Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

  • About Michael

    Michael’s Blog Photo

    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
  • April 2023
    M T W T F S S
  • Recent Posts

  • Copyright

    Creative Commons License
    Michael's Blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License, by Michael Brown.
  • Archives

Archive for the ‘Habits’ Category

Following through on your New Year’s resolutions.

Posted by Michael Brown on January 4, 2008

Times Square BallNow’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.

DayNotez and Don’t break the ChainTo 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!


Posted in Habits, Palm, PalmAddicts, Productivity, Time & Task Management | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Time to Reboot my life

Posted by Michael Brown on October 20, 2007

Six loooong months of losing sleep to a teething toddler has taken it’s toll on me. The human body – or at least my body – isn’t meant to run on 2-5 hours a sleep a night, or waking up every 1-2 hours, for long periods of time. I’m tired, run down, and have lacked energy for a while now, which has resulted in overflowing personal in-boxes and a general dissatisfaction with where my life is presently standing. Now that the little one is starting to sleep through the night again, my batteries are starting to recharge and I figure it’s about time I rebooted my life.

Rebooting a long-running computer has the benefit of clearing out memory, getting rid of errant and “zombie” processes, and starting up fresh and clean. So, I’m going to do the same thing for my life. Clear out my head with a GTD mind dump, get rid of bad habits that have developed over the last few months, and focus on developing better and healthier habits. So, basically, a regrouping and “fresh start”, and a chance to clean up some things I’m not happy with right now. And my Treo will play a major part in that effort.

I capture a lot of incoming “stuff” into Memos and Voice recordings, both of which need to be processed. Some of those will get converted into Tasks or appointments, while others are filed away in Memos for reference or as project support. DayNotez will play a major role in breaking old habits and forming new ones, by using Jerry Seinfelds’s Don’t break the chain approach.

DayNotez and Don’t break the ChainDayNotez 3 has some nice new features that make it easy to use Seinfeld’s approach for a multitude of habit development, as well as being an excellent journal and “right hand page”. 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.

DayNotez TagsSo, you could create a category of Exercise and give it an icon, and tags (with no icons) for types of exercises. This way, every time you make an entry in the Exercise category, you can see every day that you exercised, and thus, did not break the chain. You could do the same with personal development; create a category for it with an icon, and tags for things you want to develop. If you give a tag an icon, and then tag an entry with it, that day will show the tag’s icon, and not the category’s; basically, tag icons will override category icons.

Templates can make the whole process smooth and consistant. You can pre-fill template text, tags, links to a person, duration, and follow-up status to ensure everything you need is captured. When you create a new entry, you can select a template and simply fill in the the extras. You can even add a photo or take a voice recording and make them part of the entry.
DayNotez Details

You can also use DayNotez to chart energy levels or moods (or even the weather) by creating tags, and giving them icons. The Month view can then show you trends. DayNotez 3 also has filters that allow you to “slice and dice” your entries as needed, so you can see the information or trends that can help you refocus your efforts or gain insight into your daily life.

A Palm device paired with DayNotez 3 makes for an effective means of tracking your progress towards goals using the “Don’t break the chain” method, and you don’t lose any wallspace in the process! Because DayNotez works with the built-in PIM databases and hardware features, you can use other tools like DateBk6, PSLink, MemoLeaf, or anything else you like to help you accomplish your tasks and manage your commitments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading off to reboot.

Originally posted to PalmAddicts here.

Posted in Habits, Palm, PalmAddicts, Productivity, Time & Task Management, Treo | 1 Comment »

Expectations, discipline and habits…

Posted by Michael Brown on February 13, 2006

People tend to look for quick fixes, something that will make things better now. So, people tend to buy technology solutions (both hardware and software) that will fix their life NOW. Sometimes those solutions get shelved when they don’t meet the person’s (unrealistic) expectations. It may have been the right solution for the person, but their need for a NOW fix for their problem meant that they would not build the habits nor the discipline to make the solution really work for them. So they either go back to “old way” of doing things, or worse, look for yet another quick fix that will likely get shelved for the same reasons.

The tricks to making technology solutions like smartphones and handhelds work are to apply three elements: discipline, expectations, and habits. You have to take a disciplined approach by determining what your solution should accomplish, and by having realistic expectations as to what it can really do for you. After all, it’s a tool, not a miracle. Once you have obtained your solution, you have to be disciplined about using it, thus building habits. You also need to have realistic expectations as to how fast you can incorporate your solution into your daily life. It takes a minimum of 21 days to build a habit, so you should persevere for a month to see if something is or isn’t working for you. If something’s not working for you after the month, try to identify where it’s not working for you specifically, in comparison to the work you did previously determining what it should be doing for you. This is what we call “gap-analysis”; finding the little differences between what we expect and what we have. Often what’s wrong is something small, something that can be addressed without having to trash the whole solution.

Handhelds and smartphones are productivity tools, and as such we have to build habits to use them effectively, and that requires discipline. All too often the quest for productivity enhancing tools can turn into a productivity draining black-hole, simply for the reasons I mentioned earlier. It’s very easy to get lured into spending time and money – both very valuable resources – pursing the siren song of the quick fix. The way to avoid that trap is to have realistic, clear expectations of what you want your solution to accomplish for you. It needs to fit into the big picture of your life, providing maximum integration and benefits, while minimizing disruptions. The way to ensure that is to do your homework.
Define your NEEDS and your WANTS by figuring out what you need from the device, and what would be nice to have. Look at all the tools you currently use (computer, software, phones, planners, etc.) and see how you can reduce the number of items to carry, while maximizing how you use them together. A Palm handheld or Treo Smartphone can “plug into” a lot of the computer-based tools you are already using, and with the right set-up, the right software for your needs and some good habits, it can make your life a whole lot more productive and enjoyable. Just don’t expect it will happen overnight… It will take a month of determined effort on your part to make it a life management tool.

Next time, I’ll be talking about my upgrade from the Treo 600 to the Treo 650, and the differences I found between them.

Posted in Change, Habits, Productivity | Leave a Comment »