Archive for Productivity

Learning from the Tour de France

christ and bertieSo I wonder what Chris Froome was talking about with Alberto Contador at last weeks 2014 Tour De France unveiling? The worlds elite cyclists, teams and cycling media descended on Paris last week to find out what the 101st edition of the Tour de France will entail next July. It’s a big day in the cycling calendar, as the prized jewel in the sport is such a big focus of the coming season.

The pack that gets presented covers lots of detail.  The challenges that will play out on the roads of the UK and France next year are a big part. The riders and teams will spend sometime working out their approach to those challenges and put in place plans, which they hope, will allow them to achieve their goals and dreams. There is only one rider who gets to wear the final yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées at the end of the three-week race. There are however multiple winners as each rider, team, mechanic, support staff will have their own specific goals that they will work towards over the next nine months.

So what can we take from this to our own worlds be it business or personal. Here’s my take:

  1. Start with a very clear objective e.g. for the Tour de France: 21stages, five hill top finishes, distance and terrain of each stage, etc..
  2. Analyse the demands of the event and put effort into setting your own goals.
  3. Assess where you are today and what type of plan you’ll need to help you realise those goals.
  4. Set interim steps for you to achieve along the way to measure progress and keep motivation when things get tough.
  5. Keep a sense of perspective and adjust things where necessary (particularly if you suffer a setback).
  6. Surround yourself with the right support: people, equipment, facilities etc
  7. Last but not least TAKE ACTION

Go on take some action in the next seven days to really understand an objective. What could you achieve by next July?

Capturing open loops

action journalI’ve been catching up with the latest developments over at the David Allen company.  For those of you not familiar with their work, they, and David in particular are the people behind Getting Things Done (or GTD as it is more commonly known). As usual they’re a company that’s not standing still. One example, David is working on a new book which will look to provide support to those wishing to teach/coach their children the GTD methodology – one to look forward to.

I’ve previously reviewed the GTD book. It’s still incredibly popular and seems to strike a chord with people looking to improve their productivity and reduce their overall stress.  The industry of productivity apps and tools that look to support the GTD methodology are further evidence to this point.  The methodology is rich with ideas and techniques to enhance personal productivity. It’s used extensively in multiple walks of life. I’ve supported people as they look to implement GTD. It never fails to surprise me just what a lift people can get from supporting themselves more effectively with a consistent productivity approach.

I’ve observed one of the key elements to success is the capturing and management of all the commitments and action related thoughts you have. Allen calls these things open loops. One person I’ve supported complained that by writing down all of his ‘stuff’ he felt overwhelmed. We explored this feeling further. He then went on to conclude that not tracking things was rather like spending money without checking your bank balance. Only to find out that you’re heavily overdrawn. Except in this case, it’s over drawn with your time (and probably the emotional bank accounts of those closest to you). Let’s not forget it’s 168 hours each week. No more. No less. To loose sight of this point is a major source of stress. Ouch.

Having a complete inventory really increases your understanding of commitments and likelihood of making progress on the things important to you. It will also increase your objectivity about the things you say yes or no to. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the ability to say no when you have a bigger yes burning inside. In my experience and working with others, that yes, comes in a variety of forms. Your inventory of existing stuff is a critical one.

I can hear the MBTI ‘p’ preference people saying that they don’t want to feel hemmed in with loads of commitments. I’d argue that to think like that is to not really grasp the principle. There’s plenty of creative and P preference people using GTD. At this stage it’s about externalising things so you can then manage them. Most people accept the need for a calendar to help manage events and appointments. And yet there’s lot of people who believe the mind is the right place to manage actions. Think about that for a moment. Allen sums this part of GTD up by concluding that the mind is a brilliant place for having thoughts but incredibly poor for managing them. This part of GTD is the first in a series of steps to productivity improvement. The next step is to organise your thoughts once you’ve captured them into a trusted system.  That’s the subject for another post.

So for now, why don’t you make a conscious effort over the next seven days to externalise your commitments and ideas. Doing this exercise genuinely is likely to be insightful. I’m interested to hear about how you get on. Go on, give it a go.