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Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and—quite literally—accident. What looks in retrospect like brilliant foresight and preplanning was often the result of “Let’s just try a lot of stuff and keep what works. Jim Collins
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Thursday
May212015

The Final Version Perfected (FVP)

This is an amended version of the instructions for the Final Version (FV) time management system. It contains an improved algorithm and a new question.
 
Introduction
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here are the long-awaited instructions for the Final Version Perfected (FVP) time management system. I don’t know if it’s the best time management system ever devised. What I do know is that it is the best time management system that I have ever used myself. It’s shown itself to be even more resilient, responsive and quick than the Final Version.


FV and now FVP are based on my earlier time management systems, particularly the extensive range of AutoFocus and SuperFocus systems developed over the last five years. These were unique in that they were constantly developing with the assistance of a large band of commenters on my web-site. Anyone who has tried one or more of these systems will recognize the strong family resemblance that they have with FV and FVP. The most striking resemblance is that they are all based on one long list (either paper or electronic) which can be used to capture just about every possible action that springs into one’s mind. There is a minimum of special markings or annotations.Such a list depends on an effective algorithm to process it. There are three main requirements which have to be kept in balance. These are urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Traditional time management systems have tended to concentrate on the first two of these. The neglect of psychological readiness is probably the reason that most people don’t find time management systems particularly effective or congenial.The most distinctive feature of FVP is the way that its algorithm is primarily based on psychological readiness - this then opens the way to keeping urgency and importance in the best achievable balance.
 

The FVP  Algorithm
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The FVP algorithm uses the question “What do I want to do more than x?” to preselect a chain of tasks from the list. What exactly is meant by “want” in this context is deliberately left undefined. There may be a whole variety of reasons why you might want to do one thing more than another thing and all of them are valid.The chain always starts with the first unactioned task on the list. Mark this task with a dot to show that it’s now been preselected. Don’t take any action on the task at this stage.This task then becomes the benchmark from which the next task is selected. For example, if the first task on the list is “Write Report”, the question becomes “What do I want to do more than write the report?” You move through the list in order until you come to a task which you want to do more than write the report. This task is now selected by marking it with a dot and it becomes the benchmark for the next task. If the first task you come to which you want to do before writing the report is “Check Email”, then that becomes the benchmark. The question therefore changes to “What do I want to do more than check email?”As you continue through the list you might come to “Tidy Desk” and decide you want to do that more than checking email. Select this in the same way by marking it with a dot, and change the question to “What do I want to do more than tidying my desk?”. The answer to this is probably “nothing”, so you have now finished your preselection.The preselected tasks in the example are:

Write report
Check email
Tidy desk

At this point “Tidy Desk” represents the task you most want to do at the moment. Do it.
Note that as in all my systems, you don’t have to finish the task - only do some work on it. Of course if you do finish the task that’s great, but if you don’t then all you have to do is re-enter the task at the end of the list.

Now what are you going to do next? “Check email” is the previous task you selected, but that isn’t necessarily the task you most want to do. What you can say though is that it was the task you most wanted to do up until you selected “Tidy Desk”. This means that you only need to check the tasks that come after “Tidy Desk” in the list.

So what you do next is to ask yourself “What do I want to do more than check email?” again, but you check only the tasks which come after the task you have just done (Tidy Desk).

Once you have worked your way back to the first task on the list and done it (this may never happen!), you take the next unactioned task as your root task.

That’s it! You’re now ready to go. Everything else is further examples and explanation.



A Longer Example
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In this example for ease of understanding no new tasks are added while working on the list. This of course is unlikely in real life. Your initial list of tasks:


Email
In-Tray
Voicemail
Project X Report
Tidy Desk
Call Dissatisfied Customer
Make Dental Appointment
File Invoices
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Back Up  
 
Put a dot in front of the first task:  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
  Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do more than Email?”
 
You work down the list and come to Voicemail. You decide you want to do Voicemail more than Email. Put a dot in front of it.  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do more than Voicemail?” You decide you want to tidy your desk.  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
There are no tasks you want to do more than tidying your desk, so you have the following dotted tasks:
 
Email
Voicemail
Tidy Desk
 
Do the Tidy Desk task.
 
Your list will now look like this:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up
 
Now start again from Tidy Desk (i.e. the last task you did). and ask yourself “What do I want to do more than Voicemail?”  The only task you want to do more than Voicemail is Back Up. Do it.
 
The list now reads:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
There are no further tasks beyond Back Up, so there is no need to check whether you want to do any tasks more than you want to do Voicemail. You just do it.


The list now reads:


· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
 
There is only one dotted task left on the list and that is Email. You now need to check whether you want to do any of the tasks more than Email. So ask the question “What do I want to do more than Email?” You already know that you want to do Email more than In-tray, so you start scanning from the first task after the task you have just done (Voicemail).
 
You decide you want to do Make Dental Appointment more than you want to do Email, so you dot it and change the question to “What do I want to do more than Make Dental Appointment”. The answer is “Discuss Project Y”. As this is the last task on the list you do it immediately, and then do Make Dental Appointment immediately too. There’s no need to scan because you already know that you want to make the dental appoinment more than you want to file invoices.
 
The list now reads:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
· Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
· Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
 
So the tasks on the original list have been done in the following order so far:
 
Tidy Desk
Back Up
Voicemail
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Make Dental Appointment
 
These tasks have been done in the exact order of what you want to do most at the time. There may be a huge number of factors affecting what you want to do most, but you can allow your brain to sort them out for you below the level of consciousness simply by asking the question “What do I want to do more than x?” and applying it in the way shown above.
 
 If you are having trouble following the example above, then I suggest you write the list out on paper and work through it by hand.
 

Additional Tips  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The best way to sink any time management system is to overload it right at the beginning. FVP is pretty resilient, but at this stage you aren’t. So build up the list gradually. My advice is to start off with the tasks and projects that are of immediate concern to you right now, and then add more as they come up in the natural course of things.Tasks can be added at any level, e.g. Project X, Plan Restructuring, Call Pete, Tidy Desk.


If at any stage you find that a task on the list is no longer relevant, then delete it. If you find that your preselected list is no longer relevant (e.g. if you have had a long break away from the list or some new factor has come into play), then scrap the preselection and reselect from the beginning.


If one or more very urgent things come up, just write them at the end of the list and the algorithm will automatically select them next (assuming you do actually want to do them of course). Similarly if something already on the list becomes very urgent, then just cross it out and move it to the end of the list.Remember that the aim of any time management system is to help you to get your work done, not get in the way of doing your work. So don’t be afraid to adjust priorities as and when you need to. However don’t overdo this - stick to the rules when possible as they will ensure you deal with your work in a systematic way.
 
Why It Works
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
At the beginning of this article I said there were three factors which every time management system needs to address: urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Let’s see how FVP deals with each of these.


Urgency. Because of the nature of the preselection process, urgent tasks tend to get selected because generally speaking the human brain wants to do things that it knows are urgent. If things come up that are particularly urgent they can be added to the preselected list at any time.

Importance. Generally speaking the human brain is a bit less keen on doing important stuff than it is on doing urgent stuff. This is particularly the case when the important stuff is difficult. However the FVP preselection process ensures that the entire list is kept under continuous review and your brain will start to flag up that it wants you to get on with stuff it thinks you might be neglecting. If this doesn’t happen, then it’s likely to be because you would be better off getting rid of it altogether.

Psychological Readiness. This is where FVP really enters new dimensions. By using a pre-selection process, the brain is softened up towards the selected tasks. But this isn’t all. The selection process is based on what you want to do. This colours the whole preselected list so that even tasks which seem like chores get affected.

Friday
May082015

The Perfect Time Management System

For millenia the best minds in the world have been searching for the perfect time management system. Finally, after twenty years of thinking about little else (or at least that’s how it felt), I have at last managed to invent it.

I hope this will be an incalculable boon to humankind. Imagine, no more frustration at not being able to trust yourself to achieve what you want. Imagine, always being able to decide to do something and know that you will do it. Imagine, being able to unfailingly steer the optimum path through all the clashing priorities of daily life.

The system is very simple. Once you know it you will be hard pressed to think why it would take one person five minutes to think up, let alone twenty years. Yet, as far as I know no one else has ever thought of it before.

Here are a few characteristics of the system:

  • It’s a “universal capture” system, i.e. you can enter any task or project without any pre-editing or prioritizing.
  • It’s equally suitable for pen and paper or electronic means.
  • It can deal with any size list, from the smallest to the largest.
  • No matter what order the tasks are written in, it will always give you the optimum path through them.
  • It has no problem with urgent tasks.
  • It encourages “little and often”.
  • You can attend meetings and write down tasks and queries straight into the list.
  • Resistance becomes a thing of the past.
  • You can enter provisional tasks, i.e. ones you haven’t decided definitely whether to do them or not.
  • You can brainstorm straight onto the list
  • It requires no randomizers or other equipment.
  • and so on.

I’ll be writing more about this in a week or so’s time.

Tuesday
Mar032015

"Secrets of Productive People" now available for pre-order

My new book Secrets of Productive People: The 50 Strategies You Need to Get Things Done is now available for pre-order in print and Kindle versions on Amazon.co.uk for publication on 27 August.

The Kindle version is also available on Amazon.com.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Daily Rituals

There’s an interesting interview on the Evernote blog with Mason Curry, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

I particulary liked his description of Maya Angelou renting “tiny, mean” hotel or motel room in order to do her writing, and surrounding herself with a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of Sherry.

Back in the far-off days before computers that’s probably exactly what I’d have surrounded myself with, except I’d have had a bottle of whisky rather than sherry.

Monday
Aug042014

What my new book "Secrets of Productive People" will be about

The main focus of the book will be the idea that productivity is the product of creativity and efficiency.

It’s the creativity part that tends to get neglected, as if productivity were just a matter of churning out as much work as possible.

I want to help the ordinary person - that’s you or me - to be able to approach the sort of results that the really productive people of history such as Newton, van Gogh or Henry Ford have achieved, albeit on a smaller scale. The message is that this sort of ability can be learned. It’s a matter of practice applied to correct methods of practice. The book will show you how.
Sunday
Jul272014

New book on its way!

I’ve just signed a contract with Hodder’s to write a book in their new Secrets series. It will be called Secrets of Productive People: 50 techniques to get things done, scheduled to be published Summer next year.

Friday
Jun132014

"From the Hipster PDA to Desktop Files"

There’s an interesting article on various vehicles for to do lists on Danny Schreiber’s Zapier blog, which mentions a couple of my systems.

I hope he’s corrected the spelling of my name before you all write in and correct him!

Monday
Mar312014

How to Get the Most Out of the "Spinning Plates"

This is a follow-up to my previous post The Spinning Plates Method of Project Control, in which I shall be making observations about how best to work this system. It’s not intended to be a static post, but one which I shall keep adding to (newest on top).

Being up-to-date

What does it mean to finish a task in the sense of having no work outstanding as stated in the rules? It doesn’t mean “finished for good”. Basically the sense is that you are up-to-date with the work on the project. You can be up-to-date with a project long before it is finished for good. If you have a project which you expect to take three months, then you are up-to-date as long as you are on track with the schedules and deadlines relating to that project.

So a very important part of running the “Spinning Plates” is being clear what you mean by being “up-to-date”. You may need to have a different definition of this for each project. Sometimes these are set for you, but more often you will need to define them yourself.

If you have a project to read “War & Peace” you might have a goal of so many pages or chapters a day - or you might simply be happy to read “something” every day without defining how long that is. It’s up to you.

For Housework, you might have daily chores, weekly chores (each on a different day of the week) and monthly chores. As long as you are on schedule with these, you are up-to-date.

Electronic Implementation

For electronic implementation, there is no need to have more than the one active column. The columns across the page in the written version look pretty and provide a historical record, but they are not strictly necessary. All you need to know is whether at the end of a pass there are any arrows or crosses in the column. And of course you can use any symbols you like (or colour coding) in place of the ticks, arrows and crosses.

Minor Tasks

It is a good idea fairly early on to add a task called “Minor Tasks” to your list. You can then keep a separate sublist of small necessary tasks which don’t fit into any of the existing projects on the main list. However this must not become a place where you add everything you haven’t yet succeeded in putting on the main list. Remember that like every other task the “Minor Tasks” task must be completely cleared before you can add any more tasks to the main list.

You are therefore advised to use the following rules with respect to the “Minor Tasks” sublist:

1) Don’t add any tasks which are too big to be done in one go.

2) Don’t add more tasks than you can do in one go.

3) Make the “Minor Tasks” sublist a closed list, i.e. no new tasks can be added to it once it has been started until all the tasks on it have been done. I also recommend you do the tasks in the same order they are written.

Size of Tasks

I’ve tended to refer in the instructions to “task” and “project” more or less interchangeably. This is quite deliberate because the system simply treats a project as a big task. Whether a particular entry is a big task or a small task is up to you.

It’s sometimes a good idea to combine small tasks into larger tasks as you go along. So for instance if you have a project to sort out your office, you might start with a task “Sort Desk”. Once the desk is sorted, that is retitled “Tidy Desk”, and you start another task “Sort Pamphlet Racks”. That again becomes “Tidy Pamphlet Racks”. After you’ve done this with a few more office-sorting jobs, you can combine them all into one task “Tidy Office”.

Remember that although you can combine existing tasks, you can only include tasks in the combination which are already on the list.

The best time to do this sort of editing, combining and retitling work is when you are rewriting the page because you have filled all the available columns.

Sunday
Mar302014

The Spinning Plates Method of Project Control (Experimental)

Here’s a video of the right way to get projects going and keep them going:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k44uoVm0lPI

  • First, get one project up and running properly
  • Take necessary action to keep on top of project
  • Then get the next project up and running properly
  • Take necessary action to keep on top of both projects
  • Then get the next project up and running properly
  • Take necessary action to keep on top of all three projects
  • Repeat until you have reached the maximum number of projects you can keep on top of
  • At that stage you either have to stop adding more projects, or remove old projects to allow for new ones.


Note the priority is always to make sure the existing plates are spinning properly before adding a new one (though in the video the performer is deliberately adding a bit of drama to keep the audience engaged).

How can we actually do this in practice when we are dealing with real-life projects rather than spinning plates?

We can use a rotational list method. This one is designed for use with a notebook and pen/pencil. I’m sure it can be adapted for electronic use, but I haven’t as yet tried to do so.

I emphasize that this is an experimental method, which I haven’t tried out fully myself yet. You are welcome to have a go, but don’t expect polished perfection!

It has two phases: I - Build-Up; II - Control.

Phase 1 - Build-Up

Click image for full-size

Start with two tasks and write them on the first two lines in your notebook. Work on them on turn. When you finish a task, cross it off the list if it’s done for good. But if is a recurrent task leave it where it is.

When you’ve finished both tasks, add another task. Rotate back through both the previous tasks (if they’re still there) to make sure nothing new has come up for them, and then work on the new task. Once there’s no more work left on any of the tasks already entered you can enter another new task. Check back through the old tasks for anything new that’s come in and then work on the new task.

Proceed in this way adding a new task every time you’ve cleared any work on all the old tasks. If there’s any work left outstanding, then you can’t add a new task. You have to keep rotating through the list until all the work is cleared.

You will probably find that your list grows very quickly at first and then slows down considerably. Once it’s grown to the point that you are having trouble getting your work done quickly enough, you are getting near the limit of how much work you are capable of doing. That means you can’t take on much more work without endangering the work you have already got on your list. You are at liberty to remove any task at any time to reduce the workload, but you can only add a new task (or restore an old one) when there is no outstanding work.

Phase 2 - Control

Click on image for full-size

So far we’ve only talked about what happens when you have work in progress on one or more tasks at the end of a pass through the list. This is quite normal and nothing to worry about, but while it’s in effect you can’t add any more tasks.

However there are two ways in which you may actually fail at doing a task:

1) You may come to a task and, without any satisfactory reason, decide you don’t want to do any work on it at that time. If this happens the task has been failed. Satisfactory reasons might include wrong time of day, wrong weather conditions, necessary pre-condition not met, work task during leisure time (or vice versa). Unsatisfactory reasons include not feeling like it, high resistance to task, pressure from other more urgent tasks, low energy.

2) You fail to get a task completed in time for a deadline. This applies even if the deadline is self-imposed. Again the task has been failed.

At the end of a pass in which one or more tasks have been failed, the number of tasks on the list has to be reduced by the number of tasks which have failed. The tasks removed do not necessarily have to be the tasks that failed.

Note that this is not a punishment for failing a task, but a way of consciously reducing your workload control so that you can get back on track.

 

Related Post:

How to Get the Most Out of the “Spinning Plates”

Saturday
Mar292014

How to Have Wonderfully Creative Ideas

Easy, peasy.

1) Write out a list called “My Top 5 Ideas for [specify subject]”

2) Put the list away where you can’t see it.

3) The next day, write out a fresh list for the same subject. Don’t refer to the old list. It doesn’t matter whether the items on the new list are the same or different.

4) Repeat every day, until you get inspired to put some of the ideas into action.

5) Every week or so, re-read the old lists to see how your ideas have progressed, and maybe have another think about some of them.

Some suggested titles:

- My Top 5 Ideas for Making More Money

- My Top 5 Ideas for Being Healthier

- My Top 5 Ideas for Being a Better Son/Daughter/Father/Mother/Husband/Wife/Significant Other/Friend

- My Top 5 Ideas for Improving the Invoicing System

- My Top 5 Ideas for My Next Holiday

Yes, your’re right. That was My Top 5 Ideas for Top Five Ideas Lists list.

Perhaps I’ll write another one tomorrow!

Wednesday
Jan222014

Random Time Management

As promised in my last post, here’s the method I am using at the moment with great success. You need a random-number generator to work it. The one I’m using is at http://www.random.org/integers/

I am using paper and pen, but I’m sure it can be adapted for electronic use.  I just haven’t yet attempted to do so.

I’m using a loose-leaf binder with lined pages of 32 lines, but the method will work perfectly well with a bound notebook and pages of any number of lines.

First I list all my tasks in the notebook - one per line.

I then set my randomizer to produce integers in the range 1 and 32 inclusive. The upper number is the same as the number of lines on a page. This is just a convenient number which produces reasonable results, but you can use a lower or higher number if you wish.

Starting from the beginning of the list I use the randomizer to produce a number and move down the page that number of lines. I then do some work on the task on that line. Please note that I don’t have to finish that task, just do some work on it.

Once I have worked on the task, I cross it off. If I have not finished it or if it is a recurring task, then I re-enter it at the end of the list.

I then use the randomizer again and count to the next task (going to the next page if necessary).

When the number the randomizer produces would take me beyond the end of the list, I circle back to the beginning of the list, ignoring empty lines on the last page.

I continue circulating through the list in this way.

When I’m counting forward, I INCLUDE in the count the lines which have been crossed off. If I land on a line on which the task has been crossed out, I move to the next line in which there is an active task. I call this movement a “slide”.

For example imagine I have the following tasks:

Email
In Tray
Invoices
Date of next meeting
Write report
Cash check
Tidy desk

Performance reviews

I throw a five, so I count down the list, remembering to include the crossed out lines. I land on the “Write Report” line. I then “slide” to the next active task which is “Performance Reviews”. Slides work slightly different from counting. If a slide takes you to the end of the page, you circle back to the beginning of the SAME page. So if “Performance Reviews” in the example had already been done, you’d have circled back to “Email” at the beginning of the page.

Email
In Tray
Invoices
Date of next meeting
Write report
Cash check
Tidy desk

Performance reviews

Counting crossed-out spaces and sliding are very important, because they have the effect of increasing the chances of the older tasks on the list being selected. Note that if you don’t include lines with crossed-out tasks in the count, then every task will have an exactly equal chance and there will be no preference for older tasks.

A few points to note:

1) Random numbers behave randomly. They don’t behave in the way we expect them to behave. If they did, they wouldn’t be random. You will find that you are constantly surprised by them.

2) The system as described has a built-in bias towards clearing the older tasks off the list. This means that nothing will stay on the list for very long. How long that is depends on the length of the list and the amount of time you can devote to working on it. If you want things to move on really quickly then keep the list short.

3) The random-number generator is quite indifferent to your priorities, wishes and time-pressure, so if something needs doing now - do it!

4) Any attempts to increase the probability of certain tasks being selected will result in the chances of all the other tasks being reduced. So I advise against it.

Sunday
Jan192014

A New Concept: Reducing Resistance by Randomness

… ok, perhaps not an entirely new concept. Some of you may have read the 1971 novel The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart and may even have experimented with deciding on your next action by the roll of a die. But I think very few people have ever made it into a systematic way of living their life.

With the help of the members of this website’s General Forum (see the threads Shades of the Diceman and Shades of the Diceman - Part 2) I have been trying out a new concept in time-management. Basically the idea is to use a normal task list but, instead of selecting the next task off the list yourself, you select it by using a random number generator.

Although it’s early days yet, what we have discovered is that the randomness has some very positive effects:

  • It takes out all the personal decisions which are hugely influenced by emotions, fear, laziness, habits and just general human fallibility - and instead presents the next thing to do without any attempt to justify it. Instead of spending time and energy deciding how urgent or important or pressing or scary or avoidable a task is, you just forget all that and accept a purely random decision.
  • What we are finding is that stress levels fall and resistance is reduced almost to zero. We seem to have taken the “friction” out of deciding what to do next.

It is however important to design a system which will channel the randomness so that it generates a productive result. In my next post, I will describe the system I am using at the moment. This has truly amazed me by how effective it is, how easy to work and how comprehensive.

Thursday
Nov282013

Optimize Process Driven Teams with Process Street

(A guest post by Vinay Patankar of Process Street)

The key to success, when managing a business, is undoubtedly the productivity of your employees. Unfortunately, many businesses suffer from inefficient teams.

Getting down to the core of the problem can be as simple as bringing in a new tool or program to jumpstart the team’s attention and motivation. Process Street, is here to help. Bringing in the simplicity that is Process Street’s process management capabilities and the ability to join an entire crew into the project under one roof, optimizing your team is as easy as signing up.

If you’re running a business, you may have encountered various tools aimed at task management. These are tools such as Teambox, Asana and countless others. These are great for one off projects and tasks, but they don’t cater to tasks that happen on a recurring basis, whether frequent or in frequent.

Process Street takes it further by brining the project to life in a virtual business ecosystem, where everyone can see where their gears function in the whole of the project.

You may be asking, why is that important? Well, the reason is simple. Business executives have established that team members and employees, function better and offer better productivity when they can see how their actions and completed tasks affect the company.  For example, if you keep Bob, Mary, and Tom confined to their cubicles, and give them each a task list, at least one of them will be inclined to slack off thinking that “maybe” his job is not as important as it seems. In other words, someone else will get to it.

Under Process Street, everyone has a place, a purpose, and serves the cause in their own way. And luckily for the owner of Bob, Mary, and Tom’s company; Process Street offers a fully functional version of the tool absolutely free for up to 3 team members.

Pricing

For larger teams Process Street offers 4 convenient and cost effective brackets. For example, a team of 10 can use the tool for just $30 per month.

Teams of 20 and 50 can use the tool for $50 and $100 per month, respectively. And when it comes to SMEs, we all know the teams can expand greatly as the business flourishes. For these larger enterprises, Process Street allows you to call in and get a reasonable quote for your team.

Design and Functionality

Process Street makes the interface of the tool interactive and beautiful. Process Documents are broken down into tasks which can be checked off as staff complete them. The rich content interface includes rich media such as video and images to get the “big picture” across to the team, no pun intended.

But arguably, what makes Process Street different from the rest of the tools currently on the market, is it’s unique ability to track the completion of processes across the board. Under Process Street, as we mentioned before, everyone is responsible for something, and the team knows this. Managers can look into the tool and see who’s not working up to par, spot those inefficiencies that are holding the entire project back, and do something about it. Inefficiencies mean loss of money for the company, there is no other way to put it. Process Street ensures that money stays where it belongs; in your pocket.

The same concept breeds healthy competition, as the managers can also see who in the team is completing their tasks in a reasonable time frame. Process Street can become the epicenter of productivity, with employees vying for the monthly/ weekly prize offered to the most productive employee; that is of course if your enterprise offers such incentives. The competition can be as simple as just who gets to stay onboard.

Time Wasters

Many traditional enterprise owners refuse to believe that the majority of their wasted time comes from unnecessary meetings. That’s right. Often, a meeting needs to be called so that everyone can gather and get the new updated information issues on a change in standard operating procedures.

This can be a real problem for growing businesses who go through changes like babies go through diapers. All those meetings for minor changes can be eliminated with Process Street. The tool itself offers the ability to update processes, directly to the task list, and teams will get respective notifications on the application.

That means, there is no need to send out a mass email to the company (which probably won’t get read anyway). And since, most team members will have Process Street open all day, there are no excuses such as “I didn’t get the email”.

Process Street also allows Managers and SME owners to manage their processes from multiple organizations from one consolidated account, great for subsidiaries and different office locations.

We’ve seen task management a million times over. Process Street, is process management, complete with employee productivity, and inefficiency management. It works for the team, managers and the company as a whole, and soon will change the way SMEs do business altogether. Create a free account today and see for yourself.

 

BIO

Vinay Patankar is the CEO of Process Street, a productivity tool for process driven teams. Process Street is 100% free to use for small teams and freelancers. Create a free account here: http://process.st

 

Tuesday
Oct292013

The "Georgette Heyer" Task Management System

The “Georgette Heyer” is a very simple method, an early version of which I described a few years back. I’ve been using the present version on and off and found it reasonably effective, but I don’t think I have ever described it in writing.

What the early version consisted of was either doing the first task or the last task on your list.

The major drawback with this was that if the first task was difficult then it encouraged a proliferation of trivia being entered at the end of the list.

However after writing about this first version I thought of a method of preventing this. This was that once you have done the last task, you have to ignore any newer tasks and work backwards from the task you have just done. You have to continue doing this until you do the first task. Once you’ve done the first task you chose between the first task and the actual last task.

Here’s an example:

Write Report on Project X
Email
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk

You are faced with the choice of tidying your desk or writing the Project X report, so you naturally chose the easier, which is tidy your desk. By the time you have done this a couple of other easy tasks have arrived on the list:

Write Report on Project X
Email
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk
Arrange paperclips
Sharpen pencils

You are not allowed to got to “Sharpen pencils”, but have to work backwards from “Tidy Desk”. So you are faced with a choice of the Project X report or sorting your filing system. Sorting your filing system is something you’ve been avoiding so you prefer to do the report. A few more tasks arrive in the meantime.

Write Report on Project X
Email
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk
Arrange paperclips
Sharpen pencils
Research possible venues for sales conference
Tax return
Check staff meeting minutes

This time, because you’ve now actioned the first task, the choice is between email and the staff meeting minutes.

A few things to note about this system:

  1. You should only put things on the list which you are ready and prepared to do now. Even regularly recurring tasks should only be re-entered when they are ready to be done again.
  2. By working backwards from the end of the list and forwards from the beginning of the list, you will fairly quickly reach even the most difficult task.  It is possible, particularly with a very difficult task, that the first task on the list may also be the one worked back to from the end of the list. If this happens, then there is no choice - that task must be done.
  3. Don’t put time-specific tasks on the list.
  4. The rule “If it needs to be done now, do it” applies.
  5. If you take some action on a task and re-enter at the end of the list, then the rule “You can’t do the same task again without doing another task first”  applies. You then chose between the first task and the last but one task.

————————————————————

Why “Georgette Heyer”? It’s getting too difficult to find descriptive names for all the time/task management systems appearing on this blog, so I’ve decided that in future I will call new systems after the English Wikipedia featured article of the day.

Wednesday
Oct162013

"The Pathway to Awesomeness"

The ebook is now available at Hyperink (the publishers) and both Amazon US and Amazon UK. Please note that you can only use the $1 discount coupon code (AWESOME) at Hyperink.

Hyperink has the book in Kindle, iPad, Nook and PDF formats.

If you buy the book from Hyperink, have a look at some of their other titles while you’re there. They’ve got an increasingly interesting selection.

And wherever you buy the book from, please write a review!

“I am a stay-at-home mother willing to be working and using my best skills for things other than the daily backlog of home activities.  You have collected here a group of your posts that made sense to me before but now even more because of the way you have arranged them in this ebook. I have been longing to state what I want to do, where I want to go, what work would I like, etc., and find it difficult. But the exercise of stating what I don’t want makes sense, and it is already allowing the flow of more clear ideas in my mind.  It was an exercise my dad taught me long ago for some short essay at school and I totally recreated that moment and the relief of finding solutions. I’ll be working and practicing some of these ideas as you suggest.” Wendy Putzeys de Lee, Guatemala

Wednesday
Oct162013

New Book Now On-Line

I’m pleased to say that I’ve just heard from the publishers:

The book is now live on Hyperink at this link: https://www.hyperink.com/The-Pathway-To-Awesomeness-bA210AA213D

Coupon code: AWESOME for $1 off the price.
Still waiting for it to go live on Amazon (should be really soon).
According to commenters on my previous post it is now up on Amazon as well, but I haven’t got time to check as I’m about to run my wife to Heathrow to catch a plane to Australia for six weeks. She’s going there for the birth of a grandchild, while I’m staying here for the birth of another grandchild!
Tuesday
Oct152013

New Ebook Update

Sorry about the non-appearance of the ebook yesterday. The matter was entirely out of my hands.

According to the publisher yesterday evening (yesterday evening in UK that is):

We’re currently awaiting approval from Amazon’s submissions reviewers. In Pacific time (currently 2:30pm) it should be approved either later tonight or tomorrow, unless they have any change requests.

Unfortunately I’m away for most of today, so I won’t be able to notify you until this evening at the earliest if the book appears today. Even if you see the book appear, you will need to wait for the code if you want the discounted price for readers of this blog.

Monday
Oct142013

Nothing Much To Go On

For anyone interested I’ve just started a new blog called Nothing Much To Go On. It’s a much more personal blog than this one and will cover just about everything I’m interested in without any reference to what you the reader might be interested in (Be warned!)

However one of the things I am interested in is time management and personal organization, so you may pick up a few gems now and then.

Saturday
Oct122013

NEWS FLASH: New E-Book To Be Published on Monday!

The Pathway to Awesomeness: How to Get Things Done and Live a Productive Life, a selection of the best posts from a decade’s worth of my blog and newsletter will be published as an e-book on Monday, October 14th.

The book will be priced at $5.95 and will be available on Amazon Kindle and on Hyperink in multiple DRM-free formats on October 14.

For readers of my blog and subscribers to my newsletter there will be a reduced price of $4.95. Watch out on Monday for details of how to order.

Wednesday
Sep182013

How to Clear An Email Backlog

The trouble with large backlogs, as I have often remarked, is that they are very difficult to clear. Once your in-box gets to the size that you can’t deal with all your emails in one session, it seems to fill up as fast as you empty it. I expect you’ve had the experience of getting several hundred emails down to 60 or 70 after a mammoth effort, only to find that after a couple of days the backlog is nearly as big as it was before.

Ok, here’s a three stage method for clearing the toughest email backlog. I don’t claim it’s the only way of dealing with a backlog, but it certainly does work.

Stage 1

Sort your email by “Name of Sender”. That will achieve two things. You can see which emails are from important people whom you don’t want to ignore, and you can also delete loads of stuff like Facebook notifications in batches.

Stage 2

Sort your email by “Subject”. Again this will bunch many emails together which may no longer be relevant or which you decide you can’t be bothered with. Delete them all.

By the time you’ve done the first two stages, you should hopefully have reduced the number of emails in your backlog considerably. Time for the next and last stage.

Stage 3

Sort your email by “Date”. Now deal with your email in batches of one day at a time, starting with the most recent day (today). This is the opposite of what most people do, which is to start clearing the oldest emails first. Starting with the oldest is a mistake because it will take you a long time to work from the oldest email to the most recent email, and during that time you will be behind on all your email. If you start from the most recent and work back you will instantly start getting on top again. Or as a client of mine once put it: “If you start from the oldest, all your friends will think you’re an idiot. If you start from the newest, only half of them will!”

Every time you finish a day, download new email and deal with that before starting the next day. That way you are not adding to the backlog by neglecting new mail. So the sequence goes like this:

Clear today’s mail

Clear today -1 (yesterday)

Clear today’s mail

Clear today -2

Clear today’s mail

Clear today -3

If you have a month or more’s worth of neglected email, it’s going to take you some time and probably several sessions to get through it all, but you will be able to see exactly how much progress you are making and best of all you won’t be adding to the backlog.