Archives for March 2008
She lives so large, she makes superheros nervous.
Edna Mode, referred to as "E" (analogous to Superman’s "S", or Mr. Incredible’s "I"), fashion designer and costumer of superheros in Pixar’s The Incredibles, packs so much juice, boldness, and raw energy into her tiny frame that she’s a force to be reckoned with, even for indestructible superheros.
If E can have that kind of effect on fantastically empowered champions, imagine what thinking like E could do for you.
Superheroes are easy, darling. Mediocrity is much more difficult to work with—and it is in such great supply.
Why You Should Think Hard About Thinking Big
Bob and Susan are desk shopping at IKEA (where else?). Susan sees a desk with four drawers, a built in cabinet, and a keyboard tray, and starts swooning. Bob sees a minimalistic desktop and calls off his search for office-furniture nirvana. Two flat-packs, a boatload of twine, and two soft-serve vanilla cones later, and the happy couple speed home.
On the way, Susan thinks about all the ways she can organize her stuff in all her cute little drawers, and Bob waxes poetically about the wide-open expanse of nothing that will be his new desktop environment.
Question: Who’s happier? Who will be more productive? Who will have an easier time managing their workload?
Answer: Who knows?
To Each Their Own
That’s the funny thing with productivity; what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily the end-all, be-all solution for another. So, how do you know what to do?
I’m always amazed when I talk with people who haven’t heard of EFT. Of course, before I heard of it, I hadn’t heard of it, either…
You’re going to hear more from me about EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), that’s for sure; I’m a huge fan, and my wife is a practitioner. Even my 8-year-old taps, on her own, whenever she’s nervous or feeling ill.
What is it?
It’s a method of healing that’s based on balancing the body’s energy system, and it gets its history in large part from Oriental medicine. No needles, though; you tap with your fingers on the same points acupuncturists put needles into. And it works for physical symptoms, emotional issues, belief systems, you name it.
I love it. And, I’m not the only one… as I understand the story, the same filmmakers who worked on The Secret were so impressed by EFT, they worked with EFT’s founder, Gary Craig, to create this video to introduce people to it:
You’ve got to watch it, it’s well worth the few minutes.
If you’re interested in learning more, and want to experience it yourself, give my wife a call. She’s amazing. And if you have experience with EFT, feel free to leave a comment so we can hear your experiences, too.
When we last saw our hero (that’s you), information was coming into your life at an alarming rate. And now, you have to figure out what to do with it until you’re ready to use it. In essence, we need to look at how you store your information.
Of course, there are lots of systems out there, and you have to find what works for you. What you’re about to learn here, though, is a system of organization that can be used on any standard computer—or, "in the cloud" systems like Google Docs—and it works because it’s built around two fundamental principles:
- how you think, not how someone else thinks for you.
- a usage mindset, not a storage mindset.
Looking at those two points, it sounds completely obvious. But you’d be surprised.
How You Think
Before you even take your computer out of the box, there’s a lot of stuff already on it, such as applications, pictures, fonts, etc. For most people, that’s pretty transparent stuff; whether you use it or don’t, you take it for granted. However, there’s another out-of-the-box component that most people don’t ever mess around with, and it’s the cause of hours of wasted time, multiple headaches, and the all-too-common facial expression of blankness mixed with confusion that graces most people faces as they search umpteen buried folders on their hard drives, looking for that one file that they know they saved somewhere, but just can’t seem to find… the default folder structure.
Take a look at a standard Finder window, and (if you’re using a mac, as I do) you’ll most likely see something like this snapshot from Apple:
Mac’s Finder window, via Apple
Take a look in the sidebar, and you’ll see the basic rundown: Desktop, Home, Applications, Documents… and sometimes Movies, Pictures, and such (I know Windows has a similar setup, and I tried to find a screenshot somewhere, but Windows user will just have to extrapolate for themselves on this one; it has been years since I was a Windows user, and like someone who got food poisoning at a B-grade greasy spoon, I can’t bring myself to go back and try again…).
The general idea, quite simply, is that applications get stored in Applications, your documents get stored in Documents, and on and on. Tthis is such a ubiquitous structure, that many people replicate it if they start storing information online, even. The currency? Stuff.
But does this describe how you think about your work? Doubtful.
So, why am I writing this series?
Because when I talk with people about how I manage information, their jaws drop. They’re shocked that I only have three physical file folders to my name. That my desk is spartanly clean, all the time. That 95% of the time, I have no files cluttering up my computer desktop, no email messages in my inbox awaiting attention, and I can find any information I need in about seven seconds, on average.
And, lest you think I was born this way, my mother will attest that I used to be a slob. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be buried under papers, unanswered emails, and lost in a sea of confusion about what to do next. And so, I got organized. I listened to the gurus and bought my labelers, file folders, palm pilots, planners, and productivity tools, and set to work. It worked, too.
But, I found that while I was organized, it took a lot of mental energy to maintain such a system. And if I fell off the wagon for any length of time, it was hell trying to catch up again. So, I gradually allowed myself to refine the systems I’d assimilated, trust my intuitive tendencies, and let myself find a way of working that was natural to me.
I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. – Oliver Wendell Holmes
And I found it. I found a way of working that allowed me to keep everything—and I mean everything—organized, accessible, and lean. And, gloriously calm in the process. My system tamed the infamous "monkey mind" state of disorder and disarray that plagues you when you aren’t clear about what you should be focusing on.
As I see it, the goal of all productivity measures, efficiency initiatives, and organizational efforts should be Thought Management. If you’re focused on time management, or managing the amount of information you encounter primarily, you’ll miss the mark. Just as Tim Ferris likes to say, "Money is useless without time," time- and information-efficiency can easily spiral into a situation where you may be handling a lot more, but you’re spent from doing it. Rather than make your situation better, you’ve only compounded the problem by adding more in a smaller window of time. Therefore, the premium commodity here is truly your mindset.
Running your own business gives you freedom: freedom to say what you want your business to say, work in the way you want to work, and call the shots as you want to call them.
Or does it?
Think about your non-work life: chances are, you give yourself the freedom to schedule your non-work life how you best see fit: time for exercise, eating, cleaning the house, reading books… whatever is important to you.
But do you do the same thing in your business? Or are you letting the conventions and norms of society dictate how you work?
Ask yourself this:
- Regardless of how it turned out at the end of the week, did you have the intention going into last week to work around 40 hours? Monday through Friday? Nine to five, or thereabouts?
- Do you check your email when you want to, or when you think you should?
- How about your phone? Do you let it go to voicemail, or stop what you’re doing (even eating) to answer it?
- If you have clients, when do you schedule them? Whenever they can work with you?