Category Archives: action

The 27 Minute Rule

If you are not doing something that must be done, you may find it useful to call on “The 27 Minute Rule”.

The 27 minute rule is quite simple.  You make a strict deal with yourself to focus on the matter in hand for twenty seven minutes. You allow nothing to hijack that dedicated time. No excuses!

27 minutes… and that’s it – that’s the rule.

separatorWhatever happens in those twenty seven minutes, I know that I will emerge with something of value.

At the one extreme, I may get stuck in to whatever it is and the flow, well, flows and the deed is done!

Often, I find that I make serious inroads into the matter in hand during the allocated time and/or emerge with a do-able action plan to move it forward.

At the other extreme, I may spend my precious 27 minutes mumbling and grumbling, cursing and sulking (and I’m quite good at all of that). I can get something useful from this. By the end of the 27 minutes, I will have insight into whatever is stopping me getting on with it. Compared with the oblivion of inaction, such insight is gold dust – I can work with that!

In the process, I may gain insight in to what is stopping me. There may be lots and lots of different reasons (or is that excuses?) for why I am procrastinating so much that I have to call on the 27 minute rule.  There may be some FEAR (False Expectation Appearing Real)  – what if I do it wrong (better to do nothing than get it wrong)? Stupid, I know, but a big blocker even so.  Maybe there are too many unknowns (don’t know where to start, what to do, where stuff is that I need etc.). Perhaps I simply don’t want to (childish sulk mode, having a tantrum – and I can be quite good at that).

Stating the obvious, perhaps, but the most important thing about this rule is not the number of minutes, it is the concentrated focus during the time that you allocate. Occasionally, I catch myself thinking 15, or even 5, minutes is all I can possibly contemplate – and, sometimes, that is all it takes to break the stalemate and kick start a way forward.

If you’re like me, anything that you keep putting off (for whatever reason) starts to take on monster proportions and distorts out of all perspective. It is on my mind, all the time, like a wicked whisper in the background or a looming cloud that permeates and poisons my inner world.  Out of proportion, or what! At the very least, when I get to the end of the 27 minute window the matter is put back in to proportion. Well worth it, don’t you think?

Can if … or can’t because!

can if graphic

Images courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are thinking “can’t because” about something, why not have a go at rephrasing it as “can if”. This may look like we are simply playing with words but we are not. It can make a huge difference to how you think about the matter in hand.

To illustrate:

say “can’t because” and you may have a list of reasons, issues and even, maybe, excuses.

Rephrase

  • change “can’t” to “can”
  • change “because” to “if”

say “can if” and you may emerge with a list of things to do, conditions to fulfill to achieve what you want.

Do you notice that “can’t because” items feel like blockers (reasons to not do, problems) and that “can if” items feel like puzzles to solve?

separatorI feel like I’m being blocked, thwarted when I say “can’t because”. I hate being thwarted.

I get thoughtful when I say “can if”. My brain goes into puzzle solving mode. I enjoy solving puzzles.

To get from feeling blocked to having puzzles to solve, I need to shift my thinking. I can’t just ignore the list of “can’t because” items. They matter to me, obviously – I wouldn’t have allowed them to stop me doing something if they weren’t important, would I? I have to acknowledge and work with/around them somehow – which is where the “can if” items come in.

The “can if” items are where I can express the things to do, the conditions to be fulfilled for it to become achievable. I am not ignoring the blockers that cause me to think “can’t because”.

Of course, I may still wish to not do whatever it is, and that’s ok. What I will have is a clearer insight into what possibilities may exist should I wish to move forward.

I have been “can if”-ing for so long now, it is almost automatic. If I hear the word “can’t” it triggers the “aaah, but can if” thinking.

If you want to find a way forward with a “can’t because” thing, why not give this a go?  It may be a way to shift your thinking.

LEAP Today

“LEAP Today” is a great way of creating specific, realistic expectations for your day. It is easy to  do and, even on the busiest of days to be, it generally takes me less than 5 to 10 minutes to LEAP into the day.

LEAP is an acronym for List, Estimate, Allow for the unexpected and Pioritise for today.

LEAP Today

Leaping character Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

LEAP Today is for a To-Do List fresh each day, do NOT keep the same list running. and get real – get purposeful – get results – savour the pleasure of your flexible, responsive, focused efficiency today.

List the things for today

Demands on your time and energy come from lots of places, some of which are planned (like your projects, scheduled appointments), some of which you can predict (like regular duties) and some of which you may be called upon to do (out of the blue, maybe), etc. Pick out items/pieces of work for TODAY from your usual To-Do lists.

Estimate

Make an educated guess at quite how much effort and elapsed time each item – piece of work – will take.

Allow for the unexpected

In real life, we all know that the unexpected happens (best laid plans of mice ‘n men, and all that). The unexpected is predictable in the sense that you just know such stuff always comes up – unpredictable in the sense that we do not know, specifically, quite what it will be.

Prioritise

REMEMBER – this is about Today’s priorities rather than priorities in the overall scheme of life!

separatorList, Estimate and Prioritise are all pretty run of the mill, aren’t they? The Allow for the Unexpected is, for me, the magic touch. What do you think?

Through doing LEAP Today I am inspired to set realistic expectations. I am creating my day’s agenda today. I am blending items from the world of demands and allowing for the unexpected. Add those things together, and I ‘get purposeful’, using my energy and time effectively, focus with clarity on intentions for the day. At the end of the day, I scan the list and get a buzz from noting my achievements.

I had a job where there were a number of channels of planned demand on my time – meetings, regular duties (commitments as a manager, technical specialist and/or a project resource), project tasks etc. I also spent a lot of time dealing with interruptions of all kinds. The interruptions were often critical, important and/or urgent including unexpected problems to be solved, discussions to bring an unexpected (and unwelcome) situation under control etc. etc.

My (monster) To-Do list was fed by items from the planned stuff (meetings, duties, project tasks) and was … errmm … overflowing, sometimes overwhelming and NEVER in the right order. Things got crossed off, some dropped off (no longer required) and, always, always, items got added.

It was demoralising. I worked long hours (too long), did a lot of stuff and worked very hard (no, really) but never got to finish my To-Do list!

Then two things happened around the same time. First, I had a ‘Time Management’ course which gave me the idea to record how I ACTUALLY spent my time. My thinking was that reviewing my actuals would, hopefully, give me insight into what the ‘time thieves’ were. I’ll admit that I really didn’t want to do this ‘every 15 minute actual time spent record’ at all – but I promised myself I would do it for one week. Second, during that same week, I encountered the LEAP Today. My eyes, and heart, were drawn to the Allow for the Unexpected” and there was little tug from the Prioritise for today.

Observation of my ‘actual time spent’ crystallised what I had mumbled often … on average, 50 to 70% of my time was being spent on the unplanned ‘interruptions’. However, dealing with ‘interruptions’ was an essential part of my job (one of those unwritten/unplanned/taken for granted items). A five minute conversation could avert a disaster waiting to happen or save the waste of time and effort on dealing with avoidable consequences. You know, the priority zero (override all other priorities) kind of things. There was no way I could stop handling ALL interruptions!

Focusing on the interruptions, it became obvious that some were predictable – in terms of scale of demand if not in the specific items – quite what they were was a daily surprise, but that they would happen was predictable. Key step 1 – I added an item ‘predictable interrupts‘ to my list of things to do on a daily basis with an estimate of, say, 30% of my time. Key step 2 – I added an item ‘the unexpected‘ with an estimate (based on observation) of, say, 30% of my time. On an average day, I now had 40% of my time for ‘planned items and regular duties’. If the ‘predictable interrupts‘ and ‘the unexpected‘ actually take less than estimated there is a good chance that I can get ahead of the game. WooHoo!

Adopting “LEAP Today” to create my To-Do List for today made such a positive difference to my sense of achievement on a daily basis and, dare I say, put a bit of a bounce back in to my step! The monster To-Do list is tamed! The “LEAP(ed)” To-Do List for today blossomed with big ticks (never underestimate the power of the tick), my daily sense of achievement soared actually generating energy and so much more. So simple. So effective. So it flows – like magic.

Costs and Consequences – Ecology Check

Please do take the time to really consider each question carefully and fully. You will find brief notes on some of the questions below.

ecology check questionsWorth and Costs?

You may end up with more – or less – of something that matters to you. If less, include it as a cost in your calculations of the price you pay. Is it worth the price you have to pay? It may cost you in emotional as well as financial and material terms. Remember to consider things like your energy, effort, time, strain and inconvenience for you – and valued 3rd parties [friends, family, colleagues etc.] How would it be if you got what you thought you wanted, only to realise that it is more trouble than it’s worth?

Are all the resources [skills, creativity, energy, capital, relationships etc.] available to you in a timely and acceptable manner?

Beliefs, values and sense of Self.

In this context, consider beliefs as our guiding principles for what we do, influencing all our behaviours, connecting to our value systems and shaping our understanding of why things are possible – or impossible – for us. Beliefs are often assumptions based on our personal experience or “inherited” from others who influence us [family, friends, people we admire etc.]. Beliefs permeate our thoughts, what we say and what we do. Behaviour, what we do, is belief in action.

What if what you want seems to be in conflict with your values and beliefs? Be quite sure that you really own the values and beliefs – you live by them, after all. Adjust them until they are right for you. Only when they are truly yours, use them to guide you in what you want and what you will do.

Relationships

How will your proposed course of action affect you and your relationships with others [lasting or fleeting, profoundly valued or just necessary]? Your life in context of those around you, in fact.

What would you have to give up or take on?

It is almost certain that something, maybe lots of things, will be different when you get what you want. Perhaps what you have to give up means losing something – maybe something that you are well rid of – or that you regret the loss of. Does it detract from your chosen life style, relationships, and other factors that matter to you?

Perhaps what you have to take on means gaining something you relish – or maybe something you would rather not have.

What would NOT happen?

We have been concentrating a lot on what will happen if you get what you want. It is a good idea to check whether anything has “fallen by the wayside” – what will NOT happen – accidentally or deliberately.

Pay attention to your “gut feeling”.

You know if you have a “gut feeling“, an instinctive sense of some kind – and whether it is warning you against something – or letting you know just how very “right” this is for you. Attend to that “gut feeling”.

What’s stopping me, right now?

What stops me from having what I want, right now? This is a good question to finish with. It will help to ensure that you have considered all the things that matter to you – and may be a catalyst for your subsequent planning and doing!

Future Test.

Now may be a good time to do a quick “future test”. Having addressed the questions, you have a much better sense of quite what you want – and the potential consequences and costs.

Think to the future, for a moment.

In this potential future, when you have got your outcome, you are watching a TV interview with the future you. When the interviewer says to you: “I have a friend who would really like to succeed the way you have done. If they were your friend, what advice would you give them? What really made the difference for you? How did you go about it?” – what would you say?

If you find there are some question marks, just start considering how you might address them to a satisfactory conclusion. If you find that what you want makes good sense to you and your commitment to act is building momentum [or perhaps already there], you may find yourself ready to go ahead.

separatorI do this ‘ecology check’ for various reasons. Different questions are the most thought provoking depending on the circumstances and the matter in hand.

Reality Checking.

When working on creating a compelling outcome, these are the questions that I use for a reality check. The answers (revelations sometimes) may inspire me to adapt my desired outcome (dramatically or just a tweak). Checking out costs and consequences engages me in analytic thought, creating and testing out the viability of future scenarios and paying attention to my gut feelings. Is achieving my outcome accompanied by acceptable and desirable costs, time-frames, consequences and benefits?

Exploring Reluctance.

These questions are also invaluable to me at those times when I find myself stalling, reluctant to act, not moving forward with something I thought I really wanted to do. Do you ever find yourself really wanting something while, at the same time, reluctant to act, reluctant to actually do anything, to achieve it? Perhaps you have a sense that something’s wrong” or a suspicion that, maybe, there is an unacceptable price to pay or undesirable consequences associated with achieving what you want? An ecology check can do harm in these circumstances and could highlight what’s stopping me and then I can deal with that as I see fit.