Focus on a book per month during 2013

I have been a proponent of reading 52 books per year since 2007. I have done my work, (54 and counting in 2012). But for 2013, I am going to try something different. I am setting my goal of 52 books, but 12 of those are going to be for deep analysis and slower reading. Let me explain.
During each month I will pick a book, and read it slowly, practice the principles, (maybe read it more than once) during each month I am going to focus into this book as a topic of study. There are so many great books that it is impossible to read and learn from all of them, but I am going to pick 12 and read them in detail learning from them as much as possible.
That doesn’t mean I am not going to read the other 40 to reach 52, it only means that I am going to really try to focus during this year. I believe this will set the tone, the thinking and the ideas that I will have over those months, but also I believe that I am going to be able to learn more from each of those books, also.
Interesting in the journey, I will be posting the book of the month, and if you are interested will be more than happy to share my insights also.
In a way, I am going to follow Bruce Lee advice, only I am not going to read the book 10,000 times, but in a way that most wouldn’t.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
– Bruce Lee

Working on MY iPad: Using Guide Access on the iPad or iPhone as Focus Tool

With the introduction of iOS 6 Apple add a feature to their iPads and iPhones that had been an incredible aid to me. It’s called Guide Access and most people ignore their existence and power.
Apple defines this feature for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities, but honestly, people that need more focus can use this app to their advantage. Basically you can limit your iOS device to one app and as a bonus, you can disable the Home button and Siri. In other words unless I type a password, there is no iOS access for me. That it is a great idea!
First you need to go to Settings, then click in General, then Accessibility and finally click Guide Access. (That it is cleverly classified as Learning)
After you activate you just set a passcode, open the application you are going to work on (Byword most of the time for me) and hit the Home button 3 times.
You will then be able to disable touch, hardware buttons and/or motion. I don’t mess with any of those, I just need Guide Access to keep me long enough in Byword to get into the writer mood. Then press Start and begin the writing work.

Every time that my distracted brain try to exit, I get a reminder that “Guide Access” is enable. If you hit the Home Button three times, you will be prompt to enter the passcode you set before, but all those actions are more than enough to stop me from distracting and force myself back to task.
Do I need to use this feature for write every day? No, but I used much more than what I am going to admit in writing. It is the beginning of the writing session what it is hard for me, a soon as I get into the words, I can stay… but those first ten to fifteen minutes are a challenge many days.
For the people that like numbers, output had been increased in more than 30% since I begin using this trick. This wouldn’t stop me for go to other applications, but will help me to stay in focus. In productivity most of the time, if works for a two year old, will work for ourselves.

Your Task list is failing. This is why.

It is irrelevant if you believe in GTD or not. If you use Omnifocus, Nozbe, Things or you write your tasks on your arm. The reality is that your task list is failing you and had failed you for years. In part it is because we don’t know how to say NO. In part is that we are simply trying to decided over a huge number of options. In most cases the confusion is the abundance of the second and a lot of the first one.
As years past by, my tasks increased at a ridiculous speed, in my GTD System there are more and more projects, tasks and time seems to be less and less.
I had mention on my book “25 Tips for Productivity” how my daily list works, but I have never talk about what I called my Master List.
My Master List had all those projects and tasks that I hope to accomplish. Most likely is like the list of Projects and Tasks that you have. The difference is that you work from that list and hope to finish it. For me, the Master List is the base where everything begin, but I apply one more filter. From the Master List to the Working List.
My Master List had all those active projects and all those pending tasks (next actions) per context, as per David Allen wrote in his GTD Book. The problem of this, is that the number of next actions are simply impossible to digest, is like trying to drink water from a firetruck hose… I prefer water from a filter, with a glass, in manageable quantities. For that, I process my Master List, on a smaller list, my Working List.
Every Morning I review my projects and next actions and mark those that should go to the Working List. This allow me that instead of 60 next actions, maybe they had five. The five that I consider relevant. Is from this smaller list that I pick the 3 most important.
Honestly I don’t have a criteria for how many tasks goes to the Working List, if after I add them to the list I think they are too many, I simply reduce them. The objective is to clear this list in two or three days.
It is a mathematical problem, if we have an average of 100 projects and each one had 1 next action we had 100 actions. In reality we have in average two actions per project plus all those that requiere one action that most likely don’t have a project per se. Buy Milk? Bread? My list is over 600 of them.
My calculation and experience said that a complete GTD System had more or less between 200 to 500 next actions.
Here comes the problem, doesn’t matter how you split this, the number is always more than what you can digest… more than what we can do to feel successful… therefore we can’t conquest that feeling of success. In many cases we just quit the system.
Now imagine that maintaining your system as it is, you work on a list from your Master List to work on the next day or two; a Working List.
Imagine the following number of pending actions:
Master List
@Home (45)
@Computer (60)
@Errands (30)
@Agendas (25)
@Calls (20)
@Work (80)
A total of 260 opportunities. In my case, that’s something complex to digest. Now imagine that from the Master List you select those that will produce a mayor impact in the short term and make a second list, based on your Master List; a Working list.
Working List
@Home (8)
@Computer (10)
@Errands (30)
@Agendas (25)
@Calls (20)
@Work (20)
Now I have 113 opportunities. But note that I didn’t eliminate opportunities from Agendas, Errands or Calls. In my reduction plan, I kept the elements that include Calls, Agendas and Errands because they can be done. But let’s see the reduction on the other contexts.
@Home: From 45 to 8.
@Computer From 60 to 10.
@Work From 80 to 20.
In other words, from 185 opportunities to 38… A huge difference. I am not implying that we aren’t going to finish the other tasks, but imagine for a moment the feeling if success if you finish those 20 @Work Tasks or the 38 of the three lists.
Not only that, imagine that you for any reason had 20 free minutes. From where do you think you have a better chance to pick an appropriate next action, from a list of 20 or from one of 80?
Like any other Tip for Productivity, the key is not forget theMaster List. In my case, I CAN’T add anything to the Working List. Tasks must be added to the Master List.
Be able to see my lists, per contexts, but knowing that there is a smaller number of next actions, had allowed me to move faster and more accurately. In any moment I am denying the importance of the other next actions on the Master List, I am just trying to focus into an smaller area to be more productive and effective, get smaller but more often victories, you know feel that I win this game more often.
If your Task List is failing you, what are you doing so you can make it effective again?

The Do Not Need List

This is the Chapter 24 of my Amazon Best Selling Book 25 Tips for Productivity, that it is for sale in Paper and ebook. Until the end of december the ebook is exclusively on Amazon Kindle, and will be available in Apple iBookStore, Barnes and Noble, Sony & Kobo on 2013. This Chapter is sponsored to you by Nozbe & Productive Magazine!

The Do Not Need List

This is a much more recent item in my arsenal of tricks. When I began reading about minimalism, I started to understand that a more minimalist lifestyle was a good complement for productivity. By having less stuff, I spend less time maintaining and taking care of stuff. This means I have more time to enjoy the activities that I like and that call my attention. However, people practicing minimalism often aim to levels of reduction that far exceed what I’m comfortable with. Like Colin Wright who lives with only 51 items, or Tammy Strobel and her 72 things or Nina Yau who claims to need only 47 possessions. Without a doubt, there are things that I want to have and many more that I want to enjoy, and that number surpasses Tammy Strobel’s 72 possessions (and honestly, by a lot).
Without aiming for extremes, I am attracted to the idea of reducing the number of my possessions, especially to eliminate all those things that I don’t use, that don’t work, or whose only purpose is to take up space. I want my possessions to be useful stuff. Essayist Patrick Rhone doesn’t speak of minimalism, but instead about ‘enough.’ It was when I discovered Patrick’s writing that I recognized what it was I was looking for. I want what I need, but not the excess. When I tried to understand what having enough means to me, I began to consider those things that I don’t need, that even when they call my attention and I’m able to buy them, they aren’t going to improve my life. Once I understood what I really wanted, I felt much more freedom of let go all those things that I’m not using .
The a perfect example of a “Do Not Need” item on my list is the 27 inch Apple monitor. It is simply beautiful and each time that I see it, I imagine how beautiful will look on my desk (ok, maybe on the desk I dream of having, since the one I have is a temporary one that I’ve had for the last five years or so). When I think about owning this Apple monitor, I imagine the incredible feeling I’d have when I was working on it, and all that I would be able to do see on that huge expanse. But honestly I don’t need it, and in the end, I think it would be a cause for distraction. A monitor that big, without a doubt, would allow me to get distracted without me noticing it how distracted I am. I have learned that my monitors need to be small, because it’s hard to see more than one application at the time.
I have an incredible weakness for suitcases, bags, backpacks, books, pens, electronics, accessories of all kinds, and more. The Do Not Need List contains more than fifty items. From clothes to electronics everything in between including a convertible that I’ve dreamed about for years. Once in a while, I consider that car again, but in my notes is the reason why don’t need a convertible, including that I had one and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I was going to. I was uncomfortable in it when was too hot and uncomfortable in it when was too cold. Also, I didn’t like being that close to the ground. As part of that same explanation, I remind myself how much I enjoyed my Jeep Wrangler, so if I ever do need a convertible, that should be the model.
The objective of the Do Not Need list, is to help me to reach that place of having enough. It is not that I can’t use one more shirt, or one more pair of shoes or a pen or a new notebook. Is simply that I don’t need it; I have all the shirts I need, and the shoes that use and are comfortable (the most important prerequisite for a shoe in my opinion: they need to be comfortable). I have a pen that I love how it writes and white paper on which to write my ideas. I don’t need more than one pen, nor do I want a different notebook, in this department I have enough. (Yes, Pens are on the list.)
As I said before, my objective isn’t to be a minimalist, but to have enough, and even if that is a state that changes and evolves, I understand that when I have fewer possessions my attention is less fragmented and the higher chance I have to make something useful, which is, at the end of the day, the reason why I want to be more productive. Many of the items on my Do Not Need list are things I think about constantly, and are things that I would love to have, just to have them. That is because in some part of my mind, I’ve convinced myself that these will do me good, make my life easier or help me to enjoy something much more. But when I considered it more deeply, I understood that the item is not something I really need and that many of these are whims from a time in which I believed that things (especially an abundance of them) were going to make me happy.
Here are a few of the items on my Do Not Need list:
– 27 inch Apple monitor
– iPhone 4S (My iPhone 4 is perfectly serviceable)
– iPad2 (if I get a new one, it will be a newer model)
– Cheap t-Shirts
– New TV for the house
– The printed versions of my books
Today, these are the things are on my list because in this moment I only need to have enough and I understand that none of these will make me happier or a better person. Having these things may disrupt the equilibrium that I am trying to create, that of having enough.