Category Archives: Principles

Downtime? What’s That? 7 Ways To Maximize Downtime


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Asleep at the Wheel
Web Worker Daily had an interesting post on Using Your Down Time Effectively. I don’t remember the last time I had downtime. Here’s the ways I turn my down time into up time.

1. Documentation and Clean up

Write documentation for your previous project. Write down the steps you took to complete it (if they’re complex) in case you need to redo it. Get rid of old versions of documentation and coding. Get rid of or file the old paperwork.

2. Review your Previous Project

See what went right and wrong. Learn from it. Improve your process or knowledge. This is like an accomplishment review for a project.

3. Improve Processes

Take the opportunity to improve processes. Think about what can be done better. What takes too long? What processes are error prone? Improve it.

4. Keep Learning

Is there a skill that will make you more marketable? more productive? Is there a certification that can make you stand out? There’s always something new to learn: learn more about the tools you use. Learn to type faster. Learn about personal finance.

5. Do Your “Somedays”

Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t have the time to do this now, but I want to do this someday”? Your someday has arrived. Start planning your downtime in advance- while you’re working. If you come up with an idea put it on your “someday/maybe” list. (This is “Getting Things Done”(GTD) language for a list of things you may get to in the future). During down time review this list. See which projects will help you most and start working on it.

6. Follow up

Check in on your previous completed projects. Make sure that the results are being used correctly. There may be opportunities for improvement. Your “customer” will be impressed by your dedication quality.

7. Start Building a Machine

When you build a machine you take your downtime to a new level (super-up-time?). When you build a machine you create a long term system. For example if you are a web designer and bid for projects frequently, create a “job making machine”. Building a machine will get you more jobs with less effort. Your machine could include a standard introductory letter, sample web sites by category, a list of testimonials, an up to date web site, follow up letters, sample proposals by target market. You get the idea. Put together everything you need to bid on a project so that it takes you little time to place a bid.

Don’t just start this machine randomly. Launch one step at a time (see layering) e.g. start with one follow up letter at a time. This way if you get interrupted (by a new project) you can take advange of your previous successes that you’ve already accomplished. Then at the next down time you know exactly where you left off.

Using these seven techniques you can eliminate downtime and maximize your efforts.

When was the last time you had downtime? What did you do?

photo credit: Aaron Jacobs

The Last Legacy: How To Live Forever

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Steve Jobs

2005 Stanford Commencement

I always had a problem with the people who advised “live each day as if it’s your last”. That’s ridiculous. If today was your last day you would you go and start a project like creating a new computer that will take a year to come to fruition or would you meet your loved ones, say goodbye and try to convey your ideals and wishes for them? I think the best way to phrase this is “live each day as if your time is limited”. That’s true no one knows if they have a year or 30 years or 60 years. The goal then is to be with your loved ones and leave a lasting legacy and continue to build toward a greater tomorrow.

I bring this up because Randy Pausch who I wrote about in The Last Lecture on Time Management is no longer adding to his legacy.

But he lived each of his last days to the fullest. His legacy will last forever in his family (especially his children), his students and even in the internet.

Are you living each day to it’s fullest?

The Best Success Is Yet To Come

Over the past couple of days I’ve received nice write ups from the fine folks at LifeHack (which I read religiously) and GTDTimes (which is very useful so I’m now subscribed). But there’s more to this site than what they mentioned.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s article I have many drafts in progress. Here’s some of the titles I’m working on:

  • Raise Your Employees, Empower Your Kids(7/23)
  • The Best Diet: Eat What You Love (7/24)
  • The Two Minute Guide To Success (7/25)
  • How to Raise your employees
  • How To Give Your Kids Super Powers
  • The “Best” Diet
  • The Success Cold War: Stop the Rushins
  • The 9 Ds of Processing: Turn Your Excessive Time Demands Into Manageable Tasks
  • My Paperless Office: Trashing Paper, Completing To-Dos and Being Organized
  • QTime: The Mathematical Way To Guarantee Your Happiness Forever
  • How I automated myself out of a Job- and am thankful I did
  • How I increased my rate 10 fold and you can too
  • The computer ATE my work and now I’m successful
  • How To Increase Your EQ (Enjoyment Quotient)
  • Productivity Can (Should) Be Fun and Games

These and other articles will be send to my editor (my wonderful wife, Cindy) shortly. Your success will just get better if you keep reading.

Are You Finished? Finish What You Start


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adiml48I recently received this message forwarded to my email box:

Recently Dr Phil, the talk show host, proclaimed, “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.” So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn’t finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates. You have no idea how good I feel right now.

Jokes aside it is important to finish what you start. Unfinished items will clog your to do list. When you leave an item unfinished for a while you should use the “processing” rules:

  • Delete- Don’t do this task (don’t worry about the work you already did if it’s not needed drop the task.)
  • Delegate- maybe someone else can help you finish it.
  • Defer- if you’re not going to get to it soon- defer it. Put it on your someday/maybe list so it’s not cluttering your current to do list.
  • Do now- Can you do it in 5 minutes or less?
  • Designate- if you know you need to meet someone to get further details on this task (or to do it)- designate some time on your calendar.

I actually started this post months ago. I feel much better, it’s one less draft I need to worry about and I now have a post for tomorrow (today, for those of you reading it).

photo credit: Cara_VSAngel

Don’t Give Up


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PerseveranceYou can find inspiration anywhere. Steve Pavlina, in his Skill article writes “During my first six months as a blogger, I earned a whopping $167. That’s about 17 cents per hour…But about a year and a half later, my blog’s income was passing $10K/month…” (his unreleased book has cracked Amazon’s Top 100 books). Not everyone is as successful as Steve but it’s goes to show that perseverance pays.
Creative Commons License photo credit: dearbarbie.

How To Prepare For Mother’s Day Now


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IMG_5723Mother’s day just ended so you’re probably wondering if this article is late. Actually it isn’t. It’s right on time- for next year. Did you rush at the last second to get your mom a present, make an acknowledgment or plan a visit? Did you feel stressed? Did you do your best? Probably not.

Do you go through the same unfortunate process for birthdays, anniversarys and other events? It’s time to put your best foot forward.

Think now. Think about what you did that worked and what you did that didn’t work. Think about what you should have done. Jot down a few notes about your thoughts. It doesn’t need to be a set of ideas or anything concrete but it needs to be coherent enough that it will jog your memory about your thoughts next time you read it.

Review Monthly. Set a reminder for each month during your monthly review (someday/maybe) to look over your notes. Each month take a couple of seconds to expand and organize your ideas. Some months you’ll have nothing new to add. Other months you’ll gain a clear focus on what you want to do.

Start Preparation. Two months before the event, finalize what you’re going to do based on your notes and set actions for yourself to do it with plenty of time to spare.

Post Event Review. After the next Mother’s Day (or birthday etc) review how it went and start preparing for next year.

Speaking of preparation: Mom, Happy Mother’s Day- I’m a year early.
Creative Commons License photo credit: eyeliam

Lifestyle Investing: How to Compound Time

The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest

Albert Einstein

We all know about the power of compound interest (at least we should). Basically you take a few dollars and put it away for a few years and the interest you earn earns interest. Before you know it you have much more than you started with. Can you apply the same concept to time? That’s the question asked to Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek. Unfortunately he doesn’t provide an answer. But we all know the answer is obviously yes- investing is one of the principles of success. Here’s six ways to compound time:

Outsource

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Get rid of the easy tasks so someone else does it for you. Need someone to do payroll try a company like ADP then all you need to do is spend a couple of minutes sending them your data and they take care of the rest.

Delegate

Some tasks are too complex or personalized to outsource- instead you can insource it (delegate). Train someone to do your job inside your organization or family- a few minutes of training or direction can give you huge dividends in the long term. Sometimes just asking is all you need to do.

Automation

Invest a small amount of time to get a machine/computer to do your job for you. This is why I love computers. They have the potential to do exactly what you need you just have to tell it the right way. It may require a special program, a special setup or even some programming but if you find the right command your computer will do your work for you and will never complain.

Learning

Investing in learning time is crucial. Sometimes learning simple techniques can end up saving you much time in the long run. Learn how to type faster. Learn advanced features of your word processor. Just Learn.

Teaching

If you’re the guru in your house or your office, you’ll often get all kinds of requests- each of which takes you away from what you need to accomplish. The solution is to invest time to teach the person how to do it themselves. So go ahead: Teach your kids to pick their own close. Teach your coworker to run a report you created. As the saying goes “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

Systemize

When there is a system to your actions it makes it much easier to succeed. Think about a recipe- it tells you exactly what you need to do. For projects that you create look into making it systematic. It takes away complexity and limits the risk of problems.

With the Success Blueprint you’ll always know what you’re supposed to be doing and what needs to be done next. It’s a formula that helps you succeed. Your machine works for you invisibly even if you aren’t actively working on it.

This just shows the value of time don’t waste it. Do you have any techniques to compound time? Let me know below.

How To Be A Winner and Thanks For Making Me One

As I mentioned, I recently entered a contest at ChangeThis– whose mission is to “spread important ideas and change minds“. My proposal “Stop Bring Productive, Start Being Successful” was selected to be voted on. The person with the most votes for their proposal gets their manifesto (long article) published. I was against 9 others with big ideas. Fortunately, with your help (Thank You) I won! The manifesto is coming soon. Here’s some of my take aways.

Think Like a Winner

Put your concerns aside and do your best. Confidence and determination are key. Think of a plan how to get success and do it.

Put Yourself in Position To Win

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

Wayne Gretzky

If I had been intimidated by the other good ideas I wouldn’t have entered. As the lotto says- “you gotta be in it to win it” (not that I’m advocating playing the lotto). Take whatever cliche you want, the point is if you aren’t trying, you definitely wont win.

Look For Inspiration

By blog buddy Francis Wade of 2Time had entered a previous contest and won.

Ask for Help

You can’t win on your own. I asked Francis for some pointers. I asked my readers to vote. I asked my online buddies to vote. You all came through. Thanks.

Three Sure Fire Ways To Avoid Fire Drills

No ones likes the last minute rushing and headaches that comes with an urgent project. Seth Godin has an intriguing post Managing Urgencies. He concludes, “a career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along”. This is exactly the reason to “Think” before you do. Here are three ways to avoid fire drills.

Focus on quality

1. Think in advance– Think about the right way to do it before you start any project.
2. Double check– Double check all your work before it goes out.

3. Audit– have an audit procedure to make sure you did it right.

Reign in expectations

1. Don’t over promise– Don’t commit the world if it’s not required. Know what you’re capable of. See what you have the time for and do your best.
2. Educate your customer– Let your customer, boss, spouse know how long tasks typically take so they can set their own proper expectations.

Control your time

1. Don’t overschedule– If you have too much going on you risk getting into a time crunch and startign a fire.
2. Don’t let others schedule for you– Don’t let others automatically schedule you. Sometimes it’s something they can do themselves- teach them how.

Make it your goal not to get in fire drills and you’ll be less stressed and more productive.

Don’t Drop The Ball and Other Life Lessons From Opening Day

Opening days marks the beginning of a new baseball season. There’s something special about opening day. You’ll want to make everyday opening day.

Fresh start

In a new season everyone has a fresh start. The bad teams can show that they’re better. The bench players can show they’ve improved and the rookies can show they belong. Unfortunately real life doesn’t offer us the opportunities to start fresh without dramatic change (switch jobs). The answer is to do something different. Launch something new. Give people the opportunity to show something new. Look at an old situation in a new way. Start a new tradition like going out to lunch with a coworker.

Don’t Drop The Ball

In baseball one of the fundamentals is that you don’t drop the ball. Most of the time you don’t have to do anything remarkable, as long as you do what your supposed. Part of what made Cal Ripken Jr. special is he showed up every day- ready to play. That’s 2,632 straight games without sitting. Today too many people are trying to do too much and don’t get the fundementals done. Keep track of your outstanding tasks and get them done and you’ll be ahead of most people.

Practice, Practice, Practice There’s an old joke of a man lost in New York City he asks a women “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”. The reply was “Practice, practice, practice”. In order to do anything well we must practice, practice, practice. Players who have been playing baseball for their whole lives spend six weeks practicing before the season start. Then they practice all season. In the real world we need to constantly learn, to refine our skills. This may

Make this your opening day. Give yourself a fresh start to improve. Give your coworkers, subordinates, family member and friends a chance to surprise you. Forget the bad from the past. Even my favorite team can put the memory of a historic collapse behind them and start a new.