Monday, October 26, 2009

Living Life in Beta

I mentioned Michael Hyatt in a recent post. He has some good stuff on his blog that resonates with me. He recently posted the following conversation that he had with a friend:

“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.

Truly wowed, I asked, “So when does it launch?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I still have some changes to make.”

A little suspicious, I asked, “How long have you had it at this level?”

“Months,” she admitted.

“What?!” I exclaimed. “This is way better than what you have now,” I blurted out. “Just launch it!”

Unfortunately, many people get stuck in this kind of no-man’s land. They want it perfect before they share it with the world. The problem is that they are missing scores of opportunities by waiting. Instead, they should get used to the concept of “permanent beta.”

Why is there such a difference in perspective between these two people? I think the answer is simple. 21st century thinking. Hyatt exemplifies a 21st century mentality and perspective that allows imperfection and transparency. The goal is not a polished product. The outcome is the process.

I have worked with many colleagues who struggle to collaborate on documents and work within a Web 2.0 context because they cannot bear to work with others in an imperfect state. They must wait until it is "done" before they show anyone their work. But it's really a lie. Perfection is too illusive. We aim for it and strive for it and yet rarely, if ever, catch it.

21st century thinking changes our perspective and allows us to be launch in beta, knowing we can improve it as we move along the journey. And it also acknowledges that in a rapidly changing world, the day may come to discard it before perfection is ever attained.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Simplifying Life - Part 3

So I've talked a lot about prioritizing in the last few posts. I have also talked about managing life and getting organized. For some people, it is easier than others. If you visit my office, you might question if I'm really living this out. Yes, I am...but we can't make wholesale changes all at once. I've started in my bedroom and spread out to my home. I've also gone to work to work on my computer and making sure I am digitally organized and "de-cluttered". That is still a work in progress. My office will come...but baby steps.

Substantive and sustainable change requires manageable steps
that match reality with theory.

My office is down the list. Just wait and see...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Digital Clutter

I've talked quite a bit about clutter recently and getting organized. What does the desktop of your computer look like? Does it look something like my desk with papers everywhere and stuff just piled up? I've seen many computer desktops that are so cluttered with "junk" that it's a wonder the person can even find an icon to start their internet browser.

When we talk about getting organized, it not just the papers on your desk, picking up your clothes, or putting some toys away. It's your email inbox. It's the attachments you save. It's the new files you are creating and working on. It's your digital life too. Take a few seconds and put stuff away.

Michael Hyatt talks about declaring email bankruptcy. If there is an area that is too out of control, adapt Michael Hyatt's idea and declare bankruptcy. If you file system is too out of control, archive the whole lot into a folder called Archive 2009. Create a new file structure that works. Then save all new files and any old ones you use into the new structure. Leave the junk in the archived files.

Make a plan. Setup an organization structure that works for you. Take some time to manage your digital life before it manages you.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Several people have asked me about Things which I referenced in a recent post. I really like its features. I used to use Checkoff, but like many task lists, the list just got longer and longer. It easily became too big to identify priorities.

In my opinion, setting priorities is where Things really helps me manage life.

Features I really like:
  • Viewing Today tasks with the ability to drag & drop to shift list and set priorities for the day
  • The Someday category which allows me to stick projects in a future to-do list area and knowing that it is not always popping up yet be there to review at any point
  • Tag tasks so they are easily searchable, inclusive of setting priorities
  • Manage multi-step projects by allowing me to prioritize and set dates for certain steps
  • Drag and drop files into specific tasks (doesn't actually store the file but rather a shortcut to it)
  • Scheduling tasks for certain dates and re-prioritizing tasks as needed to prioritize correctly
  • Set custom shortcut keys so I can copy and paste information in quickly and easily
  • Very intuitive interface so little learning curve in utilizing features
  • Logs completed tasks so I can refer back or see what I have been doing with my time
I'm not trying to advocate that everyone go out and buy Things for their task list. It may not work for you. But perhaps the features that I like will help you think about how you are using your task list and what kinds of features you should look for and utilize to help you prioritize and manage life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Simplifying Life - Part 2

Professional growth can come by a variety of paths. I stumbled across a blog entitled Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. I'm not sure where I got it but Time ranked it as one of the best 25 blogs in 2009. Zen Habits has some nice tips for everyday life and productivity. From this blog, I was referred to a relatively new blog that Babauta has started: mnmlist. I particularly like his post titled Clutter is Procrastination.

Read it. Seriously. I think he is right.

Clutter is often a result of my unwillingness to act now. Sometimes waiting and reflecting is a good thing. But more often than not, it postpones action which adds stress to our lives and mounts up into bigger projects than a simple effort to finish tasks.

Whether it is email, dirty clothes, or the kids toys, I'm trying to keep the clutter at bay. Put in the extra 15 seconds or 2 minutes to get the job done.

Leo's mnmlist blog references the fact we fill our lives with a lot of unnecessary things. We buy lots of stuff we don't need and sometimes never use. How much time and energy have we invested into "things" that are not important. So much of this comes back to priorities. I'm no zen guru and don't desire to be, but there is something to be said for simplifying life. Leo says,

It just takes the decision to live with less, and to be content with where you are and what you have and who you are.

Sounds like some advice worth considering...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simplifying Life - Part 1

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

As I embarked on another school year this fall, I reflected on the past and considered how I wanted to go forward. And I wanted to travel a different road. I think my reflections were based on 2 realizations: 1) We fill our time no matter how much or how little we have; 2) We want to and have the opportunity to do more things than time allows. These 2 concepts are coupled together and I have known them, but I have not changed my actions to adjust -- until now.

Priorities are critical. When we have more than we can do, what do we choose to do? If we just let life happen, odds are good we'll work on trivial things but are we working on what is most important? Sure, I get stuff done, but is it the right stuff?

I've made a decision--I am not going to just let life happen. I'm going to do what I can to prioritize. Please note: I did not say control. That's God's job. But I can prioritize what does come my way. Prioritizing starts with knowing what we are doing and what we need to do. And it means some stuff may not get done today. And it may mean some stuff never gets done because it should not be a priority.

So, how am I doing this? First, I am working with a task list. My previous task list was my post-it note on my desk or my email inbox. If life was good, I had 25-30 messages in my inbox in each of my 2 work inboxes so a total of 50-60 messages. When life got hectic, I would double that. That is a pretty poor way to manage tasks yet I have a strong suspicion that I'm not the only one that does this. Anyone need to confess?

Now, I read my emails. I leave them there if they will be responded to later in the day. If they aren't a priority for the day, I copy and paste the relevant part of the email to my task list and schedule it when it fits as a priority. And it may get rescheduled multiple times as I adapt to changing tasks. Responding is important, but it may not be important immediately. Of all the emails I get, a small part is actionable. The actionable part goes on my to-do list. The rest can be saved or deleted. My goal is to get my inbox at 0 messages each night before I go home. The exception is something I plan to respond to first thing the next morning. However, never more than 1 or 2 messages remain. In an effort of full disclosure, I have been doing this for 2+ weeks--so far, so good. All tasks don't come through email but it is just one example of what I am talking about. Using a task list also keeps you focused on the priorities you have set...not new distractions coming into your inbox or across your desk.

Getting organized is just one step I have taken. I use Things to accomplish this. It allows me to schedule tasks and even drag shortcuts of files into my to do list. Whether you use Things or something else, get organized and prioritize.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Web 2.0 Impact

I was recently pointed to a website that features a new show:

I found it interesting and applicable to our IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) students. However, I also found myself reflecting on the sheer number of reality TV shows and their popularity. I have to wonder if it's not a reflection of Web 2.0 impact. Web 2.0 took sharing and transparency to a new level that is felt throughout our society. Whether it is reality TV shows, iTunes courses put online for anyone to participate, or a Harvard course turned into a TV series, transparency and the display of the process (not just the outcome) are infiltrating our lives. Don't get me wrong. I don't think it is a bad thing. It shines a light on many areas but it can bring out some spiders along the way. In many ways Web 2.0 reflects culture but perhaps these technology leaps are also culture shapers. What came first, was it the chicken or the egg?