Category Archives: process

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On the practice of a weekly review

A weekly review is an excellent idea. Here are some of the reasons why I do it:

  1. Track and celebrate accomplishments. Ever wondered where your days went? Tracking your accomplishments lets you get a handle on what you’ve done. Celebrating what you’ve finished encourages you to do more, too.
  2. Deliberately plan the next week. Instead of just reacting to the tasks and interruptions that come up during the week, sit down and plan a few things that you want to do.
  3. Follow up on priorities. If a priority task needs more work, having it on your list makes it easy to follow up (or see where you’re procrastinating!).
  4. Keep people up to date. If you make it easy for family, friends, and coworkers to keep up with what you’re doing, they’ll know more about interests, resources and opportunities that can help you.
  5. Make it easy to review the year. Having a record of your accomplishments and tasks makes those yearly reviews so much easier.
  6. Reflect on what worked and what can be better. Reviewing your week and planning the next one nudges you to think about how things can be better.

It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the benefits are tremendous. I can usually do my weekly review in 15-30 minutes.

Here’s what I’ve learned from doing so:

  • Bullet lists keep things short and simple. You don’t need to document everything – just enough to help you remember.
  • Categories help you keep things balanced. There are lots of different category systems you can use, and you can make up your own. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People recommends thinking in terms of your different roles. Getting Things Done has lots of good pointers for weekly reviews. Play around with the idea.
  • There are lots of ways to do a weekly review, so experiment to find what works for you. Some people like asking a set of questions instead. Others like using spreadsheets. Find out what works for you!

If you’re new to blogging, a weekly review helps you ease into the habit of publishing, and it can help you improve your productivity habits too. Give it a try!

Books:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey

 

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
David Allen

(Disclosure: Links above are Amazon affiliate links. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got these books from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)


Thanks to Kay for the nudge to write about this!

I’ll be away from Dec 30, 2009 to Jan 5, 2009. See you when I get back!

Personal knowledge management, morgue files, capture systems

How do you organize what you know so that you can use it for inspiration later?

Here’s what I have:

Input:

  • Experience
  • Conversations
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Ideas
  • Experiments

Capture and sharing:

  • Words, sketches, brainstorms – paper and pen
  • Mindmap on my iPod Touch and laptop
  • Quick tips through microblogging and bookmarks
  • Longer thoughts in my blog and on wikis
  • Generally useful information – slides, presentations
  • Book notes – scanned pages, text files; this needs to be integrated into my system and set up for regular review
  • One big text file organized with outlines and keywords for life, and another big text file for work

Navigation:

  • Search
  • Indexes in my notebooks
  • Randomness, similarity, and on-this-day in my blog
  • Hyperlinks
  • Summaries
  • Outlines and keywords

Index cards are useful for brainstorming too (especially for life planning or when I’m sketching a big talk that doesn’t have an obvious structure), but I don’t use them for long-term storage yet. My blog includes first drafts as well as more polished posts. I need a place to braindump. =) If you want less volume and more thought, just check out the highlights.

I love the idea of a morgue file. I’d love to eventually build myself a good random-access information management system. I currently stuff most things into my blog, and am slowly figuring out how to organize things more. I used to use howm, which was pretty cool too (if very geeky). I may go back to building a personal wiki. W- uses Tiddlywiki. =) Digital works well for me because I like being able to access things from anywhere. I don’t interact with enough paper to have a full-blown paper system, and would rather go digital instead of printing things out to integrate them with a paper system.

I love mapping things out. Mapping helps me navigate, see gaps, and plan. It’s also a good way to make it easier for other people to discover interesting things.

Next steps for me:

  • Digitize paper
  • Build indices
  • Build online and offline naming conventions for linking
  • Flesh out map
  • Learn more

More to come as I figure out and improve my system. =)

Thanks to Eric Blue for the inspiration!

Emacs Org mode and publishing a weekly review

2010-09-11 Sat 08:00

I like using Emacs Org-mode to organize my notes. One of the things it makes it easy to do is to keep a weekly review. I used to switch between using Windows Live Writer and using Emacs Org to draft the post, but with org2blog, I’ve been using Org more and more. Here’s how I use it.

At the beginning of my ~/personal/organizer.org, I have a headline for * Weekly review. Underneath it is a template that makes it easy for me to review my current projects and make sure that I’ve got next actions for each of them. Below that is a reverse-chronological list of weekly reviews, with the most recent weekly review first. This allows me to easily review my weekly priorities and copy that into a new entry. Here’s what the first part of my Org file looks like (minus the spaces at the beginning of the line)

* Weekly review
** Template
*** Plans for next week
**** Work
- [ ] *Support Classroom to Client:*
- [ ] *Build Connections Toolkit:*
- [ ] *Organize Idea Labs:*
- [ ] *Build career:*
**** Relationships
- [ ] *Plan Wedding:*
**** Life
- [ ] *Sew dress:*
- [ ] *Improve productivity:*
** Week ending September 12, 2010
*** From last week's plans
**** Work
- [X] *Classroom to Client:* Create community and structure online resoruces
- [X] *Connections Toolkit:* Build Activities reporter
- [X] *Classroom to Client:* Format Idea Lab reference presentation
- [X] *Idea Labs:* Assist with planning, process RSVPs
- [X] *Career:* Set up Ruby on Rails
- Helped Darrel Rader with blog feed
- Helped Sunaina with Notes e-mail conversion
- Finalized Idea Lab reference
- Had great conversation with Boz, Rooney, Kieran, etc. about culture and sharing
- Followed up on expertise location, sent draft report
- Collected interesting Lotus Connections practices into a presentation
- Put together match-up slide for IBM acquisitions
**** Relationships
- [X] *Wedding:* Plan NYC trip
**** Life
- [ ] *Sew dress:* Transfer dots and mark stitching lines
- [X] *Chair:* Paint and assemble chair
- [X] *Productivity:* Tweak GTD process - use Org for my weekly review/project template
- [X] *Productivity:* Organize files
- Added weekly lifestream archive
**** Plans for next week
***** Work
- [ ] *Support Classroom to Client:* Collect lessons learned and create new material
- [ ] *Build Connections Toolkit:* Make GUI
- [ ] *Organize Idea Labs:* Update invitation template
- [ ] *Build career:* Go through Ruby on Rails tutorials
- [ ] *Build career:* Prototype Drupal site and learn about new practices along the way
- [ ] *Build career:* Mentor people
***** Relationships
- [ ] *Plan wedding:* Plan BBQ reception
- [ ] *Plan wedding:* Make checklist and timeline for cleaning up, etc.
***** Life
- [ ] *Sew dress:* Machine-baste pieces together
- [ ] *Improve productivity:* File inbox items from my Org file

Most of the time, I leave the template section collapsed, and the “Plans from last week” expanded. Throughout the week, I cross items off and add quick notes about other accomplishments. When I reach the next week, I create a new entry, move the “Plans for next week” subtree and rename it “From last week’s plans”. When I do my weekly review (or throughout the week, as I notice new items), I create a “Plans for next week” section and fill it in. The editing can easily be automated, but I’ll tinker with it a bit first before writing code.

This approach means duplicate information in my task list. It would be interesting to use TODO items instead of list items for tracking my weekly priorities, with possible integration with my web-based task list through org-toodledo. However, I’d need to write code to make the TODO items publish as neatly as this list gets published using org2blog, and I don’t feel like going into that yet.

Anyway, that’s how I’m currently doing it. =)

Thinking about a visual process library

I had a good conversation with Craig Flynn and Ian Garmaise over bowls of ramen at Kenzo. We talked about visual communication and business practices. Craig has been doing a lot of consulting and training based on Toyota management practices, and he’s interested in helping people improve their visual communication skills.

One of the tools Craig mentioned was the feedback or suggestion sheet – a single sheet of paper that describes how things currently are, how they can be improved, and other notes. The company might compile hundreds or of these sheets. A decision-maker would then review them, spending about ten seconds each to classify the suggestion as relevant, irrelevant, something to do right away, something to investigate later, and so on.

Craig talked about how his descriptions were more complicated and less elegant than the ones that his mentor made, and how he was learning to make his descriptions clearer and more visual.

Ten seconds is an interesting limit. My sketchnotes let me review meetups and books quickly (see my Evernote notebook or the slideshow on my blog). I can apply Craig’s idea to that process library I’ve been thinking of building for a while.

Process - Process review

Might be an excellent way to practice!

Process: Reading nonfiction books

Process - Reading nonfiction books

Here I resolve to use book darts more often, to review my notes more deliberately, and to try sketchnoting ideas instead of being intimidated by the task of summarizing an entire book on a single page. I’m happy with the ones I did, but they’re hard to do because they require a much closer reading! <laugh>

I like drawing about how I do things. It’s more fun than describing the process with text, and I can annotate it with opportunities for improvement.

Process: Keeping notes of conversations

Process - keeping notes of conversations

I’m starting to use Evernote for more of my little notes, such as the follow-up notes after conversations. I like the way it can auto-title notes based on the current calendar event, and the search can pull in business card images as well as text snippets.