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Visualize Your Commitments

Visualize Your Commitments

Taking on a new job is a great time to spot-check the power of your organizing and executing systems. Mine came up severely lacking (as evidenced by how few posts I’ve sent to LifeHack recently). But with all things, “That which does not kill us…” Here’s what I’ve learned lately about my organizing needs, and here’s a few tips that might be useful to you, if you’re not already adequately dealing with managing your commitments and efforts.

Visualizing Your Commitments Helps

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I mean this in lots of ways, but in this specific case, I also mean at the baseline, consider having a software application (or you can do this in the analog world easily, too) that gives you a VISUAL sense, an at-a-glance, Heads-up-Display vision of all your commitments. How am I doing it?

I’m using the built in Mac software, Stickies. It’s good because I can throw a little collapsed Sticky on the screen for every commitment I have. I can change colors on them such that pink (there’s no red) means “DO IT NOW” and blue means “follow up later” and traditional yellow means “clear this off when you can.” But the workflow that goes with this is this:

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  • INPUT- Email or Voicemail or Phonecall – I get a commitment request. “Can you send me your list of 5 favorite tools?” If I can answer the input right away, no Sticky. I just do it and close out the input.
  • CAPTURE- Write the “to do” Sticky and leave it on the screen (under other apps until I’m ready). If there’s a date attached, use Google Calendar instead.
  • PROCESS- Use yellow for general, pink for right away, and blue for follow-up later.
  • PROCESS- Check Stickies once every 30 minutes as part of a sweep.
  • PROCESS- Clear Stickies when that’s the task at hand.

Variations on the Theme

Some of you are still gasping at the idea of using simple, low-data-value sticky notes. Sure, I love Remember the Milk and a million other to-do apps that have tons of great built-in power. But what I am digging about stickies is the VISUAL element of having my commitments in front of me in a visual way. I can drag groups of items together. I can place FOCUS items in the center of the screen. So, it’s a way to add visual nuance and gestures to what I’m getting done.

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If you don’t want an on-box application, try Stikkit or Thinkature. Stikkit is a great app by Rael Dornfest and team, and it’s got some additional functionality that makes it really useful. Thinkature is actually more of a mindmapping tool, but it can be used for the same purpose I’m describing here. You can stack data visually.

Why Visualize

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So, the reason I’m pushing the visual on this is simple: lists of lists and commitments stacked by 1,2,3 don’t always give your brain the right queue. It doesn’t say: your plate is full, or you’ve got lots of things to do in THIS area of life all of a sudden.

Those planning methods don’t often let you queue things in non-linear ways. Maybe you want to group by context *and* by priority *but without* some wildcard that only you can describe. I think the visual method of organizing helps in this regard.

What’s your take?

— Chris Brogan is community developer for Network2, a guide to the best FREE internet TV shows you should be sticking on your video iPod or Zune. He keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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