Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reverse Time Planning

Later on this morning at 10, I am speaking at "Canada's Largest Entrepreneurship Event" at the University of Waterloo. Then meetings, will squeeze in a workout, then a birthday party for one of my friends.

I am undertaking the following exercise today. I write it in the form of an article because experience has shown me that it will get republished many times on various sites on the internet and that in turn generates blog traffic.

How to Plan Time so I can Stay Highly Productive.

I have learned that not all time is the same quality. In times when I am very alert, rested, focused and efficient, I can be three to five times as productive as other times. My goal is to have more of these highly productive hours.

This harkens back to Stephen Covey's Seventh rule of Highly Effective People - sharpening the saw. The vignette is of a wood cutter who is desperately sawing at a huge tree. A passerby asks the woodcutter why he does not sharpen the saw so he can cut more easily and quickly. The woodcutter replies, I don't have the time, I have to cut the tree down.

Lately my life has been like that of the wood cutter. I have spent too much time sawing and not enough time sharpening the saw.

So my exercise today is to figure out what things sharpen the saw for me and plan to put those in my days and weeks first. Then allow the wood cutting to take the other time as opposed to the other way around. I call this Reverse Planning. Rather than planning what I have on my to do list and trying to get that done, I plan my down time and deliberately work to get that done.

This exercise is particularly good for highly driven people. Highly driven people tend to feel guilty if they are not working. So good things to put on the list are things that make you feel a bit guilty. Most of what I put on my list are things that I like to do a lot and if left unchecked would likely do too much.

For me, I think the following are my ways of sharpening my saw:

1 - Sleep. I tend not oversleep. I have pushed myself so hard for so long, I am not really sure how much sleep might help me be more productive. I am going to schedule 6-7 hours per night to see if that helps productivity.

2 - Exercise. I become resentful when I push so hard that I do not have time to work out. I will schedule one hour workouts 5 days per week and 2-3 hours once per week. For me this is also tied to sleep. If I push too hard, I end up choosing between sleep and working out. Not good.

3 - I will allow time for a 15-20 minute walk each evening. I find this clears my head.

4 - Tidying and Organizing. I know I like my environment more and am more productive if things are neat. I will schedule an hour per week plus 10 minutes per day on that.

5 - Social time. I will schedule a couple of evenings per week of social time.

6 - Intellectual challenge. I will play bridge, chess or soduko 5 hours per week. (this tends to be guilt time for me as I enjoy it too much)

7 - Reading for pleasure. I will schedule a few hours to read for pleasure.

My list is not yet complete. I am still working on it. My challenge now is to stick to my reverse time plan and not allow myself to get caught up by the usual daily volume.


At 11:51 AM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

I like your new profile photo, what is that image from? A magazine article about you?

I suggest you consider adding "Read other high quality blogs" to your list of saw sharpening activities.

Blogs like Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Doc Searls, Fortune Business Innovation, BusinessWeek Blogspotting, Scobleizer, Edge Perspectives (John Hagel III), Edelman, Origin of Brands (Laura Ries), and whatever might be related more specifically to your industry and business.

Posting rich, relevant content, via comments, to other blogs is a proven way to increase traffic to your blog.

When you post comments at a relevant blog, and the blogger returns the courtesy ("reciprocal commenting"), keep posting comments at that blog.

For example, I posted a ton of comments at The Red Couch aka Naked Conversations, the blog of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, for the book Naked Conversations, about business blogging. (Have you read it yet?)

Result: I got a nice acknowledgement, and was quoted in the book.

Also, check your site stats to see what blogs your visitors are coming from, and post more comments at those blogs.

Have you seen my post on "CEO blog topic suggestions"? You might like it. You may have more to add to that list. I based the list largely on what you do in this blog.


At 12:57 PM, Blogger Jim Estill said...

I have lots to add to my saw sharpening activities and good idea on reading other blogs.

Yes I have read naked Conversations - Posted my review

I know blog commenting boosts traffic. It is also time consuming so i do little of it. i just want the traffic - not the work :-)

Good CEO blog suggestions

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Jim Estill said...

The new photo is the cover of Computer Dealer News - an industry trade publication.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see that you are saw sharpening. Doing too much work will run you down and then you become very unproductive for a great length of time. Probably much more than what you invest doing saw sharpening at the end of the day.

Children have the right idea, fresh imaginations, soak it all in, play, work, have fun, rest when you have too, you don't see children pusuhing over the limit when they are tired, they just rest. We can't have the childish view,we can however, have the insight, we lose that too esily as we get older I think.

A friend of mine asked me once, how many summers, falls, winters and springs do you have left kev? when he asked that question, things came into a clear focus quite quickly, smell the roses, take time for fun things, work harder/smarter, when working, and enjoy the people around you, and as my dad says, when you're gone forever, you're gone a long time.

Good to sharpen the saw, funny, my dad's a carpenter.

At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have you considered getting a dog?


At 12:27 AM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

Commenting on other blogs is a technique to develop consistently.

There's a trick to it. We must determine which blogs we wish to contribute our content to, and which ones are a waste of time.

When you post a lot of comments at another blog, but that blogger never reciprocates, dump them. Move on to some blog that appreciates your comments, emails you or responds quickly to your comments.

Identify which blogs you really ought to have a presence at. Post comments at blogs where you want to get the attention of the audience or the blogger.

Surely we can make a list of 10 or 12 blogs that seem related to our pursuits, our industry, our customer base.

Then we discipline ourselves to post comments at these blogs, and see which ones are fruitful for drawing new readers to our blog, or for engaging in grateful acknowledgement of our contributions.

I posted comments at a NYC marketer's blog, and a few months later, she started sending me consulting work, right when I needed to get some new clients.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a little like putting the "big rocks" first. Have you ever experienced over planning?

I have been married for nearly seven years, my wife and I have three children (5, 3, 1). Before I got married, life was pretty orderly and I used to plan a lot. Some said I over planned. I found comfort in the planning and when I didn't meet my expectations, it was okay because I was over planning and ultimately, setting unbelieveable expectations. I would get close to meeting my plans on a regular basis, every once in a while though, I would meet the exceedingly overpacked days. Related to your last two posts, I think that each of us is an athlete and we have cyclic periods of excellence - olympic athletes work with their coaches to peak around the olympics. I think your focus on these periods of high productivity, which I think we all have, are very similar to the cycle that performance athletes try to manage. Perhaps having a coach would provide a 3rd party, view of the forest type approach of your world that would enable you to understand your cycle of productivity?

My wife is not a planner. It used to drive me crazy. Over time, I found that I relaxed my planning / organizing to the point where I hardly plan at all.

About a month ago I stumbled across your blog. Being in the same industry I found it exciting that an exective in Canada was blogging.

I regularly check your site (I don't use RSS feeders) and reading your posts has prompted me to re-think how I am living and that I was happy when I was planning. I found that over plannig contributed to a sense of burnout and my goal now will be not to repeat this mistake.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Jim Estill said...

I often suffer from overplanning. For this reason I try to leave some slack time in the schedule so I can deal with the unexpected as needed.


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