The Art Of ‘Supercompensation’ – Getting Better at What You Do

I came across an interesting article about ‘Supercompensation’ the other day that really struck me.

In sports science theory, supercompensation is the post training period during which the trained function/parameter has a higher performance capacity than it did prior to the training period.

Starting small allows you to get out of your head and start building the momentum necessary to make the habit stick. But once your new behavior is a reliable part of your daily routine, it’s equally important to increase your efforts to get better at what you do. Here is where the idea of ‘supercompensation’ comes.

The idea is that since the human body is an adjustable organism, it will not only recover from the exercise. It will also adapt to the new strain placed on it and get a little bit stronger than it was before. Supercompensation will only occur if you increase your efforts to a level that is higher than your body is already used to. For example, if you do the same exercises over and over again, there’s no new level of strain for your body to adapt to and because of that, no supercompensation will occur. So, if you want your fitness level to improve, you can’t settle for running the same trail at the same intensity week in and week out.

This is not only for Fitness…

The concept of supercompensation isn’t just helpful for fitness. In fact, it’s a very useful concept for any positive change you’re trying to create:

  • Want to be more mindful? Add one minute to your meditation habit every month.
  • Want to sleep better? Make one small improvement to your bedroom every week.
  • Want to clean up your diet? Remove one type of unhealthy food from your diet every week.
  • Want to become a prolific writer? Add 100 words to your daily writing goal every month.

You get the idea.

Always look for ways to raise the bar just a little bit and push yourself to get better at what you do. If you can do that, your consistent, tiny improvements will lead to massive results over time.

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100% Commitment Is Easier Than 98%

I agree that the topic is pretty enticing. We always want to commit 100% to all our daily responsibilities. But at the same time, we fail and we fail very badly. And when we fail, it’s personal because we generally don’t put effort into things we care little about. This blog is intended to provide you some new thoughts about what you want to commit and how you want to pursue it in order to get success. Before I start, please note that I am not 100% perfect in this art either but I have been training myself for months and hence, I am certainly better than the average.

If you try to tackle everything wrong in your life at once, you’ll quickly burn out and quit. It’s happened to me many times before. Life is super busy. You don’t have time to focus on a thousand different areas of your life to change. That’s exhausting, and frankly, not helpful.

“small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” – Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The Power of Habit’

I used to be terrible at working out regularly. But then I forced myself to go to the gym just for 2 days every week (for about 30 mins). Eventually I started to feel confident about it and ended up hiring a trainer. He helped me to boost my confidence even higher. Now, I lift weights regularly and I am more cautious about what I eat or drink. I feel less stressed and more control on my life. All because I started exercising twice per week.

Now, let me talk about the term ‘Absteiner’. An abstainer is someone who is generally all or nothing. Hence, when an abstainer falls off the wagon, they crash and burn. However, when they focus on just one thing at a time, and succeed at that, they feel more in-control of their lives and when an abstainer feels in-control, there is nothing that can stop them. They become fiercely committed to what they’re doing and experience a sense of limitless power. As an abstainer, this feeling only comes after you’ve kept your own commitments. Does that sound like you? If yes, you will be glad to read this post.

As You Succeed, Your Vision For Your Life Will Expand

A natural consequence of success is an increased vision for what you can do. This is where abstainers often fail. Because we’re are highly passionate about what we do, we often start at a sprint. But long-term commitments are marathons, and so abstainers often burn out.

*Note: This happens to me almost every time I set out on a new grand plan. I get so pumped up and excited that I try going a million miles an hour, only to find I’ve given up later that day.

But I have worked on it (and still working) and have made myself better. The goal of this blog is to discuss those tactics that have helped me to get better at the craft.

Feel It

Feeling good is so important for passionate people like us. As our own toughest critic, we often ride a roller coaster of emotions. However, as we succeed at our one thing, and our vision for our lives expand, we will naturally feel amazing.

When you feel amazing, you show up to life differently, don’t you? You are more present and attentive to others needs. You’re less focused on your own problems. You’re less worried about the results and worried more about being genuine. Commit to this one thing and life will feel great.

Attach yourself emotionally to the goal. Feel it inside and constantly visualize the moment of success and there is a high chance that you will be able to conquer your goal.

Gain Insane Motivation And Momentum

As stated previously, when you succeed at your goals, they generally expand. When your goals expand, a gap is created between where you are and where you want to be. This gap ignites in us a psychological process called self-regulation, which is our motivational resources management system that helps us attain our goals.

Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways.

  • Self-monitoring determines how well we are currently performing
  • Self-evaluation determines how well we are performing against our goals
  • Self-reaction determines how we think and feel against our goals. When we feel dissatisfied with our performance, self-reaction pushes us to reallocate our motivational resources

To trigger this self-regulation process, goals need to be highly specific, based on external indicators, deadline-driven, and challenging.

As you succeed in your one thing, and as your vision for your life expands, this process will commence. Thus, as your goals grow, you will naturally alter your behaviors to match your new goals. Your motivation and momentum toward huge things will surge and skyrocket.

At the end..

One of my all time favorite quotes is as follows:

“Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.” In our minds, we can justify these small choices. None of those things, when they first happen, feels like a life-changing decision. The marginal costs are almost always low. But each of those decisions can roll up into a much bigger picture, turning you into the kind of person you never wanted to be.” — Clayton Christensen

People are really good at self-sabotage. We consistently behave in ways that contradict our goals and ideals. This is incongruence. Hence, Clayton Christensen says 100 percent commitment is easier than 98 percent commitment. When you fully commit to something, the decision has been made. Consequently, regarding that thing, all future decisions have been made. As you stick with your 100 percent commitment, you’re life will be far easier. You won’t have to agonize over needless decisions. You’ve already decided. You’re not going to eat the cookie or that sugar drink. It’s not even a debate.

 

Learning Better From Cognitive Science

From many of my earlier posts, you might have already figured out atleast one fact about me, that is, I am addicted to productivity and in order to achieve the highest level of productivity, I read a lot about cognitive science. Learning about how our brain and mind work together as a team has become one of my hobbies since many days now.

So this post is about a book that I just finished reading. The title of the book is Why Don’t Students Like School?  The author Daniel Willingham is a Harvard educated cognitive scientist who writes books and articles about how to learn and teach better. The book is divided into principles of learning and I highly recommend getting a copy for yourself as Willingham explains many of the details and implications of each of these principles. I wanted to discuss each principle briefly, to share the implications it has for learning better.

Note: The book lists nine principles, but two were more related to teaching, so I omitted them here.

1. Factual knowledge precedes skill

Einstein was wrong. Knowledge is more important than imagination, because knowledge is what allows us to imagine. There is considerable research showing the importance of background knowledge to how well we learn. Without background knowledge, the kinds of insights Einstein praised are impossible.

Careful studies show that having more background knowledge on a topic means we can read faster, understand more when we do and remember more of it later. You cannot teach someone “how” to think, without first teaching them a considerable amount of “what” to think. Thinking well first requires knowing a lot of stuff, and there’s no way around it.

2. Memory is the residue of thought

You remember what you think about. Whatever aspect of what you’re learning your mind dwells on, will be the part that it is likely to be retained. If you, inadvertently, spend your studying time thinking about the wrong aspects of your studies you won’t remember much of use.

The problem with this principle is that knowing about it is not enough. We can’t constantly self-monitor our own cognition, noticing what we’re noticing. So even if you try to pay attention to the right things, it can be easy to accidentally focus on less important details which will take precedence in memory. There are many techniques like taking side notes, highlighting, using analogies that you can follow to avoid this trap.

3. We understand new things in the context of what we already know

Abstract subjects like math, physics, finance or law, can often be hard for people to learn. The reason why is that the we learn things by their relation to other things we already know. Willingham here suggests using many examples to ground a particular abstraction in concrete terms before moving on.

4. Proficiency requires practice

The only way to become good at skills is to practice them. Additionally, some basic skills require thorough practice in order to be successful at more complicated skills.

I cant stress enough on this point. Practice can be the one gap you have to close between yourself and your goals (Choose to close it). It can be the one impediment that can hold you back and leave you wondering why others are so much better at that something for which you pine (Don’t allow it). It can make the difference between good and great, mediocre and magnificent(Go for the latter).

5. Cognition is fundamentally different early and late in training

Should you learn science like a scientist, making hypothesis, testing experiments, revising your theory to fit the data? Willingham offers substantial evidence that the answer is no.

I think there’s merit in understanding how scientists perform their work, but it’s also clear that knowledge creation and knowledge acquisition are very different. Because they are different, the learner needs to weigh them against each other. For most disciplines, understanding scientific facts is more important than scientific process, for the simple reason that scientific facts will inform our lives, but few of us will ever do scientific research. The same applies to history, philosophy and nearly any other discipline of knowledge.

6. People are more alike than different in how we learn

Learning styles are bunk. There is no such thing as visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. This is also true for every serious theory of different cognitive styles for learning.

This suggests that the ways we learn are more similar than different. Some people might be better at learning certain types of things than others, but given a particular subject, science hasn’t different ways of learning it that are consistently better for some people but not others.

7. Intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work

This was probably my favorite part of the entire book because it validates much of how I think. Intelligence is partially genetic and partially environmental. Innate differences do matter and some people are born with more talent than others.

However, Willingham argues that intelligence is malleable. Psychologists used to believe that intelligence was mostly genes. Twin studies and other natural experiments seemed to bear that out. Adopted children turn out more like their biological parents than their adoptive parents in many dimensions.

However, now the consensus has turned far more towards nurture, rather than nature. One of the biggest pieces of evidence is the Flynn Effect, which is the observation that people, over the last century, have gotten smarter (and the effect is too large to be from natural selection). Genes may have an important role in intelligence, but most of that role is played out through the environment, not independent of it.

Conclusion

Definitely go and read this book. Its a very easy read, full of scientific data and research and it will answer a lot of questions about learning that you might have. I was happy that most of the principles discussed in the book reflected my own thinking. It’s comforting to see when the experience I’ve gained from my own learning challenges converges on the serious work scientists are doing to understand the brain and how we learn.

Is MOOC right for you?

As you surely know, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are the big trend in online education. The New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2013 views MOOCs as the technology trend of the year. The MOOC concept is spreading rapidly from what was initially developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Now institutions like Coursera, Udacity and edX have taken over the conversation, offering a wide variety of courses open to learners around the world. Meanwhile, leading universities like Stanford, as well the Open University (OU) in the U.K. are jumping on the bandwagon with their own MOOCs.

For all of the hype and excitement about MOOCs, the dropout rate is about 90% . Only a fraction of people get anywhere near finishing the course, let alone passing it. These classes are free to sign up for, which also makes them very easy to drop out of. The majority of people don’t even make it through the first lecture.

Till now, I have finished more than 15 MOOC courses from Udacity, Coursera, edX and many others. Most of them are computer science/programming related. Pulling from my own experiences and advice from veterans, here are some tips on how to become one of the few who actually finishes an online course.

Before Starting a MOOC:

  1. Choosing a course:
    Understand that your own goals is key. Ask yourself why you want to participate in a MOOC. Out of curiosity, because the topic interests you or because you want to know new people? Ask yourself how you want to make use of the acquired knowledge and skills. Can the MOOC support you with your study or your job or do you plan on your own project?That is all reasonable, but you should consider that MOOCs normally last at least a couple weeks, sometimes up to a quarter of a year, and are quite time-consuming. To survive and thrive in a MOOC you should be willing and able to invest, from my experience, at least an hour a day for reading course material, for communication and collaboration with others, writing your own blog, etc.
    I don’t want to stop you from participating in a MOOC. On the contrary I highly recommend trying at least one MOOC. However, reasonably assess your own motivation and your time before making a decision.
  2. Know the Instructors

    It’s worth at least watching the introductory video/tutorial that the platform offers, or the first few videos of a course to get a sense of it. Just like many college students will drop in on a variety of classes in their first week before they make a final decision, it’s worth trying a number of courses out.I also check out the instructor’s personal webpages at the very first to get a feel of his/her teaching style.If you dislike the professor or the material goes way over your head, you aren’t likely to stick with it. 

  3. Dont push the Pre-requisites
    If a course says that you need to know linear algebra in order to take it, believe it. And don’t think that you’ll pick it up along the way, unless the course explicitly says that it will teach the needed material.
    It’s difficult enough to stick with one of these courses, so having to learn background material in addition means you’re more likely to get behind, get frustrated, and drop out. When in doubt, stick with the intro course. Better to be a bit bored or skip a few early lessons than be in over your head after two weeks.

During a MOOC:

  1. Start early

    The early bird gets the worm! familiarize yourself with the layout of the course website and materials. The site normally opens a couple of weeks before the actual course starts, so you can actually orient yourself in advance. Explore what communication channels are used (forums, Twitter, a wiki). Sometimes you’ll need to register or set up new accounts such as on blogging platform. You might also consider whether you want to earn a badge or achieve some course credits if the university offers that option. 

  2. Set a schedule, and stick to it
    One of the biggest benefits of online courses is that you can take them any time and anywhere you want. It’s also the biggest reason people drop out.The majority of the people who take these courses have jobs or other obligations and probably just want to go to bed when they get home, rather than learn about computer programming.The best way to ensure success is to spread the work out, do at least a bit every night or a couple times a week, rather than leaving everything for the weekend. The odds of dropping out are much higher when work is crammed into fewer days.The key is to be honest about how much time you have and are willing to put into the course and factor it into your decision.
    Even for entirely self-paced options, large gaps between lectures or work make it much less likely that you’ll ever complete the course.
  3. Do not be shy- connect to your fellow learners
    MOOC is not about competition, but collaboration. So don’t assume other participants are smarter and have more to say. You might want to start as a so-called ‘lurker’, reading what others have to say. It is absolutely okay to be passive and just go through the course material on your own.But honestly, it is a lot more fun to participate actively. Ask questions, comment on other contributions and start blogging your reflections on what you are reading and learning . Don’t underestimate the value of what you have to say. Agree or disagree with others or start a discussion that might help you get a new perspective or to confirm your train of thought. 
  4. Hang on
    The initial hype is usually followed by a depression. It’s time to keep up now and endure. There is one advantage to this period — communication is not as fast-paced as before, giving you a rest. But keep in mind that no tutor or teacher is checking on you, so it’s up to you to keep your motivation up. The more you do, the more successful you will be in the MOOC. Hence, you might want to remind yourself  what your initial aims were and focus on what you are doing.

After finishing up a MOOC:

  1. Continue networking
    Try to keep in contact with some of the people you got to know better during the MOOC. Nowadays it’s important to network, and you’ll never know what might develop out of this contacts. You can follow them on twitter/github/LinkedIn in order to stay up-to-date on their recent work.
    And, of course, you should find a way to apply your new knowledge, before it expires. ;-)
  2. Time to wrap up Reflect on the course. What have you learned? What could you have done differently? Did you achieve your set goals such as attaining a badge or developing a project? Think about what the organizers could improve and povide feedback in the course survey.

    When you’re done with that, congratulate yourself on your hard work and start thinking about your next MOOC.

Happy MOOCing !!

Getting stated with Front-end Development

This is the first post of my new series ‘Learning Front-end development ’. I have been reading a lot about front-end development (tools and technologies) for a few months now and thought it might be a good idea to share what I learnt with everybody . The goal of this series are as follows:

  • Share information with others
  • seek and welcome input/advice and last but not the least, 
  • clarify my own understanding by trying to write articles about them.

Okay, so who is a Front end developer and what does he do?

A front-end developer architects and develops websites and applications using web technologies (i.e. HTML, CSS, DOM, and JavaScript), which run on the web platform or act as compilation input for non-web platform environments (i.e. NativeScript).

The following web technologies are mostly employed by front-end developers:

  • Hyper Text Markup Language (aka HTML)
  • Cascading Style Sheets (aka CSS)
  • Document Object Model (aka DOM)
  • JavaScript Programming Language (aka: ECMAScript 6, ES6, JavaScript 2015)
  • Web API’s (aka HTML5 and friends or Browser API’s)
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (aka HTTP)
  • JavaScript Object Notation (aka JSON)

For a comprehensive list of all web related specifications have a look at platform.html5.org.

Web Development Tools:

Web development tools allow web developers to test and debug their code. They are different from website builders and IDEs in that they do not assist in the direct creation of a webpage, rather they are tools used for testing the user facing interface of a website or web application.
Web development tools come as browser add-ons or built in features in web browsers.The most popular web browsers today like, Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Safari have built in tools to help web developers, and many additional add-ons can be found in their respective plugin download centers.
While most browsers come equipped with web developer tools, the Chrome developer tools are currently the most talked about and widely used tools available.

Good web tutorials to learn general front-end development:

A Baseline for Front-End [JS] Developers: 2015 [read]
freeCodeCamp [interact]
Front-end Curriculum [read]
Frontend Guidelines [read]
So, You Want to be a Front-End Engineer [watch]
Web Fundamentals [read]
Web Developer Checklist [read]
Codecademy [interact]
Codewars [interact]

General front-end newsletters, news outlets, & podcasts:

The Big Web Show
Fresh Brewed Frontend
FRONT-END DEV weekly
Mobile Web Weekly
Open Web Platform Daily Digest
shoptalkshow.com
The Web Ahead
The Web Platform Podcast
webtoolsweekly.com

That’s all for today.  Watch out for my next article. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

10,000 Hours of Practice

“At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable.”Christopher Reeve

Last night I read about the “10,000 Hour Rule” in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. That one particular chapter moved me quite a bit probably because I have always had this same thought in my mind since childhood.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. This article will review a few examples from Gladwell’s research, and conclude with some thoughts for moving forward.

Violins in Berlin

In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent: Not Important

One fascinating point of the study: No “naturally gifted” performers emerged. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals.

Sneaking Out to Write Code

You already know how Microsoft was founded. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form the company in 1975. It’s that simple: Drop out of college, start a company, and become a billionaire, right? Wrong.

Further study reveals that Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice prior to founding Microsoft. First, the two co-founders met at Lakeside, an elite private school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer terminal for the school’s computer club in 1968.

A computer terminal at a university was rare in 1968. Gates had access to a terminal in eighth grade. Gates and Allen quickly became addicted to programming.

The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the University’s computer. Gates and Allen acquired their 10,000 hours through this and other clever teenage schemes. When the time came to launch Microsoft in 1975, the two were ready.

Practice Makes Improvement

In 1960, while they were still an unknown high school rock band, the Beatles went to Hamburg, Germany to play in the local clubs.

The group was underpaid. The acoustics were terrible. The audiences were unappreciative. So what did the Beatles get out of the Hamburg experience? Hours of playing time. Non-stop hours of playing time that forced them to get better.

As the Beatles grew in skill, audiences demanded more performances – more playing time. By 1962 they were playing eight hours per night, seven nights per week. By 1964, the year they burst on the international scene, the Beatles had played over 1,200 concerts together. By way of comparison, most bands today don’t play 1,200 times in their entire career.

Success comes through sacrifice. While others play, successful people work. They know the time when others are playing is their opportunity to separate themselves from average. Success cannot be achieved without a relentless work ethic. If you are working while others play, you are gaining more ground on success than you realize.

Falling in Love With Practice

The elite don’t just work harder than everybody else. At some point the elites fall in love with practice to the point where they want to do little else.

The elite software developer is the programmer who spends all day pounding code at work, and after leaving work she writes open source software on her own time.

The elite football player is the guy who spends all day on the practice field with his teammates, and after practice he goes home to watch game films.

The elite physician listens to medical podcasts in the car during a long commute.

The elites are in love with what they do, and at some point it no longer feels like work.

What’s Next?

Now that we’ve reviewed the trends uncovered by Gladwell’s research, what can we do about it? All of us want to be great at something. Now that we know how other achievers have gotten there, what can we do to join their ranks?

One approach: We could choose a field and practice for 10,000 hours. If we are currently working in our target profession, forty hours per week over five years would give us ten thousand hours.

Or… We can look at the question in reverse. Where have we already logged 10,000 hours of practice? What is it that we do really well? What tasks do we perform so well that people ask: How did you do that? Sometimes when we fall in love with practice we don’t even recognize it!

If you’re running a company, what does your company do better than anybody else? What is it that the individual members of your company do better than anybody? How do you create an environment that gives everyone on your team the opportunity to practice?

Conclusion

Business is tough, especially now. Yet even in the midst of a challenging economy, there are individuals and companies that prosper beyond all expectations. Practice plays a major role in success.

Getting Things Done (GTD) Made Easy

As you already might have guessed from my previous posts that I am a little obsessive about the art of productivity. Over the last year, I’ve tried few time management and productivity systems. While they all helped me grow, there is something in those system that didn’t go well with my working style and thinking and which is why I kept digging. Very recently, I came across David Allen’s book called “Getting Things Done (GTD)” and I would like to write a little bit about that book today. Well, please note that GTD is not about telling you what software or tools to use to become productive. Instead, GTD is a productivity framework that you can tweak it to match your working style.

Why GTD for You?
You won’t like any system that tells you to do things exactly as explained in that system. GTD is not a rigid system, it’s a productivity framework!. It provides the high-level building blocks, which will guide you in implementing a solution that you think is appropriate. This is the #1 reason why GTD is a great fit for geeks.You don’t need to worry about assigning your tasks with High, Medium, Low priority anymore. You don’t even need to sequence the tasks in the order you like to complete. In GTD, you do a task based on the context, the time available, and the energy available. 

Overview of GTD:

According to David Allen, everything that needs your attention are called “Stuff”. This may be as simple as buying milk from the grocery store, or completing the proposal for the multi-million dollar project. Anything that takes up space in your RAM (mind), are called as stuffs. Not all stuffs are actionable. But, all stuffs needs to be collected, processed, organized, and executed appropriately.

5 Different Phases of GTD:

1. Collection Phase

You are always collecting stuff. Some stuff comes to you directly, and some gets collected for you in the background. For example, emails get collected in your in-box in the background. You also need physical in-boxes where you can collect stuffs. At home (and work), have a physical in-box, where you thrown-in anything that needs to be processed.

2. Processing Phase

You should process the items in your in-boxes frequently. Please note that processing doesn’t mean doing. Don’t DO anything on this stage, except processing. Process the stuffs collected in your in-box once a day (or how often you feel comfortable).

How to Process?

Take one item from the in-box, and ask yourself – “Do I need to do anything about this item?”. Otherwise, “What is the next action for this item”?. You should come-up with a clear answer for this question. Initially this might be hard. Once you get used to it, identifying next action for every email (or physical item) can be done in matter of seconds.
– If there is no action, you should trash the item, or archive it for reference, or put it in your incubation list.
– If there is an action, you should do it immediately (if it takes less than 2 minutes to do it), or delegate it to somebody, or defer it for later by putting it in the appropriate next action context list (more on that below).

3. Organizing Phase

Any item that you’ve deferred for later should be put in the appropriate next action context list. In GTD, there are no priorities. You only have context.
All tasks should be organized around the context in which it needs to be performed. This might be different than how you are used to working, but once you get used to this, it will be effortless, and you’ll be super productive. I like to keep my next action content lists very simple. Some of my contexts are like Work, Home, Errands,Blog and Books.

Here is a flow chart for your easy understanding.

4. Do It! Phase

When it is time to execute, you should not be thinking about what needs to be done, or you should not be checking your email for items that needs to be done, or you should not be looking at a one big long to-do list with priority and try to figure out what needs to be done.

Instead, depending on your current context, you should look at the items in that next action context list, and decide quickly on what you want to do. For example, if you are at work, you look at Work list, which will have all your previously defined next action that needs to be performed. If you are planning to write your next article, you look at the Blog list, which all have the list of all ideas that you could work on.
You’ll have multiple next actions in your context lists. When it is action time, you should pick one item from the context list and execute it. The question is: which item should you pick?. Since there are no priorities assigned to the tasks in the context list, use the following as a guideline to decide which take needs to be executed at any give time.

1. Your available energy.
Certain tasks needs to be done when you have full energy. You don’t want to work on the “Create logical network diagram for new server room” tasks at around 4:00 pm, when your energy level is low. Rather, you want to perform this task in the morning. Please read my post here to find out how you can manage your energy more efficiently.

2. Your available time.
If you have 10 minutes, before going to a meeting, and would like to do something, check your Work list for next actions that can be completed quickly in 10 minutes and do it.

What I never do is to try to complete the work as it shows up, which is useless most of the times, and you might not be working on tasks that matter most.

5. Review Phase

You have to review your system once a week. I do it every Sunday evening. Following are some things that you might want to do as part of the weekly review.

– Review your project list and define next action required for them.
– Review your professional and personal goals and create new projects as required.
– Review your current week calendar and process any notes from the past meetings.
– Review next week calendar and plan appropriate next actions.
– Review all next action context list.
This is also a good time to process all your in-boxes before you complete the weekly review.

Thats it. There you have it. That is how I try to get my things done.

I strongly recommend that you give Getting Things Done (GTD) a try. There is nothing for you to lose, but it might dramatically change the way how you get your things done.