Tuesday, May 10, 2011

007 How To Master Your Life With The Black Belt Project Dojo

Every Sunday is going to be weekly podcast time. This podcast will be available to all members and non members. It will also be available on itunes for download as well. In each episode, I'll try and spend about 20 to 30 minutes talking about some higher level concepts that relate to all the belts that I have identified as areas you want to master. Today, I wanted to talk about how to master your life with the Black Belt Project Dojo. If you have had an interest in this subject and have been around for a while, you've no doubt run across the gurus of the world promising life mastery. Their story usually begins with them down on their luck, deep in debt and future prospects dim. You see them when they have already achieved success. What's missing? The journey in between.

To me, this is where the real heart of life mastery is. It's not walking on hot coals or jumping off of a telephone pole or god forbid frying yourself in a sauna. That isn't to say that what they have to say is worthless. Something can be gleaned from everyone's story. But wouldn't you like to see what really happened every step of the way BEFORE they were successful? I know that I would. Seeing that process take shape would be extremely valuable - at least to me.

The problem is that life mastery is different for everyone. And the reason this is a problem is because books need to be put together with the masses in mind. Books that apply to everyone. But, when that's the case, it waters down the story and you and I get shortchanged in the process. The process is repeated with the next appointed guru and the same material is rehashed again and we are shortchanged yet again. I'm personally tired of the generic self help books that just cheer lead you on. Those books won't help you master life.

And this is why I created the Black Belt Project - to fill in the gaps between failure and success with specifics.

To reach this lofty goal, I have developed the idea of the online training center - or dojo - to help facilitate this process. This is the membership area that you can register for. Inside you'll find a beta version of the dojo. It's a floorplan of what I think it might look like in the future. Right now, it's a sketch. You'll have to bear with me while I build it and expect that it will be revised as my vision and process come together to develop the best way to help each and every member have what they need to succeed.

I hope that you enjoy this week's podcast. Let me know how I can help you.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Daily Review 4: How To Get Through Your GTD Daily Review Checklist Everyday

In today's member's only podcast at the bottom of this post, I wanted to talk about how to get through your GTD daily review checklist everyday. I'm guessing that for many of you, you haven't started compiling your list of inboxes yet. Nor have you started to work through the steps you need to do to get each inbox empty AND record them on paper. If you haven't, I suggest that you start doing it today to get it off your mind. Getting everything out of your head means everything, even the mundane and routine steps you take on a daily basis. As you go through your processing, have a pad of paper next to you to start writing these steps down. Don't worry about perfection at this point. Just get started. Fine tuning will come along shortly. Reorder the lists and add or subtract steps as needed.

Once you have developed a working daily review checklist, the first thing that I suggest is that you print it out and have it where you can see it. That's the thing about these checklists. They are easy to hide. Do whatever you have to do to keep it in front of you. One day down the road, this checklist will form the basis of our master checklist. I want you to picture an NFL football coach on the sidelines carrying that big white laminated piece of paper that tells the coach what to do in any given game situation. When it's 3rd and 2, they have already thought about what they want to do prior to the situation occurring. They do this so they don't have to keep it in their head and also so they don't have to think about what the best decision is in the heat of the moment. They have already decided what to do. This should be your goal. A master checklist that manages your life the same way is required of a black belt gtd'er. So the first step after you have created your list is to HAVE IT IN FRONT OF YOU. I also suggest a hard copy so you can take notes on how to improve your checklist.

Once you manage to get that far, your next challenge is to get through it. It's here where I know a lot of people can get hung up. That's why you've got to structure your list from easiest to hardest and with your physical inbox LAST. I recommend this because if you are a kind of person that has a tough time getting things moving, ticking off some easy stuff creates momentum to get through the tougher stuff. Each day, get as far as you can on your list. Then, since you know you are strong enough to get that far, make sure that you get at least that far through your checklist the next day PLUS get a little farther.

There are two other things that I think impact your ability to get through your list. If you are just starting your collection process, you'll most likely have a huge backlog of stuff sitting in your inboxes. This can be overwhelming. What I would say you should do if you are just starting out with your GTD system, is set all that "stuff" in a secondary inbox. I use to carry a bigger inbox around with me of stuff that needed to get done but that wasn't urgent and work on reducing it slowly. Each week during my weekly review, I spend that time cleaning taking some of that stuff out of my secondary inbox and throw some of it in my main inbox and process it through the system. I also made a commitment that anything new that came in was processed right away so that my backlog didn't grow. This secondary inbox allows you to start with what I call a "clean" system. It's much easier to start from zero.

The other thing that's important is that you have to have your buckets set up. You have to have your lists in place, your calendar, your waiting for. This is crucial. Part of the reason I always had stacks of papers is because I never had a place to put them. Having these buckets in place, makes paper flow out of your inbox much easier.

That's about it for today regarding your GTD daily review checklist. In upcoming lessons, I'll talk more about getting through it daily and how to fine tune it. I also start talking more about the buckets. In the members podcast at the end of this post, I'm also going to talk about setting the membership part of this site up as a living gtd project as well.

If you aren't a member you won't see the podcast below. To join, click the link at the top of the page.

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[S3AUDIO file='audio/drpodcast4.mp3']

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Daily Review 3: How To Start Making Your GTD Daily Review Checklist

OK. Another daily review article and podcast. Today I wanted to talk about how to start making your GTD daily review checklist. If you have been following along and have made your inbox checklist, it's now time to start recording the steps you take to get each of those inboxes to empty and begin putting them into a list of steps you will take each day. I do this for two reasons. The first is that it takes a few more things out of my head and puts them onto paper. This means less mental baggage you have to carry around. The other thing that it does is that it makes you stop and think about each of the steps you take get an inbox to empty and decide if it's really necessary or if there is a better way. An additional benefit is that once you have a complete and thorough checklist, you are in a much better position to delegate those tasks to someone else if you need to. I like to call this process franchising yourself. The reason that I call it that is because most franchises come with complete manuals of exact step by step instructions on how to do everything to run it successfully. You want to do the same.

So, let's have a look at part of my checklist and see how this might work for you. Let's say that the first thing on my list is to get handle my snail mail boxes. Initially, I would have a list of my mailboxes already as we have discussed. It would look like this:

  • Mailbox 12814

  • Mailbox 11650

  • Mailbox 9801

In my case, I have three mail boxes that I need to check. Now in my head, I know what to do so technically my GTD system would run fine if I didn't record the actions I need to take, but as a black belt, I prefer that I record those actions onto a daily review checklist. So my list of action steps will look like this:

  • Go by mailbox 12814 and get mail

  • Go by mailbox 11650 and get mail

  • Go by mailbox 9801 and get mail

  • Sort through all mail and separate out all trash

  • Sort through all mail and separate all things that need to be shredded

  • Sort through all mail and separate all things that need to be filed

  • Sort through all mail and separate out all things that require action

  • Do the items that can be done in under two minutes

  • Put the action items in my workstation inbox

  • Throw away the trash

  • Shred the items that need to be shredded

  • File the items that need to be filed

So, you can see that for me, I have a few more steps than meets the eye here. Now, for many people they won't go to this level of detail to break down their inboxes, but I do it for each one on my list and you should too.

At first, your GTD daily checklist might act as what is called a READ-DO checklist. This means you would read each step and then do it. Later, once you know your GTD checklist like the back of your hand, it will turn into a READ-REVIEW checklist where you'll do everything on your checklist and then review it when you are done to make sure that you didn't forget anything.

I'll spend some more time talking about this in my daily podcast for members including a little discussion on what profession make the best use of checklist in my opinion.

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[S3AUDIO file='audio/drpodcast3.mp3']

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daily Review 2: How To Set Up Your GTD Inbox Checklist And Begin Processing Them To Zero

In yesterday's podcast, I talked about how to set up your GTD inbox checklist. This will start to form the basis of what will eventually become your daily review. The idea here is start working on the front end of your GTD system with what are called your collection buckets and get all collection points down on paper so that you don't have to remember what you have to check all the time. A key point here is that you cannot become a black belt at GTD if you are still keeping stuff in your head. Anything and everything that you need to do or remember needs to be downloaded into your system. It may seem trivial to record all of your inboxes into a checklist. To me, it's not because anything you have to remember manually weighs down your process.

I've started keeping my checklist inside of my gmail account in google tasks. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to be able to see my checklist from anywhere I might be. Google tasks are available on the web wherever in the world I might be and are also available in my phone as well when I am on the road working. Second, gmail makes an awesome hub from which to work from and everybody has access to it.

Once your list of inboxes is recorded into a checklist, you'll find more inboxes than you first thought. Anything that is a collection point should go on this list no matter how trivial in might be. I've included a snapshot of my initial list in this post for you to look at.

After you have bought into getting your inboxes on this list, the next step is to start putting them in the order that you check them. I recommend that you put them in order of easiest to check and get to zero to hardest. This means that you would probably pick up your mail first, for example, to get it to empty and throw it in to the inbox at your workstation. You would also check your text messages before working on your paper as well because in most cases they are easier to get to empty. Of course, it will depend on your workflow and how you do things. That's how it works for me. Part of being a black belt is studying your own situation, knowing all of your collection points and adapting what I recommend into your own setup. This means that you should have an inbox checklist, but it will look and be different than mine. This is ok and will be the norm for everyone - but having a checklist being a component of your system will be the same for everyone.

Once you have an initial list of your collection points, keep it in mind when you are collecting and be sure and add additional inboxes as you find them, adjust it if you consolidate some buckets and reordering them from easiest to hardest. The reason I suggest this is because the momentum from completing easy stuff will give you strength to continue farther into your processing.

Now, with list in hand, your next step is to start a processing routine. Begin with your first inbox on the list and get it to empty. Then, move onto the next. Some inboxes are easy to process and empty, others take a little more time to get there. The two hardest for me were my email account and my paper inbox. For me, I save them for last because of that.

The goal here is to get your inboxes to empty in the order you create your list. Maybe at first, you'll get your voicemail empty, but just won't get your email account to zero. That's ok. You are now at black belt voicemail. More work will be required to get to the next level. Just the next time you process, make sure that you get as far as you did the last time. Keeping all of the inboxes above where you struggle empty will give you more time and energy to get through the lower, harder inboxes. I talk more about this in daily review podcast which you can find at the bottom of this post. You have to be a member of the site to see and listen to it and you'll find a membership link at the top of the page to join.

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[S3AUDIO file='audio/drpodcast2.mp3']

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daily Review 1: Setting Up Your GTD Inboxes And Developing An Inbox Checklist

I thought I would kick off my first daily review by going over what I did today to set up my GTD inboxes. Today was a travel day for me so I didn't have much time to actually spend time collecting but did want to share with you one of the first things I think you should do and that is make a list of your inboxes to clarify exactly where everything enters your system. I think it's important to make a list of all of your inboxes because what we will do down the road is incorporate them within our daily review. By having them all included in a list, you also remove the chance that you will forget to check one. This is an important step because it clears your mind of having one additional bit of overhead that you'll need to remember later. This overhead drags your system down. Commit to getting everything and I mean everything out of your head. Your first list might not be complete and that's ok. Just start making one. Overtime, you'll get them all.

I think that what you will find is that you have a lot more inboxes than you think you do. In particular, you'll find that you have way more digital inboxes than paper ones and way more digital inboxes than you thought.

It's also important to include things that you haven't thought of as inboxes like your mailbox, your car, your wallet or anyplace that you stuff comes in. As far as electronic inboxes go, email is the obvious one, but then there are things like Facebook, text messages and so on.

Once you have started your checklist, you'll pay more attention to what inboxes you really have and you'll eventually have a complete list.

The next step then is to see if you can get rid of any inboxes or consolidate them in some fashion. I know one of the first things that I did was consolidate all of my voicemail message into my gmail account so I didn't have as many phones to check. I also got rid of some.

Finally, the last thing you want to do is put this list in an order that you CHECK it. I typically put these lists into easiest to check and empty to hardest thereby creating momentum for myself in getting them all to empty.

I talk more about my inboxes in an audio that is attached to this post and also give you access to my current list of inboxes. To view these you need to be a member of the site. For more information, on membership, click the link at the top of the page called: Become a Black Belt.

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My Inbox List

[S3AUDIO file='audio/drpodcast1.mp3']

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

002 How To Become A Black Belt At GTD And Master Your Time

In today's weekly review podcast, I wanted to talk about how to become a black belt at GTD and master your time. I've been working with my GTD system since about 2006 and I have to tell you that no other system has had such a profound impact on my life than David Allen's Getting Things Done. It is a great system. I do have to tell you though that getting your GTD system to black belt is just the beginning of mastering your life and that is what this site is all about. GTD will provide the framework you need but reaching your potential and mastering your life requires a deeper commitment to consistency and sense of purpose that can't be reached unless you get a hold of all of the loose ends in your head. So, that is why I think your journey should start with a solid GTD setup.

What I've decided to do here is to start constructing a living GTD setup that you can tap into and see exactly how I've set my system up and how I work it on a daily basis. Behind the scenes here on the site, I've put in place a membership site that will represent your training facility to work on your "game" so to speak. I will call this training area the Dojo. While I have the structure of the site in place, you'll notice that is has a while to go with regard to being the kind of resource you need to master all aspects of your life. Because of that, what I have done is establish what I call a "beta" version of the site. During this beta period, I encourage you to join the site by clicking the link above called "Become A Black Belt" and registering for membership. Currently, membership is free. If you join now, you'll be considered a founding member and when the day comes that the "Dojo" officially opens, you'll receive a 50% discount on the monthly membership fees charged for new members. In the meantime, you'll have free use of all of the content that I put up until then. During this founding member period, I would also like to extend an offer to each member that joins a free Skype consultation on exactly where you need help and exactly how the Black Belt Project can help you. Once you join, please email me that you want to take me up on this offer. My goal is to help you reach your potential.

What's going to happen from here is that each week, I will do a weekly review podcast. This podcast will be free to all visitors to help give them a taste of how the site actually works and what they can expect. On a daily basis, I will also provide updates that complement the weekly review. These daily reviews will give you the complete picture of how the system is developed.

Initially, I will start setting up my GTD system from scratch just like a beginner. I will do the best I can to walk you through each part as I set it up in complete detail - from collection, through processing, organizing, doing and finally reviewing.

Once this setup is complete, I'll look to improve it's performance and move it to a black belt level. Once I reach that stage, that will mean that I have obtained my red belt. At that point, I'll look to move onto my next belt and so on.

I hope you enjoy this week's review. Let me know how I can help.