. The first is very simple yet often overlooked: clarify the meeting’s purpose.

Dalio says that you should emphasize a meeting’s purpose well before it begins. That way, everyone can walk into the meeting prepared and the group can be intentional with their time. He also adds that “Meetings without someone clearly responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive.”

Another rule of successful meetings is to avoid “topic slip”:

Topic slip, as defined by Dalio, is the “random drifting from topic to topic without achieving completion on any of them.” If you’ve ever left a meeting feeling more confused than when you walked in, topic slip is a likely culprit.

To dive deeper into these two rules and then learn the other three, visit the article on the Inc website.

Public Libraries Fills Early Childhood Infrastructure

As a professional who started my career as a children’s librarian, I have often said that children’s services are the heart and soul of public libraries. The faces of joyful children picking books off the shelves then sitting on a cushion to read them is a beautiful thing. However, this is more than simply a feel-good image. Public libraries are essential for early childhood.

In a recent article on the Bloomberg web site, City Lab reporter Kendra Hurley shares the unique way public libraries serve this unnoticed demographic. In her article called The US Has No Early Childhood Infrastructure. Libraries Are Picking Up the Slack she shares the following:

In the United States — the only rich country without paid parental leave — babies, toddlers and their caretakers are routinely neglected by both policy and city planning. It’s rare to find even a step stool in a public restroom, said Kristy Spreng, a child-care program director and former librarian who co-created a baby play area with a workstation for Ohio’s Loudonville Public Library. “Those basic simple things just get overlooked,” said Spreng. “It’s crazy, because there are always babies. We reproduce. The need isn’t going away.”

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

To fill this gap, children’s librarians are developing new approaches to service.

For librarians, the big takeaway was that literacy starts at birth and the early years set the stage for future learning. “Children become readers on the laps of their grown-ups,” Payne recalled the philosophy of the time. Children’s librarians began regarding themselves as coaches for parents with small kids, and “laptime” story hours where librarians model how to read, sing and play with babies and toddlers cropped up at libraries everywhere.

Learn more about how public libraries are serving very young children by reading the rest of the article.

From Hope to Trust

How confident are you that all your priorities have been captured outside your head?

For most people, their regular practice is to keep their responsibilities and duties saved only in brain cells. Storing these things in our fallible minds makes it hard to be confident about our next actions. Once people discover this problem, they often try to create elaborate systems to remember. However, this may prove just as problematic. GTD founder David Allen explored this problem in a recent blog post:

It’s natural to want to create a system for priority coding (like “A, B, C” or the flagging feature in many apps) to tell you the most important things to do. But it’s a short-term insurance policy that won’t give you the trust you need when the time comes to take action.

If these complex approaches don’t work, is there a better way? David certainly believes so as he adds:

People would often love to be able to give up the non-stop accountability for their intuitive judgment calls about the moment-to-moment allocation of their resources. That’s why the ABC-priority and daily-to-do-list structures have often seemed so attractive as a way to “get a grip.” But reality has a way of requiring us to be more on our toes than that.

So how can we really know for sure what action to take? Prepare for the worst, imagine the best, and shoot down the middle.

Dive deeper into this philosophy by reading the rest of the post.