My Month in Productivity - March 2013
My month in Productivity for March 2013. Enjoy!
March 6, 2013 - Myth of Multitasking ::http://storify.com/rsidneysmith/prodchat-03-06-2013-myth-of-multitasking
March 13, 2013 - Project Planning (guest-hosted by the self-defined productivist, (http://augustopinaud.com)) ::http://storify.com/rsidneysmith/prodchat-03-13-13-project-planning
March 20, 2013 - Procrastination (guest-hosted by the always-remarkable productivity consultant, Natalie M. Houston (http://nmhouston.com)) :: http://
March 27, 2013 - All About Paper! ::http://storify.com/rsidneysmith/prodchat-03-27-13-all-about-paper
Margaret Winn shared a great account in her article entitled, “Outcome Thinking, Next Actions and Old Family Audio Files” ::http://twominuterule.com/post/45207846607/outcome-thinking-next-actions-and-old-family-audio
I haven’t been as steady with my podcast episodes going out as I would like, but I’ll fix that as of this week. Stay tuned!
Episode 57 — Banish New Year’s Resolutions! ::http://prodpod.net/2013/03/12/prodpod-episode-57-banish-new-years-resolutions/
Episode 58 — Paperless 2013 :: http://prodpod.net/2013/03/14/prodpod-episode-58-paperless-2013/
Episode 59 - Habit (poem) :: http://prodpod.net/2013/03/19/prodpod-episode-59-habit/
Episode 60 — Personal Life Action Negotiation (PLAN), Part One ::http://prodpod.net/2013/03/27/prodpod-episode-60-personal-life-action-negotiation-plan-part-one/
Episode 61 — Personal Life Action Negotiation (PLAN), Part Two ::http://prodpod.net/2013/03/28/prodpod-episode-61-%e2%80%94-personal-life-action-negotiation-plan-part-two/
Productivity Book Group
This is a new virtual reading group for all things productivity and related genres of books. We meet for a live call, and they’re archived so you can listen back if you miss a discussion (and subscribe on iTunes). More details at http://productivitybookgroup.org.
Wow! We have gone through three episodes already of Productivity Book Group and we’re almost completely through Getting Things Done by David Allen. Here are the archives of episodes one through three. Thanks to everyone who has joined the live calls!
March 2, 2013 - Getting Things Done: Part 1: The Art of Getting Things Done: Introduction and Chapters 1-3 ::http://productivitybookgroup.org/2013/03/02/getting-things-done-part-1-the-art-of-getting-things-done-introduction-and-chapters-1-3/
March 17, 2013 - Getting Things Done: Part 2a: Practicing Stress-Free Productivity: Chapters 4-6 ::http://productivitybookgroup.org/2013/03/17/getting-things-done-part-2a-practicing-stress-free-productivity-chapters-4-6/
March 30, 2013 - Getting Things Done: Part 2b: Practicing Stress-Free Productivity: Chapters 7-10 ::http://productivitybookgroup.org/2013/03/31/getting-things-done-part-2b-practicing-stress-free-productivity-chapters-7-10/
Upcoming This Month
Getting Things Done NYC Productivity Group meets on April 18th at 7:30pm (http://meetup.com/gtdnyc) and in addition to our normal, fantastic Meetup agenda, we have a special guest expert, Lilli Weisz (http://lilliweisz.com), presenting, “How to Become a GTD Superstar with Evernote.” If you’re in New York on April 18, please join us!
We have lots of great guests and topics upcoming on #ProdChat:
TODAY, 8PM EDT, will be discussing #email +#GTD + #Outlook using his **Control Your Day* method outlined in his book: http://controlyourday.net.
On April 10, we’ll have guest-hosting for me on the topic of “Productive Parenting.”
On April 17, our fellow Productivity Community member, , joins us to talk about his brand of productivity!
Finally, on April 24, we’ll close out April discussing “Filtering Media” for greater productivity.
Productivity Book Group - our next live call is April 13, 2013, 12:00pm EST, where we’ll be discussing the final part of Getting Things Done by David Allen - Part 3: The Power of Key Principles | Chapters 11-13 / Conclusion - http://goo.gl/FWQBw
Here’s to your productive life!
Outcome Thinking, Next Actions and Old Family Audio Files
As a long-time GTD-er, I usually have clear outcome statements for my projects, and next action items that are truly the next-actions. In this case, I was stuck. I was making no progress at all. None. So I tried to figure out what the problem was. Did I have a next action that wasn’t really a next-action? No. Was the project outcome unclear? No. Then what?
The overarching project was about the family papers and photographs I received after my parents passed away. That project was called: Photos & Other Family Memorabilia Sorted, organized, scanned & distributed to family members. The smaller sub-project I was stuck on was: Finalize the clean-up of cousin Nita’s interviews with Grandmother Harriet. The next-action: Transcribe the audio files.
These audio files were from some 1975 cassette tapes of an afternoon of interviews my cousin Nita had done with my grandmother, Harriet. Harriet was 86 at the time of the recordings, and she lived until 1981, when she was 92. I remember fondly the childhood visits I made to her at the farm in New Mexico, where there were a few horses, a cow, and acres of alfalfa. I don’t know what Nita’s plans were originally for the five cassette tapes, but in 2005 she sent them to my mother, who gave them to me and told me to “do something with them.” I bought a device to transform them into MP3s, and we all got a kick out of listening to them. It had not been a structured interview and the tapes had not been labeled so we were not entirely sure that we had all the tracks in the right order (as each side of a cassette converted into one audio file and the tapes were not numbered).
When my parents died several years ago, I became the executor of their estates as well as the keeper and distributor of all of the family papers, photographs and other memorabilia, including those cassette tapes. As I spent time sorting and scanning family photos—including dozens from the late 1800s and early 1900s of my grandparents—I wanted to have access to the stories that Harriet told in those recordings. I envisioned making a photo-book for myself, my brothers and my cousins, and to include a CD with the raw audio files and transcripts of the audio files. I was hoping to also do an edited summary that put everything into a more straightforward timeline, which would make it easier to follow.
Week after week, I looked at that next-action, and thought “what is keeping me from moving forward on this? I need to transcribe them so that I can use the stories with the photos. I want to make sure I have each of the tracks in the proper sequence. I want to get to know my grandmother better.” So the problem was not with my desired outcome. The problem was not with the next step. The question I neglected to ask was, “Do I have the energy and time to do this next action?” The answer to THAT was a resounding “I do NOT have the energy or time (or skills) to transcribe the recordings.” That was my sticking point. It “looked” like a next-action, but it wasn’t really a next action that I would do.
Once I identified why I was stuck, it wasn’t too hard to make a new project that I could take action on: Research and Decide on a Transcription Service for the audio files. I realized I could drive myself crazy trying to find the “best” transcription service, so I limited my research time to no more than an hour to play with Dragon Naturally Speaking (which doesn’t work for an interview with two voices), and then no more than an hour on the internet doing research to determine two or three candidates for outsourcing the work. I stuck with those time limits fairly well, and contacted the first service I wanted to try. For $1/minute of original recordings, they would send me back a typed transcript. I sent off one MP3 file of about 30 minutes, and waited a week to get the transcription back. For a few hours of research, a few minutes to send in the file and $30, I’d made more progress on that project than I had in months. After I got the transcription, I printed it out and listened to the recording and made a few minor edits to clean up the text file. I was pleased with the quality of the work and the turnaround time, so I sent the rest of the files off to be transcribed.
Now my next action is Print the transcripts and proof against the recordings. I should be done with that in the next week or two, at which point I’ll be very familiar with the material again, and able to write a summary of Harriet’s stories to share with my family. I don’t know if they’ll all want to listen to the original recordings, but I am so grateful that my cousin had the foresight to make them and to send them to my mother after so many years. I feel much more deeply connected to that part of my family now, and I’m grateful that my GTD system kept the next action in front of me, week after week, until I could figure out why I wasn’t making any progress on it.
Do you have any stories of when your “clearly defined next-action” wasn’t really what you needed to do next? How did you solve it?
Margaret Winn has been practicing GTD since December 2005 when the first chapter of the eBook of David Allen’s Getting Things Done was included on the Palm T/X she received for Christmas. She is a CPA and lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and two cats. They are moving soon to Raleigh, NC.
My Month in Productivity
My month in Productivity for February 2013. Enjoy!
On February 6, our topic was “Being Productive During Change.” The discussion was inspired by “Who Moved My Cheese?,” the book by Dr. Spencer Johnson and Dr. Kenneth Blanchard. How do you stay productive during change? It was a great chat, so read it if you’re interested! | http://sfy.co/iEZx
Professor Kenna Griffin (@profkrg) facilitated an awesome conversation on February 20th AND shook things up with 10 questions this week! ;-) Topic: “Productive Communication.” | http://sfy.co/t1tg
At February 27th’s #ProdChat we talked about small/home office (SOHO) organization for greater productivity. | http://sfy.co/hFiM
On March 6, we’ll be meeting over on #ProdChat and discussing the “Multi-Tasking Myth” | http://productivity.podbean.com/productivity-chat-prodchat/
Episode 52 — Overflowing Inbox: Try Some Email Overload Relief | http://goo.gl/D02pr
Episode 53 - “Pull Method” for More Productive Relationships, Part One | http://goo.gl/A3BMl
Episode 54 — “Pull Method” for More Productive Relationships, Part Two | http://goo.gl/xA95G
Episode 55 — The Purpose of Your Productivity System | http://goo.gl/RAJoN
Episode 56 — Software Overview: Remember The Milk | http://goo.gl/U2qWx
Productivity Book Group
Upcoming This Month
Getting Things Done DC Productivity Group meets on March 20th and we have GTDer Bryant giving his member-presentation of his GTD system.
Getting Things Done NYC Productivity Group meets on March 21st and we’ll be seeing GTDer Nick showing of his Omnifocus/GTD system.
Have a productive March, everyone!
My Anecdotal Though Vaguely Scientific Criteria for Reward Systems
I was recently having a discussion at Getting Things Done NYC Productivity Meetup and we were discussing motivation, something I’d like to further discuss in both Meetup groups (DC and NYC). I realize that there’s not much out there regarding reward systems in personal productivity. So, my goal here is to apply related methods currently in societal practice that work (namely gambling and games) and science to lean on regarding rewards to enable motivation.
REWARDS AS MOTIVATION
I won’t delve too much into this topic presently, but my understanding is that motivation is not an emotion and it’s a factor for acting toward an intended outcome (in highly simplified terms). The main premise to understand is there are several ways to motivate (intrinsically (for the love of doing X) and extrinsically (to get Y for doing X)). Extrinsic reward systems, along with a mission/purpose, accountability and the right resources, are definitely keys to personal productivity success. Sometimes we don’t see extrinsic rewards, though they’re there. When you graduate (handing you that piece of parchment paper), get a new job (delivering brand-new business cards with your name on them), or score that coveted 100-point center shot in Skeeball on the boardwalk (producing countless tickets from the machine), there are extrinsic reward systems all around us. Each plays a motivating and demotivating role in our productive lives.
GAMBLERS, DRUG ADDICTS AND KINDERGARTNERS
While we may not think so plainly about it, humans do two core activities in life: to please (joy-based) or to avoid (fear-based). As we learn from science, this has much to do with chemicals that release in our bodies and brains to engage us to act. And, most people who seek to increase motivation are really seeking to decrease instances of procrastination. Therefore, if we can increase the chemical releases that trigger us to act, voilà! We have more opportunities to be productive. This leads me to gamblers, drug addicts and kindergartners; they all are in a state where they have lots of chemicals pushing them to act and we can learn a thing or two about rewards thanks to them. Gamblers get their fix at casinos or even playing the Mega Millions Lottery when they buy their ticket as well as when they learn about the outcomes (and especially when they win). Those addicted to chemical substances, on the other hand, find pleasure when they reach the state of “high,” as well as when they remember back to moments when they were feeling good under the influence. Kindergartners are a hotbed of neurological activity as their young brains are poised to soak in education just for the sake of learning. Did you know that the more gold stars you give a child in Kindergarten the less likely they’ll be intrinsically motivated to engage in that activity going forward? Our DNA (at that age) tells us learning is interesting; in our prepubescent minds learning for the sake of it is the reward and it’s culture (read, nurture) that tells youth otherwise.
GAMES WITH REWARDS ARE NO GAME OF CHANCE
Although, Mancala and Backgammon are frequently disputed over as being the oldest games in the world, my understanding is that Senet (the ancient Egyptian board game) is the eldest of them all. Notwithstanding who is the oldest of all games on Earth, today games are providing us with a plethora of data about human motivation. Pay attention to your motivations when it comes to games and you’ll learn how to get yourself into action. Whether they’re old-fashioned board and card games, social games like Farmville or Mafia Wars, or platform games (from your DS to Wii to XBox), you enjoy gaming because it provides you with a variety of challenges. Ignoring the social approach to motivation for purposes of this discussion, we are all motivated by phases, stages, levels and the points associated with the complexity or difficulty of the challenge and subsequent achievement. If these didn’t exist, games just wouldn’t be fun. I could go further by saying that things don’t become fun until the challenge is presented and associated with an opportunity to conquer the challenge.
TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR
No, I’m not talking about getting paroled. And, I have my theory about time off (for employee sabbaticals and children’s summer breaks) and their effect on productivity, but that’s for another day. However, you must remember that time off from any system while you’re trying to develop it as a habit is no bueno, as a friend of mine often says. Motivation is a seven-day habit, so it doesn’t take nights or weekends off, vacations and certainly doesn’t make excuses for not showing up. American culture has bred into our psyches that non-activity is rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. It’s anything but…! Activity breeds all those things. I’m not talking about sleep here, people. I’m saying that passively sitting in front of the television as a way to “unwind” is not relaxing (it’s mind-deadening for many!), can increase stress levels and is certainly not rewarding. The mind must be engaged to get into the habit of acting (in essence, motivation) and lapses in activity, barring sleep and sickness, is what ruins the learning process of motivation. It teaches you falsely that procrastination and not doing is a means to pleasure when it’s just a means to avoidance.
WHAT’S ALL THIS GOT TO DO WITH ME?
Well, if you’re building a reward system for yourself as another option for motivation, you should try to incorporate as many of these factors into or out of your reward system for optimal success. Using the above as sounding board for guiding principles, here’s my checklist for an efficient and effective reward system.
- It should be easy to understand the rules and the outcomes (since your goal is to be productive, don’t make the management of the reward system more difficult than just doing the tasks needed to complete a goal/project);
- be genuinely interested in the rewards that are in the challenge you’ve set forth, and if you cannot, find or create better rewards;
- make your rewards system support you through a daily habit not just one-off projects;
- have as few rewards as necessary, but no fewer, to make a corollary of Einstein’s witticism. Remember, mission/vision/purpose is the highest motivator and rewards are lower-level triggers to overcome inertia;
- make sure that rewards are tiered and commensurate with the magnitude of the task/project/goal, meaning bigger rewards for higher goals;
- counter to some people’s beliefs, rewards are best when based on activity not on passivity or non-response; therefore, make rewards for doing things not for keeping yourself from doing things (e.g., don’t do this: I get to eat a brownie for not having any brownies this past week.); and,
- there’s an old adage about sowing your seeds in the morning and the evening as you don’t know which seeds will be the successful crops. I think that’s true about your motivation. Reward yourself for work and personal goals; effort is more important than outcomes. Progress is the mission.
I welcome your thoughts on your own reward system. With that, I’ll give you 10 points if you memorize all seven factors on my checklist! ;-) Go!