Email frustration

I've been working with electronic messaging (email, etc.) in one form or another for over 30 years. Back in 1992, I (successfully) sold a server-software product that promised to help people deal with the "flood" of 40 emails a day! Much of my executive coaching business has revolved around helping professionals manage their email (many receive up to 400 a day).

I've had a front-row seat to the rise of email along the whole way. For many people, it's grown into a monstrous beast. A couple years ago, McKinsey & Company found that workers spend up to 28% of their day writing and reading emails. Inboxes fill up over lunch breaks. We're all guilty of being to quick to send to others whose email is just as out-of-control as ours.

I think that's at least half of the issue: who's creating the problem. I also think we can definitely find ways to address this together.

Continue Reading "Email is not the problem. Lack of agreement on how to use it is." »

Email late night.jpg

This article points out a very important truth that seems to be slowly gaining recognition in the business world: resting is an important part of producing.

HBR uses the topic of late-night emails to dive into the issue of how we work when our work is always accessible. I remember professionals of my father's generation grumbling that work could reach them at home by phone -- and the issue has grown exponentially since then.

The real problem is not the means of communication, but how a lack of agreement on how to use them and when. As Maura Thomas insightfully points out in this article, after-hours emails (not to mention texts, calls, faxes, Facebook messages, etc.) can easily create a culture where everyone feels they're expected to be connected at all times.

More often than not, this is driven by leaders who feel that they have to do more to keep the company moving forward -- but by doing so in a way that involves their subordinates, they tend to create pressure to keep up.

Here's  a key quote on this mentality:

The (often unconscious) belief that more work equals more success is difficult to overcome, but the truth is that this is neither beneficial nor sustainable.

The bottom line is that being "always on" never leaves you time "off," and that hurts everybody.

Click here for the article from HBR.

Best,

Eric

@EricMack
@eProductivity
FB/eProductivity
LI:EricMack


Image credits:
"Up All Night" by MisterGuy11 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via DeviantArt.


Multitasking NOP.jpg

Multitasking is not working smarter -- just the opposite, in fact.  This a quick, colorful infographic from Visual.ly and Fuze shows how multitasking actually slows you down and even decreases your IQ!

Click here to view.

Here's how I took some of my own advice from one of last week's posts on wrapping up the year.

I started reviewing my own Horizons of Focus, and from there working down to my own goals and projects for the year. This got more and more tangled and complex, until I finally realized that I needed some kind of filter. One set of goals and objectives for my whole life wasn't enough: I had to split everything in my world (and my Horizons of Focus) into different roles.

Each role would have its own complete set of Horizons of Focus: mission, vision, values, purpose, goals, objectives, areas of focus, projects, and actions.

After thinking about it, I realized that in my life I fill the following roles:

Husband
Father
Professional
Educator
Individual

Once I was clear on my roles, I started to define my Horizons of Focus for each of them, using a table like this:

A sample of how I've organized my roles in life according to David Allen's Horizons of Focus model

I experienced great clarity by starting at the top in this way -- having these broad categories made it much easier to sort everything in my world.

Later, though, I realized that "Professional" could (and should) really be broken down further into five smaller roles:
Consultant
Entrepreneur
Author/Speaker
Platform Builder
Manager

This has made it much easier to organize projects, actions, and information related to my work.

I've struggled over the years to define my roles while keeping them manageable. One year, doing this same exercise, I wound up with 35 different roles -- and trying to live by them over the following months nearly drove me insane.

Another year, I decided to keep things super-simple and just stick with Work, Family, and Personal -- but this turned out to be too simplistic, and I often got stuck on where to file things.

This year, however, I think I've finally come up with a good number of roles: small enough to be manageable, but large enough to encompass everything I do.

I thought it was very helpful to map these out in my eProductivity Horizons of Focus documents; then, once I'm done defining each role, I'll work down to my projects and actions for each one, which will be recorded in eProductivity.

If you start with your Horizons of Focus, you'll probably find it much easier to brainstorm everything in your world that needs your attention. Plus, if you want to record Projects and Actions straight from eProductivity Reference, you can turn on the option to include the New Action and New Project buttons in the Reference database.

I hope you can get clarity on your roles this New Year so you can do what you need to get done!

Eric

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Getting perspective

Not just any perspective -- I mean seeing your life at every level, so you can know just what you're doing and why.

In his bestselling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, my friend and collaborator David Allen describes six levels of perspective, which he calls the "Horizons of Focus:"

David Allen's Horizons of Focus, explained briefly - also available in eProductivity, the premier GTD add-on for Lotus Notes

Think about these, write them down, and put them in a place where you'll review them regularly. They may change over time, but they'll help keep you on track.

Most people tend to get stuck on the difference between the Horizons of Focus and Areas of Focus, so I'd like to explain this level a bit more.

A word about Areas of Focus

Here are some examples of this particular level:

Personal

  • Your relationship with your spouse
  • Your kids
  • Volunteering
  • Your hobby

Professional

  • Designing new sales campaigns
  • Special projects for your boss
  • Keeping certifications up-to-date
  • Continuing education

Areas of Focus are essentially the major categories for your projects. Reviewing these regularly, along with the other horizons, will help you make sure that each one is moving forward.

How to set up your Horizons of Focus

You can do this in Word, Evernote, your IBM Lotus Notes Notebook, or even with a pen and paper. All it really takes is some thought and a capture tool to help you organize your thinking.

Think about your ultimate purpose in life. How can you move towards that in the coming year? What projects can you take on to advance your aims?

If you're using eProductivity, the Horizons of Focus tools are already built right in -- plus, eProductivity's Weekly Review Coach makes it easy to easily review your horizons regularly.

To set these up in eProductivity, here's what you'll need:

  • eProductivity Reference -- click here for more info
  • Click here for how to set up the horizons in eProductivity Reference

Want to learn more about planning your horizons?

For more detailed descriptions of the horizons, see this article.

Credits

I first learned the Horizons of Focus from my friend and collaborator, David Allen, author of the bestselling Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. and creator of the GTD methodology. David was personally involved in the testing of eProductivity, an add-on for IBM Lotus Notes that I designed to help people get more done with less stress.

This is the end of my four steps to close out the year. I hope they've made you more confident that you're prepared for 2015. These tips have been based on my experience with GTD over the years, and I look forward to sharing more of what I've learned in the future.

Happy New Year!

Eric

P.S. Share your own insights

What tips, tricks, tools, or habits have you found helpful to review your year? Or is there anything you'd like help with to close out 2014? Either way, I'd like to hear it in the comments!



Part 1: Shred your lists! | Part 2: Review your future conversations | Part 3: Get inspired with your creative ideas

Part 1 | Part 2

Hopefully, you have a list somewhere of things you'd like to do someday. As I mentioned in Part 1, these might be great ideas, but the right time hasn't come along to do them.

The term for things like this is "Someday/Maybe," and this is one of my favorite lists to review for the new year. This is typically where I keep my creative, fun, outrageous ideas -- and the end of 2014 is the perfect time to read through it and see what I may want to do to wrap up this year or kick off the next.

What's a "Someday/Maybe?"

Again, this list is not:

  • A black hole where things go to die (that's what your trash is for)
  • Your procrastinate list
  • For stuff you'll never actually do (also trash)

Someday/Maybe is your list for things you want to do, but can't or shouldn't right now.

You're not committing to do them, only to review them.

For example, my personal Someday/Maybe list includes things like:

  • Build a working laser cutter
  • Add a second business course to my teaching schedule
  • Attend the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York

These are all things that I want to do, actually could do, but won't, can't, or shouldn't do now, for whatever reason.

Again, I'm not committed to do any of these, only to review them regularly for ideas and inspiration.

Your own collection of creative ideas

Hopefully, you have a similar list that you're incubating and reviewing from time to time -- because someday, maybe some of those Someday/Maybe's will become things you can and should do now.

As you kick off the new year, you might discover that it's time to bring some of those projects to life. There are few things more energizing than remembering something you wanted to do and realizing the time is now.

Go back over your Someday/Maybe list and ask yourself:

  • Can I do this now?
  • Should I do this now?
  • Do I still want to do this?

If you can and should do it now, make it a project.

If it seemed like a good idea at some point, but no longer inspired or energizes you, throw it away!

(By the way, if you're using eProductivity, the Someday/Maybe list comes built-in. Just look on the left).

Don't have this list?

If you don't have a Someday/Maybe list, then maybe it's time to make one! As you come across objects or ideas in your world that represent things you'd like to do, but can't or shouldn't right now, add them to your Someday/Maybe list.

(or, if you really want go pedal to the metal, you can do a full-on David Allen-style processing of everything in your world -- see here for the map).

This list can live in Evernote, notes on your phone, a Word document, IBM Lotus Notes To-Do's, eProductivity, Outlook Tasks, or even paper -- ideally, somewhere easy for you to see and review.

Share what you know

Are there any tips, tricks, routines, or habits that you've found helpful to review your year? Or is there anything else you're struggling with to close out 2014? Either way, I'd like to hear it in the comments!

Credits

The concept of "Someday/Maybe" was taught to me by my friend and collaborator, David Allen. David is the author of the bestselling Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and creator of the GTD methodology. David was personally involved in the testing of eProductivity, an add-on for IBM Lotus Notes that I designed to help people get more done with less stress.



Part 1: Shred your lists! | Part 2: Review your future conversations

I'm only into my first day at the KMWORLD conference in Washington DC and I've already met several folks that told me (unsolicited) that they hate Lotus Notes with a passion. They are everywhere. If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I have a field day with this. It is frustrating -- that IBM does not appear to do much to change user perception while Microsoft markets like crazy to convince organizations that SharePoint will solve all of their problems. It's also exhilarating - that I can help show people how their investment in Lotus Software is a good one and that in fact, Lotus Notes is quite capable. The problems are not Notes as much as they are how Notes is frequently deployed, managed, or supported -- or not.

SharePoint isn't the solution either.  (If this blog were about using SharePoint, I could have lead with the title "Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates SharePoint?") Two years ago, at KMWORLD, it seemed that SharePoint could do no wrong; in fact, the answer to every ill, it seemed, was SharePoint. Now that organizations have had some time to work with SharePoint, we see the same issues and hear many of the same complaints about SharePoint that we have heard about Notes. And, of course, we have the cloud vendors telling us that they can fix the problems of SharePoint and Notes. Yeah, right.

Continue Reading "Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?" »

newsletter-dclug-logo.jpgI'll be speaking at two different Washington DC venues next week. If you're in the area, I'd like to meet you! And if you have the chance to drop by one of my sessions, please do.

On Wednesday, November 17, I'll be presenting to the DCLUG (DC Lotus User Group). You can find more details on the DCLUG website. I'll be providing free GTD resources for attendees, plus holding a drawing for free eProductivity software so bring your business card!

NOTE: You must RSVP by Monday morning, Nov 15th, because of IBM's building security requirements. Sorry for the short notice but our IBM hosts just relocated their offices.

newsletter-kmworld-logo.jpgThe next day, Thursday November 18, I'll be moderating/presenting on a panel at KMWorld, the annual conference on knowledge management. I'll be joined on the panel by Art Murray, CEO of Applied Knowledge Sciences, Inc., and Box.net's VP of Business Development, Karen Appleton, and our topic is Future Focused Formulas for Enterprise KM Success.

Both sessions give me the opportunity to share my expertise on knowledge management, in addition to discussing best practices of personal and corporate productivity. I'm looking forward to it.

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How to be ready for every conversation

Monday, November 1st, 2010
cross-eyed-girl-post-it-forehead.jpg Many people are familiar with creating with agendas for formal meetings, but what about informal meetings? What about personal conversations?

Consider this: Ever sat down for an informal meeting and suddenly forgot what you wanted to discuss? Not a lot of fun, not to mention potentially stressful.

Equally frustrating is when you walk away from a conversation and get that nagging feeling that important topics were missed.

You don't have to do this to yourself.

Next time, write down your topics ahead of time. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel and at how much more efficient meetings are when you can march down a list of topics, confident that everything needing discussion is on that list.

It's time to eliminate "I'm glad I remembered that" from your vocabulary. You don't need to remember if it's written down.

Here are pointers I've found about creating and maintaining informal agendas.

Keep a running agenda list for people you regularly interact with

These people are probably coworkers, family, and close friends. You communicate with them all the time and there's usually plenty of things needing discussing.

Continue Reading "How to be ready for every conversation" »

Over at the Inside.eProductivity blog, Ryan Heathers writes about
3 Things I've Learned about being Productive while Telecommuting.

Here's an excerpt:

NewsletterTelecommutingWomanLaptopCouch.jpg

Telecommuter. Remote Worker. Digital Nomad. Road Warrior. These are but a few of the names used to describe people who don't regularly see their co-workers face to face. I'm one of them. Perhaps you are, too.

The names can imply different things. A road warrior is someone who takes frequent business trips while a remote worker is (usually) someone who works from home. Measuring how many people telecommute is difficult.

Regardless, telecommuting comes with it's own set of opportunities and challenges. Let me share some things I've learned.

3 Things I've Learned -

  1. Find the Right Noise vs. Isolation Balance
  2. Communicate Frequently with the Office
  3. Know When to Quit

Continue reading on the Inside.eProductivity blog



GTD & Lotus Notes Webinar for IBMers

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

David Allen's book, "Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity", and his GTD® methodology have revolutionized the way millions of working men and women tackle their work. His system turns achieving control and perspective over your commitments into a daily reality.

Many people know this about GTD. What you may not know is that for the past 17 years, David has used Lotus Notes as his personal organization system.

This month, David and I will be co-presenting two webinars on GTD & Lotus Notes.

Some of the things we'll show:

  • How to go home at the end of the day with an empty inbox
  • How to tackle your work week with the confidence of knowing you’re being as productive as you can possibly be
  • What's in David's productivity toolkit and how he uses Lotus Notes to get things done

Webinar exclusively for IBM employees
On April 8th from 10:00am – 11:30am PST, we’ll be doing a webinar exclusively for IBM employees on applying GTD to Lotus Notes. Many IBMers are fans of GTD already, and this will give more insight into David’s master tips, tricks & strategies. We’ll also look at eProductivity – the only software tool for Lotus Notes that’s earned the distinctive “GTD Enabled” certification.

If you’re an IBM employee, sign up now. Space is limited.

Webinar open to the public
On April 28th from 10:00am - 11:30am PST, David and I will be doing another "Getting Things Done in Lotus Notes" webinar for the general public.

Go here to get more details and sign up now. Space is limited.



The GTD Summit - perhaps more important than ever

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
We no longer live in a make-it-and-move-it society where productivity can be measured by parts produced, raw materials consumed or time spent. For knowledge work, we need a new productivity equation. In my public seminars, I present just such an equation:

VALUE = Knowledge x Methodology x Technology

I've blogged about this formula before, so I won't go into detail here, but I do want to point out two things: First, notice that the value created is the result of not one but three factors: Knowledge, Methodology, and Technology (or tools). Each play an important role in the productivity equation. Second, these factors are multipliers - changing any one of them has the potential to greatly effect the outcome or "value" created.

Unfortunately, many people focus on the tools they use or even what they know while giving little attention to the methodology - the process - they use to get things done.

It's in economic times like this when the improved productivity of organizations and the people within them becomes critical. It's also in these times that our ability to maintain personal focus and control are key to success. I've blogged a lot about my success using the Getting Things Done (GTD)  methodology an important part of my personal productivity tool kit. My friend and long-time client, David Allen, creator of this methodology, has been a pioneer in finding ways to increase our productivity by changing the way we think about the work we do.

Continue Reading "The GTD Summit - perhaps more important than ever" »

Clear the Decks!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
One of the productivity exercises I try to go through at least once each new year is to clear the decks of my productivity workspace. What that means is I remove from my office everything that isn't supplies, reference material, or decoration. I dump it into boxes and move it into the next room. What  you see here is the result of that first step. this is my productivity cockpit, my flight deck for productive work....

Eric's office, ready for productive work Eric's office, ready for productive work

Eric's office, ready for productive workIn these photos, you can see that my desk surrounds me and I have everything I need to work effectively. (I'll blog more about the tools later, for now I simply want to share what the decks looks like when they are clear.)




My InboxThe next step is to bring things back into my office and put them into the appropriate places. Much of the "stuff" that I bring back is in piles - books and reviewing or researching, papers, project files, stacks of mystery read/review items, and piles of scraps of ambiguous stuff. The rule is - and this is important - I cannot bring anything back in without putting it into the proper place. To do this, I throw all of the collected items into my physical in basket to process.

Then, I remove one item from the top* and answer two questions:

1. What's the successful outcome?


2. What's the next action?


With a clear understanding of the outcome for something that I am holding and a clear grasp of the next action I can decide what to do next:
Continue Reading "Clear the Decks!" »

I recently sent out a call for productivity-minded people that want to implement David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in Lotus Notes to join the eProductivity Workgroup Pilot program. eProductivity came out of beta a month ago and now I'm doing the research on enterprise deployments to learn how they are using and benefitting from eProductivity and how I can facilitate deployments. The eProductivity workgroup pilot program is for workgroups of 10-20 people and allows me to personally coach a group of people and learn from them as they start getting things done in Notes. To help them get started, I offered to host private webinars for these pilot sites to assist them in the process of learning to use eProductivity.

This week, I delivered the first of several private webinars, this one for an eProductivity Workgroup Pilot at a large organization on the East Cast.  Most of the people on the call were technically savvy but many were new to the GTD methodology.

Using some slides from last year's eProductivity Conference, I began by presenting a brief overview of my eProductivity Equation and some of the GTD principles and concepts that I have found most helpful. Then, we took a tour of some of the key eProductivity features. Finally, we wrapped up with an extended time of Q&A. We did not cover all of eProductivity but we laid a foundation for future webinars.

After the call, I asked my host if I could share the audio portion of the webinar with other eProductivity users; she graciously agreed...


Continue Reading "I invite you to listen to a private eProductivity webinar" »