I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a chemical analysis. One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work is the best rest. So it is.

Sherlock Holmes, “The Sign of the Four”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1890

How to Put Today’s Schedule on the Desktop

One of the things I loved about a paper planner was letting it lay open to today as I worked. I had my day right there—my schedule, the tasks I needed to accomplish, and space to take notes (I used a two-page-per-day format). I even bought a nice wooden stand for it to sit at an ergonomic angle on my desk.

Whenever I finished a task, my planner was right there to record my progress through the day. After getting interrupted, I was a glance away from remembering what I was doing. When’s my next meeting? What was the number for the florist? It was all right there, in my paper-and-ink command center.

When Apple released the iPad, I went digital. One of the adjustments I’ve had to make was losing that central view. My tasks, calendar, and notes are now spread across four different apps. That’s okay—each app is doing what it does best. I’ve found that the thing I missed the most was having my schedule right there where I could see it.

A few months ago, I sat down with GeekTool and Mindful and recreated a bit of that experience on my desktop.

Photo courtesy of © 2013 Colter Reed

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.

Viktor Frankl, 1905–1997

The Ivy Lee Method: Simply Productive

Productivity at its best: Write it, prioritize it, do it.

In the world of productivity, whispered voices tell of a meeting a hundred years ago between PR consultant Ivy Lee and Charles Schwab, CEO of Bethlehem Steel at the time. Lee offered to increase the productivity of Bethlehem Steel’s executives by 20%. His fee? Whatever Schwab felt his services were worth after 30 days. (How’s that for confidence in the product you’re selling?)

After meeting with Lee, productivity jumped, and Schwab delivered a check for $25,000. I don’t know what year this was, but to put the fee in context, a day’s wages for a steelworker was $2. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations put it somewhere between $500,000 and $2 million today.)

I had heard a slightly simplified version of the legend years ago, and tried to research the details a few months ago. I didn’t find anything, but I think I was looking for a story involving JP Morgan. I heard about the Ivy Lee method a couple weeks ago, and for the last two weeks, I’ve been using it for my daily planning at work.

I like it.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockPhoto/ScantyNebula

Why Everyone Should Have a Personal Mission Statement

Ten years ago, I carried a 3×5 index card in my pocket everywhere I went. Every time I saw someone demonstrate an attribute or behavior that I liked, I jotted it down. If I noticed I was in a particularly good mood, I’d try to figure out why and add that to the card.

By the end of the summer, I had filled up two cards (front and back) and started a third. I spent the next month reviewing the cards, looking for patterns and common themes. Eventually, I was able to distill the cards down to four bullet points.

I printed them on a small piece of card stock, laminated it, and put it in my wallet, in that visible slot where you’re supposed to put your driver’s license. Every time I opened my wallet, I saw these four points, and I’d remember something about the kind of man I was trying to be.

Everyone should have a personal mission statement. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do to shape your life, from what you do day-to-day to the goals you set, the jobs you take, and the person you become.

Photo courtesy of © iStockPhoto / Irochka_T

Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language—I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language—I can’t, I have to, if only.

That language comes from basic paradigm of determinism. And the whole spirit of it is the transfer of responsibility. I am not responsible, not able to choose my response.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, 1932-2012

6 Advantages of Watching Where You’re Going

I was watching TBS once and noticed they were doing something differently. Most channels (at the time, at least) would show a graphic with the upcoming shows and their showtimes—7:00, 7:30, 8:00. It was informative, but you had to stop and think about it. What time is it now? Are those times in this time zone? Do I have to adjust them? It’s not clear.

TBS removed that complexity by replacing the times with Now, Next, and Then. It was beautifully simple. What’s on now (in case you just tuned in), what’s on next (stay tuned), and what’s on after that (here’s the hook to keep you tuned in). Short, simple, and effective.

The same frame of reference can help you keep focused and productive.

Photo courtesy of © iStockPhoto/Volokhatiuk