Monday, July 28, 2014

Implementing What's Best Next, Part 2

This is the second of three posts on how I've implemented What's Best Next, by Matthew Perman. The first post can be found here.

As we enter the next step, we're really getting into the heart of the practical implementation of WBN. 

I think I plan well. I know what I want to do and what needs to be done but it is difficult to implement the plan consistently. The analogy I use when talking to people about this step is budgeting. Some people have an awesome budget in place. They just have no way of comparing what they actually do with their theoretical budget. Planning and spending occur in two totally different universes for them.

The same is true for planning our time. We may have wonderful goals and plans for how to spend our time. But what tools can help us merge our plans with reality? The "Execution" step gives us tools to help reality conform to our plans. 

Once again, you need to read WBN. What follows are some things I've done. I haven't arrived yet. To me, discipline in this area is like becoming physically fit. You have goals and you implement those goals one at a time on your way towards physical fitness. It's good to measure yourself by where you want to ultimately be, but that can also be discouraging as you see how far you still have to go. Therefore, it's also helpful to gauge yourself by far how you've come.  

Step Four: Execution

How do you execute? Perman advocates a three-step process: Plan, Organize, Do.

First, planning involves being diligent to sit down every week and plan out the week ahead, based on the projects and action steps on your agenda.

Second, organizing means you have a solid system in place to deal with all of your “stuff”. As I tried to think through how to implement such a system, I decided to do two things. First, I bought and skimmed Peter Drucker's Getting Things Done (which Perman references frequently). Second, I read through how other people had used Evernote to implement GTD. 

From my reading of both Perman and Drucker, here are some thoughts on the “organizing” part of execute:

1.      Don’t use inbox as to-do lists.

2.      Collect all your information in one place.

3.      Process the information: one item at a time and in order. Don’t keep looking at an email. Deal with it.

4.      Organize and act. There are really only five possible things you can do with “stuff”: delete, file, do, delegate, or defer.

5.      Manage Projects and Actions

Actions that can’t be done right away (two-minute rule), should be deferred to a projects list or an actions list.

a.       Large tasks are projects. Small tasks are actions.

b.      Organize projects and actions (See Evernote section below)

c.       Manage Projects

Third, you must do.

1.     Plan your day: Create a project called “Today” in Evernote.

2.      Schedule your day at only 70 percent capacity or less

3.       Consolidate your time into large chunks

4.      Do the most important thing first

5.       Do one thing at a time

6.       Focus on outcomes, not activities

7.      See your day in terms of people and relationships first, not tasks.

8.      Ask in everything: How can I build others up?

9.        Utilize the key question in the moment: What’s best next?

Step Five: Evernote

Before reading WBN, I was using Evernote somewhat consistently. Perman uses other tools, but I didn't have the resources at the time to purchase some of the programs he mentioned. I also wanted to try to use one program instead of multiple programs/apps.

Due to lack of time, I’m not going to go into great detail about how to do each aspect of setting up a Notebook in Evernote. It’s a fairly intuitive program and I think the screen captures will help. Here's an overview of what my Evernote screen looks like on my desktop:

1. Today

The first Notebook is titled “1. Today.”

(The “1” makes sure that Evernote puts that folder first as it orders them. You may have to adjust some settings to make sure the notebooks are put in alphabetical order.)

In this Notebook, I created only one note, also entitled “Today.” In the note, I put things I’m planning on accomplishing today. Every morning, I review my weekly priority list and populate the items on this note mainly from those items. I’ll often put in parentheses a time I hope to have finished that item.

Here’s what my “Today” note in my notebook looks like:

2. Inbox

This is my default Evernote folder. You may or may not use a folder like this. This is the folder that anything I send to Evernote goes to. When I go through my daily “workflow” routine, I’ll take pictures of documents or flyers, send them to Evernote, then put in the appropriate place (project, action, reference, etc.)

3. Weekly Priority List

This is similar to my “Today” Notebook. One notebook with one Note in it entitled “Weekly Priorities List.”

In this note, I put items that I hope to accomplish for the week. Once a week (generally a Friday or Sunday afternoon for me), I will look at my Master Projects, Master Actions, Waiting For and populate in this note what I need to get done in the coming week.

The things on this list are things that aren’t part of the normal routine. For instance, I don’t write “staff meeting” or “write sermon” because that seems silly to me.

Here’s what that my weekly priority list looks like:

4. Master Projects List

This is actually a stack of Notebooks. First, I created three notebooks: Books to Read, Church Projects, and Personal Projects. Then, I stacked them together and called that stack “Master Projects List.”

Each Notebook then has a bunch of notes, each of which is an individual project. For instance, the Notebook entitled "Church Projects" has multiple notes, each one a project I’m working on (e.g., The Gospel Institute or Asia Minor Trip).

Here’s what my Personal Notebook looks like (Master Projects List àPersonal Projects…):

The middle column lists the various notes that are all in the notebook “Personal Projects.” Notice that the first note is a list of all the notes that are in the notebook. Also, notice that each project has a series of “next steps.” Reviewing these next steps helps me populate my weekly priorities. Anytime I come across a piece of information related to a project, I'll put it in the note that corresponds to that project. Looking above, for example, I see that in my "health plan" notebook, I've put in a link to some website. I may or may not use the information there, but it's there for me to look through next time I focus on that project (which should be a part of my weekly schedule).

5. Master Actions List

This is similar to the Master Projects list, but with actions instead of projects. The difference between an action and project is the number of steps involved. Generally, an action is a single step.

6. Waiting For

These are items I’ve delegated and am waiting for someone to get back to me on.

7. Backburner

These are things that I will not be getting to in the near future but don’t want to forget about.

8. Reference

These are just notes of information I want to have available in case I need them.

Step 6: Getting it Together

The last step for me was putting everything through this new system. I collected all the info in my life. Notes, texts, emails, papers, etc. I pulled every thing I had out of drawers and "to do" piles and notebooks. 

After everything was in place, I ran every piece of it through this diagram (from Drucker's Getting Things Done, but don’t be thrown off. Those categories exist in your Evernote already (“Projects” is your “Master Projects” folder, etc.).

It took me a good 2 days to finalize the implementation process. If I had a piece of stuff that was a project, I put it in the project folder of Evernote. Notes from a meeting were moved to a reference folder. Action items from the meeting were placed in my Master Actions note. I took a lot of pictures of documents and notes and sent them to Evernote and put it in the appropriate folder.

In my next blog post, I'll talk through how WBN has impacted my ministry and personal life.

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