On what do you keep your ‘to-do’ lists?

I keep my ‘to-do’ lists on a well bound soft cover A-5 size notebook. I use this because I keep the notebook with me all productivitythrough the day. I use it for my lists and also for taking notes. I tried keeping all of these separately but found that I had to carry so many of them that the very thought seemed discomforting. Keeping one note book helps!

I find people using their phones (smart ones) to keep their lists. I think it is a smart thing to do as it is rare to find one moving around without the phone. So if you are comfortable with the phone, its software and its interface, it is a great tool to use. There are also number of free and paid apps to help you manage lists. The sheer number of apps tells me how many people must still be attempting to crack the code to use this simple but powerful tool. Try them and find one which is most suitable for the kind of lists you maintain. But if you are like some of us who still feel uncomfortable keeping lists and managing lists on the phone, then go back to the earlier option – a right sized notebook and a pen.

Laptops are powerful devices but may not be the best for managing ‘to-do’ lists. I have found people keeping it on their laptops, but somehow find that most people are not all the time with their laptops in power on mode. So when they are travelling or waiting (which are both in tremendous increase) you may find it difficult to add and/or tick-ff items on the ‘to-do’ list. The trouble with trying to remember till you reach your list on the computer is not worth the effort as that’s exactly what we are trying to avoid by using them! So my advice is to find either one of the above options, whichever is more suitable for you and practice it.

Trial and error works till you find the right tool for yourself. But beyond that you must make it a routine to derive maximum benefit. I haven’t come across too many productivity tools that are as simple, so easy and so powerful in enhancing one’s effectiveness and efficiency.

So try it if you haven’t used it or restart it if you stopped using one!

Once you start ticking-off items from your list, its too difficult to stop using one!

Good Luck in getting productive.

To-Do Lists – the ‘how’ matters!

I am one who uses the ‘to-do’ list extensively. I have learnt it from so many successful people who have used it in the past. Time mgmtBased on the years of using it and getting things done, here are some tips for everyone to consider:

  1. Ensure that your list contains all types of activities – important, urgent, projects, communications, calls, meetings, etc
  2. They are ideally better to be maintained date-wise. So it must tell you what needs to be done on a particular day.
  3. Let activities on your list be specific. This is to ensure that you can ‘tick-off’ once done (for this you must know when it is done).
  4. The list must be accessible at all times. This is to ensure that you can get things done whenever you get some time. It also helps schedule time to complete tasks.
  5. Its always preferable to make the list every night for the next day.
  6. Don’t drop activities once they get on the list. Take them forward to their logical ends.

This is not an exhaustive list, but may be a good one to start. The benefit behind lists is that they kind of give you a feeling of being on top of things. They give you a positive encouragement every time you ‘tick-off’ an item on the list. They also ensure that you know what is actually getting done.

If you maintain a list initially for a few days, you will realize some patterns:

  • you have more time than you estimated to get things done
  • you seem to be always passing some important activities for urgent ones
  • almost all activities you do are urgent ones (they were important some time in the past but were not done then)
  • THE BIGGEST OF ALL: You seem to be keeping the most important activity of yours (the one closest to heart) perennially on the list.

Try making lists and you will within days realize the power of this simple tool for yourself. If you have stories to share if your experiences with ‘to-do’ lists (positive and negative) please share – it will help everyone!

Good Luck!!

Output Vs Outcome

During a meeting this week I came across this discussion point – is output more important than an outcome? Interesting and Debatable! Let me first clarify the difference between the two words as many of them had confusion during the meeting as well.

Take the case of reading a book – if we read a book with the intent of writing a book review, then the focus is just on the output; we are constantly looking for points to help us in doing just that during the reading process. On the contrary if we read the book with the belief that it will change our perspective, then there is a larger transformational impact on completion of reading. While the book review is the output, the reader undergoing a change on reading the book is the outcome.

Like all matters of differences between good and great this too has a subtle difference! It makes a whale of a difference to our approach towards an activity.

Outcome based approach to activities lead to effectiveness while output based approach leads to efficiency. Increasing activities which leads us to effectiveness also lays the foundation for a more fundamentally strong and larger transformational change. Outcome based approach also aids in long term plans. Because long term plans require a more definitive shift to the current perspective, approach and culture in small intangible steps.

It is like picking a stock the Warren Buffet way using Graham’s approach of fundamental analysis. In the short term they do not return extraordinary results but provide phenomenal long term value creation.

To practice outcome based thinking requires enormous faith in the approach itself and a high level of patience. While on the other hand output based approach provides for immediate tangible results.

In case of planning, the short term goals are met by output based tasks, and long term goals are achieved in continuous execution and planning of outcome based tasks. Many of us fail to recognize this and get carried away with only one of them.

Take for example the planning of daily to-do lists. Every night before sleep we plan for our to-do items for the next day. When an item is ticked, it marks a small achievement and gives us confidence. However if the whole year is planned as a series of daily to-do’s which need an output that is tangible, then at the end a year of hard work and exhaustion we may be in for some surprise, to see we have not moved too much in spite of having done so much.

The daily to-do is a great tool, but when used without a greater goal embedded in it – it leads to short term euphoria and creates dampening of enthusiasm in the medium term and a strong feeling of “lost in the wilderness” over the long term.

Outcome based approach should be used in principle as our approach to achieving goals and planning, while output based view must be adopted to calibrate at regular intervals the outcome itself. A good mix and in the right places and proportions of outcome and output will leads us to successful long term value creation, achievement and positive change.

Adult Supervision!

No this post is not about what you are imagining! But it is about an equally sensitive topic.

It is about an issue that requires serious consideration from entrepreneurs, especially the novice. This topic though not widely discussed is essential. It is all the more important in today’s world with much of the entrepreneurial population being fairly young with limited life experience.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that there is no time which is right other than the time when the founder / founders think is right. Since the world is seeing a lot more people finding this as their calling in life pretty early – especially at an age when their experience with society has not been adequate – this topic becomes important.

Does an entrepreneurial firm require adult supervision? It is different from whether an entrepreneur himself / herself requires adult supervision. Here are some thoughts on the benefits and challenges that arise because of adult supervision:

Benefits:

  • A more pragmatic management / utilization of resources
  • Reducing influence of emotions atdecision points
  • More channelized organizational growth
  • Better practices especially with respect to compliance, regulations etc
  • Someone to check the raw energy of the entrepreneurial group

And so on…

Challenges:

  • Sense of someone controlling the start-up
  • Reduction in creative energy

Overall when looked at from an intellectual and rational perspective, it is fairly obvious that today’s early stage entrepreneurs can benefit from limited adult supervision – but many dislike the idea of it.

Why else will most of them not have a senior anywhere near the firm? No complaints! Just a suggestion for today’s entrepreneur’s to consider using the experienced to bring balance to the extreme energy & mood swings prevalent during the fast paced growth of a start-up.

Though at the outset it may seem like an unnecessary self-control on the start-up environment – it can be effectively and wisely used for the benefit of healthy growth of the firm.

The entrepreneur has to make a judicious choice of how to strategically use the services of an adult to bring coherence to the start-up. Successful entrepreneurs have always had a mix of experience (adult) & energy (youth) in their growth journey.

 Happy considering!!