???? My reading notes for getting things done – Part 6..

A calendar reminder can serve that purpose. Some typical decision areas in this category include Hire fire, merge acquire sell, divest, change job career, potential strategy redirection. The tickler file. One elegant way to manage non actionable items that may need an action in the future is the tickler file.

Essentially, the tickler file is a simple file folder system that allows you to distribute paper and other physical reminders in such a way that whatever you want to see on a particular date in the future automatically shows up that day in your intray. If you have a secretary or assistant, you can entrust at least a part of this task to him or her, assuming that he or she has some working version of this or similar system.

Typical examples would be, hand me this agenda the morning of the day I have the meeting. Give this back to me on Monday to rethink, since it applies to our board meeting on Wednesday. Remind me about the Hong Kong trip two weeks ahead, and we’ll plan the logistics. I use my tickler file to manage travel documents I need at hand on a certain day.

Reminders of birthdays and special events upcoming. I would take up too much visual room on my digital calendar. Printouts of interesting things to explore when I might have more time in a couple of months, etc. Checklists, creative and constructive reminders. Whenever you have to think about anything, either because of some regularity of a refreshed view at the end of every calendar year, I won’t need to, or a specific situation that requires more detail than you can easily recall, before I deliver a seminar, I need to, you should entrust those jobs to your external mind, your management system that holds the details you need to engage with.

At appropriate times, there are an infinite number of possible checklists that allow you to have more relaxed control in various situations across your life and work, things you want to pay attention to. Often, when we are working with people to clear up what is on their minds, what shows up are things like this.

Exercise more regularly, spend more quality time with my kids, do more proactive planning for my division, maintain good morale on my team, ensure we’re in alignment with corporate strategy, keep the client billing process up to date, focus more on my spiritual practices, pay more attention to the individual goals of my staff members, keep myself motivated in my job, keep current conversations and updates going with key people in my company.

What should you do with these fuzzier kinds of internal commitments and areas of attention? First, identify inherent projects in action. For much of this kind of stuff, there is still a project and or an action that needs to be defined. Exercise more regularly really translates for many people into set up regular exercise program, project, and call Sally for suggestion about gyms and personal trainers, real action step.

In such cases, inherent projects and actions still need to be clarified and organized into a personal system. But there are some things that don’t quite fit into that category and often appropriate checklists are needed to address them. Many times you’ll want some sort of checklist to help you maintain a focus until you’re more familiar with what you’re doing.

If your CEO suddenly disappeared, for example, and you instantly had to fill her shoes. You’d need some overview and outlines in front of you for a while to ensure that you had all the mission critical aspects of the job handled. And if you’ve just been hired into a new position, with new responsibilities that are relatively unfamiliar to you, you’ll want a framework of control and structure, if only for the first few months.

As we have instituted a novel organizational structure and operating system in our company, we have been using many critical checklists to support our meeting practices for its implementation, until they become automatic. Get comfortable with checklists, both ad hoc and more permanent. Be ready to create and eliminate them as required.

Make sure you have an easily accessed place to put a new list that’s also attractive and even fun to engage with, in a loose leaf notebook or in a software application that is readily available. Appropriately used, checklists can be a tremendous asset in enhancing personal productivity and relieving mental pressure.

If in fact you have now captured everything that represents an open loop in your life and work, clarify it and process each one of those items in terms of what it means to you and what actions are required, and organize the results into an intact system that holds a current and complete overview, large and small, of all your present and some day projects.

Then you’re ready for the next step of implementation in the art of stress free productivity, the reflection process. Reflecting, keeping it all fresh and functional. Your brain must engage on some consistent basis with all your commitments and activities. You must be assured that you’re doing what you need to be doing, and that it’s okay to be not doing what you’re not doing.

Reviewing your system on a regular basis, reflecting on the contents, and keeping it current and functional are prerequisites for that kind of clarity and stability. If you have a list of calls you must make, for example, the minute that list is not totally current with all the calls you need to make, your brain will not trust the system, and it won’t get relief from its lower level mental tasks.

It will have to take back the job of remembering, processing, and reminding, which, as you should know by now, it doesn’t do very effectively. In order to support appropriate action choices, it must be kept up to date, and it should trigger consistent and appropriate evaluation of your life and work at several horizons.

There are two major issues that need to be handled at this point. What do you look at in all this, and when? What do you need to do, and how often, to ensure that all of it works as a consistent system, freeing you to think and manage at a higher level? What to look at, when. Your personal system and behaviors need to be established in such a way that you can see all the action options you need to see, when you need to see them.

A few seconds a day is usually all you need for review, as long as you’re looking at a sufficient amount of the right things at the right time. People often ask me, how much time do you spend looking at your system? My answer is simply, as much time as I need to feel comfortable about what I’m doing. In actuality, it’s an accumulation of two seconds here, three seconds there.

What most people don’t realize is that my lists are in one sense my office. Look at your calendar first, then your action lists, after you review all your day and time specific commitments and handle whatever you need to about them. Your next most frequent area for review will be the list of all the actions you could possibly do in your current context.

If you’re in your office, for instance, you’ll look at your lists of calls, computer actions, and in office things to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will be doing anything on those lists. You’ll just evaluate them against the flow of other work coming at you to ensure that you make the best choices about what to deal with.

You need to feel confident that you’re not missing anything critical. Updating your system. The real trick to ensuring the trustworthiness of the whole organization system lies in regularly refreshing your thinking and your system from a more elevated perspective. It’s impossible to do, however, if your lists fall too far behind your reality.

You won’t be able to fool yourself about this. If your system is out of date, your brain will be forced to fully engage again at the lower level of remembering. The many years I’ve spent researching and implementing this methodology with countless people have proved to me that the magic key to the sustainability of the process is the weekly review.

The power of the weekly review. If you’re like me and most other people, no matter how good your intentions may be, you’re going to have the world come at you faster than you can keep up. You will invariably take in more opportunities than your system can process on a daily basis. Also sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week.

You’re going to have to learn to say no, faster, and to more things, in order to stay afloat and comfortable. What is the weekly review? Very simply, the weekly review is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again and get oriented for the next couple of weeks. It’s going through the steps of workflow management, capturing, clarifying, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding commitments, intentions, and inclinations until you can honestly say, I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to.

From a practical standpoint, here is the three part drill that can get you there. Get clear, get current, and get creative. Getting clear will ensure that all your collected stuff is processed. Getting current will ensure that all your orienting maps or lists are reviewed and up to date. The creative part happens to some degree automatically.

As you get clear and current, you will naturally be generating ideas and perspectives that will be adding value to your thinking about work and life. Get clear. This is the initial stage of gathering up all the loose ends that have been generated in the course of your busy week. Notes taken in meetings, receipts and business cards you’ve collected, notices from your kids schools, and all the miscellaneous inputs that, in spite of yourself, have accumulated in all the weird little pockets and places in your purse, briefcase, smartphone texts, jacket, and on your dressing room counter.

In addition to what’s shown up in your standard input channels like your email entrée and social media, collect loose papers and materials, get into empty, empty your head put into writing or text, inappropriate categories, any new projects, action items, waiting for us, someday maybes, and so forth that you haven’t yet captured and clarified.

Get current. You need to pull up the rear guard now and eliminate outdated reminders in your system and get your active lists up to date and complete. Here are the steps. Review next actions lists. Mark off completed actions. Review for reminders of further action steps to record. Review previous calendar data.

Review the past two to three weeks of calendar entries in detail for remaining or emergent action items, reference information, and so on, and transfer that data into the active system. Grab every O. That reminds me, with its associated actions, you will likely notice meetings and events that you attended, which trigger thoughts of what to do next about the content.

Be able to archive your past calendar, with nothing left uncaptured. Review upcoming calendar or look at further calendar entries, long and shorter. Capture actions about projects and preparations required for upcoming events. Review waiting for list. Record any next actions. Check off any already received.

Review projects and larger outcome lists. Evaluate the status of projects, goals, and outcomes one by one, ensuring that at least one current kickstart action for each is in your system. Browse through any active and relevant project plans, support materials, and any other work in progress material to trigger new actions, completions, waiting for us, et cetera, review any relevant checklists.

Is there anything else that you haven’t done that you need or want to do given your various engagements, interests, and responsibilities, get creative. To a great extent, that’s actually not something you need to exert a lot of energy to achieve if you have gotten this far in implementing this methodology.

We are naturally creative beings, invested in our existence to live, grow, express, and expand. Review, someday, maybe list check for any projects that may have become more interesting or valuable to activate, and transfer them to projects. Be creative and courageous.

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