If your are engaged with your life the concept of time changed

” If you are appropriatelly engaged with your life, you don’t need more time. If you are not, more time time won’t help.”
David Allen

A soon as I put that quote in Twitter my great friend Tara Rodden Robinson reply showing that she was in disagreement, specifically with the fact that you are “appropriately engaged” will not remove the pressure of time. I am in completely agreement with her that will not remove the pressure of time, but will change it. A soon as you begin directing your actions toward what you are appropriately engaged the pressure of time doesn’t cease to exist, but in my opinion that will imply that you will use time better.
Many people dream with be able to do this or that. I wanted to be a writer when I was fourteen, but because of circumstances outside of this post wasn’t until some years ago that I appropriatelly engaged that objective. Once I made that compromise, I was able to publish two novels, one productivity book, translate one of my novels and the productivity book that goes out for sale next week in spanish.
Without any doubt, I continue having time pressures (maybe even more) that before I made engaged with my goal, but equally, and without a doubt I manage these ones much better. Previously to the moment that I decided to be a writer, I never had time to write, that time never show in the calendar, or my lists. I was always thinking that if I would had more time I was going to be able to do it. The reality from the current perspective is that if I would had been able to had thirty sis hours days I would had write exactly the same I was writing: nothing.
The time never show up until you engage with the goal. That is the reason the garage is never organized, but there is always chance for another round of 9 holes in golf. Once the compromise exist, the time pressure change, exist, but it is the lack of time, it is the moment you begin to be productive. As I said before and I mention on my book 25 Tips for Productivity: “Productivity and efficiency can’t be found looking for hours to save, but in eliminating wasted minutes”
Once you are engaged, you discover that isn’t the lack of time, but that you are not using it appropriately. At least I believe that.

Checklists… Friend or Foe?

I began doing and using extensive checklists around 2004, after I read David’s Allen famous book. No question that the book was a big influence into the creation of those, and to this day, I consider those checklists a great friend and an ally. But I am aware that many people consider them more of a foe than a friend, and it is more for those people that these lines are written.
It is really interesting that we spend hours taking measures to control our environment, projects and tasks; only then to find endless ways to disrupt them. It is exactly the second part on that last sentence the reason I work with Checklists. I spend hours, creating system, tracking projects and tasks, maintaining a complete system, but my ability to disrupt them is incredible.
Checklists allow me to keep at bay the distractions, elements and sometimes feelings and stress while I am then able to focus on the task on hand. I have for example a checklist in case I get in a car accident. Trust me that I hope never again use that one, but it was really useful, when it happened, no emotions, just following steps.
I have another checklist for when we are living home in a trip. I don’t know how your household works, but in ours the last ten minutes before leaving are a little crazy. They were also as I grow up. I remember my parents turning the car around because they didn’t remember if they turn off this or that. I have a before we leave checklist, after I push everyone to the car I pull my lists and go trough it quickly, no feelings, no stress, no worry, no problem.
I understand that many people cringe on the idea of the control that those lists can produce, it is that same people that believe that it is this kind of control what will kill their spontaneity and creativity, but in my experience it is exactly the opposite, it is this kind of lists what allow me to keep my calm and free mental space in order to be creative and spontaneous.
Without a doubt for me, Checklists are a friend… and I have a lot of those friends!

25 Tips for Productivity

The book you hold in your hands was conceived while talking to a couple of friends who were struggling with productivity and writing. I wanted to share with them the tricks and tips that I have used over the years, that have made a big impact in my life and the life of those that have applied them.
I wrote this book hoping that you, the reader, might learn a thing or two (maybe twenty-five) that will help you excel in the game of life. I hope you find a gem in these pages, I hope one of these tips will help you in some significant way. If you do give this book to someone that you think will benefit from these tips, they may be forever grateful.
This book was a way for me to pay forward, to those that have helped me over the years improve my game, some of you are mentioned in this book, others, whose influence was just as strong are not mentioned by name, but to you all I am equally grateful.

Available on…

GTD, Productivity and Parenting: Keeping Promises

As parents we are busy. We are running left and right, managing work, meetings, deadlines, cooking food, and much more. As if all that isn’t enough, we need to do the hard job of “Educate” our children. Educate kids is hard work, or at least it is for me.
My dad was a great dad when I grow up, he work really hard and provide for us all that he consider important and much more. Sadly he wasn’t great at keeping promises. He was always busy. What I remember (maybe in an unfair way) is that promises always had a hidden clause. There was always a way to use the escape clause. The fact is that what I remember is that he wasn’t great at keeping promises. It may be an unfair childhood memory, but it is the one at had; other than that he was great dad and provide for us. He is generous and much, much more.
But the fact is that I remember many of those promises that where broke, that had that secret clause, the escape clause that I never understood. Eventually I lose hope, and stop expecting and assuming that those promises where ever going to happen. That had bring really nice unexpected surprises when they do. My dad was busy, I don’t know how many hours he work on his business but I will guess 90 or 100 hours per week. I am guessing that because he was tired, overworked and most likely exhausted didn’t remember of have the energy to make those promises a reality. It is a memory that I have, that it is not pleasant. As I grow up, I always said that I was going to be extra careful keeping promises to my kids.
When my wife and I got pregnant, I worry over this again, I wasn’t sure how to do it. Some promises are little things, like “You are not allowed to use your scissors until Sunday because you cut your socks” or “If your room is not picked up on Saturday Morning there is no Mickey Mouse Club on the TV” or “we will play Legos tomorrow afternoon” easy promises to forgot and break. We don’t do it because we meant to, but because we have grown up problems that for some reason make us forget. The problem with this is that as “Play Lego” may not seen as important as “Send sales agreement”, for our kids it is the most important thing in the world. How we expect that they share their big problems during their teenage years if we don’t consider their toddler problems important enough?
This is when I decided to stop and think on how to keep those promises, at least have them present in the day to day to be able to renegotiate. Only a promise renegotiate to the excess count as a broken one. I made two distinctions. One are time sensitive events, like: “We will Play Lego tomorrow” or “Next Week we can come to the Park” or “I will call your best friend parents to plan a play date”. Those things enter into my GTD system.
– “We will Play Lego tomorrow”: will make his way to the calendar as an tentative event.
– “Next Week we can come to the Park” & “I will call your best friend parents to plan a will play date”: will get into my inbox for planing or re-negotiation.
Where do you place the reminder that you told her that she could not play with scissors until Sunday because she cut her socks? Into the system of course. I have a context called @TO BE AWARE OF: and it is used as a reminder of stuff that I need to be aware. I don’t want my calendar clutter with “No TV tomorrow” or “Can use scissors until Sunday” or any of those reminders, but a particular context do wonders. I check them often enough to be reminded and more importantly to be able to keep my promises.
These are things that compared to the things we must handle, are minuscule, almost irrelevant, but for our kids meant the world, and more importantly are this little agreements the ones that they will use as examples to make his future decisions. As good examples, or as examples to avoid. The choice is yours as a parent, if you want to be the example or the counter example.

Working on MY iPad: Carry all your reference, papers and everything else too in Evernote

We all have carried more paper than what we actually need to carry. We all had hold paper in our lives for longer that we need. Even the best people at processing paper, keep some stuff that honestly could be put in other formats, so you don’t need anymore to carry it.
When I discover that most people had enough with a copy or even an email version of most documents, I decided to find a different way of carrying all that information. I need it a way to file those documents, and carrying in them with me, without carrying a piece of paper. That will provide me easy access, but no bulk or weight. The Answer: Evernote.
We where traveling recently to a close city and my wife lost one of her contacts. We drove to a LensCrafters to get a new pair. In order to help her they need to see their prescription. She got hers on a different store, and I knew they will be able to call, and get the information. Instead of that, I just search on my Evernote, and voila, show to the person helping us, he ask for an email to attach to the file and 15 minutes later we where back into out trip. All that because I have get in the habit of scan papers that come our way that I think I may need (even some that I hope I will never need)
Evernote had the advantage of the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that make find documents really easy, even if your abilities of filing are poor. The camera of the iPad and the iPhone are good enough to get a quality image that Evernote can apply their OCR so it can be perfectly useful.
The problem like anything is that if you just dump stuff instead of being something useful you have the risk to convert it in something that it is going to be useless again. So in my opinion you need some kind of methodology in order to survive.
This the the current formula that I have. It is far from perfect, but it works great for me and saves me hours and more importantly it is simple enough I think.
My Current Folders:
Tax Receipts (Current Year): My accountant don’t require originals, so I take pictures of receipt that will be relevant and just forward by email when the Tax time arrives.
Wife: This is things that are related to my wife. Eyes Prescriptions, insurance cards, and many more stuff.
Daughter: same as the wife, b-day invitations, doctor and medicine instructions while current and stuff that it is related to her.
Personal: same as my wife and my daughter, stuff that will be relevant.
Business: stuff that it is reference to my business.
Guarantees and Service Agreements
Current Projects: I have a folder per current relevant project
Old reference file: Since Evernote doesn’t limit me (for now) I don’t delete anything from there, I am sure eventually I will, but until now, there had been no need.
As you can see there is a not so clear distinction of how to do with short term storage and long term.
As of today my long term strategy is simple (or more like a Swiss cheese) until Evernote doesn’t ask my to delete items everything will be there. It’s not perfect, but it is one of those things that until keep working I will not be thinking on improving it.
Regarding the short term strategy, that it is a little bit more complex. Tax receipts, Daughter, Wife, my personal files, business, guarantees and current projects, are in their file, after they become obsolete, I just simply move to the “Old Reference File”. Usually at the beginning of the new year, you will see two folders for Taxes, because as you may imagine I begin accumulating tax stuff around the first of the year, when I may or may not finish with last year returns.
The system is simple, if I ever need the originals, I can go into my file system and look for it. It is something so unusual, that the evernote file cabinet do almost everything I need and more.

Who need Inbox Zero! and why you should consider it

20121113-061701.jpgThink about it, why do you need such thing as Inbox Zero? You already have enough work load, responsibilities, work out of balance, stress and lack of enthusiasm. You don’t need another pressure, another responsibility, something more to worry about. You are right, actually you should go to your email right now and select and delete all; even better create a filter that delete any new email that arrives, and voila from now on, you will always have inbox zero! The great news with this is that in certain companies you will not even receive your pink slip as they will send it to you via email.
Now that you and I vent a little, lets go back to why and how get to Inbox Zero. I also wish that my inbox sometimes get cleaned and purged by it self, but it doesn’t. Regardless how much you don’t like it, controlling and managing your inbox is part of your responsibilities, part of what it is expected that you need to do for work.
Try to avoid go into email just to see ifs something arrives. It is ok, to get into email for the next 10 minutes because it is the free time i have, but make sure that if you open any email, don’t leave it there without any action.
The only way to clean email is to go one by one, and sometimes stop and think. We read the email sometimes so quick, looking for stuff that can explode in our hands that don’t stop to identify those things that came into our hands that are basically time bombs, that in many cases if we stop for a second and think for another two, will get out of the way for good.
My favorite device to check email is the iPhone, I get headsets, music and go one by one. No, I can’t solve everything in the iPhone, but I can solve more issues that what I am consciously aware of, and the background music make the process much more nicer.
Email is a necessary evil, and it is true that you don’t need to have it on zero in order to move forward. The difference comes in how much mental space you need to be calm and relax. There is people that have the ability to go weeks, months without ever reaching zero. There is people that will never see zero. I work with an Account Manager once, that he never clean is inbox. At the end of the day he select all and archive it. His theory was that it was important people will email again. Every time I need anything from him, I sent him the same email every 30 minutes. I got asked more than once, how I was always getting my stuff done with this person. I simply discover a system that works. Emailing him every 30 minutes guarantee that he will get at least one of my emails.
The reality is that for the majority of us that it is a luxury we don’t have, that we can’t afford. The trick for my email zero success had been music, get for whatever time you have, headphones in hand and clean the inbox, every day, multiple times a day. I have 3 thirty minutes block in my calendar, just to clean email. You will think: HOUR AN A HALF… I DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME and it is true. What you don’t see, is that it is that kind of time that allow me to avoid the fires and emergencies that consume most of my old days, and also not every time I require the half an hour, sometimes in ten minutes I am out. (Others I stay until the song ends)
I like to move fast, to be relaxed, in order to work better and it is because of that reason that I have incorporate systems and tricks in my daily life that allow me to move fast and with the least amount of friction possible. An Inbox full it is simply one of those things that create a heavy friction on my system.

The Random Post: Microsoft Office and the iPad – Vapor Ware or a late correction

Image Courtesy of: http://modmyi.com/content/7844-report-microsoft-office-coming-ipad-november-10th.html

Interesting that I pick to write about Microsoft mistakes with Word and Excel regarding the iPad. Later on the day The Verge announced that Microsoft is planning on bringing Word and Excel for Android and iOS. According to The Verge, march 2013. Microsoft it is going to need to be incredible competitive in the price, or bring a set of features that are going to be unique; but based on Office for Windows RT, it is not going to be. It is going to be a failure, or a cheap program, anything over $10 it is going to be dead on the water.
Why so late? Why now? Who knows. At this moment is vapor ware and we will need to see if anything happen, and if Microsoft it is going to bring anything attractive.
This is also an opportunity to Apple to update and improve their Pages/Numbers Platform, and make it a really strong product, but I am not sure that will happen either. For know I am so glad I discover how nice is to write in Plain Text Files!

Working on MY iPad: "Word" & "Excel" & Microsoft Mistake

Without a doubt one of the most repeated tasks in a worker day goes around, create “Word” documents and “Excel” spreadsheets. I believe that aside from email, working on an spreadsheet or a word processor is probably where most people spend their time in front their computer at work.
For years Microsoft Corporation convince us that the only way to accomplish that task, was using Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. That was the only way to actually accomplish work. Came the iPad on the market and to this day Microsoft had decided not to release those two applications for the iPad, in some way, that it is sad. (and even saddest, they release a light -not full feature- version for their own Tablet, the Microsoft Surface)
That it is what I am calling Microsoft mistake. Before the iPad, a lot of people was convinced that in order to do a letter you need Microsoft Word, and in order to do an spreadsheet you need Microsoft Excel. That was a fact for a lot of people, that was the status quo. If Microsoft would had release a “light” version of Word and Excel with the iPad, for $150 most iPad users would had bought it; but they didn’t and the people began looking for the alternatives. If Microsoft would release today a “Light” version, most people will not buy it. Hence the big mistake, after Bill Gates convinced people that the only way to write a document or do an spreadsheet was using Microsoft products, Steve Ballmer teaches people that they can accomplish the same without buying Microsoft products. Sad without a doubt.
Well since we learned that we didn’t need Microsoft products to do spreadsheets and word documents, we get into the need to jump into the Apple App Store to find a Word Processor and a Spreadsheet application. Since the idea of this post is how I work, I will mention the three applications that I use. I am sure there are better ones, with more or less features. This fit my needs well enough, and therefore I have been using them without the need to change them. In my case are Office2 HD, Apple Pages and Apple Numbers.

Let me begin with Office2HD. I got this application with one objective on hand. This was the first application that allow me to work with tack changes on a document in the iPad. When you are working on agreements, or editing books, there is nothing better that be able to work on documents that you can use the “track changes” feature. This was the first application to my knowledge that was able to do this, and I use it when I need to work in this kind of documents. Another cool feature of this software is the ability to access and save directly in DropBox, that allow and facilitate the exchange of documents.

Pages: This is Apple solution to Word Processing. My use of word processing is light, even that I am writing constantly, I never write on pages, I write my books, articles, posts and more on plain text, because reduce the number of distractions and therefore I can work better. Again for the use I have of word, receiving .DOC or .DOCX is not a problem. Editing text, formatting, adding images, all can be done in the iPad without any problem, fast and easy.

Numbers: let me begin saying that if you need to use Macros, this is not your software. If you don’t know what a Macro is, this application will do plenty. I use to run complex macros on spreadsheets that without a doubt would had limit my use of spreadsheets on the iPad, but this days I think I am limited to calculations and graphs. For those things, Numbers had more than enough power, I can run formulas, create graphs and more on a simple and friendly application.
I don’t remember when was the last time that I was forced to pull the laptop in order to work with a Word Processor file or an Spreadsheet, the reality is that this three applications do the job for me, even in some cases more than what I need.

REPOSTED&UPDATED: There’s no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts you from Plan A

The road to Plan A, had been rocky, different, and complex in many ways. I post this on February 2011. Since then I had publish 3 books, and are almost ready to release two more (Translations of the First Novel, and my most recent Non-Fiction Book, 25 Tips of Productivity in Spanish) I quit Plan A for too long, and the road to track back many of the details and add new ones had been interesting.
Do you remember your plan A? Do you remember why you went to Plan B? Are you Already on Plan C? Why?
When I was a teenager, I had a great Plan A, a Plan A that I was in love with. I was convinced that I was crazy, and I should have a Plan B. So I did went out and get a Plan B, and then a Master for the Plan B, and life went on.
It was Will Smith that said “There’s no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts you from Plan A.”
I had fun playing with my Plan B, I learn about computers, software, sales, deals, good ones and bad ones. I learn a lot, but in the process of getting good on my Plan B, I leave my Plan A apart, I forgot about Plan A, I put it in the back burner and stop paying attention.
The good news is that I found the crumbles I left to my other me to find this Plan A, and the better news was that I found it. So I begin looking for more clues on that Plan A, and I begin working hard on that Plan, and in the process I re-discover the Writer inside! The more I found and remember about Plan A, the more resentful I got about Plan B, not because was a bad one, but because wasn’t Plan A. I decided to follow Will Smith advice, and forgot about Plan B, and focus on my Plan A.
I begin tracking my daily word count per day, I did 17,931K words this January and finish my first (for the public eyes) novel. Even better, I am planning the next one, and will begin drafting on February first.
Being a Writer is one of those jobs that are hard, ungrateful and everyone think they can do. I quit on this job sometime ago, because was so ungrateful and I was afraid. I follow Plan B, succeed in other jobs, while I dreamed that someday I will be back to be a writer. I was living the Plan B, instead of killing myself in the Plan A.
Did you remember your Plan A? Are you living your Plan A or you settle for Plan B?
I regret only few things in my life, leaving Plan A behind is one of those. My plan here is to write, talk about writing, show my writings, and share the experience of bringing back my Plan A to live.