My productivity notes for 2013

Here is an older secret, but a very good one, from my favorite comedian of all time, Jerry Seinfeld:

What I do, on a weekly basis, is block my calendar with colors for each type of activity. Pale colors are downtime or non-income add, so those need to be optimized or avoided


 “…get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.”


Preparation is as important as Action

“The four stages of the self-discipline process are:

  1. Decision to act
  2. Preparation
  3. Action
  4. Completion/Maintenance

“Most people wrongfully start the self-discipline process at the Action Stage, when in fact they are psychologically at the Decision [or] Preparation Stage.

This is a quote from Self Discipline in 10 Days by Theodore Bryant. I think it ties in nicely with Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Goals worth achieving are intimidating. I find that I have often overcome this intimidation by Action. This is better than remaining paralyzed by fear, but often leads to mediocre results.

Preparation is important. Preparing too long is a sign of fear of Action. Not preparing at all is a sign of a lack of self-confidence, because you fear that if you prepare, you’ll never overcome the fear of Action or that if you truly prepared, you would have to admit personal failure, rather than blame your failure on an “external” factor, like not enough time to prepare.

GTD Basics – Getting Started

“I’m thinking I could use some help getting more organized and efficient.  Going the David Allen route, what would you suggest to get started?”

To begin with, read the article that I wrote for Starvos:

This will be a good start.

The TWO MAIN parts of GTD involve having the right SUPPLIES and a daily SYSTEM

Go get yourself a couple boxes of plain, manila folders.
Or, steal them from the office

I prefer the three tab, because I can see the tabs when they are stacked in the folder rack on my desk

This size works the best for transferring in your brief case.

You will also need a few legal pads. I prefer the squared versions.


For EVERY thing you have in your life: House, Work, Personal, Hobbies…EVERYTHING, place these in one big pile called STUFF
This can be papers, posters, photos, drawings, emails, voice messages, everything that clutters your desk.


Using this flow chart, process the stuff:


Every day, you will have new things pile up in your STUFF.
Process these items (I do this in the morning) as described in the flowchart:



This will allow you to THEN focus on your projects:

Everything in your life (projects) should have a FOLDER.
The FIRST PAGE of that folder should have a list of NEXT ACTIONS for that process

Using this system for ALL projects and tasks (Home, Work, Personal), I have reached MIND LIKE WATER and do not stress out about deadlines.
The biggest advantage of this is I TRUST the system.

Once you understand the basic system, here are a couple books to read:

(I recommend the audio versions)

My GTD Method

A friend on FaceBook asked me recently to describe my GTD methods and how my day-to day activity for project management works.

Using this system for ALL projects and tasks (Home, Work, Personal), I have reached MIND LIKE WATER and do not stress out about deadlines. The biggest advantage of this is I TRUST the system.

I’ve plucked several techniques from Tim Ferris, 43Folders and David Allen and created the following system:

1. Each day is planned a week in advance, each Sunday evening (with a cocktail), on a top-bound, legal sized notebook.

ONLY the tasks I need to complete that day are on that page.

Each day has a repeating ACTION LIST item, to handle anything that comes in as Email ( see #4)

One day per page:

2. All projects are stored in plain folders, one project per folder.

As each project is completed, the folder is moved to the bottom drawer of my desk. This is the DONE file.

Each project folder has a NEXT ACTIONS sheet on top of all other project notes and documents in the folder

3. The NEXT ACTIONS sheet shows the next action for each project, and they are checked off as they are completed.

This allows you to walk away, get interupted, etc, and come right back to where you left off.


I operate under a VERY STRICT Inbox Zero policy.

Rules in both Outlook(work) and Gmail(personal) prevent 90% of my mail from even reaching my Inbox.

System messages, family FW FW FW messages, and messages that do not require action flow into BULK and are flushed once a month.

SPAM is handled by our Barracuda(work) and Gmail black lists(personal).

When a message hits the Inbox (now down to only about a hundred a day), it is immediately filed into THREE folders:

ACTION – I will handle this when I can. Usually, I schedule 2 hours in the morning, or right before bed, to handle this list. Currently, my ACTIONS list takes between 2-3 hours to complete. Each day in my notebook

REFERENCE – Requires NO immediate action and is just reference.

DELETED – Thats it. Just delete it.

Other Tools I Use:
I record all meeting notes with a Sony IC mp3 recorder

All Sketchnotes for meetings and workshops are stored in my Moleskin


Use Social Networks Effectively – Web Worker Daily

Charles Hamilton, via Web Worker Daily

Create pages for your business on LinkedIn, Facebook and Yelp. You may also want to create a Twitter account for your business that is separate from your personal account.

Join groups within the social networks where people you know are likely to hang out. In my opinion, the reason that LinkedIn and Facebook haven’t become unmanageable as they’ve gotten bigger, is that they’ve encouraged the development of small groups where people can talk about shared interests. Increase your credibility and visibility by using your professional expertise to add to these discussions.

Post frequently, but judiciously. Meryl’s comments about Twitter overload applies to the social networks as well. I’ll also add that services allowing one to post simultaneously to multiple networks, such as, are great, but should be used carefully. The networks have different audience demographics, and this should be kept in mind when you’re deciding what and where to post.

Use the networks’ automated tools for finding people you know. The networks can, with your permission, review your address book and see who you know who’s already on their network. They also have a “people you may know” function that recommends possible contacts. LinkedIn’s system has worked well for me; Facebook’s seems to be less accurate. The recommendations presented to you are based on background data (schools attended, former jobs) you provide to the networks, so it’s worth the time to provide complete information in your profiles — assuming you are comfortable with their privacy policies.

Use RSS feeds to follow what the members of your network are doing. The folks who run the social networks want you to visit their web sites, of course, but I find it more convenient to follow the activity of my connections through an RSS reader.

Add your Facebook instant message account to your IM program. Facebook’s instant message system can be added to multi-protocol IM programs. On my Mac, I prefer Adium; the PC users in my company like Pidgin or Digsby.

Use privacy settings to minimize email notifications. For Facebook, the AllFacebook blog has an excellent privacy primer; note, though, that Facebook is in the process of updating its privacy settings. And check out PC World’s discussion of privacy settings for LinkedIn. You’ll want to use these settings to control how and when the social networks email you. I find that since I follow the networks’ RSS feeds, I can turn off most of their emails.

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