How To Stop Living In The Shadow Of Your To-Do List

To_Do_Shadow_PIRAre you tired of being bullied by your To-Do list? I sure was. Looking at all those undone tasks made me cringe and want to dive back under the bed covers.

Here’s The Problem

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Who Else Wants To Be More Creative and Think Better?

Is the creative side of your brain bored by plain old vanilla meeting notes written on lined paper? Or are you a linear thinker who’s trying to inject a little right-brain creativity into your project management? Both scenarios will benefit from mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a graphical technique for visualizing connections between ideas or concepts. Picture a spider web with the main topic in the centre and related thoughts stemming out from that centre point. Here’s a quick example illustrating a mind map for a family vacation.

Sample mind map

Click image to enlarge

I created this mind map in a program called MindMup. It’s open source which means it’s free (your CFO will love that). And it works in the cloud so there’s no software to install or maintain (your CIO will love that).

What’s It Good For?

  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Prioritizing To-Do items
  • Organizing projects and teams
  • Collaboration

How To Get Started

Simply go to http://www.mindmup.com and you can begin working on the program. Press the spacebar or double-click the blue rectangle and enter a few words about your topic. That’s it! The user-friendly menu to the right of the screen provides easy support as you learn the functionality. They say their site is zero friction — and it truly is.

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This is the left side of the screen you’ll see when you first arrive at MindMup.com.

File Storage

MindMup will store your maps as a public file in their own cloud storage, or you can send them directly to your private account in Google Drive, Github or Dropbox. Additional private storage can be purchased directly from MindMup but this is optional.

Enjoy your creative thinking!


I appreciate your visit. Let’s connect!


This Could Be Your Week!

VisionNotEnoughThis could be your best week yet! Don’t believe me? Take out some paper and write down the three things you would have to accomplish by Friday in order for this to be an awesome week. Go ahead. Write them down.

Next to each one of the three items, write down one thing you can do to bring yourself a step closer to completion. Make sure the next step is a single, doable, action item. “Bring empty bottles to the recycling centre” is an action item; “clean out the garage” is not — it’s a project.

Decide exactly when you can do each item and record these tasks in your calendar as if they were formal appointments. Guard those time slots!

As you complete each step, determine what the next, single, doable action is and create a calendar entry for it. By the time Friday rolls around, the least that will happen is you will have made progress on your most important objectives. Quite possibly, you will have completed all three.

Enjoy your week!


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Here’s how to make the week work for you instead of you working for the week.

1 Big Tip to Keep Your Goals and Projects On Track

Have you ever missed a detail on a project or forgotten to do something that would have moved you closer to reaching a critical goal? I have. It feels terrible. Dropping the ball happens when we have too much going on yet we don’t have a reliable system in place to remind us what to do at the proper time.

The other thing that happens to us is we tend to create to-do lists that are made up of projects instead of distinct, doable action items.  The problem with a list like that is you can’t do a project, you can only do a next step.

I can’t take credit for those brilliant thoughts. They come from David Allen’s system called Getting Things Done, or GTD for short. If you haven’t read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy. Mine is dogeared and in danger of losing pages from so much use.

I love GTD but that isn’t my one big tip.

If you decide to adopt GTD, your first job will be to capture all those tasty bits of data swirling about in your brain – you know, the things that you haven’t written down because you’re sure you’ll remember them at the right place and the right time (you won’t) and the sticky notes covering your monitor or falling out of your daily agenda, as well as the folded pieces of paper you shoved in your laptop bag. Many of us use Evernote as our ideal capture-and-hold tool. I wouldn’t know what to do without it. It has to be the world’s best digital filing system. It works on Windows, Mac, iOS – and will sync across all your devices. It’s free to download at http://evernote.com/products/.

Wait… that’s not my one big tip. Not yet.

As  much as I love Evernote, it has one downfall in that it’s not a great tool for capturing to-do items, or even for outlining the steps of a project. I’ve tried lots of systems to augment my tried-and-true Evernote buckets: Astrid, Any.do, Wunderlist, Remember The Milk, Nozbe… and lots more. None were satisfactory. Either they weren’t available on all operating platforms (not a good thing if you expect your system to work on your phone, PC and tablet or iPod), or they didn’t sync reliably, or they required double entry. Evernote did roll out reminders a few weeks ago – but there’s no calendar function attached. Ugggh. I was quite frustrated with all the work arounds I needed. Until this week…

Here it is.

Here’s my one big tipIQTell.

IQTELL integrates all your calendars, works seamlessly with Evernote, is available on all platforms, and will sync multiple email accounts into one powerful dashboard. It has a lovely project planning window that invites you to indicate which of the many required steps is THE NEXT STEP and – at the proper time – it will mercilessly remind you of this impending NEXT STEP until you either mark it done or chuck your smartphone out the window. Exactly what you want when you have umpteen projects on the go and little room for error.

I love IQTELL — and no, I do not work for them and I am not being paid to say that. Here’s the most ridiculous thing to relate — IQTELL is free. Go now and download it.

Next, I’ll write about how to use IQTELL to get your email inbox to zero. Yes, that’s right – zero email messages in your inbox. Look for Email Zen tomorrow.

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iTunes Is For Learners. Wait. What?

We all know iTunes has taken some serious heat about being difficult to use and has even been called bloatware due to it’s expansion from a program that plays media to an e-commerce and marketing platform. All negativity aside, I’m really impressed with the learning opportunities that are now available on iTunes.

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Here are some of the interesting programs I noticed.

  • Harvard University – A complete lecture series on building mobile applications, Public Economics, Statistics 110
  • Writing for Strategic Communication (I can’t wait to download that one!)
  • The Human Brain
  • Lots of language courses

If you enjoy learning how to be more productive, search for Merlin Mann’s podcasts. He’s the creator of 43Folders and is considered one of the gurus of productivity. I like his podcast called “Back to Work”.

All of this is free. You will need to download the iTunes software and create an account. You don’t need an iPod, iPad or anything other than a PC or laptop.

Enjoy!

I Want My Kilter Back

RelaxedI’m on vacation for three days. I selected these days – in the middle of the work week – to get back on kilter. Or get my kilter back. Whatever.

My assignment for the next 72 hours is to do only one thing at a time. You might say I’ve orchestrated my own multitasking intervention.

I knew I needed to reevaluate things when I loaded a second task management app on my phone last week. God forbid I should be unable to capture all the to-do items that swirl through my head while waiting for an elevator or idling through a car wash.  Like millions of others, I’d become so adept at the fractured work style we call multitasking – I forgot about focus.

Focus. Oh, yeah. I think I remember that guy.

So the real trick is not just to DO one thing at a time — it’s to THINK about only one thing at a time. They say that’s the path to effectiveness and performance. For right now, I just want my kilter back.

Teamwork Slays the Goodenuff Monster

The Goodenuff Monster

The Goodenuff Monster

They say a problem named is a problem half solved.  I’ve not only named this one, I’ve given it a face.  Meet the Goodenuff Monster.

Regular readers may recognize portions of this post – It is updated material from something I wrote in 2010.

Who Or What Is The Goodenuff Monster?

The Goodenuff Monster is a faulty thought process that justifies second-rate performance.  Often, he presents himself when we’re trying do things ourselves that would benefit from teamwork.

Although easy to spot he makes himself appear harmless by appealing to our sense of humanity — “Come on, don’t be so hard on yourself.  It’s goodenuff.”

How To Slay The Goodenuff Monster

Unless you are a neurosurgeon it’s not reasonable or feasible to try to do everything perfectly.  This is where the beauty of teams comes to the rescue.  In a high functioning team each person or group owns a specific piece of the puzzle.  This allows members or divisions to focus entirely on their core competencies and responsibilities.

To be effective is to hold ourselves accountable to each other and to speak up when we see an element that is out of sync.  So if a colleague or team member points out something in need of improvement, accept it gratefully and know you’re doing your part to slay the Goodenuff Monster.

Recruiter Workload

Setting appropriate goals for recruiters is a tough task.  Generalist recruiters handle a wide variety of positions which creates productivity peaks and valleys.  Specialists may enjoy a steadier, more predictable workflow in terms of number of hires expected; their challenges come from the differing preferences of the hiring managers they support.  In the agency world, client mix produces measurement complexity due to variations in administrative requirements from client to client.  And then there are the unrecoverable lost hours from cancelled requisitions…  You see the challenge.

Marcus Buckingham, author of “The One Thing You Need To Know”, advocates finding the one metric that is important above all others.  This is a great principle to follow at the organization level, but one that can cause recruiters great angst — unless the “one thing” is universally understood as critically important to both the company and the recruiter. Staffing.org presents an interesting case by telling Jennifer’s story.  It’s worth a read if you have recruiters in your company.