Monday, August 8, 2011

013 GTD Weekly Review

Are you doing a GTD weekly review? If not, you are missing out on getting the clarity that you need on all the commitments you have made. Today, I wanted to talk about the evolution of my weekly review and share with you some ideas on how to get started doing your weekly review and some other ideas I have at mastering the process. As usual, you can probably guess that I suggest you get a checklist going. At first, I wouldn't make your own. Instead use the one that David Allen provides and later start getting your own spin on it by putting your own specific actions on your checklist.

The first problem I encountered is that I didn't actually do a weekly review. I think that this is a natural progression. At first, I was busy working on getting everything collected and processed. I always suggest when you are first starting out to get all of the buckets set up. Then, make sure you are getting everything collected into the system. Once you feel comfortable getting all of that down, then move onto mastering processing your inboxes to zero. Eventually, you'll create the momentum you need to start making a project list to determine what all your next actions should be. And finally you'll move onto consistently doing them.

I noticed, as I think several others have, that when you first start doing your weekly review, that it takes a long time. This is because you are busy collecting, processing, doing your two minute actions and organizing. By the time you get to the actual reviewing you are well over an hour easy and often you run out of time. If this is you, then I think that you'll find some good tips in what I recommend here.

Step One: Commit to doing the review at the same time once a week

The first step is to commit to doing the review. Get it on your calendar and make sure that you keep the appointment. I like to do my weekly review late on Sunday nights. This is because I am pretty relaxed from the weekend, it's quiet in my house and I have some private time to do it. Since I work for myself, I find this an easy time and place to do it. The other thing that I like about it, is that it provides me a running start to Monday as I have already thought out what I want to do for the week.

This might not work for you. You might instead like to do it on a Friday afternoon. What's important is not so much when you fit it in your schedule, but that you do it consistently each week and I suggest at the same time to get your mind condition to getting in the habit of doing it.

Step Two: Work on your review for at least one hour a week

As I mentioned above, your reviews will probably go over an hour when you first start. You will probably feel overwhelmed. You might not even finish. Whatever you do, work on your system for at least an hour even if you only work on collection or processing. Just keep moving the system forward. What you are striving for is getting the system under control. This hour a week will help you do that. If you want to spend more time on it, do so, but at least spend an hour working on it.

Step Three: Use your review time to get your system in shape before you worry about reviewing

If you are new to GTD, you'll find that you have a lot of collecting to do. Focus first on getting everything collected until you feel like you have stuff fairly well collected. I know at first, I was buried in paper. I had paper everywhere. I didn't have a system set up. I didn't have an inbox. Spend your review time getting collection under control. Once you do, spend your review time getting your email to zero. Once you do that, spend time getting your paper inbox to zero. You'll find that slowly moving this improvement through your system will create a snowball effect and give you the mental strength to move onto and through the review. Don't be afraid to use the review time for this purpose.

Step Four: Break the review over a three day time period

When I first started doing my reviews, I eventually broke down my review process over a period of three days at a time. I would spend Friday collecting everything, Saturday processing everything and Sunday reviewing my system. By breaking up the process, it made the chunks easier to do. I didn't have a lot of stuff coming into the system either so everything stayed pretty clean by the time I got to Sunday. I had the luxury to do this because my system is at home and portable. But you probably could also figure out a way to accomplish this and it might be easier for you to accomplish.

Step Five: Start making a project list

Once I had the other areas of my system under control, I could think better. I then got a piece of paper out and had it next to me when I did the review. I started writing down projects. I didn't worry about whether it was complete. Just got one going. Next, print out this project list each time. Add to it as you go on. Remember, a project is something that has more than one step. I started with things that were pretty easy, like clients. This was an important list too because it was easy to think of, it was important to go through it once a week and ask myself what the next action was for that client even if there was none.

Next, I moved onto making a list of people I worked with and then onto other things like bills and accounts I have. Each week, my project list would be a little more complete. One of the ways I did this was paying attention to everything that came through my inbox and asking myself, is this item part of a project that is not on my list. I discovered that in my case, a lot of my projects are recurring projects and that they don't end. So when something hit my inbox, I would know already that it was part of my project list already.

Others were projects were things I might want to do. I would put those on my someday maybe list for later review.

Step Six: Name your projects accordingly

I basically have projects and then checklists. On my projects list, I like to name them with an action verb. I name them things like:

Obtain reference letters from all my clients
Set up enrollments
Create a weekly review checklist

I also have other project lists that are more like checklists in that they act like a tickler to remind me to review them to see if I need to do anything. In those cases, I just put the item. Clients are a good example. I just put their name on a list and review the list during my weekly review.

Step Seven: Break your project lists down into sub-lists

I would also suggest that you break down your lists into at least personal and professional. I have further segmented my lists as well. For example, I need to see my clients at certain times of the year. So what I did was put my clients on one list, organized by month. Then I go through it during my review. How and whether you'll divide your lists is a personal preference. As long as your list is complete is really all that matters and that it works easily with how your mind works.

Step Eight: Make sure you have a next action for every project that requires it

During my weekly review, I go through each item on the list and ask myself, what is the next thing I need to do on this project. If there is no action required, I don't put one down. If there is a next step, I make sure that it is on my list. I personally don't worry about whether I will get it done within a week or any time limit. If there is a next action I want to do for a project, it goes on my list. Mastering doing comes later.

Step Nine: Start recording all of the specific steps you take during your review and make your own weekly review checklist

Once you have gotten into the habit of doing your review every week and getting through the weekly review checklist that David Allen provides, it's time to start making your own personalized weekly review checklist that contains all the steps you take in your own personal system. I would usually get a legal pad and put it next to me when I started my review. I would then record all of the steps I took no matter how minor they were. Each week add things to the list you forgot and then move things around so that you do them in the most efficient manner possible. Print this list out and have it next to you when you do the review. I started with the basic GTD weekly review checklist and started adding my items as I identified them.

Step Ten: Improve the speed you do your weekly review

The final thing I suggest is to record the time you start your weekly review at the top of your checklist. Then at the bottom record your finish time. Your goal is to figure out just how fast and efficient you can do your own weekly review. The goal, get it done and out of the way as quickly as possible so you can move onto other "fun" things to do in your life.

So, that's how I tackle the weekly review. I have a podcast below that you can listen to where I discuss this more. This podcast is free to all visitors and available in itunes as well. I am continually adding more material to the membership area of the Black Belt Project that is for members only. I encourage you to join now to get access to it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Daily Review 7: How To Overcome Laziness And Procrastination

One of the problems that I have faced over the years is how to overcome laziness and procrastination. In fact, as old as I am now I'm probably a seasoned pro at both being lazy and procrastinating. Just like everybody else, our mental state of mind has a lot to do with our motivation level and what we can get done in a given day. I first started looking into this problem many years ago when I was having trouble getting things done. I found many books on the subject, watched my share of day time talk shows as well as many night time specials on how to get rich selling real estate and oh yes, the buy a tiny classified ad in a bunch of newspapers approach.

Ultimately, in search of answers, I bought a Tony Robbins CD pack complete with journal and everything. Thus prepared, I began my journey through the materials of my first self help guru. I was intrigued by his approach and learned that, according to him, people don't take action unless they are going to feel pain. What I was instructed to do was write down all the pain I would feel if I didn't accomplish something and to attach as much pain to not doing an action to motivate me to do it. I know that pain is a huge motivator. He also taught me that small actions build up to larger accomplishments. This I thought was an even greater revelation.

But laziness and procrastination boil down to one problem and that's lack of action. Lack of action breeds inaction. It's a lot like working out. If you don't do it, physical activity gets harder to do and it becomes less likely that you will do it and the more likely that if you go all out at exercise at a level your brain might remember, you'll injure yourself.

Just like physical activity, mental activity is just the same in that your brain is out of shape and you need to retrain it to regain the mental edge you need to execute. The potental is in there and the great thing about exercising your brain is that for the most part, you can train yourself to have a world class brain before you could ever become a world class athlete.

But the real question is this: How do we overcome our inherent laziness and end our procrastination?

I suppose it's at this point that many people would look at the causes of procrastination. Things like being a perfectionist, having a lack of focus, a feeling of worthlessness. We could brainstorm the causes and problems all day and come up with a healthy list of reasons why we don't execute - why we don't achieve or live up to our potential. The truth of the matter is that, the reasons while they matter, don't solve the problem. And after watching enough cable news shows, I am also frankly tired of listening to all the problems that everybody thinks we have. The real problem though is not working on solutions. Everybody can identify problems. What we need are solutions. I'm so dead set on this that I've committed the Black Belt Project to focus on solutions and action plans to reach the promised land of full potential. And, if you are a member, I want you to adopt that mindset. YOU and I are problem solvers and NOT problem finders.

Now, I'm not sure that I can get you to buy into my approach. For many of you, my approach won't work. You'll need to find someone else for guidance. But I've been where you have been. I know what it feels like to lay around all day and feel like you wasted the day. I also know what it feels like to reach my potential and have successful days one after another. So because of that, I feel like I'm an expert and that I know the path. I know the way to achievement and I can share it with you. I can believe in it. I can even show you step by step how I do it. But none of that matters unless YOU want to do it. You've got to want to start training and improving. If you have that desire, then you can and will get better.

The first thing that you have to know about laziness and procrastination and how to beat it is that a lack of inaction is temporary and there's no sense in beating yourself up about it. There's also no sense in labeling yourself as "lazy" or that you are a "procrastinator". The past doesn't matter. What does matter is what you do next. The first thing you must do is quit telling yourself you are a loser. You are just out of shape and with the right training program, you can get back in shape over a period of time.

The second thing you need to know is that your brain didn't get out of shape overnight and you won't gain a mental edge overnight either. It's going to take some time to get back into shape.

So, on my end, here comes the hard part. How to figure out what your training program should be. I mean we are all different - right?

This does pose a challenge.

But when I go to the gym and workout, you know what I see? I see the same equipment for everybody. And whether you are runner, basketball player, football player or just want to look better, the tools are the same. The training is just tailored to your goals. For just about everybody though, the idea behind each workout is to challenge the muscles. You do this by lifting what you can and then over time, you increase the weight. This is called progressive resistance. As you progress you slowly increase the resistance and this process makes you stronger.

Mental training as I describe it will work the same. The tools, or equipment, will be the same for both of us. And we will also use progressive resistance. Only instead of the resistance being weights, they will be tasks we need to accomplish. In the gym, you might be able to start by lifting more than me but we will both progressively increase our weights. In our mental training, you might be able to do more tasks than me right now, but this idea of progressive resistance is the same. We gain mental strength by increasing the tasks as we get comfortable doing them.

The tools we are going to use are the basic pen and paper. The advanced mental gym will have a computer, a word processor, an internet connection, a supply of paper, a printer, a binder with some dividers and a pen.

Your main piece of equipment will be the checklist. It's on the checklist you will put your tasks to complete. As you gain mental toughness, you'll add more tasks to increase your strength just like at the gym.

If I was your trainer in the gym, I would start you with little or no weight. This is so you could start with good form and get through the workout easily and also reduce the risk of injury. The next workout, I would add a tiny bit of weight to increase the resistance slowly. Even if you could lift it, instead of adding twenty pounds extra, I might only add two pounds or five pounds so that there is an increase in resistance to slowly bring you along.

With mental strength training, I would do the same thing to help you beat procrastination and laziness. I would start you with a checklist of one item that you need to complete. Once you can complete that one item easily everyday, I would then add another item and once you could do that easily I would add another.

Before you know it, your checklist will grow larger just like your muscles would. And the success of completing tasks will give you the momentum you need without burning you out.

This is the process that you use to overcome it. The only thing you have to decide are what are the tasks that go on your checklist. I recommend that you start at the beginning of your day. Start by adding the easy stuff. As you gain mental discipline, add everything to the list no matter how small the item. I know that the first thing that I put on my list was just merely getting up. Don't be afraid to start with very few tasks. Just be sure to keep progressively adding more. I do this by committing to a task for at least thirty days (see my post called What Is A 30 Day Challenge) and then committing to doing that task from that point forward and adding another later, repeating the process. As you get stronger, you can move to shorter time periods. The point it to start. Gain some success and move forward a little bit each day, each month and each year.

I talk more about this in today's daily review. If you are a member you will see it below this post. If you do not see it, join now to have access to it.

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[S3AUDIO file='audio/blackbeltprojectdailyreview080411.mp3']

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Daily Review 6: How To Put Together Your Daily Checklist

In today's daily review I wanted to let you see how my daily checklist is coming together. As I mentioned in the August monthly review, I am starting my Black Belt Project from scratch. To do that, I am breaking down all of the tasks that I want to accomplish on a daily basis and putting them into a daily review checklist. This list of items will continue to evolve as I put it together and fine tune it by moving things around. You'll find a link to the checklist below but it is only available to members.

Here are some tips for putting together a daily checklist:

  1. Start at the beginning of the day. Mastering your life starts by mastering everything - from the beginning.

  2. Write everything down. Get it all out of your head. Don't worry about how mundane it is. Get it out.

  3. Put little check boxes next to each item.

  4. Print the list off so you can check things off and write notes of things that need to be added or moved around.

  5. Update the list each day with new items.

  6. Bold the item of your current black belt level. This should match your thirty day challenge at this point.

  7. Keep your check list in google docs so you can have access to it everywhere.

The daily checklist is your road map to mastery. Look at it as your playbook. As we develop it, we'll have it everything on it. And eventually move onto a monthly checklist.

The other technique I recommend is bolding the items you have managed to complete every day. This is your black belt level. Once you reach a level, stay at it and don't fall back. Increase your mental toughness slowly but one step at a time.

I talk more about my daily checklist in today's daily review accessibility. A link to my list is also available to members. I encourage you to join the black belt project today.

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Click this link to my daily checklist.

[S3AUDIO file='audio/blackbeltprojectdailyreview080311.mp3']

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Daily Review 5: What Is The 30 Day Challenge

Today's daily review talks a little more about what is the 30 day challenge and how should you apply it. If you remember from the monthly review video that I did yesterday, I talked about how to create a checklist of all the things you would like to do on a daily basis. Once you have done that, the hard part is getting through it all. This is especially true when the list starts to bulk up and gain some size to it. And even more so, if you are at a time in your life where you are having trouble getting moving.

That's where I recommend that you look at each of the tasks on your lists as weights. While you might be able to get through your list all in one fell swoop, you might exhaust your self and eventually lose the steam and motivation to keep up the effort daily. You might not be able to get through hardly any tasks at all.

Regardless of whatever your level of motivation, I think the best thing that you can do is work from the very beginning of your system and slowly build up your mental muscle to start building up your strength to tackle the whole list every day with very little effort.

Here's how you do that. You start by taking one of the first things on your list and committing to doing at the very least that one specific tasks for thirty straight days. It's ok to make the task easy if you are just getting started just to prove to yourself that you can do it. Then start adding harder tasks each and every month. Once you complete one thirty day challenge, you have to commit to continuing it from that point forward while adding additional tasks.

Let's take my list for example. The first thing on my list is to get up at six o'clock every morning. This is something that is going to be a challenge for me. I've committed to doing it for thirty straight days.

Once, I've done that, I will move on to the next hardest thing on my list which happens to be walking each and every morning. But at the same time, I would continue getting up early.

The idea behind this strategy is what I call progressive resistance. Start with easy weights (tasks) and add a little more weight (more tasks) each and every month. You'll find that you will get stronger each and every month and will create the momentum you need to move your life forward. And that's what the thirty day challenge is and how it will work.

Below this post is my daily review for members. If you are not a member, I encourage you to join now to start your journey towards black belt.

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[S3AUDIO file='audio/blackbeltprojectdailyreview080211.mp3']

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Monthly Review 1: How To Start Your Black Belt Project From Scratch

In this first monthly review, I talk about how to start your Black Belt Project from scratch. In the video I talk about how to use two very important tools - a checklist and a thirty day challenge. The way I see it there are two ways to change your life. One is to figure out how painful it will be if you don't change and the other is to develop your mental strength to change. While pain is the better motivator, I think that by using progressive resistance to increase your mental strength by slowly increasing the number of tasks you can complete in a day is a better long term approach.

So, starting with a blank slate, I begin the process of starting my project from scratch. I hope you will follow along.

This video is for members only, so if you haven't joined, you'll need to join the Black Belt Project to view it.

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[S3VIDEO file='video/blackbeltprojectmonthlyreview1.mp4']

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