Now’s about the time people start thinking about their resolutions and how they’re going to achieve them. Your Palm Handheld or Treo/Centro smartphone can be a helpful companion in helping you achieve your goals for the New Year. Here’s how:
First, you need to commit to writing your resolutions down. Saying them is fine, but there’s more commitment when it’s in black & white (or colour) and staring you in the face. In David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”, David insists people keep a Projects List, which is a list of what you presently have on your plate. Resolutions or goals are projects too, so they should go on that list. Create a Memo category called Projects, then create a new memo titled !Projects List. The ! before Projects will ensure that your list of active projects will be at the top of your list of project memos, which you will create later.
Next, write down your goals or resolutions on your !Projects List. Take your time writing them down, since you want to write them in a way that will help you succeed. Goals like “get fit”, “lose weight” or “clean up my office” are too vague, and are guaranteed to fail. Goals should be specific, and allow you at answer them every week with a Yes or No as to whether or not you have achieved them. So, a better goal would be “Lose 20 pounds and increase my energy level so I can easily exercise 4 times a week”. The office example could be better put as “Make my office an area where I can be productive and enjoy my work”. We’ll see why we phrase them that way shortly. It’s also a good time to list all your other work and personal projects onto your !Projects List, which becomes a dashboard for what you’re presently dealing with.
Now that you have all of of your goals, resolutions and projects listed on your master project list, it’s time to create a “workspace” for each of the “projects” you listed. Create a new memo, and title it the same as what you listed on your !Projects List (you can copy and paste if that helps speed things up). This memo is the place where you put next actions or steps to take to achieve your end, brainstorming and any other reference material.
As you think of things that relate to you projects, put them into your project memos if you have time; otherwise, find some means to capture it; you could use an application like Slap or Snap, an unfiled memo or task, a voice recorder, or any other means to capture the information for later processing and action. I use a combination of unfiled memos and voice recordings on my Treo for my capture “in-boxes”.
The second step is to make a weekly appointment with yourself to review and plan for achieving your goals. Find a time that works for you, one where there is no distractions for about 30 minutes to an hour. Put an appointment in your calendar for that time, and make it a weekly repeating appointment. Treat it like a meeting with the president of your company; in other words, nothing else should take priority.
The weekly review is the time you go through your projects, read the title to yourself and ask yourself, “Is that statement true?”. If it is, your project is done and can be archived. More than likely, though, you’ll answer no, so the next question becomes “Why not?”. This will lead you to brainstorming and creating next actions. Write them into your project memo. If they are actionable, copy and paste them into Palm Tasks. This is where a DA Launcher and a DA like ToDoDA come in handy. You can pop-up ToDoDA over top of the Memo App, paste your task in, and send it to the tasks Database, and then go back to where you were in your project memo. You may also need to schedule time to work on your goals, so make appointments with yourself in your Calendar and keep them as sacred as if you were meeting an important client.
While you are trying to accomplish your resolutions and goals, don’t bite off more than you can chew at one time. When creating new habits, it’s best to focus on one at a time, and keep at it for a month. Next month you can keep at the first, and add another habit you wish to tackle. Most people get enthusiastic at the beginning of the new year, and try to become a whole new person over-night, only to get overwhelmed and frustrated and return to their old habits in short order. If your projects list is getting overwhelming, choose what is most important to you, and leave those in your Projects Category in the Memo application. Create another category called Someday/Maybe, and file all the others you have chosen not to pursue in that category. At the end of your Weekly reviews, look over the list of items in the Someday/Maybe category, and decide if you want to work on them now, in which case you move it to the Projects category.
To track your progress, you should consider using Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” approach. I while back I detailed how to use DayNotez 3 to implement that approach, but you could do the same thing in the Palm Calendar using a Category like Goals or Habits, and assigning it a colour for the Month view. DayNotez 3 has has more features which make it easier to use Seinfeld’s approach for a multitude of habit development, where the Palm calendar is a bit more limiting (but otherwise free!). The first is “tags”; tags can be keywords, habits to develop, or indicators. They can be global, or specific to a single category, and they can include an icon. You can use multiple tags for each entry you make in DayNotez. Categories are a means of viewing a subset of your entries, or for grouping related things together, and they can also have an icon. The second new feature of DayNotez is a monthy view which can be set in the “Preferences -> Calendar” tab to show Tag/Category icons, allowing you to see if you have broken the chain or not. Those two new features will allow you to use Sienfeld’s approach to create (or break) habits. You may be able to use the same techniques with an advanced calendar application like DateBk6 or Agendus, if you already own one of those.
The important thing to remember is that goals/habits/resoutions are more important than the tools. Don’t run out and buy any software that I or others recommend solely because we’re recommending it. No software is going to change your life for you. Start with the built-in applications first (or ones you may already own), and get started with those. Give it a go for a month, then start a new project (if necessary) titled “Am I productive with the tools I have?”. If the answer is No, then you’ll have to ask yourself “why not?”. Clearly identify what’s not working for you, keeping in mind that no application is going to be perfect or do things for you. Look for tools that address those difficulties and fit your lifestyle. Try freeware applications and trial software, and give them a try for a month before you make any changes to your routines or commit to buying something. The siren song of the perfect application or combination of applications can lure you down the wrong path, away from your goals. Keep focused on what you want to achieve, and make sure the tools you choose help you get to your goals. Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Productive 2008!