This tip may change your life: Turn off the Microsoft Outlook email alert which notifies you whenever a new email arrives. Remember how Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to salivate whenever the bell rang? Many of us are conditioned to immediately open an email when it arrives. So stop being a dog! Think about it...do you stand in front of your home mailbox constantly waiting and checking for mail?
Multitasking does not work. It takes 6 minutes to recover and you lose up to 15 IQ points (women lose 5 points) when multitasking. (As a comparison, you lose 5 IQ points when you are stoned. That means some of us lose at least 20 IQ points per multitask.)
I just gave a very successful corporate introduction to GTD, the “Getting Things Done” work and life management system from David Allen. In an oversimplified nutshell, GTD is a 5 step approach where you: 1) do a mind sweep of EVERYTHING, 2) determine next action for each item, 3) organize them into lists, e.g. next action, deferred, delegate, and a calendar, 4) review next action list and calendar daily and others regularly, and 5) consider the context, time, energy, urgency.
I’ve tried a number of organization systems including Franklin Covey with the 1, 2, 3, A, B, C priorities but they all fail to work well. The main problem is that priorities change quickly. Your managers, customers, colleagues can/will give you a “new crisis of the moment” and that becomes your new top priority. You also rely much on others to complete their actions before you can close your tasks so you need to keep track of them.
Some wise sayings from David Allen: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” “If you don't pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
For more info, read David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”, his website: www.Davidco.com, or just Google “Getting Things Done”, “GTD” for a ton of third party information. Another nice thing about GTD is that you don’t have to buy any special supplies and can implement it via paper or software.
Update: August 7, 2102
A number of readers have asked me for my Excel file templates used for GTD. I've converted to an GTD Outlook setup but you can download the Excel template file here. Start with the first tab named "Stuff" and work your way to the next tabs sequentially by transferring items from the "Stuff" tab.
Update: June 1, 2017
A reader, Maximilianah Zales, send me a very nice email and kind enough to share her great modification to the GTD (Getting Things Done) Excel Template. You can download it here.
“ I plan on using your spreadsheet to get started, and just wanted to share with you that I added a tab to include the list of "triggers" from pages 116-120 of the 2015 edition of the book.
It will be helpful to have it on the spreadsheet (instead of the book) to be able to go through it to mentally gather things to move over to the "stuff" tab by using the filters and copy and pasting.
I thought you might want to update and share on your page.”
A "trigger list" helps jog the memory of GTD enthusiasts while doing their weekly review.
Thank you, Maximilianah!
Those are the words of Dr. Arnoldo Hax, one of the nicest and most amazing professors at MIT Sloan. Many of us think that our products are in danger of becoming commodities. Certainly, the internet has changed the playing field and you can only pursue greater technical product specifications to a point of “who cares”? When a product becomes a commodity, the only differentiator becomes price and that leads to price wars. That will happen only when you let it happen. Customers do not all use your products in the same manner or for the same purpose. That means that you have to understand your customers, their applications, buying channels, support needs, “hot buttons”, etc. and then differentiate your products and customize the customer buying propositions accordingly.
The Internet can make a one person garage operation appear as big as a multimillion corporation with thousands of employees. All you need is an impressive, professional looking website with good marketing words, stock photos of a large building, attractive professionals and products, worldwide map and lists, etc. and an unsuspecting viewer may fall for it. (Think of all those online predators posing as 16 year olds. Fortunately, there’s also online law enforcement posing back at them.)
How do you quickly investigate these mysterious competitors (some suddenly appearing out of nowhere) or if you are the bigger, legitimate company trying to distinguish yourself from them? A PO Box versus a real address is good warning sign. If possible, a visit to the address will help – we found the “corporate” headquarters for one such “company” to be a package shipping store. Google Maps with Street View offers a very quick way to see the company in question without the travel. One other company turned up to be a home at Google Maps. In general, you don’t raise yourself up by talking others down in selling (or in life), but it’s worthwhile to point this out to a prospect if they bring up such a company.
I have this brand new phone system with literally hundreds of features. It’s great except that I cannot figure out how to easily do the basics, i.e. retrieve voicemail or change my greeting, essentials that were very easy with the old phone system. I have to scroll down multiple display menus or listen to long voice instructions. This could be part of a learning curve but why should the 80% of what I use a phone for be compromised for the 20% which I may never use?
Product specification and development require focus and flexibility. It is important to get input from as many sources as possible, e.g. customers, sales, service, industry players, etc., but you must have discipline in weeding out critical versus “nice to haves”. (That’s not to say that “nice to haves” are unimportant, just that initial omission will not lead to failure.) Many times, we try to satisfy every party and cram every feature and function, losing sight of what our original product goals are, resulting in an overcomplicated product that is very difficult to use or totally different from our original vision. There's the saying that a camel was a horse designed by committee. So are you designing a microchip and ending up with the biggest microchip in the world?
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
―Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search For Ultimate Meaning
One of the worst things, but an unfortunate common tendency, for management to do is reorganize the workforce and resources without studying and understanding the current operation. (New managers love to do this because they want to make their impact quickly.) Such a reorganization (or “Business Process Reengineering) is akin to shaking up a cage with 6 birds – 3 birds perched on the left and 3 birds perched on the right. When you start such a re-organization, you get immediate activity (management starts high-fiving each other). Everything is flying, screeching, etc. However, what do you get when you stop shaking the cage? Three ruffled birds perched on the left and three ruffled birds perched on the right again…and a whole lot of poop on the bottom of the cage.
Listen to your employees, and external and internal customers about how things work or don’t work. Do proper data gathering with all parties involved, map where you believe you are, understand your employees’ own goals and mission statements, create your shared vision, and then evangelize and motivate. Otherwise, you will get no real change after all this wasted energy and activity...with poop.
I remember watching an interview with an elderly, but very much still in love, English couple. The gentleman always said “I love you” to his wife each night when going to bed. His reason was that those would be the last words that his wife will recall should anything happen.
That’s why I always say those words to my wife and children every night and when I leave home.
One of the best early advice given to me was to shut up and listen. We all heard that's why God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth - we should listen twice as much as we should speak. (The other reason given was that no one knows how dumb you are if you don't speak.) Marketing folks, especially with engineering backgrounds, tend to start creating the solution before fully understanding the problem. Listen to the customer and ensure that the engineers and designers understand the true customer need.
Why do people buy drills? They want a hole; the drill is simply the means to get the hole. Perhaps someone on your team has better, more innovate ways of getting that hole instead of you just laying out marketing requirements defacto for a drill.
Happy New Year! We all have our new year resolutions (some from last year). See how aligned they are with your mission statements. All organizations have a mission statement: “to be the best/biggest/leader…etc.”. What’s your true mission statement? As a professional, manager, spouse, parent, etc.? Do your resolutions support your life mission statements?
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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