The Office Martial Art – GTD!

For many years I was yoga teacher at a local studio in West Palm Beach, FL.  I was drawn to yoga for the exercise and the peace of mind that came from this meditative practice.  Later on, when I discovered GTD and related productivity principles, I saw them as the yoga of office work.  That is, skills and techniques that would provide calm in the face of workplace stress.

David Allen as long used a similar metaphor for GTD in his talks.  He views it as the martial art of work and in a recent blog post, offered ten ways that GTD and karate were similar.

1. There are no beginner’s moves.
You begin in karate learning moves that you will practice as a third-degree black belt. A roundhouse kick or knife-hand block is the same, whether you are just learning it or you are a sensei. Being responsible for your internal commitments, deciding what next physical action is required on something you want to do or change, clarifying your intention and vision—those are true from beginning to end, no matter how mature you are in life or its process. There’s no elementary way to process your inbox to zero.

2. It feels counter-intuitive and unnatural when you start.
Trying to stand and move gracefully in a karate “front stance” feels initially like one of the more unnatural things the body has ever attempted. It’s almost as weird as writing everything down that you commit to do something about, as it occurs to you. Or spending valuable time cleaning up non-critical open loops on the front end. Weird science.”

Read the remaining eight similarities at the Getting Things Done blog.

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Can a Second Brain be Built in a Day?

basbWe all know that Rome was not built in a day, but can a second brain be built in a seven hour workshop?

On Tuesday May 21, Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs came to the Palm Beach County Library System to lead their signature course Building a Second Brain (BASB) for thirty five library staff.  Participants were recruited from across the library system, with many members coming from the Productivity Committee and the User Experience (UX) Committee.  All of them were excited about the benefits an electronic second brain had to offer.  Prior to the workshop, participants had a homework assignment to identify their “12 Favorite Problems” and to start capturing electronic items, such as articles, photos, news clips, etc.,  in Microsoft OneNote.  They also had access to an online version of BASB specially designed for the library staff.

At the start, the BASB workshop laid out the core tenants of the second brain philosophy: Capture, Connect, Create.  The morning was spent with a review of capture and then moved on to PARA which clarified the difference between projects, areas, resources, and archives.  Following lunch, the seminar moved to the theory and practice of Progressive Summarization.  Students then explored the concept of project packets that lead to the “Just In Time” project delivery system.  Finally, Tiago shared his view of the future of knowledge work in relation to personal knowledge management.

Library staff left the workshop energized and excited about the possibilities from mastering personal knowledge management.  So in the end, we learned that building a second brain is not a one time exercise, but an ongoing approach to curate the streams of information that flow around us.

Thank you Tiago and Lauren from all of us at PBCLS!

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Does Technology=Productivity?

DA-SmallWill a new iPhone make you more productive?  Perhaps the latest app can keep you on track to complete projects?  Is a digital calendar more effective than an old fashioned paper one?  With the constant cycle of technology there is always a new tool or software version coming out that promises to improve our efficiency and make life easier.  However, is this promise simply untenable?

In a recent blog post, David Allen addresses the intersection between technology and productivity.  He starts with a nuanced approach to the topic.

“Despite my thirty-five years of consulting, coaching, and training in hundreds of organizations, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. The digital tools we need and like require more intensive labor than they should. It would be great to have a digital dashboard that integrated all apps, allowed you to manipulate information in a single location, and then sent the revised data back to its original location. And all upgrades would happen automatically! Doubtful, in my lifetime.”

Despite this conflicted opening, David goes on to offer some straightforward advice on the topic.  Read the rest of the post on the Getting Things Done web site.

Time or Attention? Which Works?

AdamGrant_2016-headshot_previewWhen I ask students why they decided to attend an Efficient Librarian seminar, a common response is that they wanted to learn more about “time management.”  While it seems logical to believe that you can get more work done through better management of the hours in your day, it may not be that straightforward.  In fact, focusing on time management may actually make you less productive.

In a recent article on the New York Times web site, Professor Adam Grant argues that managing our attention, not time, is a better approach to getting things done.  He writes:

“Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste.

“A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.”

This reminds me of a classic David Allen quote from Getting Things Done:

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Read the rest of Adam Grant’s article on the New York Times web site.

South Central Library System

A big thank you goes out to the South Central Library System in Wisconsin for hosting two Efficient Librarian webinars.  Jean Anderson and her team were great to work with.  We had excellent attendance and the participants asked very thoughtful questions.

SCLS has posted the presentations to their continuing education web site.  If you want to view a recording of the two webinars, both one hour in length, here are the links:

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Thank you again to Jean the SCLS team.  I hope to work with you again in the future.

The Power of Completion

DA-SmallDo you know how many projects lie unfinished in your world?  As we move through life there is a natural force in us that creates new things as they spark our interest.  Unfortunately, I have found this creation often results in lots of projects that quickly lose focus and instead become a source of stress.  It seems that the catch to managing all the stuff we create is finding a way to bring closure to them.

In his latest blog post, David Allen delves into the entwined powers of completing and creating and how their dance affects our lives.

“Seems that we’re here on the planet to learn about and do two things—complete and create. We are responsible for what we have put into motion on all levels, and we must manage the process of what we are putting into motion every moment. 

“Though both aspects are primary, I think a lot of people could use a good bit more emphasis on the complete part. Our cultural personality seems bent on limitless expansion and not necessarily cleaning up after itself.”

Read the rest of the post at the Getting Things Done web site.

 

Do You Know the Purpose?

We all got them.  Sometimes they are fun and other times they are a struggle.  Truth be told, they are a fundamental fact of work life that will never go away.  What are they?  Projects!

I was reminded at the NEFLIN workshop this past week that many people tend to think of a project as something big and complicated.  However, most of our projects are actually very small.  David Allen defines a project as anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By that count we have dozens and dozens of projects underway!  Unfortunately, it is far too easy for projects to stall and grow stagnant.  Is there a way to move them along?

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One approach is to follow the Natural Planning Model from Getting Things Done.  (In the latest edition of the book, it can be found on pages 60-63.)  Every project starts for a reason.  When that reason becomes obscured or forgotten, the energy behind a project can fade.  That is why the first part of the Natural Planning Model is all about purpose.   If you and your team do not clearly understand why the project even exists there will be little energy to see it through.  Another way to think about purpose is to ask the question, “What problem am I trying to solve?”

So what projects are on your plate that have lost focus and energy?  It might be time to take a good long look at the purpose of those projects to see if a little clarity might be the spark to move them forward.