Pixelated Conference – Creativity, Inspiration, Productivity and Success

Via Chris Brogan whose blog post suggestion was via Mitch Joel whose suggestion was via OnClick, here is my suggestion of a “Pixelated Conference.”  The premise is having an online conference of various videos to take advantage of resources at hand.  At least that’s my interpretation.  It’s a way of keeping up with what’s cool, hot and rocking on a few topics – all at NO CHARGE.  So, here are my favorite presentations that impact success, creativity and productivity.  This is who I’d have speak if I had my druthers.  Enjoy!

PIXELATED CONFERENCE – Creativity, Inspiration and Productivity

David Allen – Speaking on GTD

Garr Reynolds on Presentations

Merlin Mann -Inbox Zero

Richard St. John – 8 Secrets of Success

Jonathan Harris – Stories of the Internet

Anand Agarawala on the Bump Desktop

Jeff Han – Touchscreen Technology

 

Thanks to Chris and Mitch for passing this on.  If you have a collection of conferences you’d suggest, post them in the comment section and let’s share.

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Embrace GTD and Gain Momentum

Momentum

The last two weeks for me have been a time for experimentation.  I attempted to put a few changes into my work style, I pulled back on my blogging, on my blog reading and noticeably increased my productivity.  I found different ways of getting things done and I met an old friend – momentum.  

When things go bad, they can go horribly bad and life seems to spin out of control.   Note the key word in the last sentence – seems.  Seems is an interesting word in that phrase, but to use another cliche – nothing is always as it seems.

I am a firm believer that no matter how bad a day may seem or appear, we always have a choice on how we respond to it.  For those of us who wish to be both creative while productive, there is a solution to turning things around from bad to good and I believe it to be momentum.  

Think about the worst day you’ve had and what made it so?  Did you have ANY control over how that day went – any control over how you chose to respond to it?  Were there things you could have done differently to transfer the burdens of the day to another time?  Of course there were!  A meeting with the boss that went south, a burdensome project due in a few days, you name it – we’ve all been there.  So when that day occurs, how do we respond?  Then more than ever you must embrace a philosophy like GTD to get your mind away from a panic mode and into one of a productive mode – determining the next action(s). And when you embrace your overwhelming project by breaking it down to its next action, delegating the work, putting timelines to it all, you soon find that in the mix you have magically shifted your…momentum.  

It’s time for some hard love:  Stop making excuses for why you can’t get things done.  Too much email, too many voicemails, too many meetings, blah, blah, blah.  Do something about it!  Say no.  And don’t be afraid to.  Wait longer between email responses or voicemail responses so you can batch your responses and keep your focus on a task at hand.  But let’s go back to the bad day you’re having.  At the end of it all, try this:  Lay out the project you were given (or projects), determine your next action steps, priorities and where you will pick up or begin the next day.  Is that so hard?  I like to use index cards because as I get something done on my list I can throw that card away and feel accomplishment (momentum).  Put a note on your computer that tomorrow’s email WILL wait until 10 AM or even later.  Email is a facade that takes us off the mark, so be the boss and manage it better.  Then enjoy the feeling you get as you go home – that you’re ready for tomorrow, you’re ready to take on the new challenge you’ve been assigned and how you will accomplish more before 10 AM than you’ve ever done before.  Imagine the feeling of security as you go home knowing that you’ve laid out tomorrow’s project, you know where to begin and how you managed to make a bad day a good day.  You’ve started some momentum.

The following day you keep that momentum rolling.  You get to work (maybe even earlier than normal because you have greater confidence on what you’re going to be doing on your project).  Your mood is improved ten-fold over the previous day.  You grab some coffee, fire up the computer and sit down.  You see your notes, you instantly recall where you left off and what you need to do – and then you get crackin’.  In the blink of an eye you see it’s 10 AM and you realize how much you’ve gotten done.  Sound nice?  You found your groove.  And it’s doable, too, isn’t it?  What’s even better is that since you got so much done, you can then think to carry this forward to tomorrow.  In the meantime you know there are pending emails you should respond to, but you feel better responding to them because you got the big part of your workday out of the way.  As you’re doing your emails you’re feeling confident.  As you’re doing your voicemails you’re feeling confident.  And when you see your boss, you’re feeling confident because you nailed your assignment and you had more fun doing it.  

OK…so that’s a perfect picture of momentum.  Of course that could all be spoiled by a few interruptions, a new assignment that came on top of the one you were given the day before, etc.  Manage it.  Manage the interruptions by turning off the phone or putting a sign on your door – or doing your work off-site if you’re able.  A newer assignment came in – but you can’t do two things at the same time, simply file it until you’re done with the other.  Cut any co-worker interruptions short and tell them you can talk at lunch after you have finished your report.  Manage it.  On your calendar, don’t just use it for meetings – schedule yourself time to get your projects done.

Whenever you read this, try to set yourself up for the next day incorporating all that’s mentioned here.  Manage the interruptions and find your groove.  It’s closer than you think.  And then so is the joy in the work you do. 

Trust your GTD System

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Several blogs note the ongoing battles one can have with your Getting Things Done system.  Half the battle is getting things figured out in the first place and determining the best set up for yourself.  Whether it involves index cards, a labeler, a Moleskine, a great pen to write with, an online GTD app or simply modifying Outlook with a plug-in, there is no mistaking some set up time is required.  And then comes a potential trap – never being satisfied with your plugin or app.

There is Things, iGTD, OmniFocus, etc., etc., etc.  Because of the adoption rate by techies, GTD is an often updated and modified system.  I went through many apps myself, so please learn by my mistakes.  I’m not here to preach what works best for me will work for you – you have to figure that out as I did.

 What I will preach about or rather will prophesy is THAT day you will start letting go.  It’s coming, so if it hasn’t yet, it will.  The system you trust with all of your to do’s, tasks, projects, meetings, etc. – it WILL lose its lustre.  It’s anyone’s guess why this happens, but it does appear to be nearly universal.  My theory is simple – you don’t just chain your ways overnight.  Being in business for over 20 years, is it realistic to expect you’ll change your ways in less than 3-6 months? 

So, when that day comes, try these steps:

Step back.  Take a deep breath – because when you start letting go of your GTD system, that is usually a good sign that you’re sliding back, you are panicking and you are doomed to failure.

Grab your journal or Moleskine.  Trace back to where you started giving up and putting your old plan in front of your new system.  Determine what went wrong.  Was it the sheer number of projects on one day?  Was it a lack of planning that spun out of control?  Check this out:  When you review your Moleskine or journal, did you notice you stopped taking notes?  When you stop getting things out of your head, you can really feel the downward spiral because it takes its toll on the sub-conscious as various items attempt to play with your internal hard drive – and ultimately it will do as before and fail you.  Whatever the reason, take the time to figure out where it went wrong.  AND THEN WRITE THAT DOWN.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  But, hey, we’re human.  Chances are if you let your GTD system down once, you will do it again unless you understand the reasoning and avoid it the second time around.

Weekly Review time is in order.  Is your in-box piled high?  Is your email out of sync?  Are your task lists and projects behind?  Chances are good that you let things go and like a failed diet plan, you grabbed the chocolate cake with a 2-liter of Mt. Dew, metaphorically speaking.  Re-sort that office, clean it up and do a much needed Weekly Review.  The psychology behind getting things back in order will make you fall in love again with your old friend, GTD.  

Plan ahead.  Let’s assume you’ve just completed your Weekly Review on a Friday.  Look at your calendar or tasks for the following week and write down the first 3 items you have to get done on Monday.  Then when you come in on Monday morning, you’ll see these and have that extra reminder to Get Things Done.

Extra bonus tip time.  Taken from the 4-Hour Workweek, I have a quote that is on a vertical note clip on my desk:  “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”  This simple statement is great to refer to as my center.  When my mind reminds me I’m probably not doing something that is on my GTD list or that I’m chasing a few dead ends, I can look at that statement and get re-focused.  Try it.

If anyone has other ideas you used to get back to your GTD system, please let us know.

One of Those Days…

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Today I had one of those days.  Seriously. 

Oh wait!  I bet you think it was a bad one, huh?  Why is it that when we talk about having “one of those days,” it usually goes on to mean it was a day from Hell?  Well, I’m not here to argue, but it was one of those days – one of those days you just don’t have everyday.

Last night I returned from a 2 day business trip across the state.  Sometimes that is like coming back from vacation – lots of emails, lots of phone calls and lots of catch-up.  Like a medical professional who has a practice, that is how I consider myself within the Getting Things Done world.  It’s my practice.  So by practicing GTD for almost a year, I came back from my trip in pretty decent shape.  I processed over a hundred emails within 30 minutes, made some appointments and phone calls got a few things done for the day.  So far, so good.

The local newspaper where I live publishes a weekly business journal.  In today’s edition was an article I had written that covered a few posts I have done on this blog – the majority being on Push-Pull Marketing.  Not only did this serve to help others like others have helped me, but it furthered the organization I work for.  So far, even better.

After lunch Senator John Thune came by the children’s hospital I work for and we met with him for more than an hour about how to help children with autism that we serve.  It also gave me the chance to let him know what a big fan my father is of him, especially when he beat Tom Daschle a few years ago.  And I’m not done yet.

Processing a few emails by the end of the day I came across no less than three emails from various departments all favoring the recent endeavors of my staff.  Not only were those people happy about the creative work we did but they were also favorable about how they were treated.  I’m almost done.

Coming home, I looked at my blog and there was the cherry on top of the sundae.  The number of hits for today tied my best day ever.  Don’t get me wrong – I like doing this blog for my own sake and for returning the favor to others of what I learn from them.  But seeing that the things I write hit a small chord with others in the blogosphere does warm my heart a bit.  

Today was one of being productive, receiving recognition and of being rewarded.  It was a lot like this blog and also like life.  If you put effort into your life, then over time it will come back to you.  As a motivational speaker once told me, “No Deposit, No Return.”  I’m encouraged more than ever to continue and I hope this will encourage others to stay the course in whatever you do.  Make good choices.  Help others.  And one day you will have one of those days too.  Seriously.  

Reflections of a productivity seeker

refletctionsOver the Christmas holidays I took the opportunity to increase my productivity in a way I never expected.  I took a full week off so that my family could travel 5 hours away to see more family and I had all intentions of listening to my iPod on the way down, learning more about ways to increase my productivity.  I was going to take my index cards with me, my Moleskine in hand, and I was planning on dumping my mind of all undone tasks.  I was going to do a lot more reading of Joseph Jaffe’s ‘Join the Conversation.’  I had it all planned out.In the event you haven’t guessed the plot…I did little to none of the above listed tasks.  But I was as productive as anyone could be – just in a different way.  I stepped back.  I allowed myself a break.  I watched people.  I listened.  I breathed.  And I worried less.  I quickly realized that in my world of productivity and social media education that I was letting other things pass me by.  So I took more time than usual with my children, with my wife and less time working.  I “unplugged.”  The Mac was fired up on brief occasions to check personal emails and that was about it.  In the end I learned a basic lesson.  There is a need, a real need for each of us to breathe a little deeper, to step back, to really look at the big picture and to put some priorities in check.  Best of all, I was able to put my GTD system to task and I found that as I listed my top of mind projects on an index card, they matched up on my iGTD list as well.  Allow yourself the time to reflect and the hands of time will smile upon you.  And so will your family. 

GTD Simplified – Lifehacker style

Getting Things DoneAs a “special” treat, it’s not one, but two, that’s right TWO blogs in one day!  Crazy times, life on the edge, kooky stuff today.  Tomorrow it’s overdue book encouragement day, but for now, let’s settle down and get to business. Lifehacker.com‘s author, Gina Trapani, wrote how she has adapted GTD to fit her.  Worth a look.  

Cut the Chit Chat

Today’s guest post is from Mike St. Pierre of The Daily Saint. 

If you could measure how much chit-chat goes into an average workday, would you then keep it up or cut down on it?  When four veteran employees were fired last May due to excessive gossip at work, people were outraged.  At the end of the day, it was a good reminder that productivity does matter.  It appears that the high school girls who ruined your reputation in 10th grade have grown up and not kicked the habit.

If GTD has done anything for the productivity world, it’s enhanced our awareness of the need to stay focused at work, do one thing at a time, and handle interruptions with ease.  Today’s insight is simple: do more at work by talking less to those around you.  I’m not advocating a sort of monasticwork-flow where we light candles and speak for only an hour after lunch.  Rather, it seems to make sense that we talk when we need to rather than as an escape from our work.

I see many people who stay in a conversation just a bit longer than they need to.  It’s a sort of luxury that folks enjoy in order to delay work.  Fascinating but true.

Some suggestions for getting things done today while using fewer words:

  • Keep your door closed for one solid hour while you crank out some work.
  • Go for a walk around the block after lunch instead of chatting by the water cooler.
  • Buy a pair of headphones and use at your discretion.
  • Put a sign on the back of your chair that says, “Please do not interrupt- power hour in process.”