Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Master Your Workday Now!

Master Your Workday Now - book cover

Michael Linenberger might be a best-selling author, but I found Master Your Workday Now to be a bit of a slog, at least at the start; I only finished it today because it's due at the library tomorrow! However, that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of interesting ideas.

Part 1: Day to Day Task Management

Linenberger believes that looking at a huge to do list every day is too overwhelming. Therefore, he suggests you have three lists; items are added to the different lists based on urgency, not importance.

1. Critical Now
These are the must-do-today items - the things you would stay late at the office to finish. This list would rarely contain more than 5 items.

2. Opportunity Now
These are things you want to start as the opportunity presents itself - sometime this week or next. You look at this list daily, and you want to keep it to no more than 20 items.

Note: Items 1 and 2 make up the Now Tasks list, and they include only "next actions," as David Allen uses the term. So they won't be complex multipart tasks, but rather simple tasks like "Write e-mail to Client A about subject X."

3. Over the Horizon
These are items that you can "chill out" about for right now. This list gets reviewed weekly.

Well, at least that's how the concept starts out - pretty simple. But then Linenberger adds an optional Target Now section to the Opportunity Now list - this is for the items you'd really like to do today.

He also says you might want to split the Over the Horizon list into multiple Over the Horizon lists, based on how often you want to review the items on that list; the rationale here is that people just don't tend to review long lists on a weekly basis. So the single Over the Horizon list may become:
- Over the Horizon: Review Weekly
- Over the Horizon: Review Monthly
- Over the Horizon: Review Every 3 Months
- Over the Horizon: Review Every 6 Months
- Over the Horizon: Review Every 12 Months

And there's a third enhancement: He adds a list of Significant Outcomes (SOCs) to the top of the Now Tasks list. These are the larger efforts - what David Allen would call projects, but which may not be "projects" as most people think of that word - that you want to complete (or make major progress on) during the week.

OK, it's still not that complex - and the graphics in the book (which are also available on the web site, if you give Linenberger your e-mail address) are helpful.

Linenberger does not believe in scheduling calendar time to do specific tasks, in most situations; one exception could be if a task is going to take a chunk of time, and the deadline is looming. But if you're not finding enough time to work on tasks during normal business hours, he suggests adding a one- to two-hour appointment with yourself, just called Tasks, to your calendar each day.

What about tasks you've delegated? Rather than having a Waiting For list, Linenberger creates tasks for doing follow-up activities, and places them on the appropriate lists.

Part II: Goals

In Part II of this book, Linenberger moves beyond the day-to-day task management to talk about goals: goals that incorporate a vision, and a target (but not a timeframe). Many of his examples have to do with earning more money (and often buying more things), such as this one:
I just received a fantastic raise of 25 percent. That means I can now buy that convertible I have been longing for - I can see myself now, driving down the coast, the sun in my face, the wind in my hair,. What a sweet experience this is! I am also going out to dinner every weekend - I love great food.
But other sample goals, also dealing with money, focus on other benefits: security, freedom, etc. And Linenberger also gives examples of goals dealing with things like losing weight.

Linenberger then has you "activate" your goals through "positive visualization" - you "spend a few minutes each day reading and visioning" those goals.

Part III: Connections

And finally, in Part III, Linenberger talks about "connecting your work with who you really are" - connecting with a larger vision, with your own intuition, with your (current) life's work, and with your personal mission. In both this section and the one on goals, Linenberger writes extensively about the power of the subconscious.

Throughout this book, Linenberger acknowledges being influenced by many other thinkers, and there's an extensive resource listing at the end of the book.

Does any of this resonate with you? Has anyone tried any of these approaches? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Cynthia Friedlob said...

Okay, I confess. The problem I have with every organizing system I've encountered so far, including this one, is that it requires a level of organizing skill that, if I had it, I wouldn't have a problem organizing!

Just as I figured out, after many years of suffering, that it's easier for me to toss all of my tax-deductible receipts into a box to sort all at once during tax time, I've also figured out that I can't maintain multiple lists of things to do that I check on some regularly scheduled basis. I need one list, on paper, in my face consistently (very visual person!). A column on the side is for longer term projects. Stuff that needs immediate attention gets a big asterisk next to it.

I have no doubt I could be more productive than I am and I am probably an organizer's nightmare! But, what I can say definitively is that, no matter what you're doing, the less stuff you have around to distract you, the more you can accomplish.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

One more confession: The flaw with my "system?" My tendency to make notes on post-its or index cards that I have to gather periodically to transfer to my real list.

I guess my system is GTDISOM -- Geting Things Done In Spite Of Myself!

Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, it seems like there is indeed an organizing system that works for you - and it's your single list, with the column on the side, and the asterisks. There's nothing at all wrong with a simple system like this!

You've got a list - so you're not trying to keep all your to-do items in your head. You look at your list regularly. Sounds good to me!

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Thank you, Jeri! That makes me feel like all is not lost -- literally and figuratively!

AP said...

Cynthia - I, too, have a box for tax items to sort all at once at tax time. Much easier for me to manage that way and things get put into the box rather than piled waiting to be filed in their special place.

I also use the list like you. It works better for me to have a smaller spiral notebook (similar to steno size) that I can carry around with me. I stick it in my purse when I got to meetings so I can add as needed. I just write the date at the top of the page and it works for me to rewrite tasks (being visual or maybe kinesthetic keeps that in my brain better).

So you're not alone! :)

RobbieKay said...

I'm 96% through the book and liked the idea of the Critical Now and Opportunity Now lists. I've tried it the last couple of weeks and the problem I had is my time map say 5:30-6:30 on Sunday is weekly review time, but in reality I've either been feeling bad during that time or out and about. That leaves me trying to figure out my Opportunity Now list during my commute on the train. Both times I've had about 60 items that I *wanted* to put on the Opportunity Now list. By the time I narrowed that down to 20 it was Wednesday. So while I liked the idea of having a short list of 20-25 items, that didn't seem to be working for me. As of yesterday I am giving Mark Forster's DWM (Day Week Month) system a try. Though it means your task list stretches over 28-30 pages, items get dismissed if not worked on within 30 days, so hopefully that will at least cut down my list size.