Review & IDEAction

Well we’ve done it folks! We’ve now gone through all 10 (+1 bonus) of my Productivity Tactics for rockin’ out your resolutions or goals this year.

To recap, these were:

Tactic #1: Simplify – The fewer goals you have, the more likelier you are to achieve them. Narrow your list down to 10 or less, and keep them simple & actionable.

Tactic #2: Prioritize – Multi-tasking is a myth! Assign an order of importance to your goals and keep this in mind as you attack them accordingly.

Tactic #3: Think Big, Act Small – Break up each goal into smaller bite-size steps, and then tackle them one at a time according to their priority, giving yourself no more than 2 CRITICAL to do’s each day.

Tactic #4: Set Deadlines – Give yourself a time frame to accomplish all the steps in each goal. Be realistic and remember Parkinson’s Law: any task will take as much time as you allot it to get it done.

Tactic #5: Don’t Justify – Often the things we least want to do are the things most needed to get done. Ask yourself, “Am I inventing things to do just to avoid the important?” Remember: the sooner you do it, the sooner you don’t have to do it!

Tactic #6: Outsource – Can any of the steps toward your goals be automated or done by someone else? Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and remember: the key to having more time is doing less.

Tactic #7: Imitate -Why reinvent the wheel? Learn from what your colleagues have done, use that as a helpful jumping off point, and then make it your own.

Tactic #8: Define Your Space – Identify those places where you feel most productive and then make that your regular workspace. Organize all your necessary materials there, and keep out any other irrelevant clutter.

Tactic #9: Teach It – One of the best ways to learn something yourself is to try teaching it to others. Find a friend or colleague who wants to learn what you are doing and share with them along the way.

Tactic #10: Stay Positive – Stay focused on the Chaos you can influence. Don’t waste time on things you have no control over, or things that may go wrong. Learn from the past and quickly move on to improve the future.

Bonus Tactic #11: Make It Your Own! – Stop defining your goals based on what others tell you is important. Define your own definition of what success means to you, then go for it and never give up!

Hopefully through this process, I’ve demonstrated exactly how you can go about implementing these Tactics and using them to achieve your goals. You just need one final key to tie them all together – a solid plan for how to use them the most effectively. So I’ve incorporated each of my 11 Productivity Tactics into a simpler 5-step process. I call it my IDEAction Plan:

Step #1: I is for Identify

  • Define your list of goals, and the spaces & materials you will use to achieve them. (Refer to Tactics #1 & #8)

Step #2: D is for Devise

  • Deconstruct your goals into actionable steps, with priorities and deadlines. (Refer to Tactics #2, #3 & #4)

Step #3: E is for Energize

  • Get moving! Put your devised plan into action, and don’t let procrastination or mistakes slow you down. (Refer to Tactics #5 & #10)

Step #4: A is for Analyze

  • Evaluate your progress & your process, and find opportunities to outsource or learn from others in your field. (Refer to Tactics #6 & #7)

Step #5: S is for Systematize

  • Develop your personalized routine & optimize your workflow to give yourself maximum freedom to do the things you want to do, or share what you’ve learned with others! (Refer to Tactics #9 & #11)

I hope these prove useful to you in your own personal and professional journey.

Happy trails!

  

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Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? As always, please share your comments below and tell us how these tips have been useful for you!

Productivity Tactic #2: Prioritize

Ok now for the second step I recommend for achieving greater productivity with your goals, be them New Years resolutions or any other kind:

Prioritize!

Unless you assign your goals a relative order of importance, you will end up trying to tackle all of your creative chaos at once, which will only overwhelm you and slow you down. Having a handle on your priorities is essential, especially to help you get back on track when you do find yourself getting a bit overwhelmed.

There are different methods for prioritization, but these are 2 of my favorites which I personally employ. Give them a try and see if they work for you too.

1. The P-System

The first and most obvious step to prioritizing your goals is to list them all out in the order of your chosen importance, 1 through 10 (or however many you have).

But what about beyond that? You’ll need to balance all the smaller steps you take towards reaching each goal. But how do you manage the priorities of all those?

I do it with something I call the P-system. It consists of 3 very simple values:

  • P0 – means it needs to be done in the next few hours 0r by end of day
  • P1 – means it needs to be done within a week or two
  • P2 – means it can get done whenever, low-priority

You’ll notice that all these values are based on deadlines, and how fast each needs to be accomplished. That’s the key to making sure you continue making progress – staying action-oriented in your priorities.

Then as you develop the game plan for each goal or resolution, and decide on each step you’ll need to take, assign it one of these priority values. I maintain all of my ongoing tasks in a spreadsheet with the P-value as one of the columns, so I can easily sort the list and keep my priorities in mind.

Remember – multitasking is a myth and can actually be quite disorienting and distracting. But if you prioritize properly, there is no need to multitask.

2. The Lists of Fives

Besides keeping all your tasks in a nicely laid out list, it can help to make other kinds of lists – especially if you are still a little fuzzy on what your priorities actually are and what’s most important to you.

Not everyone loves making lists, while others are way too obsessed with it. But if you do find yourself prone to this habit, this can definitely work in your favor.

Try this exercise – open a blank word or Google doc, and write the following headings:

  • 5 Moments in My Life When I Felt Most Live
  • 5 Things Those Moments Say About Me
  • 5 Things I Love To Do
  • 5 Things I Don’t Enjoy
  • 5 Things I’m Really Good At
  • 5 Things I’m Honestly Not Good At
  • 5 Things I Enjoy About My Work
  • 5 Things I Want to Add to My Work
  • 5 Things I Could Do Without at Work
  • 5 Things I Appreciate About My Life
  • 5 Things I Want to Add to My Life
  • 5 Things I Can Do Without in My Life
  • 5 Things I Must Have in My Life (ideals or values I want my life to stand for)

Then number 1-5 below each and try to fill them out for each heading. It can be tough, but try tackling the easier ones first and they’ll help you get your head into the space where you can answer the harder ones. It may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to answer all these – you can even take a few days if you need to feel satisfied with your answers. And in the end, you’ll have the final answer vital to keep your priorities on track: 5 “Must Haves” for your life.

Because besides setting priorities based on how quickly things need to get done, it’s also important to base them on how important they are to you and the kind of a life and business you want to build for yourself.

So get to it and Happy Prioritizing!

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Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Add a comment below and tell me about your Artist goals this year, and how you plan to prioritize them!

Productivity Tactic #1: Simplify

OK Productive Artists! At the beginning of this year, I listed out my 10 Tactics for how to rock your 2012 resolutions. Once you have a good idea of your resolutions & un-resolutions, whether for your personal life or your business, the next step is figuring out how you’re going to achieve them! And if you are still uncertain on the how, I’m going to break down each one of my 10 Tactics for you over the new several posts. Stay with me, and I promise these will help you become significantly more Productive in your creative endeavors.

So with that, let’s start with the first productivity improving Tactic #1… Simplify!

I can’t stress enough how crucial this step is, and how applicable it can be to just about any area of your life. It should always be your first step, to make sure you are set up for success before you go diving into that big ol’ pile of mess.

So how does this relate to your resolutions, or goals in general?

Well let me ask you this: Have you made up your list of resolutions and are now wondering how the hell you’re going to actually do them all? Well before we get to the part of breaking those goals down into more easily digested pieces, let’s get a bit more realistic about the size of your plate.

Look at your list of resolutions and ask yourself:

  • “Do I really need this many goals?”
  • “Are any of these less important or too much to tackle all at once?”
  • “Can any of these be consolidated together?”

And be honest.

If you have more than 10, try narrowing your list down a bit.

Keep your list simple and actionable, and you’ll have a better chance of actually completing them all.

For example, I could have made a resolution to reorganize and redecorate my entire house, but that would have been biting off more than I can chew, and might have taken longer than 1 year. Instead, I kept it simpler and easier by aiming to organize the clutter in just my work space only. Now getting this piece done may give me the motivation to continue on to the rest of the house. But if I don’t have time to get to the rest of it, I don’t have to feel disappointed. I still accomplished something significant and worthwhile. So for now, I’m keeping myself focused on this reachable goal first, and giving myself the option of saving the other rooms for another year.

Now let’s look at another example. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions of 2013, and very likely every previous year, is to lose weight. But try not to set your sights too big (or in this case, small). You may not reach your goal weight in one year – in fact, depending on how much weight you want to lose, it may not be terribly healthy to drop that much that fast. So instead, set your resolution to more realistic figures, and include other useful measurements besides just weight, like your body mass index (BMI), or calorie intake, or amount of daily exercise.

Simplify by keeping each resolution to something you can actually measure and meet. Simple may not mean having a really short list with really few words. It’s good to keep it concise. But it is far more important to make your resolutions simple to achieve, than just simple to read.

So go to it, and Happy Simplifying!

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Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please feel free to comment here and tell me about one of your resolutions or goals this year, and how you can simplify it to make it more achievable!

Your Un-Resolutions List

Not To-Do list“You must give up the life you planned, in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” -Joseph Campbell

Now that we’ve talked about your New Year’s resolution lists and some stellar techniques to help us stick to them, it’s time to see the other side of the coin. Besides listing out the things you want to do this year, it’s also a healthy practice to list out what you don’t want to do – what things you’ll want to avoid, things that suck up your time and contribute to your Chaos.

So let’s make a Un-Resolutions List!

Here are some suggestions from mine:

  1. To not check all of my email all the time. This is a massive time suck, and can be avoided by setting up a good system of filters and labels to automatically organize your emails, and then checking the whole bunch of important unread emails all at once or at set times everyday. I have done this with my own Gmail setup, and I promise you it has made a huge difference in my day.
  2. To not answer emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Early in the AM, you still might not be awake enough to properly absorb and respond, and could potentially scramble your plans for the rest of the day. Late at night, you could likewise be too tired to focus on your email, and studies have shown that looking at your computer screen right before bed can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep at night.
  3. To not procrastinate. Don’t get yourself caught in the self-perpetuating “I’ll do it later” cycle. I’ve never met anyone who found true happiness and fulfillment from procrastination. Parkinson’s Law states that a task will essentially take the amount of time you allot to complete it. So set tight deadlines and then get it done! Schedule an event on your Google Calendar, and then force yourself to complete it in that time frame. Because the sooner you do it, the sooner you don’t have to do it.
  4. To not try to do everything. If you prioritize well, you should understand that not all tasks are created equal. And some tasks use more time and resources than they earn back. These are not worth doing! It is far smarter to focus on the most important tasks and most rewarding practices and most efficient skills, and let go of the rest. Remember, the key to having more time is doing less.
  5. To not try to do everything perfectly the first time. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and it is perfectly natural. A fear of failure will ultimately only hold you back from attempting the truly important and worthwhile. Allow yourself the freedom to create a “draft” version first, and then take any slip-ups in stride and channel that towards improving what you’re working on.
  6. To try not to get hung up on details. I am naturally very detail-oriented, but that means that I often lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s important to balance both, and always remember the ultimate goal. That’s why I recommend keeping your high-level goals written down and easy to access. So whenever you get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, you can quickly pull back and remind yourself of your bigger objective, and then move on to tasks that better worked towards that.
  7. To not carry your cellphone 24/7. I know this sounds crazy in today’s age of technology addiction, but it is a healthy practice every once in a while to take a break from your digital leashes. Try turning your phone off or even leaving it behind entirely for a whole day, and see how much more you observe and engage with the world around you that day. Good chances are it won’t be the end of the world if you have to return someone’s call or email the next morning.
  8. To not answer calls from unrecognized numbers. This may mean occasionally missing a call you didn’t want to, but more often than not, it will mean avoiding the unnecessary and unknown callers and telemarketers. I personally never answer for a random number. That said, if I am expecting a call from someone new, and I have been given their number, I immediately save them as a contact in my phone, so that I can recognize them when they do call.
  9. To not take calls or meetings without a clear agenda or end time. I used to work in the corporate world of unnecessary and unnecessarily long meetings. And I learned that if there is a clearly stated objective or agenda laid out ahead of time, no call or meeting should take more than 30min. So learn from my experience, and email your request it in advance so you “can be best prepared to make good use of the time together.” Or ask that they share a Google Doc with the meeting’s agenda, so that all the attendees can collaborate and agree on it together before stepping into the meeting room.
  10. To not try to please everyone. It’s simply one of life’s law that you are never going to please everyone. In high school, I had a hard time grasping the fact that I wasn’t going to get everyone to like me. There will always be somebody who disagrees with you, and you’re never going to be able to control what others think. So don’t waste your time worrying about it. Focus instead on what you can control, on being someone you yourself can be pleased with and on the people who do deserve your time and attention.

There are just some suggestions of mine, but I encourage you to think of any others that might be more specific to you. Often times, our un-resolutions are simply mirror images of our resolutions. For example, not procrastinating and not trying to do everything can be seen as reflections of the resolution to better prioritize.

So look at your own list of resolutions for this year. Can you think of any potentially negative behaviors that could hinder your ability to accomplish these? Give it a solid try, and try not to stress about it too much. If it helps, it helps. If not, move on and focus on what else you can do.

Un-thank you!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Feel free to comment on this post and share!

How To Rock Your Resolutions

Stick to your resolutions“Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.” -Buddha

Now that we’re fresh off the holiday season and into the New Year, we enter that very special time of year… resolution time!

Wherever you are and whatever your beliefs, you can probably at least agree that it’s a good idea to have goals. Goal setting is a healthy practice year-round, but there’s no more opportune time to set new goals than the start of the new year. So why not take this opportunity and set some of yours goals to tackle your biggest chaos. That may sound intimidating, but there’s no time like the present, and I’ll be here to help you rock those resolutions with Google throughout the year!

Now I don’t want to get preachy on you, because I certainly don’t have it all figured out either. And I don’t want to just share some fluffy, inspirational messages about staying motivated – that’s not what Organize With Google is about.

I’d rather arm you with real, functional tactics that you can immediately use to better achieve your own goals and To Do’s. I can’t presume to know your goals, or understand how complicated your life may be. But I can share with you the actually applicable methods I am using to realize my own year’s goals, and hopefully some of that will prove useful for you as well.

So first, take some time to look back on your 2012 and then look forward towards those areas and projects that still need your focus and energy in 2013. What are your resolutions for this year?

If you’re having trouble coming up with these, maybe try to think about it differently. Don’t think of them as goals so much as ways you want to live more intentionally. What matters to you this year? What do you hope to build in the next 12 months? Now what is currently holding you back from doing this? Turn those answers into your resolutions and then let’s see how we can help you make them happen.

Because it’s all well and good to make resolutions, but quite another to make good on them. So on that note, I am pleased to share with you my top 10 tactics to rock your resolutions this year. (hint: some of these tactics can be resolutions of their own!)

  1. Simplify! Look at your list of resolutions and ask yourself – do I really need this many goals? If you have more than 10, try narrowing your list down some. Keep it simple and actionable, and you’ll have a better chance of actually completing them all.
  2. Prioritize! Assign an order of importance to your goals and keep this in mind as you attack them accordingly, especially if you find yourself getting a bit off-track or overwhelmed at any point. Multi-tasking is a myth – if you prioritize properly, there is no need to multi-task.
  3. Think Big, Act Small! To avoid the overwhelmed feeling, break up each goal into smaller bite-size steps, and take them one at a time (according to their priority). Try giving yourself no more than 2 critical tasks towards your goals each day, and make sure you do them! (Ask yourself: If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?)
  4. Set Deadlines! Give yourself a time frame to accomplish the steps towards your goals. Remember to be realistic, but don’t be afraid to push yourself. Parkinson’s Law essentially says that any task will take as much time as you allot it. So whether you give yourself two weeks or two days to complete a task, it will probably take you that long.
  5. Stop Justifying Your Time! If you do find yourself getting overwhelmed, stop and ask yourself – Am I adding more work for myself just to feel busy? Am I being productive or just active? Am I inventing things to do just to avoid the important? Sometimes the things we least want to do are the things most needed to get done. So if you find yourself facing this challenge, recite this mantra: “The sooner I do it, the sooner I don’t have to do it!”
  6. Outsource! Look at your list of steps towards each goal, and ask yourself if any of those can be automated or done by someone else? Take advantage of the great many tools we have available in today’s age of technology. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember – the key to having more time is doing less.
  7. Imitate! Why reinvent the wheel? If you are struggling for ways to automate your steps, or even what your steps should be, look at what others have done. Talk to your friends and colleagues, ask for their advice as well as their help. I don’t necessarily mean copy exactly what they did, but their experience can prove a more helpful starting point than if you tried to start from scratch. You can still take what you learn from them and make it your own!
  8. Define Your Space! Identify those places where you feel most productive – your office, a coffee shop, your living room, etc – and make that your daily workspace. Organize all your necessary materials and resources in that space, and keep it free of any other irrelevant clutter, to make sure you can focus all your energy on the tasks ahead while you are there.
  9. Teach It! As you try to master new skills and reach your goals, find a friend or colleague who wants to learn what you are doing and share with them along the way. I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn something yourself is to try teaching it to others. Take this blog for example: by researching and relaying these Chaos Whispering tips for you all, I’m learning new and better ways to improve my own life.
  10. Stay Positive! Try not to dwell on your mistakes or when things go wrong. Stay focused on the Chaos you can influence. Learn from the past and move on to improve the future. Life is too short to waste a moment, especially on things you have no control over.

Bonus TacticMake It Your Own! The most important thing to remember as you embark on this new journey is to know what you want and never give up on that. Stop defining your goals based on what others tell you is important. It doesn’t matter what your family, friends, or even society say – never let anyone tell you it’s not worth it. Define your own definition of what success means to you, then go for it and never look back!

I know I am working towards a kind of success that means something to me. Why don’t you join me? It’s a new year and a new start – so it’s time to take the lead and get your life Organized With Google. Happy Resolution Rocking!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please feel free to comment on this post and share!