Getting off the couch & getting going – Part 1


Worry, Worry, Worry!
. . . The agony of agonizing

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series:

Let’s Get GUI!
Looking at Good, Urgent, and Important

When I first began to blog on the topic of organization and task completion, I was initially daunted.

It seemed to me that productivity, accomplishment, follow-through and planning were such HUGE topics for anything less than entire books — difficult to handle briefly, even in an entire Series of posts on each topic!

While most of what I read on the inter-webs focuses on Tips and Techniques, I wanted to explore underlying principles, and I wanted to share them from a brain-based perspective.

QUITE the challenge — especially since I knew that most readers wouldn’t have my background of information, so I had to include an explanation of terms before I could move on even to underlying principles, much less sharing techniques that many have found helpful.

Don’t miss: Getting Things Done-101

The extent of the challenge stopped me for a while, I must admit, and it took me some time to begin to figure out how best to do it without wearing people out.  Long-time readers may have noted that my earlier articles are much longer than the ones I have been posting lately.

Whittling things down remains a challenge, but I don’t let that keep me from trying to be helpful in as brief a manner as I believe can get the job done for most people.

Moving along anyway

I am inspired by the malaise that seems to waft in with the summer heat, and I want to explore more about Getting Things Done. I plan to continue to whittle things down to a size we can manage in two ways:

  1. Dividing this topic and this article into parts, and
  2. Using language and examples that will relate primarily to those attempting to Get Things Done at home, whether the tasks are personal or professional in nature.

Let’s start by thinking about how to tackle a number of different kinds of tasks by throwing them into a few metaphorical “task bins.”

Getting GUI

Take a look at your task list every day (which implies that you make one, right?)  Separate the tasks that would be good to get done from the tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT.

Good to get done tasks

Good to get done tasks help you move your life forward – without the not-so-subtle pressure that normally accompanies a To-DO! List.  This category is for the “treadmill tasks” of life: the recurring chores that really don’t need to be done at a specific time or day, as long as they are done fairly regularly.

These are the tasks I keep encouraging you to put on autopilot:

  • Figure out a reasonably effective way to do them
  • Do them the same way every time so that they can become habitual.
  • Put them on auto-pilot. “Auto-pilot” habits don’t debit cognitive resources!  No deciding, no agonizing, and your conscious mind is freed for more important work.

Urgent Tasks

Urgent Tasks are two-fold, both of which you are going to work toward eliminating from your life as you learn more about what you need to be intentional about getting things done.

Type 1 Urgents are those items that carry a monetary, legal or emotional penalty for remaining undone — many of which are the result of not getting out in front of them earlier.

Taxes, license renewals, bills, birthday cakes, presents and cards all fall into the Type 1 Urgent category at the beginning.

Don’t beat yourself up about your struggles with this category — or ruminate over the fact that you “should” have taken care of whatever it is before it became a problem that had to be handled immediately (or else!)

Simply identify the items that belong here to make sure you don’t drop those balls in the future.

Many of us with Executive Functioning issues have developed the unfortunate habit of using the adrenaline rush that accompanies urgency to be ABLE to focus with intentionality.

Adrenaline is an endogenous psycho-stimulant (produced within).

It does work; we tend to get more done. But it comes with a high price tag.  There are healthier forms of energy that will help you get things done — more about those to come.

Bona fide Emergencies

Bona fide emergencies generally won’t make this list at all. They are the things that you rarely have time to put on a list in the first place, nor do you need to.

Fire, flood, illness, accidents and broken bones, necessary and well-maintained equipment that suddenly gives up the ghost  — things that it’s unlikely you could have predicted but MUST be dealt with immediately — ALL fall in the category of bona fide emergencies.

The only way to plan for bona fide emergencies is to leave a bit of ease in your schedule every single day so that you stand a shot at getting back on track when you have to stop to deal with them.

Type 2 Urgents are the things that you are going to practice saying no to: that means setting boundaries.

My favorite quote that describes this category perfectly is this one:
“Lack of planning in your life does not constitute an emergency for me.”

Many of the items in this category wouldn’t be on your plate to begin with if you would get the time and energy vampires off your neck.

Other items pop in here when you say yes because you can’t imagine how to say no.  You would not find yourself rushing to buy a hostess gift for a party with that couple you don’t enjoy, for example, if you hadn’t said yes in the first place!

We have a tendency to say yes to these items we really don’t want to do because it requires little of our decision-making power to respond in “emergency mode” — it feels like MORE to do to refuse to play, so we play.

It feels great to put out a fire — not so great to prevent one.

I’m not saying that setting boundaries is an easy fix, but it is a simple one, and the only one that will ever work to get Type 2 Urgents out of your life forever.

Unfortunately, until we learn to set and protect boundaries around what we allow others to push onto our plates, our behavior teaches those around us to do exactly what we do NOT want them to do.

To begin with, demote the Type 2 Urgents:
Don’t say no, say LATER.

Take a baby step toward teaching your family and friends that ONLY when you’ve accomplished what is IMPORTANT will you be able to focus time or attention on Type 2 Urgents.

They may never understand that you have more important things to do than pick up the pieces of somebody else’s dropped ball or help them handle their over-commitments or lack of boundaries, but it is essential that you understand that reality yourself.

When you say, “Not now,” show any whiners and complainers your list of what needs to be done first and tell them to get them workin’ on it if they want you to be finished faster.

You probably won’t be able to count to three before you hear (with attitude, no doubt), Oh, never mind!

[More about this in an earlier article: Priorities-101:Yes means No]

So what’s IMPORTANT?  

That’s a VERY good question.  What IS “important” to you?  I’ll give you a hint with another favorite saying:

Nobody ever said, at the end of life,
“Darn!  I wish I’d spent more time on my chores.”

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Advice and Boundaries


Linears and  Holographics
Different strokes for different folks

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections Post to introduce an upcoming Boundary Series

WHY won’t everybody LISTEN?

We humans are funny critters. We want everybody to do everything OUR way.

Secretly, we sincerely believe that whatever we have figured out effectively for our own lives would transfer to anyone else’s — if they’d only DO IT RIGHT, gol-nabbit!

The same advice is meted out to tortoises and hares, linear and holographic thinkers alike, depending on who seems to be currently doing better in the races we like to time.

THEIR problems would magically disappear with OUR solution,
IF ONLY they’d:

  • try hard enough
  • give it enough time to become habitual
  • “want to” badly enough
  • stop resisting
  • or procrastinating

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

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My way IS the Highway?


ALL Kinds of Solutions
for ALL Kinds of Minds

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections from posts from January 2012 and March 2015

Get up Early … Exercise to FOCUS! … Bite the Bullet … Eat that Frog
Give it your ALL … Connect with the Pain … Clean out your Closet
Throw out your ClutterAccelerate your willingness . . .

WHY won’t everybody else do what they should?

Yep! So many people think that everybody else needs to do everything their way. It’s as if they believe that exactly the same techniques that have been effective in their own lives would transfer equally well to anyone else’s situationif those slackers would only DO IT RIGHT!

Everyone’s problems would magically disappear with “simple” solutions, IF ONLY everybody else would:

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

As if everybody needed to do the same thing – right?

I know what works for you – uhuh, uhuh-uhuh

More than a few Success Gurus approach the subject of productivity and goal fulfillment from a paradigm that not only is unlikely to work for everyone on the planet, I believe that much of what they suggest does not work very well at all for citizens of Alphabet CityIn fact, it shuts many of us down.

These “experts” certainly don’t mean to shut anybody down – and many find it difficult to impossible to believe that they do.  Still, they speak in soundbites that encapsulate the cornerstones of their systems.

They tend to promote techniques in alignment with the claim that increasing commitment to change, demonstrated by “giving up your resistance” to whatever it is they are suggesting, is the single most important step that turns the tide for many of their clients, students and seminar attendees – and that it would work for you too, if you’d only give it a try.

Different folks and different strokes

  • Tortoises and Hares
  • Linears and Holographics
  • Detailers and Concepters
  • Prioritize First or Do it NOW propronents
  • DECIDE and Do or Follow the Flow

Does anybody REALLY believe that the same “success techniques” are likely to work effectively for each of the examples above?  Their ways of approaching life is at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Who’s to say that one style is the “right” approach and the other is not?

Taking different routes to work

How you get to a particular location in your town, for example, depends upon a great many variables: where you are coming from, the amount of gas in your tank, the time of day, what else you are trying to accomplish on the same trip — even the type of vehicle you are driving and the state of your tires.

I can recommend the way I travel as the most direct route, or the one with the fewest stop lights, or the most scenic.  But it’s not true that one or the other is “the best,” or that the recipient of my suggestion is intractable or doesn’t really want to get where they are going if they choose another route.

In a manner similar to how a city’s network of roads determines how various people travel to the same destination, the connections that make up the networks in our brains determine how our brains operate. Variations in the way we navigate our world – physically or mentally – are a product of our “equipment” and how life tends to work best for us.

Still, we all like to give advice, and it makes us feel great when people take it.  But it doesn’t mean that we know “better.”

During my 25+ year coaching career, I have worked very hard to jettison “I know better” thinking. I have been relatively successful moving beyond the temptation to spread judgment like a schmear on a bagel, but I still defend my right (and yours) to offer advice, raising our voices of experience to offer information and suggest solutions.

It’s not the advice that is the problem – it’s the misguided expectation that others need to take it!

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The Condo Concept of Time Management


A better way to structure
the TIME of your LIFE

© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the TaskMaster™ and Time Management Series

Lost in Time?

When we are driving around lost and our GPS seems to be stuck on, “RECALCULATING!” a map of the territory provides a quick hit of the structure we need to reorient, even if we’ve been driving in circles for some time.

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

We can still choose to take any of the roads on the map to get us where we are going from where we are NOW, but at least, with a map, we can tell the roads from the driveways!

Likewise, when life itself feels like it is spiraling out of control, nothing is more helpful than a quick glance at something with structure – like a TIME map.

Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your seemingly “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that, together, create each of the days of our lives.

It can be adapted to your very own personal style — even if you prefer spontaneity and variety. It even works for those of us who have less than complete control over our days, as well as for those of us who seem to have too much control and are overwhelmed deciding what to do when and what to do next.

A quick review

In an earlier article, Time Mapping Your Universe, I went into detail about how to set up a TimeMap (using my own, at the time, as an example of the concept). More importantly, in that earlier article I went into detail about the advantages of having and using a Time Map

WHY a Time Map?

  • Having a visible representation of how you believe the elements of your life would be best-scheduled reduces the number of decisions-in-the-moment.
  • That, in turn, increases cognitive bandwidth in the moment — so that you are able to actually accomplish something beyond planning, list-making and beating yourself up for getting off-task again.
  • In addition, it serves as a double-check to make sure that you aren’t saying yes to demands for your time and attention, when you really need to be saying NO or “Not right now.”
  • It also gives you somewhere to go to locate a quick answer for the inevitable question, “Well, when will you have time?”

In the absence of a schedule imposed by another (like work or school), it is waaaaay too easy to get caught in the flexibility trap.

© Phillip Martin, artist/educatorThe Flexibility Trap

Entrepreneurs and service-professionals in particular, frequently get caught in the flexibility trap, inadvertently flying stand-by in our own lives in service to our businesses and the needs of others.

Those of us with alphabet disorders are some of the worst offenders, since many of us struggle with time and transition management.  Before we realize what hit us, our lives are no longer OUR lives.

  • Just because a certain hour is not already taken by another client, or another client project, doesn’t mean it’s “free time” we can book on the fly any time someone wants to use our services (or needs a favor).  That’s a recipe for burnout!
  • A TimeMap is a reminder that certain hours are “booked solid” already – with other items that are necessary to keep YOUR life on track and worth living.
  • ESPECIALLY if you love what you do, you need to schedule non-work time or you’ll quickly notice that there isn’t any.  Even if your long hot soak or reading time can’t be accomplished without family interruptions, it’s still more “you” time than not.  MAP IT IN!
    (This is doubly important if you are a Mom or Dad who works his or her fingers to the bone inside the home rather than at a job at a different location.)

Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that, together, create each of the days of our lives.

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TimeKiss™ – Tips for Time Mapping


KISS: Keep It as Simple as you sCAN

© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another in the TaskMaster™ Series
TimeMapping Part 2

© Phillip Martin – artist/educator

Finding Your Way

As I said in Part I of this article — when we’re lost, if we’re smart, we check the map.  A road map provides the structure we need to reorient, even if we’ve been driving in circles for some time.

When life itself feels like it is spiraling out of control, nothing is more helpful than structure  – a MAP of the territory.

A TIME Map

In Part I of this article, I explained the basic principles of TimeMapping, and gave you an example of the TimeMap I’m using currently – Down & Dirty style, which is what I recommend for you.

Like any map you might pick up at your local gas station, one that shows the major roads but not every house on the block, a TimeMap is an overview — something you can SCAN quickly to get your bearings.

Your TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make it up.

It NEEDS to be adapted to your very own personal style —  and, designed appropriately, it even works for those of us who have less than complete control over our days.

Everything old is new again

TimeMapping is not a new technique, by the way. It was extremely popular with the Time Gurus in the ’80s.  With the increasing popularity of electronic devices, it fell into disfavor.

I think it’s past time to bring it back!  Never underestimate the power of paper.

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TIME Mapping Your Universe


Structuring the Time of your Life Part 1

© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the TaskMaster™ and Time Management Series

Lost in Time?

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

When we’re lost, if we’re smart, we check the map.  A map of the territory provides the structure we need to reorient, even if we’ve been driving in circles for some time.

When life itself feels like it is spiraling out of control, nothing is more helpful than structure.

NO, not the hateful kind of structure imposed from the outside — an inside look at how you want to be spending your time that you can hold up as a shield against life’s slings and arrows: a TimeMap.

Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that together create each of the days of our lives.

It can be adapted to your very own personal style — even if you prefer spontaneity and variety — and it even works for those of us who have less than complete control over our days.

Time Mapping

In Time Management from the Inside Out, author Julie Morgenstern explains the time mapping concept beautifully:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“The Time Map is simply a visual diagram of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule

. . . as well as . . .

a powerful tool for helping you be proactive amid the swirl of demands that come your way.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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TaskMaster: Ordering Your Deck


Getting Things Done – 101 Part 3
Another article in the Taskmaster™ Series
© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

The last two of Ten Tips for Focus & Intentionality:
Prep-Time for Time Mapping

We LOVE Phillip Martin’s artword!

Lets begin by reviewing steps 1-8.

You need to have those firmly in mind to be able to go forward with what we’re going to do next.

1. House the Homeless
2. Name the Game
3. Mise en Plasse
4. Plant and Stake
5. Remember the Cookie
6. Stop and Drop (thanks Maria!)
7. Survey the terrain
8. Boundary the space hogs

If you’re not ready to ride after reading the following few memory joggers, go back to read (or reread) Parts 1 & 2 of the “Getting Things Done-101” section of the TaskMaster articles.

Scroll to the bottom of this article for links to the rest of the TaskMaster series – and don’t forget that inside-the-article links to concepts mentioned are dark grey, to lower their distraction potential.  They turn red on mouse-over; hovering for a moment before you click will pop up a bit more info for many of them.

This article will continue to help you put your “deck” together.

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Mapping Your Universe


Getting Things Done – 101 Part 2
Another article in the Taskmaster™ Series
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Moving through the Ten Tips for Focus & Intentionality:
Prep-Time for Time Mapping

We LOVE Phillip Martin’s artword!

Lets begin by reviewing steps 1-6.

You need to have those firmly in mind to be able to go forward with what we’re going to do next.

1. House the Homeless
2. Name the Game
3. Mise en Plasse
4. Plant and Stake
5. Remember the Cookie
6. Stop and Drop (thanks Maria!)

Go back to read (or reread) Part 1 if you’re not ready to ride after reading those reminders.

As I said in the first part of Getting Things Done – 101:

The use of a Time Map – setting a regular and recurring time in your calendar or datebook where you plan to work on the same task each time – reduces the prefrontal cortex resource depletion that happens every darn time you try to DECIDE what to do.

Interestingly enough, shuffling the deck
– assuming you HAVE a deck to shuffle –

takes far fewer cognitive resources.

Think of it like a commune in your calendar. Every task has a tent, but the community members kind of float from one tent to the other, making sure all of the activities of the commune are attended to daily, weekly and monthly – just not always in the same tent.

This article begins to help you put that “deck” together.

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Getting Things Done – 101


Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover.

Ten Tips for Focus and Intentionality — Part 1

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the TaskMaster™ Series

I finally had time to sit down and read a past issue of Maria Gracia’s excellent Get Organized Now newsletter.  This one had a great article entitled “Hopping and Dropping.”  (If you don’t already know Maria’s website, RUN to sign up – you’ll thank me for the tip many times.)  

Thanks Maria!  Your article reminded me to go look for a similar document on Organization and Task Completion, hiding out somewhere on my hard drive waiting for its turn in the blog spotlight in the TaskMaster™ series.

Getting things DONE

Those of us who are highly distractible (as well as those who are highly impulsive) generally run out of day l-o-n-g before we run out of To-Dos. We shake our heads sadly and ask ourselves,What did I DO all day? I’ve barely stopped working and I have nothing to show for it.”

Maria calls this “Hopping and Dropping — starting one task, hopping to another,” then dropping that task for something else, moving right along to whatever grabs your attention next — and repeating this process throughout the day.

This not only results in exhaustion, it’s lousy for getting much of anything DONE!

I call that exhaustion nonsense the [old] ADD/EFD Way!

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When the Game is Rigged


Reward and acknowledgment, part 3 


By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Another in a series of articles from my upcoming book,
TaskMaster™ – see article list below

Don’t be STINGY!

Think back to my earlier reminder that, during the training phase, you make good with those cookie bribes frequently.

Remember that I said that you can reconsider what has to be done for what kind of reward once the training is complete?

Don’t forget as you reconsider, however,
that you are working with an inner KID.  

Most adults I know have lost touch with how much they loved cookies as a kid.

Oh, we remember that kids love cookies, all right, that’s not the problem.

  • In fact, most Moms resort to keeping the cookies in a place the kids can’t reach them.
  • They say they want to keep the kids from eating every single cookie in the jar.

In another unbelievable application of black and white thinking, “You may not eat all of the cookies” transforms into “You may not eat ANY of the cookies” before a three-year-old can figure out what happened.

Since Moms generally dislike interruptions when they are busy and most Mom’s are pretty busy most days, repeated requests for a cookie are quickly considered whining for a cookie. Most Moms don’t like to give in to whining.

The game is rigged!

What’s the poor kid supposed to do? You’re too busy to stop long enough to crack the cookie safe on request and in a minute never comes.

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Doling out the Cookies


Reward and acknowledgment, part 2

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Another in a series of articles from my
upcoming book, TaskMaster™
Virtue is not its own reward – Part I
LinkList to articles HERE & below

 

Before we leave the discussion about acknowledgment, lets talk about how it works.

An acknowledgment, properly executed, carries one message and one message only:  GOOD JOB!

Think about the way we talk to each other.  Think about the subtext of the messages we send when we praise.  Think about the words we use.

•  Not bad!
•  Decent!
•  Almost perfect!
•  Great!  Now try it again with your back straight.

Excuse me?  I don’t know about your inner three-year-old, but mine hears an underlying message that takes away as much as it gives.

What tries to pass for acknowledgment above leaves me with the not-so-subtle feeling that, no matter how hard I try or how much I do, I will never be “perfect enough.”

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Virtue is not its own reward


Beating Back Task Anxiety – part 1

By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
One of a series of articles from my
upcoming book, TaskMaster™

Reward and acknowledgment

The misunderstanding and misapplication of the reward phase of task management is the single biggest mistake I notice in the world.

Don’t undervalue this part. 

The seemingly silly concept coming up is the single most important distinction to which you will ever be exposed.  

It will sometimes be the only thing that will keep you on track as you work your way through the items on your plate – whether that means filling out the Challenges Inventory™, putting together your Boggle Space, or getting through the rest of this article!

We are ALL Peter Pan

Inside every one of our grown-up selves lives an I’ll never grow up three-year-old who wants a cookie.

Maybe we can convince that three-year-old to behave for a while without that cookie, but eventually even the most well-behaved three-year-old is going to stage an old fashioned temper tantrum because s/he is tired of working on behaving and wants a reward for all the work s/he has done already!

Our inner three-year olds are totally uninspired by concepts of goodness and virtue and rewards in the afterlife.  Our inner three-year olds are wiser than we know.  Nobody behaves for sake of good behavior itself.

Playing by the rules, waiting our turn, and being quiet so that the grown ups can talk about important things (when we would much rather be free to do whatever we wanted at the playground down the street) is hard work.  

And if you think you’re getting all that hard work for free, you’d just better think again, buster!!

Three-year-olds want regular, recurring, tangible rewards for their efforts!  If you want to continue to motivate your inner three-year-old so that s/he will work with you instead of slowing you down with chronic distractions, the most effective way is BRIBERY!

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Finishing what you Start


Linears and  Holographics

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

ALL Kinds of Minds

  • Tortoises and Hares
  • Detailers and Concepters
  • Prioritize First vs. Do it NOW
  • DECIDE and Do vs. Go with the Flow

WHY won’t they LISTEN?

We humans are funny critters.  We want everybody to do everything OUR way.

Secretly, we sincerely believe that whatever we have figured out effectively for our own lives would transfer to anyone else’s — if they’d only DO IT RIGHT!

THEIR problems would magically disappear with OUR solution,
IF ONLY they’d:

  • try hard enough
  • give it enough time to become habitual
  • “want to” badly enough
  • stop resisting
  • or procrastinating

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

Read more of this post

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