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The Cluetrain Manifesto

95 Theses

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about "listening to customers." They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.

However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.

  1. Markets are conversations.

  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

  7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

  8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

  9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

  10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

  11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

  12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

  13. What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two.

  14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

  15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

  16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

  17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

  18. Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

  19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

  20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

  21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

  22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

  23. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.

  24. Bombastic boasts—"We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ"—do not constitute a position.

  25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

  26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.

  27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.

  28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside the company.

  29. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."

  30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

  31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"

  32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.

  33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony conference.

  34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

  35. But first, they must belong to a community.

  36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.

  37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.

  38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.

  39. The community of discourse is the market.

  40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.

  41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.

  42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.

  43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.

  44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.

  45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.

  46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.

  47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.

  48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.

  49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.

  50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

  51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

  52. Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.

  53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.

  54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.

  55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.

  56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

  57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.

  58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.

  59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.

  60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.

  61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.

  62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

  63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.

  64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.

  65. We're also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.

  66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?

  67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.

  68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what's that got to do with us?

  69. Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us.

  70. If you don't impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.

  71. Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.

  72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.

  73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!

  74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.

  75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

  76. We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we'd be willing to pay for. Got a minute?

  77. You're too busy "doing business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.

  78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.

  79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

  80. Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.

  81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

  82. Your product broke. Why? We'd like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she's not in?

  83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.

  84. We know some people from your company. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?

  85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.

  86. When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.

  87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.

  88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

  89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

  90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing.

  91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.

  92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.

  93. We're both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.

  94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

  95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Keep it alive

Happy Birthday to me.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Changes in Lattitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Pam has a terrific post at Escape from Cubicle Nation about what happens when you change your life:

One of the unexpected parts of heading towards your right life is discovering that sometimes those around you are not ready, willing or able to see you change. This can result in disagreements, fracturing or even ending long-term friendships and relationships.

If you are in the process of moving from a corporate employee to an entrepreneur, you will experience an amazing identity shift. You will change your attitude, challenge long-term beliefs, stretch and grow in new areas, take more of a "center stage" role in public life and possibly totally redesign your life. This may make those around you very uncomfortable. Why is this?

Why indeed. There is very good advice for anyone getting ready to strike out on their own. Read it all.

Made to Stick - a book review

The urban legends of the kidney thieves, the gang members who cruise with no headlights, and the flesh-eating bacteria have something in common with age-old fables, nursery rhymes, and modern-day ad campaigns. What could it be? That these ideas seem to have a life of their own, a "Sticky" factor that makes people remember them, and pass them on. But where does that come from?And can it be duplicated intentionally?

Using a word coined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, Chip and Dan Heath have done exhaustive research and come up with a theory that explains why some ideas catch on, and some just wither away. They use anecdotes and stories, some familiar, some new, to describe the phenomenon of stickiness and its ancient roots in every culture.

Made to Stick unpacks the essence of very effective communication, messages that stand the test of time and pass from one person to another like the flu. One of the core ideas of the book is that effective communication is based on "Gap Theory" - pointing out things that people may be unaware that they do not know. Exploiting this gap with six very specific conditions can make your communication sticky, therefore effective. Rather than asking yourself,"What information do I need to convey?", you must shift your thinking to the viewpoint of your audience, "What questions do I want my audience to ask?" Once you know that, then you can work on getting your audience to care by providing context and appealing to their emotions. An emotional idea makes people care, and when they care, they remember.

What makes ideas sticky, and just how do you get people to care? Even more, how do you get people to take action? The Heaths use an acronym for describing the components of a sticky idea: SUCCESs.

  1. Simplicity - it contains only the most rudimentary, core idea
  2. Unexpectedness - what you don't know gets and keeps your interest
  3. Concreteness - an example that the audience can relate to, nothing abstract
  4. Credibility - vivid details that enhance the image
  5. Emotions - as opposed to analytical or statistical information
  6. Stories - instead of lists
These components, used in combination, can take an idea and make it viral. A sticky concept does not have to use all of the components, but stickiness increases and communication is enhanced by using more.

This book will teach you how to transform your ideas to beat the Curse of Knowledge. The six principles presented earlier are your best weapons. They can be used as a kind of checklist. Let's take the CEO who announces to her staff that they must strive to "maximize shareholder value."

Is this idea simple? Yes, in the sense that it's short, but it lacks the useful simplicity of a proverb. Is it unexpected? No. Concrete? Not at all. Credible? Only in the sense that it's coming from the mouth of the CEO. Emotional? Um, no. A story? No.

Contrast the "maximize shareholder value" idea with John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 call to "put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade." Simple? Yes. Unexpected? Yes. Concrete? Amazingly so. Credible? The goal seemed like science fiction, but the source was credible. Emotional? Yes. Story? In miniature.
The Heaths write with wit and humor, explaining the power of some of today's urban legends and successful ad campaigns, dissecting them to expose the stickiness components that made them successful. Much of the research turned up some very counter-intuitive results (see pages 211-212 on Positive Mental Attitude!), but the lesson is that a simple message with some very specific qualities can make your audience do the things that you need them to do, in order to make your message successful:
  • Pay attention,
  • understand and remember,
  • agree or believe,
  • care,
  • and be able to act on it.
Whether you are chairing a meeting to explain the new TPS reports, or creating a new corporate culture, creating a message with basic, core information that appeals to emotions and can be conveyed in a credible story will be remembered, long after the last PowerPoint slide has faded from memory.

We will give you suggestions for tailoring your ideas in a way that makes them more creative and more effective with your audience. We've created our checklist of six principles for precisely this purpose.

But isn't the use of a template or a checklist confining? Surely we're not arguing that a "color by numbers" approach will yield more creative work than a blank-canvas approach?

Actually, yes, that's exactly what we're saying. If you want to spread your ideas to other people, you should work within the confines of the rules that have allowed other ideas to succeed over time. You want to invent new ideas, not new rules.

This book can't offer a foolproof recipe. We'll admit it up front: We won't be able to show you how to get twelve-year-olds to gossip about mitosis around the campfire. And in all likelihood your process-improvement memo will not circulate decades from now as a proverb in another culture.

But we can promise you this: Regardless of your level of "natural creativity," we will show you how a little focused effort can make almost any idea stickier, and a sticky idea is an idea that is more likely to make a difference. All you need to do is understand the six principles of powerful ideas.

Rating: (of 5)

Time Magazine Article
Malcolm Gladwell's Blog
And just for fun,
The Secret of Stickiness

Friday, March 16, 2007

Posts from the Crypt

I am pulling this link up from the distant past (last August), to share with you an interview between two of my favorite bloggers. Seth Godin answers questions for Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void. (Yes, two posts in a row with links. I spent a lot of today reading the archives, so sue me.)

Anyway, the first question and answer:

1. QUESTION: Your latest book, "Small Is The New Big", is not a narrative or a thesis in any sense, but a collection of your favorite writings from your blog and your old Fast Company column. A collection of synapse-firings, the way I see it. Is it important to you to have your work "immortalized" on paper? Do you find the internet and magazines just too ephemeral, and wanted to created something more "lasting"? Or was it just simply because, as you say, you wanted your ideas to reach beyond the blogosphere?

ANSWER: It's important not to underestimate the totem value of a book. The same way a white lab coat makes a placebo more likely to be effective (or a witch doctor's hat for that matter), a book delivers an impact that a blog can't.

While there's certainly some ego in wanting your thousands of posts not to disappear, there's also a real desire on my part to give my existing readers the ability to taunt their co-workers by handing them a book instead of emailing them a link. If my job is to make change, I need to use the best tools that are available.

It's also hard to read a blog at the beach.

I want to be clear about something I just discovered though--that there IS a theme. The title really captures what the book is about. I've been amazed that reviewers (professional and pro-am) have seemed to find something that I didn't when I was busy writing it... that acting small, treating people like people, changing like an individual, not an organization... these are attributes that are essential now, and they're on every page of the book. I think I picked the right riff for the title.
Read the whole interview. Then get ahold of the book, it is fantastic.

Missing the Point

The GTD forums at Davidco make for interesting reading, and excellent blogging material. One of the posts that I saw today went as follows:

I'm doing GTD, but I'm not getting things done
Here's what I'm not getting done: Make my business profitable.

Call it a goal, an open loop or whatever, but it's something I've resolved to get done a long time ago. But so far, it remains undone.

Believe me, I've brainstormed, did countless hours of project planning, and created hundreds of projects for it. I really want to make my business work, but so far I haven't been able to.

I used to think of GTD as a magic formula that gets anything done. But now I realized that if you don't actually have to ability to get it done, GTD won't help you. It's nice to muse over the slogan "Make it up. Make it happen." But if you don't actually have what it takes to make it happen, in the end, you'll have to do the renegotiating and lowering of your standards. It's still a legitimate GTD option, but it's not getting things done. It's just getting things out of your head and renegotiating them, so you'll feel good about what you couldn't get done.

Frankly, I still can't get myself to renegotiate my commitments and close down the business. I acknowledge there might still be more subtle things at the higher levels that I haven't captured yet. So I'm resolving to do just that. But whatever it is, I still wasn't able to make my business profitable. I wasn't able to get it done, not even with GTD.

Anyone tell me I'm wrong...

First off, this is a little like "You've Got Mail" (sorry, OT, but one of my wife's favorite movies, seen too many times) in that we do not know what business or what market, so it is hard to offer meaningful advice. Be that as it may, this was one of the responses:
I can't speak to the detailed reasons why your business never became profitable, because I don't know them. I can speak on some level about what GTD does and what it doesn't do.

GTD is not a motivational system. It does a wonderful job of getting you to keep track of all the things you should be doing, but it doesn't actually help you do them. I had a burst of productivity when I adopted GTD, but that faded and I was soon left with nice neat lists of things that weren't getting done. That's what drove me into my interest in procrastination.

GTD is very much about defining and organizing work and not so much about what gets you personally motivated to do that work. GTD is workflow management, not psychology. No matter how much GTD you do, you're the one who has to get those things done.

I'm not trying to be harsh here, and I apologize to anyone who reads this message that way. I'm just pointing out that GTD is only one of the collection of techniques we all work out individually that helps us get things done.

I have to say that I disagree. My first response was to post this cartoon from Gaping Void:

Seriously, though, most people only think that they are doing the best they can. GTD is a step toward truly achieving the goal of doing the best that you can. GTD does "a wonderful job of getting you to keep track of all the things you should be doing, but it doesn't actually help you do them." Well, that is not exactly true. If you are keeping up with the things that need to get done, if you use the Natural Planning method of outlining projects, and if you invest the time to review your Next Actions and prepare yourself for actually doing these things, it follows that GTD does help you do them.

I find it to be highly motivational to get up in the morning and look over my notes and @Next Actions from the previous day and know exactly what I should do next. I am encouraged and energized by the prospect of checking off the little boxes on my Weekly Review Checklist. And I go to bed every night secure in the knowledge that I didn't forget anything and that the sun will surely rise in the morning.

(Since beginning GTD, my wife and I have also faithfully kept to our exercise program, 5 days a week, and have each lost 10+ pounds in the past eight weeks, talk about motivation!).

I have a sneaking suspicion that the original poster is experiencing two problems that have nothing to do with GTD. The first is that they most likely do not "have their ladder against the right wall." In his book "First Things First", Stephen Covey discusses the power of goals and the value of personal integrity. The key to making sure that your ladder is against the right wall is to use your educated conscience to "do the right thing for the right reason in the right way" (First Things First, pp. 138-145). The other problem is very likely that they are just not getting out on the street, knocking on doors and selling the product/service/widget. The "dot-com" glory days are long-gone, my friend. If you want a profitable business, you must get out there and sell something!

As for the response that GTD is not motivation or psychology, well, this is flatly incorrect. There is so much power in knowing that you have everything at your fingertips, and you are able to choose with integrity which task to work on, when to do it, and why. If that is not a reason to motivate you to get something done, what is?

"Workflow Management" is a psychological tool of the highest order. So many people are tortured by the assortment of choices and deadlines that they experience each day. You can see it everywhere you go, in the faces of those rushing around, filled with sound and fury yet accomplishing nothing.

The reason that some may experience a "burst of productivity" only to have it fade is that, subconsciously, they realize that they are working furiously in the wrong direction. But they do not have the strength to change course, to apply their new power in a more appropriate (though unfamiliar) direction.

Getting Things Done allows you to marshall your own abilities, capture your aspirations, and coordinate your activities in a productive way. By starting at the bottom, organizing and separating the things that are important from the things that are merely urgent, you can accomplish all of your goals and create the high-quality life that you desire. Who would not be motivated by that?

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Emergency Analog Backup!

What do you do when the lights go out? Or if you are a high-powered executive and your assistant is out of the office unexpectedly? Success Begins Today has a really good answer:

All the secretaries and office personnel were gone. The district had arranged a one day seminar in Riverside and they all had taken advantage of it. This was an amazing change and many administrators were at a loss without their administrative help. I overheard many conversations such as- “It will have to wait until tomorrow, ____ is gone and I don’t know what’s on the schedule.”

What do you do in a situation like this? Your schedule is turned upside down and normal channels of communication don’t work. Imagine if the power was turned off for hours on end. Your computer is down, your PDA discharged, and all of your common organization tools are inoperative.

What do you do?

The simple answer is the “Five Minute Organizer.” A simple tool for organizing your thoughts, goals and even your life. This simple little device requires no batteries, is totally customizable, and fits neatly in your pocket or purse. You can create one in five minutes and be on your way to organizing your day. With some simple options your desk will be transformed into an organization station. You’ll be able to see your appointments, daily goals and your next actions in one place.

Check it out, I am sure that this idea could be hacked in a hundred ways! What do you think you could do with this:

Check it out, download the form, and then let me know what your clever mind came up with!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to Increase Traffic and Monetize Your Blog

You manage to get a guest post from Eli at BlueHatSEO.com. Check out the NetBusinessBlog and what Eli has to say:

Hello everyone. This is your captain speaking. First I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Eli from BlueHatSEO.com. I do a little SEO here and there when needed. It’s not everyday that someone like Matt offers you an opportunity to do a guest post on one of the best internet business blogs on the net like NetBusinessBlog. So I’d like to start off by expressing how extremely honored I am for the chance to write this post and demonstrate a few things to the NBB’s community. Writing about the business aspect of SEO is not something I get a chance to do very often so I think this is a great opportunity to talk about what I think is one of the toughest business transitions in the industry. The move from affiliate to full blown E-Commerce publisher.

The reason why I say that E-Commerce is the toughest transition to make is because if you’ve ever attempted it, whether you were successful or not, you find out very quickly why it’s called the big boys club. In the affiliate market industry you have several people above you. First the manufacturers. Then the suppliers.. Next the E-commerce sites. Lastly the affiliate network. Everyone above you wants you to succeed. Your success means their success. In the E-Commerce world the model of authority changes. It is just you and the manufacturer. The manufacturers want you to succeed but not so much that it hurts their real cash cows, the local retailers who will spare no time complaining about their online competition. Frankly you are nothing more than a necessary pain in the ass.

Very nice. In fact, almost enough info to become an e-book. A less scrupulous person than myself might boost it and do just that.
Anyway, I am not doing this to sell anything, except some adspace (hint) and help other beginners work toward their dream of being ranked #606,000 of 55,000,000 blogs. /sigh.

Follow Your Dream

Jonathan and Jayme Cisco have made the leap to follow their dream and take off for New Zealand. Their blog has some helpful information regarding immigration rules and tips on banking, plus some great photos. Jonathan is also a GTD'er!

Check out their site and wish them well on their journey.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lifehack is Looking for Community Leaders

The Post speaks for itself:

New Lifehack Community

Recently we have received some comments which you want to see improvements on our lifehack community. Some of you also wanted to have a place for further discussion on your productivity issues, lifestyle concerns, or simply share your tips and tricks. We heard you and now we present you with a new forums for discussion!

With near two years of experience at lifehack.org, I found out there are numbers of big topic that we concern in our life and wanted to find better ways to handle them. We have divided our discussion forum to following topics:

  • Communication: Presentation, Writing, Small-talk, Blogging, etc…
  • Productivity: Motivation, Procrastination, Time Management, Planning…
  • Management: Entrepreneurship, People Management, Self Management, Project Management…
  • Lifestyle: Health, Diet, Exercise, Sleeping…
  • Financial: Money, Investment, Debt…
  • Technology: Tools, PDA, Hardware, Software, Web Apps…

Readers, enjoy the new community! Either myself, Kyle, Craig and the community leaders will help you along the way.
I for one welcome the new LifeHack overlords...

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To Do Today

Today is Weekly Review day, my one day off from the meatspace job that I get to myself. I will be doing some housekeeping, laundry, and thoroughly going over this past weeks NAs to make sure that everything is being captured properly. I will post on the results later today, so for now I will leave you with the Time article on David Allen from last Saturday and a couple of interesting links.

The Five Secrets to Getting Things Done
Saturday, Mar. 03, 2007 By JEREMY CAPLAN

To spread his productivity gospel, David Allen is writing a third book on how to get things in order. Here are some of his top tips, whether you're an executive or an artist-in-the-making

1 — Mix Business with Pleasure

Most people keep separate lists of things they have to do at home and their professional or school tasks. That's a mistake, Allen says. You're the same person at home and at the office (or school). It's more effective to maintain a unified list of all of your tasks. Keep it on paper, not in your overloaded head. Organize tasks by context rather than according to whether they're professional or personal. In other words, if you have calls to make, whether to work colleagues or to the babysitter or cable guy, tag them in your to-do list as things to do when you've got a few minutes and a phone handy. Next time you're in a cab or waiting room, you'll appreciate only having to look in one place for the calls you have to make, whether they're for work or not.

2 — Step Away from the Stapler

When your schedule is packed with meetings and tasks, it's easy to lose sight of your broader goals and responsibilities. Break away once a week and take stock of the projects you're working on and your long-term objectives, Allen advises. That will ensure that important items on the distant horizon don't fall by the wayside. In Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, the "weekly review" is the most important element, according to devotees. It's easy to avoid and hard to commit to, but Allen says building it into your routine helps systemize effective planning.

3 — Evaluate Your System

Whether you're a scraps-of-paper person or a Filofax fanatic, chances are you've developed your own way of organizing your calendar, tasks and contacts. Most of us, though, have holes in our organizational buckets. Things routinely fall out. And while your system might be comfortable, it should get a tune-up from time to time. "I thought I was a productive, well-organized person," says Kim Hagerty, CEO of The Hagerty Group Management Group, a specialty insurance company, describing how surprised she felt after a consultation session on David Allen's system. She realized there were many things she had forgotten to plan for, mostly because they hadn't required her immediate attention. The advantage of the GTD system, or others like it, Allen says, is that once you've written everything down and gotten it off your brain, your mind can relax and your imagination can soar.

4 — Ask Yourself: Should This Be Here?

Keep tabs on your working space just as you manage your mental space. "The things that belong are supplies, reference material, decoration and equipment," Allen says. "Everything else is in process." In other words, if random chotchkes are gradually taking over your desk despite being neither functional nor sentimental, neither useful nor amusing, observe that and do something about it. Set your own standards, Allen says, but once you've recognized that something is out of place, do something about it to improve your peace of mind.

5 — Decide On Your Mission

At some point, your tasks and projects have to draw on some larger goal, Allen says. Even if you don't yet know what that is, set aside time to think about it once in a while. So where does he stand on that? Now that he's gotten organization down pat, what's next for the master of productivity? Allen would rather dream than draw up a business plan. "I'm a reluctant entrepreneur," he says. The productivity guru likes to think of himself as a "researcher, educator and an evangelist," who helps people weave order into their complex lives. But because Allen would rather help people gain control of their frazzled lives than figure out new ways to make millions off of his ideas, he's still struggling to decide whether to focus on corporate consulting or the world of self-help. And what's the right scale and scope for The David Allen Company? "This could be a $30 to $60 million business," he says, "but I'm personally not that ambitious."

And here are two links to other GTD-related posts that I found interesting:

77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better

R. Emory Williamson-Lundberg's Whitepaper on GTD Implementation

The whitepaper is long, but loaded with tips and real-life examples of how Emory does GTD.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The New Nomads- Taking Your Job on the Road

I found a very interesting article at Business Week.com and would like to share it with you. The big question is: How many of you does this describe?

Do you ever wish you could win the lottery, chuck the rat race, and take off to explore the world? Heck—who hasn't? These days, however, there's a group of independent-minded, techno-savvy entrepreneurs who are turning that dream into a reality. They call themselves New Nomads, and they've transformed work-at-home into work-anywhere-you-damn-well-please.

Whether they take to the road armed with suitcases, laptops, cell phones, and Skype (EBAY) accounts, or settle in at a vacation destination every summer, this band of mobile-preneurs has learned to communicate and support each other with virtual communities like NuNomad.com and LaptopHobo.com. Several of them e-mailed their stories from around the globe to Smart Answers.

Is this is the real end-result of Web 2.0? Will the proliferation of wireless internet connections allow programmers and bloggers to travel the world, free of the constraints of mortgages and utility bills? And what are the pros and cons of this kind of lifestyle?
Spiritual and Financial Benefits

"The only downsides are that my dream has been always to have a beautiful rose garden and we both would love to have pets," Chiba wrote. Yes, there are cons to the wanderlust lifestyle, though Bolanos calls them "challenges" rather than "cons." "You must work downtime into your professional schedule when you are transitioning from one place to another," she wrote. "I have often been caught off-guard by how many days it takes me to shake jet lag and get acclimated to new surroundings before I can really be mentally available to clients. I've learned not to push too hard when we are moving."

The pros, of course, far outweigh the "challenges"—at least as far as the Nu Nomads are concerned. "I make Western wages, but spend it in developing countries, [which is] about one-quarter the cost of living of Southern California, where I'm from," Hamel wrote. "Personally, I've enjoyed being influenced by the differing communities I have visited and/or lived in, and [have benefited also] spiritually—not in a religious sense, but being able to home in on the core of my value system and learn to love more and fear less."

Or will the future of work look more like what is happening at Best Buy:
The nation's leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical--if risky--experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for "results-only work environment," seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Hence workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are no schedules. No mandatory meetings. No impression-management hustles. Work is no longer a place where you go, but something you do. It's O.K. to take conference calls while you hunt, collaborate from your lakeside cabin, or log on after dinner so you can spend the afternoon with your kid.


The official policy for this post-face-time, location-agnostic way of working is that people are free to work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they get their work done. "This is like TiVo (TIVO ) for your work," says the program's co-founder, Jody Thompson. By the end of 2007, all 4,000 staffers working at corporate will be on ROWE. Starting in February, the new work environment will become an official part of Best Buy's recruiting pitch as well as its orientation for new hires. And the company plans to take its clockless campaign to its stores--a high-stakes challenge that no company has tried before in a retail environment.

Another thing about this experiment: It wasn't imposed from the top down. It began as a covert guerrilla action that spread virally and eventually became a revolution. So secret was the operation that Chief Executive Brad Anderson only learned the details two years after it began transforming his company. Such bottom-up, stealth innovation is exactly the kind of thing Anderson encourages. The Best Buy chief aims to keep innovating even when something is ostensibly working. "ROWE was an idea born and nurtured by a handful of passionate employees," he says. "It wasn't created as the result of some edict."

Now these are some work environments that I could really get into. Check out these links -

CultureRx, NuNomad.com and LaptopHobo.com.

There is even a handbook for those who want to find out how to get out of the office for good:
Quit Dreaming and Go! A Step-by-Step Manual on What it Takes to Travel the World and Support Yourself in the Process has been assembled as a practical “How To” manual for those of you who are serious about breaking out of the office and into the world. As a 135 page downloadable ebook (or 188 page printed book) it includes information on all vital aspects of travel preparation for making a nomadic work life possible.
Check it out.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Productivity Tools - Notebook Review

I popped into Staples on Friday and picked up a cloth-covered Rollabind Notebook, the 6" x 8.5" size. It comes with 70 pages of fairly heavy-weight paper, 5.5"x8.25", that takes the ink from my Pilot G2 very well. The paper is pre-printed, both sides, with College-ruled lines for notes and is very smooth, so pencil works well too.

Included accessories for the notebook vary in quality. The business card holder has 3 slots for cards and is very cheap and flimsy. The slash-pocket divider is also light-weight, I anticipate that it will tear quickly under use. The ruler place holder and single tabbed divider are of better quality - a heavier, thicker plastic sheet that should hold up to daily use.
Finally we come to the rings that are the heart of the system. Made of white plastic, painted silver, they have some mold flash on the outer edge that restricts the opening and closing of the notebook. Turning individual pages works fine, but when you flip multiple pages or open the notebook to the center they catch. This is a big weakness, I am going to have to file the flash off so the pages will turn more smoothly.

Rating: (of 5)

What will I use it for?

This new notebook will serve as a capture device for the rough drafts of upcoming posts, @Project outlines, and perhaps the home for upcoming Review Checklists. The notebook fits into my "portable office" with no adjustments. To hack this notebook for best use, I have added 3 dividers made from 5"x8" index cards with self-adhesive tabs. I may pick up a sturdier business-card holder designed for one of those name brand systems once the original one fails. It depends on how much I use it.

I will post updates on how daily use comes along.

Related post here.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Someday/Maybe and the Trashcan!

(I pray this link-triangle doesn't tear a hole in the universe.)

I was over at Cranking Widgets Blog this morning, and spotted a reference to a guest-post at LifeDev, and that inspired me to take action!

Here we go:

This post was written by Brett Kelly of Cranking Widgets Blog (feed). Brett is an excellent student of Getting Things Done, and his blog is an excellent read for anyone wanting to improve their organizational skills with our favorite little productivity method: GTD. I’m honored to have Brett share his insights on productivity with LifeDev’s readers.

This is a great article and I encourage you to read it. Here is the part that hit me:
One thing I recall vividly when doing my very first mental sweep after first reading GTD was writing ‘Learn to speak/read Latin’ on an index card and lobbing it gently into my new in-basket. I don’t really know why, but I’ve always wanted to learn to speak a different language, and most of the usual High School fare didn’t hold much fascination for me. I was happy as punch to add it to my project list, decide on a Next Action (in this case, Google for free Latin resources online). But every day or two I’d glance down at my NA lists and see that particular action, sitting quietly undone. I’d never really feel like doing it or I wouldn’t have time - there’d always be a reason to not take that first step. It started to bug me.

[...]Aaaargh! Me too! This was Brett's response:

Then, during the weekly review, I’d be going through my project list and, sure as shootin’, I’d come across ‘Learn to speak/read Latin’. Without even really thinking about it, I’d get a slight tinge of depression at the knowledge that I’d done nothing to move the project forward. So, after about a month of this, I made an executive decision: I no longer have any immediate plans to learn to speak/read Latin. The project enjoyed a short stay on my Someday/Maybe list before getting it’s walking papers and several swift strikeout lines.

"Is the Project still worthwhile?" is a great editing tool for your Weekly Review and, as Brett mentions, there are times that you must be merciless in your decision-making.

I pulled out my hPDA and took a look, there it was "Learn Latin". What was I to do? In that split second I too made an executive decision. I posted my comment and then went to the Tickler file!

This was my response:
“Learn Latin” is on my Someday/Maybe also! I have wanted to do this for a long time, and yes, I too felt a twinge last week when I did my monthly review. After reading this post, I have made the decision to add “Learn Latin” to my @1-2 years context. I have Tickled a series of reminders to do the research and budget for the best language tapes and books. In six months I will make the purchase and Get this Thing Done!

It's interesting where inspiration comes from. I am looking forward to my new project.

Here is a related post at GTD Wannabe.

Feedburner and the GTD Network

I would like to send a hearty shout-out to Frank at What's the Next Action for reaching out to everyone and setting up the GTD network at Feedburner. I think that this is a fantastic new resource for keeping up with the latest GTD news and conversation. Check out the new RSS Feed button at the top-left, or subscribe to new posts via email, and be sure to click on the GTD Network panel below that for the "total experience".

You may also want to visit the Squidoo Lens and vote for your favorite GTD Blog! There is a lot of information on GTD in general, and new features are being added every day.

Check out a couple of new blogs here:
Chris Yeung is blogging on GTD,
and Kara has a very impressive blogging schedule here.

Finally, check out this page at BNET for their "Crash Course in GTD". That is all for now, stay tuned for upcoming posts on Writing Content and Natural Planning.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Flagship Content

There is a lot of talk about professional blogging these days, and everyone is trying to get in on the act. This very blog is a 'journal' of my own effort to break free of the "veal-fattening pen" that is my meatspace job, and help you to do it too. Chris Garrett has written a short e-book entitled "Killer Flagship Content" that is a basic guide to putting together a blog or website that will become the go-to resource for your particular interest.
As I mentioned previously, everyone is an expert on something, and you can leverage that expertise into creating Flagship Content for your site that draws in readers again and again. Garrett is careful to differentiate Flagship Content from Linkbait, in that the Flagship Content provides long-term value. It is useful and original material that stands the test of time, because others will refer back to it, and refer more readers to it.
Now why would they do that? What are people really looking for? Well, people (and that means you, Dear Reader) are busy, or lazy, or confused, or lost. What people want is "one trusted resource, that fully answers the question, in language we understand, in a place we can easily find." Now who does not want something like that?
Garrett gives other reasons for sitting down and working hard to create this Flagship Content as a firm foundation for your site, among them:

  • Brand - Your blog gets known and known for the right reasons (quality content). It is far easier to get across all the great things your blog can do for people by showing rather than telling. Give people a great resource, demonstrate your value and expertise, get your blog known for doing good things.
  • Authority - There is so much value in being the source, tool, service or expert. Search engines love authorities as much as people do. When one resource stands out above the crowd it is that resource that gets all the attention, is seen as the go-to article and whose author gets media attention.
  • Value - Some websites are liked. Others are loved. The most successful though are needed. Wouldn't it be great to create a blog people can't do without?
  • Marketability - On occasion you will need a "portfolio piece" - something representative of your blog or your work, pro blog gigs, book deals, media appearances, press releases... You don't always want to use your most recent post for this. A great flagship can sell a blog or your writing skills far better than asking the person to subscribe and read a while.
Creating flagship content builds value in your site or blog, and creates context for your readers. Building value is one of the most important aspects of selling anything, and we that blog are definitely selling our points of view. Garrett advocates creating quality writing, through which one can enhance their credibility, which in turn will drive traffic deeper into their archives. It will encourage visitors to subscribe and use the tell-a-friend feature.

I am not going to give away all of the goodies in this e-book, I do recommend that you read it for yourself. Click over to ChrisG.com and follow the instructions. This is some of Garrett's Flagship Content, and it is valuable and useful.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Escape the Cubicle

Web Worker Daily has some advice for those who want to strike out on their own:

So you want to ditch your corporate cubicle and join the ranks of web workers? But you have a mortgage, maybe a dependent or two, and a taste for Venti Mochas from Starbucks? You can make money in the new economy, though it might not be as easy or cushy as keeping your old economy job.

I’m not talking about advertising or affiliate marketing or selling your junk on eBay. Those are so last millennium! I’m talking about the new new economy.

1. Offer your professional expertise in an online marketplace.These days, you can do more than just sell your old books via Amazon and your old Coach handbags via eBay—now you can sell your professional capabilities in a marketplace. No longer are you limited to looking for a permanent or contract job on Web 1.0 style job sites like Monster or CareerBuilder. The new breed of freelancing and project-oriented sites let companies needing help describe their projects. Then freelancers and small businesses offer bids or ideas or proposals from which those buyers can choose.

Elance covers everything from programming and writing to consulting and design, while RentACoder focuses on software, natch. If you’re a graphic designer, check out options like Design Outpost or LogoWorks–you don’t have to find the customers, they’ll come to you. Wannabe industry analysts might sign up for TechDirt’s Insight Community, a marketplace for ideas about technology marketing.

Read the whole article, there are quite a few useful links.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Everyone's An Expert

A review of Seth Godin's e-book about the search for meaning online.

This e-book is mainly an exposition on using Blogs and RSS to create a new online experience, secondarily it is an "infomercial" for Godin's Squidoo.com Lens Portal.

Everyone is using the Internets to find something, and "Search" has become a billion-dollar industry. However, when you are searching for something on any of the various engines, you are likely to find thousands (if not millions) of results. In which case you haven't really "found" anything! Having too much information is only a little better than not having enough. It takes a long time to seft through all of those search results to find a meaningful answer to your query. To quote Godin:

"The engineers who built the Web believed that if they presented the 'right' answer, intelligent humans would be pleased. In fact, before you get it, before you discover the meaning, there is not right answer."

The as-yet-unfulfilled promise of Web 2.0 is creating networks of meaning. Networks which are easily found and navigated in order to speed up the process of actually finding what you are searching for: a meaningful answer. Godin calls this network a place where one can go for instant context on their search, he calls it a Lens. The purpose of a Lens is to answer the question,"What do I need to know?"

"A lens gives context. When it succeeds it delivers meaning. A lens can tell you which books, records, and websites are the best way to appreciate Miles Davis. A lens can show you the ten most important things you need to know about copyright on the web. A lens can highlight the key players in the hospital crib business and give you the confidence that you need to go ahead and buy something - without worrying about whether you missed a key player or didn't understand a critical choice."

The essential point is to make the collections of lenses your starting point when you are searching for something. Because a lens provides context, rather than content. The lens is an aggregator of "pointers" on a particular subject. The components of a lens: Links, RSS feeds, Adsense Ads, all are things that "point" to content - Blogs, Websites, and even other lenses that contain trusted and meaningful information.

Here is the good news:
  • Squidoo is free
  • You can earn royalties $$$
  • You can generate more traffic to your blog & website
  • You can build credibility as a trusted guide
  • Improved SEO rankings
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? In fact it is good, and it is working. Affiliate programs have popped up all over the place to help you drive more traffic and make more money. It is also not working, in a sense, as there are quite a few people creating lenses that either do not have the time or skills required to invest in making a truly useful lens. I spent some time looking around for a meaningful Getting Things Done lens, and didn't really find a thorough one. In fact, many of the lenses, on any given topic, do not live up to their potential. My impression from reading Everyone's an Expert was that the lens would be a tool for creating a more meaningful experience, starting a new conversation and increasing the power of the Internets. Not just another sign that says "Look at me."

So I built a lens. Yes, it does have a link to this blog, but the main purpose is to give the lens value through context. The information is about Getting Things Done, and for creating your own web business and global microbrand. I also made it a very open system, with links to several other blogs that I have found to be interesting and useful. You can go to the lens and check them out, rank them by voting, and add sites that I may have missed (feel free to add your own!). You can even get the Plexo (as it's called) as a widget for your own site (see left sidebar) and increase your exposure that way.

The idea of the lens is to create a community, and give valuable information. The Ultimate Getting Things Done Index is a lens of sorts, in that it pulls together all of the RSS feeds for every blog that discusses GTD. The Hidden Dragon Lens is designed to create value, credibility, and context for the various resources that exist for Getting Things Done.

Go ahead and download Everyone's an Expert here, and get to work on your own lens. Then come back and tell about it!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Updating Your System

From Getting Things Done, by David Allen:

"The real trick to ensuring the trustworthiness of the whole organization system lies in regularly refreshing your psyche and your system from a more elevated perspective."
The Weekly Review has real power, the power to heal your mind and let you get your things done. Left undone, life and work come at you too fast for your overloaded mind to keep up. Once again you will find yourself overwhelmed, surrounded by "opportunities to excel". When you are surrounded by things that need to get done, tasks to be accomplished and calls to be returned, you can get the feeling that you have nowhere to turn. Without a coherent plan you will have no way to decide what choice to make, and then the feeling that any choice is the wrong one will leave you paralyzed, only to submerge beneath the waves of tasks and responsibilities.

So what do you do? What's the next action?

Be Prepared.

Block out some time in your busy schedule and create a plan for managing all of the pieces of your weekly review: what to collect, how to process it, where to organize it, when will this all get done?

The short answer is "now". The long answer is: in a few minutes, after you download & review these checklists: (links were broken, now they are fixed! Download away!!)

The Weekly Review Checklist

The Weekly Review Checklist is designed to keep your Projects and Next Actions from slipping through the cracks in your memory. Following from the principle of "ruthless iterations", it occurred to me that a Monthly Review and Quarterly Review should also be incredibly useful tools for keeping myself on track. Of course, you will need to edit and adjust these checklists to fit your own particular system. This is how I use it:

The Weekly Review
  1. Review the Tickler File ~ Look at all of the folders/pages from the past week, making sure that everything was done. Re-Tickle anything that didn't get done, if appropriate. Jot down any ideas that occur to you while reviewing and put them in the In-Box.
  2. Process the In-Box ~ I use this time to pay bills, update my checkbook, file receipts and papers and notes, clean out my wallet, and other little "housekeeping" chores. After the in-box has been emptied, I review and clean up the hPDA.
  3. Calendar Review ~ Simply reviewing the time-specific actions and information from the past week. Does any of it need to get archived for possible retrieval? Then I synchronize my diary with G-Cal, focusing on the full month ahead. My wife and I share a Google calendar, and it has made a world of difference. Finally, in the spirit of efficiency, I process any emails that are sitting in the inbox.
  4. Project Review ~ First I close and archive any completed Projects, prepared to jot down any ideas that occur to me as I do this. Next, I update current and forthcoming Projects on the @Project List by asking myself if the Project is still worthwhile. I have saved a great deal of time by letting go of projects that had turned away from the original goal, or if the goal of the project had shifted. While reviewing each Project, I can check the status of Next Actions that are in @Waiting For, and tickle or calendar a contact action for the person responsible for getting back to me. (Do not actually email them now, the purpose of this exercise is review, not do)
  5. Next Action Review ~ Clean up the @Next Action list with the focus on "is the action/project still worthwhile" and "what is being waited on". This is the third time the @Next Action list has been looked over by now, so any Next Actions remaining should be valid.
  6. Review the Someday/Maybe list ~ Has the Review brought any ideas to the front of your mind that need to be logged here?
  7. Review Support Files ~ Scan through these files and archives for inspiration.
  8. Brainstorm Creative Ideas ~ What would your current projects look like from beyond the completion date? Envision wild success, what is the best possible result? Capture the features, concepts, and possibilities that you imagine as a result of this success.

When you have completed your Weekly Review, archive it with your notes in a dated folder, so that you can access it easily at the end of the month. Incorporating a scan of your Weekly Reviews into your Monthly Review is very important to your overall success.

The Monthly Review is an expanded version of the Weekly Review. The first five Actions on the Monthly Checklist correspond directly to the Weekly Checklist, and should go quickly. Number six on the Monthly Checklist is a little different:
  • 6. Review Someday/Maybe list ~ Are your Roles/Current Responsibilities in line to achieve these far-off goals? Can any of them be moved in the category of @1-2 Year Goals or @3-5 Year Vision? It is important to keep an eye on your long-term goals, so that they do not stay in the category of "long-term goals".
  • 7. Review Roles/Current Responsibilities ~ The Monthly Review has a new number seven: The concept of Roles is from Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", and these roles should be reviewed monthly, checking your progress on the goals that you have set. If there is a disconnect between these roles and your long-range plans, now is the time to fix it.
  • 8. Review 1-2 Year Goals ~ Is the Goal still worthwhile? This is an important question to ask yourself, as conditions may have changed or you may wish to increase (or decrease) the importance of certain aspects of your life. Is it appropriate to move any of these goals into @Next Actions or @Projects?
  • 9. Review Support Files ~ This is the same as the Weekly Review.
  • 10. Brainstorm Creative Ideas ~ Focus on your Roles/Current Responsibilities. Are there any that could be changed or improved?

Again, when you have completed your Monthly Review with its notes, archive it in a dated folder, so that you have easy access to it at the end of the quarter. You are working on a larger scale now, so incorporating a scan of your Monthly Reviews into your Quarterly Review will aid in keeping you on track to achieving your long-term goals.

Finally, the Quarterly Review Checklist. Designed to be a supplement to the Monthly Checklist, it guides your focus onto longer-term goals and higher-level values:
  1. Review 3-5 Year Goals ~ Is it still worthwhile? Always a good question for clarifying intentions. Can any of these get moved up into a new category such as @Next Actions, @Projects, or @1-2 Year Goals? Brainstorm one thing that can get done this Quarter to advance one or more of these goals.
  2. Review Career Goals ~ Are you where you want to be? Where do you want to go? What Next Action can be undertaken this Quarter to advance your career goals? Use the Tickler File to help track your progress.
  3. Review Purpose ~ Are your Principles still in line? Brainstorming will help most here.
  4. Review Lifestyle ~ Once again, are your choices still valid? In line with Values and Principles? Are your Roles and Current Responsibilities in harmony with the Lifestyle you have? With the Lifestyle that you want? What are two positive changes that you can make to improve your lifestyle this Quarter?

Another dated archive folder should be created to contain this Quarterly Review and the attendant Monthly Reviews. Take good notes that you incorporate into your system as it is currently running, with a copy of these notes in the archive. You will want to review this Worksheet and these notes at the following Quarterly Review in order to track your progress. In addition, you will want to do an Annual Review at the end of the fourth Quarter, in which you review the results of the Quarterly progress reports. The Annual Review is beyond the scope of this post, as I have not been practicing GTD long enough to have done one! I anticipate that such a Worksheet would have features involving taking a good, hard look at the Roles and Current Responsibilities; it may have a 1-2 Year Goal review, including choosing one to accomplish in the coming year; I believe that introducing a 3-5 Year Vision tracking tool would be useful; it should definitely feature a Someday/Maybe review tool as well. I have created a rough draft of this tool, that I will refer to at each Quarterly Review, in order to implement the best tracking system.

I do not expect this to be taken as the be-all and end-all of Review Checklists, but I look at it as a good starting point for directing the evolution of my GTD system. I encourage you to alter the checklists for your own use, and please, feel free to respond with any suggestions or improvements.

There is a related post at Studentlinc with a downloadable PDF of a Weekly Schedule Planner:

» Weekly View section - The weekly calendar sits on the left hand side of the paper. Each day is a box, with Saturday/Sunday sharing a box. The boxes have a place to write in the date. They also have a set of of boxes that a person can use to write in the corresponding numbers from the todo section. This has helped me assign various todo's to certain days of the week.

» ToDo section - This section is on the upper right hand side of the paper. It is set up so the person can organize his/her todo's according to roles or categories (thank you Stephen Covey for that idea!). Each role has enough spaces to list five todo's. The todo's are given numbers that can be referred to in the weekly view or in the open space below.

» Notes | Ideas | Space section - This section is a wide open space on the bottom right hand portion of the page. It is the place where I find myself writing down everything I wrote down on post-it notes or index cards. It is a free-for-all space. I've added the letters A-Z down the left hand side of this space in case there's something you'd like to add and refer back to it in another section.

[hat tip: ti mage]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How I "Do" GTD

This is the follow-up to a previous post on my GTD tools, where I'll share my process for GTD, and how I use the tools.

In the beginning there was a big pile of stuff on my desk, and a couple of drawers filled with who-knows-what. It didn't help that we had just moved and some of my reference books and papers were still in boxes. The stage was perfectly set for a thorough organizing. I picked up my copy of Getting Things Done and followed the instructions. I was inspired by the following quote from page 87, 'Much of learning how to manage workflow in a "black belt" way is about laying out the gear and practicing the moves so that the requisite thinking happens more automatically and it's a lot easier to get engaged in the game.'

So I gathered everything that I wanted to incorporate into my system, as well as all of the tools listed on page 92. Then I attacked the stacks and boxes, applying the rules to each item: Is it actionable? If no, then trash it, tickle it, or file it. If yes, then do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes), delegate it, or defer it.

After this massive purge-and-organize session, I was left with a clean home office and a stack of loose-leaf paper with ideas and notes on them. I had made my 48-folder Tickler File, and Reference Files for every topic that I had come across (utility bills, bank statements, printouts from blogs, web reference material, etc.).

Finally, I sat down with my folders and went over the list of "Triggers" on page 114 in order to clear my head of ideas, incomplete projects, what have you. I wrote down each thing on its own piece of paper, and laid them out on the floor. Categories appeared naturally ( i.e. Computer, Home, Work, etc) and I stacked like things together. The "Trigger" list was invaluable in helping to clear all of this information from the back of my mind. When this was complete I started to organize these loose papers by filing the appropriate sheets in the Tickler File, Reference File, or into a coherent system of lists in order to start the Next Actions needed to complete them. These lists were copied onto 3"x5" cards for my hPDA.

Now, with my Calendar, the hPDA, my Tickler File, and a Capture Notebook I was all set. Or so I thought. Each morning I get up and check the Tickler File for any notes, then sit down with the Calendar and hPDA to organize my day. At the end of the day, I sit down and make sure that any Next Actions that have been completed have been marked off, any notes are filed or scheduled, and everything is captured. If any of the cards need to be replaced or updated, I do it at this time, and archive the old card for the end-of-the-month review.

Of course, this routine has evolved a bit, and the notes that I generate from the Weekly Review are archived for Monthly Review also. I have also winnowed the number of categories down, as tasks have been completed and Contexts have been more clearly defined. I have also created a 3-ring binder for a Tickler File at work, and a second 3-ring binder for a Customer Tracking system that I put together. Now when I get to work, I go through a second iteration of planning for the day.

The hPDA and a Pocketmod are used to capture ideas and customer information when I am away from my desk. The Capture Notebook is split into sections where I write down ideas, books that I come across that I'd like to remember, and so on. There is also a section for jotting down interesting websites that I encounter.

So far, the system is working, very well in fact. The only glitches that I have run into are being disciplined about the evening consolidation and keeping to the Weekly Review. I know that it can be improved, and as time goes on it will continue to evolve, and I will keep you posted.

I would appreciate your feedback, suggestions or tips in the comments.

This is Called Serendipity

I was reviewing the Ultimate GTD Index this morning, and I followed the link to this post ( Shift Happens ). You need to go there and watch the video. Then come back and finish reading.
It's okay, I'll wait.

You may have noticed a button on the right-hand sidebar of To Do or Else, all the way at the bottom, called Blidget Badge. The mission:

Wigetbox widgets make blogging better, smarter and easier.
We Make Widgets Come Alive

Once a widget is on your blog, you can reconfigure it to your heart’s content without going near HTML. Developers can fix bugs and upgrade your widget’s functionality without you having to re-install the HTML code.
We Make Your Blog Smarter

Widgetbox widgets can respond to your blog posts and website content. We call these widgets “Tag Aware”. Here’s some things you can do with it. We’ll be adding more smart blog features in the coming months.
Widget Panels

Widgetbox widget panel lets you drag and drop widgets onto a special panel in your blog. Never deal with widget installation again!

How very interesting. I took a few minutes to build a blidget, you can find it in the upper left sidebar. Check it out. Let me know what you think you can do with this. I will play with it some more, and give an update.

UPDATE: Lawrence Coburn at Sexy Widget posts a review of WidgetBox here:

Widget service provider Widgetbox (site, review) has just launched Blidgets – a tool that lets publishers convert RSS feeds into Flash widgets.

Widgetbox joins SpringWidgets and MuseStorm as providers of Flash RSS widgets, along with start pages like YourMinis and PageFlakes.

Converting your RSS feed into a widget with Widgetbox has a couple of advantages. For example, the Blidget tool makes it easy to add an image to your widget, which can be helpful for branding or presentation purposes. Publishing a widget through Widgetbox also signs you up for Widgetbox’s free stats package which tracks page views by date and page views by domain. Finally, there’s a distribution aspect as well. Publishing with Widgetbox automatically drops you into Widgetbox’s widget gallery, which in my opinion, is the most polished and well presented widget directory out there.

I had no problems finding the Blidget tool, which is located prominently on the Widgetbox home page. One very minor point that I appreciated – although I wasn’t logged in when I launched the tool, it didn’t direct me immediately to the login page. It let me build my widget, and THEN allowed me to login. Little things like this can make a big difference in adoption.

Read the whole thing, then pop over to WidgetBox and check it out.

The Weekly Review

The importance of the weekly review cannot be stressed enough. I have only been on the GTD program for a couple of months, so I am still integrating it into my life and work. I must admit that I did not do my review on Friday, as it was scheduled, and my weekend was a mess, followed by a less-than-stellar Monday. I did my review this morning and have uncovered some weaknesses. What is missing is a checklist, a 'mini-tickler' that exists for me to make sure that nothing fell through the cracks. So I did a little research and this is what I have come up with:

  1. Review Tickler file
  2. Go through Inbox
    • Pay/schedule Bills
    • Update Checkbook
    • File Receipts
    • File papers and notes
    • Clean out wallet
    • Review and Clean hPDA
  3. Calendar Review
    • Close or forward incomplete items
    • Sync Gcal and diary
    • Handle e-mail
  4. Project Review
    • Close and archive completed projects
    • Update current and forthcoming work
    • Is the project still worthwhile?
    • What is in @Waiting for?
    • Log ideas for new projects
    • Update current project list
  5. Next Action review
    • Is the project still worthwhile
    • What is being waited on?
  6. Review Someday/Maybe
  7. Review Support/Reference files
  8. Brainstorm Creative ideas

I am feeling much more centered and in control. I am sure that everything has been addressed and logged, and I look forward to a much more productive day.

How do you do the Weekly Review? Was this post helpful? Let's brainstorm-

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Something Missing from GTD?

So here I am, doing some research for an upcoming post and I come across an article at Steve Pavlina's blog about what is missing from the GTD system:

I love the standard GTD system, but it’s a low-level system. It is absolutely wonderful for managing projects and actions. The results for me have been amazing, and I’ve gotten really good at applying it. I still use it every single day, even for my personal projects and tasks. And I love the results. My email inbox is empty. My inbox is empty. I just never let my email inbox or my paper inbox get cluttered. I get a lot of email every day, and new papers pop into my inbox every day. But I’m always processing them down until they’re empty. And I feel very relaxed and focused, able to concentrate easily without worrying about some email I need to reply to. I have no stacks of paper anywhere in my office. Everything I need to save is neatly filed. The GTD system really does work brilliantly if you stick with it. It took me a few months to really get the hang of it, but it was definitely worth the effort.

What’s missing from GTD though is the high-level part of the system. It starts at the level of projects, but where are these projects coming from? I think the assumption behind GTD is that these projects are assigned by your boss or your company. Or maybe you run your own business and just have a lot of previous projects stacked up before you ever learn about GTD. But how do you know if these projects are even worth doing at all? How do you even know you’re working at the right job in the first place? Instead of getting better and better at plowing through your existing work, doesn’t it make sense to take a step back and figure out if your ladder of success is even leaning against the right building? What about using GTD in your personal life? Where do your personal projects come from?
The "higher level" thinking that Steve Pavlina is talking about are the "40,000 feet" and "50,000 feet" levels of thinking that David Allen addresses, briefly, in chapter two of his book Getting Things Done. The 40,000 foot level is your 3-to-5 year vision and the 50,000 foot level is "the Big Picture view". Pavlina's perception is that these two levels of thinking are of vital importance, yet there is not nearly as much information in the book or system on defining these modes of thinking as there is on the lower-level realms of Thinking and Next Actions.

I agree with his assesment, but I feel the need to defend the "lack" of high-level purpose definitions. I would not say that these elements are "missing" from the system, they are simply beyond the scope of the system.

GTD is a framework for accomplishing the things that need to get acomplished in a true bottom-up fashion. The essential elements of this framework work best on your immediate responsibilities and apply to nearly everyone, and can be implemented across any number of platforms (Outlook, Gmail, Stikkit, pen-and-paper, you name it). Even the moderately higher-level areas of activity such as strategic planning and 1-to-2 year goals can be defined, codified and accomplished with the basic elements of the GTD system for nearly every user.

The highest-levels of operating and thinking, however, tend to diverge quite a bit from person to person. Pavlina touches on that here:

It makes no sense to blindly apply standard GTD unless you’ve already secured the top level elements of purpose, mission, and goals. Otherwise you’re doomed to spend your life working on other people’s goals and losing yourself in the process.

The top-level elements and motivations, the values and principles of each individual vary greatly from person to person. So this is where a book like Getting Things Done must be a bit more vague. These high level values can only be defined by each individual, and a variety of other resources have to be used. When this process has been completed, then you can procede to use the excellent tools provided by GTD to accomplish the smaller tasks that will lead to the fulfillment of your highest aspirations.

Some time ago, I went through this process of self-definition, (not easy at all) and put together a statement of sorts that encompasses the highest-level of principles and values.

My own higher level statement.

My current practice, then, is to accomplish my tasks and projects and goals in a meaningful way. As Pavlina concludes:

Before you can get things done, you must consciously choose those “things” you want to be doing. Before you put yourself into a state of readiness, you must consciously define what you want to be ready for. Knowing your life’s purpose is the answer. It provides the context for readiness and for action. It turns generic readiness into “ready to speak,” “ready to write,” “ready to love,” etc. Purpose turns “getting things done” into “giving life meaning.” When you ultimately work at the level of projects and actions, they’re infused with purpose. Your purpose. Your mission. Your very reason for existence. Every paper you shuffle, every word you type, every project you complete — they now mean something. They’re a part of a larger whole, a deep expression of who you truly are. But those very same actions, blindly assigned by someone else for no great purpose, become lifeless. Just things to get done instead of a great purpose to be fulfilled.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Intellectual Property for Sale

Here is a fantastic opportunity for a Web Entrepreneur- the Odeo website is for sale:

In the last few months, we here at Obvious have been increasingly focused on Twitter. As a result, our original product, Odeo, has not gotten the attention it deserves.

It does not cost us much to run—in fact, AdSense covers the hosting—but on the web you need to constantly improve, or fade away. We've put too much into Odeo to want to see it fade away. And it still has tons of potential. But we're not improving it fast enough.

It seems likely Odeo is worth more to someone else than it is to us at this point, so we're looking for a new home for it. We've been having some conversations with potential buyers, and this is our attempt to put the word out more widely in the most expeditious way (and without involving investment bankers and the like). If we don't get any attractive offers, we'll continue to run it.

To clarify, what we're talking about is selling odeo.com and studio.odeo.com, including all code, the domain, brand, database of three million MP3s, etc. Not a company, but a site and platform that could be ramped up to something much bigger.

Odeo is (from the website): "3,001,268 mp3s from all over the web, which have been played from Odeo 12,775,375 times.

You can download or play them straight from here for free. (You can also put them on your web site.)

And like 252,684 other people, you can create an account, so you can subscribe to things and save the stuff you like."

And it is not just music. In fact the tags for productivity and technology led me to be able to install the nifty widget you see to the right, with Merlin Mann's interview of David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done.

In fact, with 3 million MP3s from "all over the web" , Odeo has the potential to be a vast resource that Web Entrepreneurs can leverage for their own sites, or a time-eating nightmare if you aren't careful about the surfing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My GTD System

Here is a description of the tools I use for Getting Things Done:

48 Folders for a Tickler File: Numbered 1-31 for the current month, and 1-5 for the first week of the next month, and then January thru December. In the same file are all of my Reference folders for every topic imaginable.

Three-Ring Binder for a Tickler File: I keep this at work for tracking future events.

Three-Ring Binder for Daily Activities: In my capacity as a Sales Consultant I track my customers, appointments, and current sales activity.

Zipper Case: I picked up a nice leather planner that zips closed for $10 at Target. I got tired of printing my Outlook pages and punching them for the planner, so I went out and bought a pre-printed planner that fits inside the planner cover. I pulled the rivets that held the ring-binder in the cover and removed the rings. It is now a mini-briefcase that I use to carry my essentials. I keep a Pilot .5 G2 in the pen loop, and a PaperMate .5 Mega Lead mechanical pencil loose inside. I tuck a few blank 3”x5” cards into the front pocket, along with some business cards. In addition to a pad of 3”x3” Post-Its I keep my calendar and a small notebook in the case.

Yearly Calendar: A 5.5” x 8.5” calendar with a leather cover and stitched spine. I took a razor and cut out the pages from the front that I did not need. Then I glued in a couple of pages that had personal reference information, and a divider tab that I cut down from a manila folder. Because I had removed about 10 sheets there was room for me to clip a handful of 3”x5” cards to the tab without making the cover bulge out.
I only write appointments, my work schedule, and time-specific Next Actions in the calendar. These are all color-coded: green ink for appointments, black ink for the schedule, and red ink for Next Actions. On the top margin of the right-hand page I write an inspirational quote from Jeff Gitomer's Red Book of Selling.

At the back of the book, I cut out the Area Code pages and glued in some more of my own material, including the Bootstrapper's Manifesto for more inspiration. After this were about 30 pages for Notes, so I added a blank sheet for an Index and a self-adhesive tab to mark the Notes section. This is where I put some more Sales Techniques, a list of the 7 Habits, and the GTD workflow process, GTD Natural Planning and so on. As I come across other information that I 'd like to keep handy, I will write it in.

In order to add some more storage space, I made my own accordion pocket and glued it to the inside of the back cover. In here I keep (more) blank 3”x5” cards, a short stack of 3”x3” Post-its, a spare PocketMod, and my business cards.

Capture Notebook: I picked up a 3-pack of 3”x5” notebooks (much cheaper than Moleskines) that I use for capturing information. I added 4 self-adhesive tabs to break the book into sections:

Section 1 is for Next Actions.

Section 2 is for books that I may want to purchase.

Section 3 is for websites to review, software to check out, or any other computer-related information.

Section 4 is for copying down interesting quotes, pictures, or other media that I find interesting.

Section 5 is for Someday/Maybe stuff, and Project notes or Brainstorming ideas.

There is a pocket at the back (like a Moleskine), where I keep blank 3”x5” cards, filled out Project cards, and some of my business cards.

And this is what it looks like, all packed up and ready to go: