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Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures
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Imagine a scenario where you are full of enthusiasm to start working on a task or a certain part of a project. You are really ready to kick some butt… until you realize that your hands are tied: Perhaps you can’t start working on the task because someone else’s input is needed first, or maybe a network drive which stores your project files is inaccessible because of a hardware failure.

Since you are unable to continue with your work for now, the next logical question is: How are you going to prepare for these kinds of scenarios the next time, so that you won’t end up wasting your time again?

Are you too busy to prepare?

There is one obvious reason why you are experiencing the frustration over what just happened: You weren’t prepared enough for a scenario like this. Exactly why you were unprepared was a result of two reasons:

First, you didn’t allocate enough time for the preparation. Since you were busy with your other stuff, you neglected the preparation—even if you knew it was necessary.

Perhaps you even thought that preparing was unnecessary in the first place. You didn’t understand the importance of it and you didn’t bother sitting down and thinking of your plan B for your task or for your project.

So there you are, and you don’t know what to do next since you don’t have any secondary plan in place.

Trusting too much that things go well

You have now realized that the unprepared route you have taken is not a professional way to do things, and simply assuming that everything will go OK is not a solid plan.

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It goes without saying that you need to learn to appreciate the planning part as well. It doesn’t matter how good your task list looks; if the tasks are not executable because of unexpected dependencies, you can trash your task list this very moment.

When you learn to see the big picture and allocate enough time for planning, only then are you able to avoid the roadblocks and stop wasting your time.

Learn to stop (in order to keep on going)

From now on you should do certain things to secure the smooth execution of your tasks and projects.

First, take enough time to plan your next move. In fact, FORCE yourself to take the time for planning. It will pay off handsomely, especially when things are not going as planned.

Understand that planning time is actually working on the task already: It’s preparing for the worst-case scenario and making sure that everything goes well if something unexpected happens.

Secondly, see every part of the task: Who is involved, which systems are being used, and which parts are integral to your work?Seeing this in advance is crucial, because it gives you a better level of preparedness later on.

Thirdly, imagine every possible scenario before taking action. What happens if a system goes down? What about a situation where you need another person’s input before you can continue with your own work?

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Once you have considered these scenarios in advance, you can continue with your work without minimum downtime. And believe me—it’s more than possible that you are going to experience the unexpected, something that wasn’t written on your task list.

Keep the ball rolling by preventing these 4 common SPOF scenarios

SPOF stands for Single Point of Failure, and it’s a fancy way of saying that if one part of the system collapses, it takes the whole system down.

Apply this knowledge to your project or a task the same way: If your work is dependent of something or someone and the person or system lets you down, then your work gets delayed and time gets wasted.

Here are the four most common scenarios that you can prevent with some planning. Be proactive on these and your work will continue as smoothly as possible.

1. Task cannot be continued without someone else’s input first

Oftentimes your work can only continue when someone else has done his/her part first. To make sure that this is the case, spot these kinds of tasks in the early phases of your project and prioritize them if possible.

The sooner you start with the delegation, set deadlines and communicate clearly why the task is important to take care of, the bigger chance there is to have the necessary input completed before you are starting your part.

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2. You have lost your work

Do you take backups regularly? Is it easy to restore things back to normal if your hard disk crashes? If you answered no to these questions, then make sure you fix the situation as quickly as possible.

First, try saving your content in the cloud. For instance, I’m saving all the important documents not only to my hard drive, but also to DropBox by using its client software. If my hard drive happens to crash, the backup copy is available on the cloud.

Then, buy an additional backup system for your computer. In many cases, this can be bought as a service that is offered by your Internet Service Provider. You can also subscribe to an onlinebackup system.

3. You realize you can’t do the task yourself

Have you ever realized that completing a certain task will actually require expertise that you don’t own? And since you don’t have the expertise, the task can’t be done right now? Well, I have run into this issue many times before, and with a little preparation this can be avoided.

In this situation everything comes down to the planning, where you actually go through the different scenarios (as mentioned before). During this phase, you also understand whether you can do the work yourself or if you have to hire an outsider to do the work for you.

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Be absolutely honest with yourself about this: If you have any doubts that you can’t do the task yourself, it’s better to outsource it. Nothing is worse than doing a mediocre job yourself, when the results could be outstanding by an outsider.

Be sure to gather the required expertise well before you start working on your task/project. That way you are not wasting your time on doing the task yourself.

4. Your idea is lost

You have this great idea that popped into your head while you were at work, but now you can’t remember what it is. Had you stored it immediately, you’d still have an idea and it could potentially add a bigger figure to your bottom line or save hours of your work.

You owe it to yourself to write down the idea immediately as it pops into your head. You could use traditional pen and paper, use your mobile phone to store it temporarily (even if it hasn’t got Internet access) or even use your smartphone for storing the idea directly on Google Docs or EverNote.

Don’t convince yourself that “I’ll remember the idea when I get back home”. Most likely you’ll forget it and feel annoyed and frustrated.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things that can halt your productivity and cause you to waste your time. Don’t let this happen and create a fail-proof system which lets you continue with your work – even if one part of the system collapses.

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Make sure you spend enough time by going through the different scenarios in advance. You’ll thank yourself that you did this when something unexpected happens.

Over to you: How do you make sure you can continue with your tasks – even when part of the system collapses?

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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