kitchen timerIn this post I am going to share one of the best insights with you that I ever had from a book. The book is The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now
by Rita Emmett. It is a must read if you are suffering from procrastination. What did I learn?

One of the most important aids in working smarter is an ordinary kitchen timer!

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a task that you had to do? It looked like a mountain that could not be conquered. When  you procrastinate because of dreading a job that you have to do, than you’re not the only one. There are a lot of “dreaders” out there – but there is help.

Dreaders often have no idea how long it takes to do what ever job they are dreading. For instance – are you constantly shuffling though piles of paper on your desk? You don’t know how to start organizing your desk? You probably spent more time shuffling each day than it would take you to sort through the papers once and for all – filing, processing, tossing out or recycling.

If you are a “dreader” there are two steps that you have to take.

  1. Realize that the job probably won’t take the entire weekend of afternoon or however much time you think it will.
  2. Take a kitchen timer, set it for sixty minutes and devote one uninterrupted hour to the project. No coffee breaks, no phone calls, no email etc.

After you have done that one of three things will happen:

  • You’ll finish the job and be amazed at how little time it took.
  • You’ll discover that it is such an enormous project that it will take many more hours to complete, but you have make a small dent in it.
  • You are not finished, but you see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the most likely scenario. Once you’ve gained momentum, you won’t want to stop. You may actually enjoy pushing ahead to complete the project.

Regardless of how much you have accomplished in an hour, you will learn one of the most important lessons in conquering procrastination

What you dread is not spending time and energy on the project, but simply getting started.

 

Tomorrow’s fate, though thou be wise,
Thou canst not tell nor yet surmise;
Pass, therefore, not in vain,
For it will never come again.

-Omar Khayyam


 

Please share your productivity tips by commenting to this post. I love to hear from you 🙂

Visual projectmanagement

For project management Gantt charts and Pert charts belong to the most used visual aids. A Gantt chart shows the taks and the assigned team members on a timeline. This can be very helpful but in real life Gantt charts have to be updated on a daily basis because the actual work that is done differs from the project baseline.

WEB 2.0 technology enables groups to collaborate. This type of collaboration is very useful in projectmanagement. Services like basecamp can provide overview in projects and you can share documents and comments.

For small projects there are interesting new developments. One of them is Trello. Leonardo Da Vinci once said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and that really holds true for Trello. Trello is very simple yet extremely effective (and free :)).
So let’s have a look at Trello by clicking on the Youtube video.

You have to try this for yourself. Like I said – It is FREE 🙂

At home my 14 year old son uses it to keep me informed about his homework assignments and other tasks and chores. Until now nothing worked bu this does. He enjoys it and I know what he is doing and when. It is simple and at the same time more sophisticated than you think.

Another helpful webservice is Cohuman. It is a Mindjet initiative and that’s reassuring because Mindjet has some trackrecord in visualisation software (ie. Mindmanager).

Cohuman.com differs from Trello in the fact Trello resembles your actions and Cohuman.com actively determines the priorities of the tasks in you project(s). Cohuman.com is a webservice that still is quite unique. I have never come acros something like it.

Cohuman is a social online task management service that provides groups of people a more dynamic and effective way to communicate on projects and get work done.  Cohuman creates a social task network that improves the coordination of people and tasks across all projects so everyone is on the same page and knows precisely what they need to do.

While Trello can be used for simple projects and collaboration Cohuman is capable of handling complex projects and tasks. It is very difficult to describe all the features and therefore I advise you to watch the three minute Youtube video and see for yourself. I am very confident that you want to try this out immediatelly!’

So – if you are a project manager of if you work in a project team, you have to check out Trello or Cohuman. These two novel webservices are free and enable you to run your projects effectively with visual dashboards and social media integration.

I am very interested in webservices that you use for task- and project management. Feel free to leave your comment.

Till next time

The power of visual

Hi there

It has been some time since my last post and I am ready to roll again. This post is about visual. About visualisation, visual thinking, visual meetings etc.

I found a very nice mindmap at visual.ly about staying focussed in the age of distraction.

via

Talking about working smarter not harder staying focussed is one of the main things we need to do. And that is DIFFICULT!!

The embedded mindmap is a beautiful guide in staying focussed, Besides the good content it also shows the power of mindmapping. I can’t stress this enough. Take a close look at this mindmap and try to imagine the number of pages who would need to convey this message. Not only the words but also the pictures and the branches contain and convey information. Wow – don’t you agree that  this is really powerful.

Mindmaps are ideal for mapping out plans, setting up as essay structure, structure your thoughts etc. But…. mindmaps are not a panacea. It is a handy tool that everyone should master. But there is more in the world of visual thinking.

INFOGRAPHICS are HOT! – See this google insights graph

At sites like visual.ly you can see thousands of them and you can also upload your own. Try it and let me know how you use infographics. I am very curious.

Till next time.

In my last post I wrote about the importance of lists. Of course there is nothing wrong with good ol’ piece of paper but let’s face it – we are living in the 21st century and most of us use an iphone or some other mobile device to keep our lives organized.

These mobile devices are excellent for keeping track of your lists. There are a lot of good apps for IOS and Android and I’m not going to provide an exhausted list of them but I am going to give you some tips how to choose one.

I am a real  “cloud person” which means that I like to have my data on all devices that I have. If you are a “cloud person” you should choose an app that can synchronize with webservices like toodledo or remember the milk. This way you can manage your lists from either device or from the website itself.

My iPhone 3g broke down two months ago in the sense that I needs to plugged in to work. It still works but it is not a mobile device anymore 🙂

So the lasts two months I use a simple Samsung android phone – and to be honest I like it!

Here are some of the apps that I really like:

MAC apps:

Todo from Appigo
Remember the Milk
Things
and of course the standard built in list app in IOS 5 which automatically synchronizes via iCloud.

 

 

 

Andriod app(s):

Astrid – I only found one good GTD app. Please let me know if you found other apps.
Wunderlist

Webservices:

Toodledo
Remember the milk
Wunderlist

 

 

If you only want a simple free task manager then you should try Wunderlist. It is free and it has a beautiful look and feel. The best news is that is it available on all platforms.

So far my initial thoughts about apps to keep track of your tasks. In the future I will post more in depth kind of reviews on some of these apps.

Please let me know what apps you are using.

Lists, lists, lists

This is a short post about the importance of lists in our life. Maybe you hate lists as much as I do – but there is no alternative. To be listless is an inefficient en unproductive way to live life.

Lists are important because they:

  • help you to remember to do things
  • unclutter your mind
  • help you to take inventory
  • are motivating and provide direction
  • help you set goals
  • help you establish priorities
  • keep you focused
  • are satisfying when you can cross off all your accomplishments
  • help you visualize
  • help organise and clarify your thinking (and can move you from generalities to specifics)
  • ……
ThingsiPhone

Of course you can use your iPhone or other device to make lists. There are excellent taks management apps for IOS and Android. I love Todo from Appigo and Things for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

An excellent alternative for Android users is Astrid.

Last but not least there are a lot of cloud services like Remember the Milk or Toodledo.

My wife doesn’t like all these gadgets but she said that I have become more organised since I use my iPhone  🙂

 

Please feel free to leave your comment. I am very interested why and how you use lists (or not).

 

Breaking outChanging your “bad” habits and adapting new ones is one of the most difficult things to do. Habits are so much a part of us that changing them requires a lot of effort and much more….

Let me try to illustrate this:

Maybe you’re kind of chaotic (like me  ;-)) and you want to change that. You have bought a book about Getting Things Done or about Time Management and you start applying the instructions. The first weeks you are in high spirits – you think that you’ve mastered the problem. BUT – after three months you are back to “normal”, sitting between you piles of papers and clutter asking yourself  WHY DIDN”T IT WORK? And what is worse – now you’re also more frustrated than before because you didn’t succeed.

Does this sound familiar? It does for the majority of people who start with a personal effectiveness program or time management.

Why do we fail? 😥

Of course there is no ONE reason for everyone but the common mistake that we make is right at the START of our endeavor. We just START without being well motivated and without setting well defined SMART goals.

Why is this so important? Our brain likes to be challenged. When we do not set specific goals nothing is going to happen.

How can we motivate ourselves?

Visualisation works best.

  • Visualize the problems that you encounter at the moment
    • Every day your are stressed
    • You have a lot of ad-hoc tasks
    • You have no insight and oversight of your projects
    • Your boss and your colleagues are getting annoyed
    • ……
  • Visualize the benefits that you will have once you have mastered this new habit
    • you are less stressed
    • you can meet your deadlines
    • You are able to plan your todos
    • your have more self esteem
    • Your boss and colleagues will like you
    • …….

How can we set SMART goals?

Your goals have to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. if they are not – you’re fooling yourself!

“I want to have my administration in order” is NOT a smart goal.

“At the end of the month I want to have sorted out all papers and to have a new setup for my administration” is a lot better. You can try to improve this one.

Try to involve someone else. Maybe your spouse or a good friend and asked him or her to help you to succeed in attaining the set SMART goal.

Of course you also need a kind of method. There is a variety of methods. Just pick one and start well motivated and with SMART goals.

 

I wish you the best in attaining your SMART goals and changing bad habits into good ones.

Brain Rules?

Yes – Brain Rules. If you want to understand why certain strategies to change habits work better than others it is vital to know something about our brain and how it works. John Medina has written an excellent book about this topic. It is very readable and contains a lot of vital information.

Medina is a fascinating story teller and he has a nice sense of humor which breathes life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

You will discover how:

  • Every brain is wired differently
  • Exercise improves cognition
  • We are designed to never stop learning and exploring
  • Memories are volatile
  • Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn
  • Vision trumps all of the other senses
  • Stress changes the way we learn

In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.

The book describes 12 brain rules.

Exercise EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.

Evolution SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
wiring WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
attention ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
shortterm SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
longterm LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
sleep SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
stress STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
multisensory SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
vision VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
gender GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
exploration EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

This insight will help you to understand what strategies have the most effect when you are trying to change some of your nasty habits like procrastination.

Next time more about some of the 12 rules… Stay tuned.

 

Cut your meeting time in half

Picture of a stopwatchI am going to share a personal experience with you. This experience changed the way I do things completely.

A few years ago I attended a course in speed reading. The trainer asked this question “What is the fastest way to read this book”. The answers from the group ranged from “read the backside” to “read the table of contents”. You know what the trainer said

The fastest way to read this book is NOT reading it.

So it all starts with setting the right priorities. Today I joined a seminar for entrepeneurs and one of the keynote speakers said that we should be very careful how to spend our limited amount of energy. Meetings really can be a waste of energy and time.

So here is the blueprint to cut the

number of meetings in half (at least)

Step 1:

WHY do we have this meeting? or  – What is the purpose of this meeting?

Sometimes people will say things like

It is very important that the meeting has a specific well defined purpose. In next posts I will write about “brainfriendly meetings”. If there is no purpose your brain will shut off within 15 minutes and start doing other things.  Furthermore – if there is no real purpose you do not have to hold this meeting at all.

Step 2:
Is it really necessary to have this meeting?

Sometimes you get responses like

  • we always meet on mondays
  • to exchange information
  • to keep the project members informed
  • the boss wants us to

These responses can easily be countered. It is more effective to exchange information at the coffee machine or you can make use of adequate ICT solutions to keep you informed about financials, project status etc.

Step 3:
Can we change the interval of the meetings?

Sometimes meetings are on a daily or weekly base. Can your change that interval?

Step 4:
Apply all the steps on all the agendapoints of your meeting.

Applying these four simple rules on your meetings will cut the amout of meetings at least in half. Imagine what you can do with this extra time and energy 🙂

Here are the four rules in a mindmap and here is a downloadable PDF

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