Most people I know have some form of a checklist. But, how well designed is it?
The Checklist Manifesto gave me a new appreciation for something I do naturally but had not taken it to its potential.
Full potential does not mean expansive and complex. My Strengthsfinder Input talent naturally expands any kind of list I create. My older checklists were layer upon layer of things to do, even prioritized. I found it was easy to miss more valuable items while checking off secondary items.
Atul Gawande summarizes the three reasons we mess up:
- Human fallibility
- Ignorance – we don’t know or know how
- Ineptitude – we do know how but don’t
His checklist approach is designed so we don’t succumb to ineptitude. It is so simple in concept and easy to shrug off. My life is, well, busy and complex. I’m juggling multiple projects, clients, family concerns and at the same time attempting to maintain my health and well-being.
I have a morning and evening routine (habit) to make sure I begin and end days well. I also take time at least 4 to 5 days a week for exercise. I do not read email until I’ve used the most effective time of my day (early morning) to do high-value work which often requires focus. I have begun practicing shutting off my computer and email by 8 PM and trending to earlier.
I use Workflowy as my digital checklist. I dump everything there and order it daily for my highest value and deadline work.
I use Evernote as my digital catch-all file. I send articles, write proposals, store presentations, receipts etc. My ability to create tags and my naming protocol allows me to find anything and not waste time searching folders or trying to remember where something is kept. I have used Evernote for the research of my last four books. I tag each link, article or thoughts on the theme or potential chapter.
Using Evernote applies something I learned from David Allen over dinner. Get everything out of your brain. Free it for purpose use and free it from worry and distraction. Evernote allows me to unload a huge mental load of stuff my brain likes to collect but feels secure I can easily retrieve it.
By the way. David Allen is the Guru for getting things done. His books have a distinctive checked box image. When I ran his talents through CoreClarity I discovered something odd. He was missing a quadrant of talents that naturally get things done. Ths quadrant is colored Orange and talents in that section are called Energize or Get-R-Dun talents. He had no natural talents to get things done. So I asked, “What’s up with that?” When he gave me his life story it made perfect sense. He struggled to find traction in life until he was in his 30s. He designed the GTD system to find purpose and tool to keep him on track. My conversation with David also reinforced why it is important not to pigeonhole people based on their DISC, Meyer’s Briggs or Strenghsfinder profiles. Gallup’s research finds that our mix of talents does not define what we accomplish, but provides insight into how. II’ve included David Allen’s Strengthsfinder talents and CoreClarity Pyramid below.
The by-product of using GTD and Evernote is I finish the day with no more than a dozen emails in my inbox and the ability to focus on my most valuable tasks. I only use email for sending and receiving. I either read and respond during the time I’ve set aside for emails or send it to Evernote tagged as a project, part of a project or as reference material. I do not use email as a clunky filing system. I found when I did use email for filing sometimes it took several minutes to find the email and try to recall the subject heading or date. My email folders or inbox simply looked daunting and draining. I’ve met some people who have thousands of emails kept in folders that are, for the most part, lost forever.
My short in-box does wonders for boosting a positive outlook.
If you’d like to learn how I broke the email filing habit and how I’ve achieved a skinny inbox, let me know. I may write about it in a future breakthrough memo.
NOTE: David Allen has talents in the Relationship Quadrant (Blue), Thinking Quadrant (Green) and Motivational Quadrant (Magenta) but no talents in the Get-R-Dun Quadrant (Orange). You can see his leadership archetype in the upper left part of the image. One of the reasons his book Getting Things Done has been a best-seller and is so effective is because he had no natural talents that provided an internal drive to get things done. It works for anyone.