The year may be drawing on, but we still have a chance to make sure that on January 1, 2011 we will look back at the past year and feel that we accomplished at least some of our goals. Here are some ideas to help you achieve this.
1: Create an Idea Locker
Marketing guru Chris Brogan posted recently about how he handles ideas with what he calls an "Idea Locker." I've long had the practice of jotting down any ideas that come up but that I don't have time to implement now. Chris takes the process one step further. Here's how he describes it:
"This isn't something especially tricky. In my case, it's a spreadsheet. In it, I put the rough idea, the steps I think it'd take to execute, the resources it would take to execute, and a rough timeframe for when I want to revisit it.
The result? My head clears of the idea. My thoughts refocus on the things that matter at present. I don't split my attention.
Simple idea, but it saves a lot of effort and a lot of wheel-spinning."
I think this is a great idea for helping to decide which ideas to turn into reality, because it shows not only the concepts but also gives you at least a rough idea of how much time and effort it would take to act on each of them.
ACTION: Create your own idea locker using a spreadsheet or a chart.
2: How to be happy (it's in your control after all, at least in part)
Reporting in the October 2010 issue of New Scientist, Jessica Hamzelou says that research is challenging the idea that we have a happiness "set point"- that is, that regardless of fortune or misfortune we quickly return to a set level of happiness that depends largely on genetics.
The external factors that have been found to affect long-term happiness are:
- How neurotic your partner is. Less is better.
- Altruism and family values (good).
- Strong religious commitment.
- Weight (underweight is bad for both men and women; over is bad for women but doesn't seem to affect men's happiness)
ACTION: It may be too late to do anything about that neurotic partner, but you can find outlets for your altruism and other values, get your weight under control, and make more of a religious (or humanistic) commitment.
3: You can, with Kanban
I encountered a good analogy recently for taking on too much work. It pointed out that although a freeway can take 100% traffic, it stops moving very well when it reaches 65%.
This was on a site about Kanban, which is a simple way of organizing your work. It originated in Japan, with Toyota.
They suggest having a whiteboard with three columns: Backlog (work waiting to be done), Doing (work in progress) and Done.
To make it easier to move things from one column to the next, you can write them on sticky notes rather than directly on the board.
If you want, you can use a different color note for each major project. That way you'll notice more easily if you are giving more or less time than you planned to any particular project.
The first step (which is similar to what happens in David Allen's Get Things Done system) is to write down EVERYTHING you need to do. This will quickly show you that probably you've taken on too much. Do it anyway.
From this group, select about 5 things that you are committed to doing right now. Try to make sure it's a mix of the urgent and the important.
Then begin working. You move tasks through the system from one category to the next. Seeing how much you are already planning to do should help you say "no" more easily to new projects for which you really don't have time. Seeing what needs to be done now allows you to focus on the essentials. Seeing what you've done helps you to stay motivated.
I really like the simplicity of this system and have just changed my whiteboard to accommodate it.
ACTION: Try the Kanban system. You may find it simplifies your life and helps you avoid taking on too much.
4: Are you insane? (I am, sometimes)
On his Logic+Emotion blog, David Armano wrote a post he called "Stop the insanity cycle." Here's what it said:
"The thing about insanity cycles is this. You never realize you're in one until you're dangerously close to losing your sanity. But that's the perfect time to put an end to it.
Insanity cycles aren't as rare as you think. Sometimes they are the repetitions of actions which lead us to destinations we don't want to be in. They could include:
- Trying to fix something that isn't fixable.
- Attempting to go through obstacles vs. going around them.
- Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (a classic).
- Worrying about something that's out of your control.
- Making mistakes and making the same mistakes over again.
- Forgetting your limitations and the limitations of others.
In short, insanity cycles are much less about the insanity and much more about the cycle. Break the cycle and you stop the insanity."
If you think of any major problem that an individual or a government has, probably you'll find evidence of one of these.
ACTION: What is your biggest challenge at the moment, perhaps one in which you feel stuck or at least not progressing the way you'd like to? Does one of the above apply? If so, what response would break the cycle?
5: Are you active...or reactive?
Time management expert Mark McGuinness says all of his biggest success have come from one simple change: instead of starting the day "clearing the decks" by responding to emails and phone calls, he begins the day with creative work on his own top priorities, with the phone and email switched off, and never scheduling meetings in the mornings if possible.
ACTION: Can you make this change? If not fully, can you at least set aside a small period of time first thing every morning to work on a personal project, even if it's only 15 minutes of brainstorming?
6: And a quote to consider:
"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will." - George Bernard Shaw