On writing a stop doing list

The odometer on my Honda Pilot read about 17 miles for the trip. John Paul has been having a hard time going to sleep at night. That is a truly challenging obstacle to overcome. Three year children pretty much do what they want. Having a lengthy conversation with a 3 year old is an interesting experience. Several nights along the way have involved up to a thirty minute car ride. That could involve up to four laps around the neighborhood. It seems to happen more and more. At one point, I was listening to ESPN radio via my satellite radio and got sucked into thinking about what was being said. The sportscasters were talking about the civil unrest in Baltimore. My mood really has been very somber since learning about the situation.

This would be a good place for a solid segue. The topic under consideration is about to segue to the fine art of either making “to do lists” or “stop doing lists”. This segue should have been better. It should have been more elegant. However, I’m just going to transition away from a serious topic and write about both to do and stop doing lists. I may spend some time writing about economics and employment in the United States later this month. Managing time is the topic that I’m prepared to write about this evening before heading off to bed.

My interest in this topic was principally sparked by hearing Jim Collins talk about “stop doing lists”. I really would go see Jim Collins speak again. I can see why Jim gets financially compensated as a professional speaker. Hearing Jim Collins talk about business is an opportunity that I would seek out again at some point.

I really did enjoy hearing Jim speak at the 17th Annual Rocky Mountain Project Management Symposium. The Denver Convention Center is a huge venue. It really is a large building. I’m not really a fan of parking downtown, but this event was worth it. The last time I visited the convention center was to attend the Saturday portion of the 2014 Denver Comic Con. The parking at that event was way more chaotic.

In practice, writing a Jim Collins style “stop doing list” is actually a rather difficult thing to action. I could not complete that task in one sitting. I’m not sure it is something that really should be done in one sitting. It is probably something that would be easier with a handout or a guided framework of some type. I’m guessing that it is something that gets easier with practice. It is something that I started thinking about right after learning about the topic, but ended up stopping in the middle of the list creation process. I got stuck on the details during the creation process of the list. It is pretty easy to start making a list, but it is rather difficult to both figure out a plan to actually stop doing things and to make a complete list.

It will probably be easier to start recording my daily count of productive hours vs. trying to figure out what things I should actually stop doing. I spent some time trying to figure out what I considered productive. For the most part it boils down to either reading or writing. At some point down the road, I will probably end up developing a more nuanced operational definition of productivity. Of all the things that Jim Collins said during the course of a two hour presentation the idea of being productive for at least 1,000 hour a year resonated with me. That seemed like a goal that would be worth exploring.

Meanwhile — writing a minimum of 1,500 words per day has changed my approach to getting things done. Any and all available time that could be spent writing is going to have to be spent writing. I’m trying to focus on making sure that any current projects receive a full second pass. That has created a multiple day writing cadence of production and review. Writing much longer passages has changed the way I view investing in creativity. I rarely sit down and write 1,500 words in a single sitting. It seems like I write about 500 to 750 words then pause for a bit. I’m trying to figure out how to open up the flood gates and push my writing session to 1,000+ words at a time.

Earlier this week I made a special trip out to the Home Depot to buy a new light fixture. The installation process was actually pretty easy. My office now is being illuminated by three full size bulbs. My office is now very well illuminated. I realized that good lighting is an important part of staying focused. I did not realize what a difference the change in lighting would make. It has inspired me to make an investment. I’m going to invest the time necessary to write at least 1,500 words a day on 10 different topics. The topics have already been setup and it will be very easy to package them into a book.

My “stop doing list” should probably include a few items:

  • One of the items that I realized that I should stop doing recently was writing short items that could not be published. I need to focus on writing a chapter a day vs. trying to write a book in one sitting.
  • For the most part, I have just said yes to pretty much any tasking over the last year. On a go forward basis, I need to be more careful about what I agree to do. That should probably include both work and personal tasking.
  • I really do try to work everything in real time. That seems to be the speed of the parts of business that matter. However, I recognize that some things need to be prioritized.

In the end, I had to make a list of everything that I was doing. Making that list took a substantial amount of time. Pen and paper was the only way that list was going to get completed. I picked up a pad of yellow lined paper and started writing things down. It took an entire day to try to capture everything I was working on. The list was not something that I could easily just write down. It should have been easier to make a list of everything that I am working on. I change topics very quickly and move from document to document at a whim. That approach to getting things done is problematic. It is not a focused method of getting things done.

I could have posted the complete list, but that just seemed unnecessary. A highly condensed list of things I’m doing:

  • Teaching online business classes
  • Writing 3 conference/journal articles a year
  • Writing a book every other year
  • Writing daily weblog entries
  • Surfing online for high end computer parts
  • Listening or watching technology podcasts/videos
  • Reading biographical novels via the Kindle service
  • Reading public administration and project management journals
  • Traveling all over the country

I realized at the end of writing that list that it was not granular enough to make a “stop doing list”. At this point, my routines are pretty solid. Over the years, I have trimmed out most of the things that got me into trouble.

Writing has always been my passion project. I take the time to write. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to best manage my time. Throughout the last two weeks I have been working on developing a Jim Collins style “stop doing list”. I had not really sat down and auditing the things that occupy my time. Maybe that is an exercise that should have been completed on a regular cycle. Building a process to complete that assessment took some thought. It took about two weeks to capture all of the items that occupy my time. Some of the things that received significant time investments were surprising. In order to better facilitate my writing endeavors, I have to figure out how to better manage my time.

Jim Collins talked about capturing 3 hours a day of productivity. That idea really resonated with me. I’m still thinking about it two weeks later. Between working on things related to my salaried full time job, teaching online, and writing that should be relatively easy to accomplish. A problem arises when teaching online and working occupy almost all of my time in a given day. From time to time my full time job occupies huge amounts of the day. Working 20 hours a day on a project really does create chaos. It creates chaos in my family life and physically it is not sustainable. It happens, but you have to make sure it does not become an everyday thing. I try to really only invest that much time in things that will pay dividends. In the end, I wondered what Jim Collins really considers to be productive.

The next topics I will be writing about include 1) my Disneyworld experience, 2) the power of investing in people, 3) the importance of pracademics, 4) the intersection of technology and modernity, 5) omnichannel contact strategies, 6) runbooks, 7) strategic planning, 8) irregular operations management, and 9) executive presentations