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  • I Work from Zero Base

    My personal yearly plan runs June 1 through May 31.

    This year I set as one of my goals:
    Empty my physical and email inboxes at least two times per week.

    I have a spreadsheet that I use to log various goals that I have. The first column lists each day. I added a column to this sheet for this goal. Any day that I get my physical and email inboxes to empty I put a "1" in the log. On other days I put a "0". So far, I've managed to get at least two 1s each week.

    I love working from zero base. It's a great feeling to "do it when it shows up, not when it blows up." A log worked perfectly for me to develop this new habit. Your mileage may vary. Experiment with whatever method best helps you develop the habit.

  • #2
    Hi Moises. You said: "I love working from zero base. It's a great feeling to "do it when it shows up, not when it blows up." A log worked perfectly for me to develop this new habit."

    What type of log are you speaking of? I REALLY need to get to that place - my inbox (email and voicemail combined) is totally out of control.

    Thanks!
    Taxgeek

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by taxgeek
      Hi Moises. You said: "I love working from zero base. It's a great feeling to "do it when it shows up, not when it blows up." A log worked perfectly for me to develop this new habit."

      What type of log are you speaking of? I REALLY need to get to that place - my inbox (email and voicemail combined) is totally out of control.

      Thanks!
      Taxgeek
      Taxgeek, are you staying diligent w/your weekly reviews? I get out of control ALL THE TIME, but I know that I'll get back IN control at least on a weekly basis.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ha ha, not even close. Weekly reviews are the reason I can't keep things in line - miss one, and the volume is instantly overwhelming.

        I actually need daily reviews, which I was doing great with for awhile.

        Then it got so hectic that I was spending the entire day (literally) accepting work in various formats - email, calls, etc., and processing and putting it on lists, that I had exactly no time to actually do any of it. That's when the daily reviews fell apart - I had to just block time to do some work, and the rest is history.

        Comment


        • #5
          taxgeek, if you work in taxes, there could be a point (tax season) where you are so overwhelmed with work that you simply have to do what is in front of you. But that's just a season. I would say that if it's that way all the time, then you have too much to do and you need to figure out how to delegate it [or get a different job]. Just some ideas...

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by taxgeek
            Hi Moises. You said: "I love working from zero base. It's a great feeling to "do it when it shows up, not when it blows up." A log worked perfectly for me to develop this new habit."

            What type of log are you speaking of? I REALLY need to get to that place - my inbox (email and voicemail combined) is totally out of control.

            Thanks!
            Taxgeek
            Hi Taxgeek,

            Each of us needs different methods for motivation. In the case of working from zero base, a log worked for me. If I were at a different stage in my GTD development I might have had to try other motivational methods to find the one that worked. Other methods might include, giving myself rewards and punishments, or making a commitment to another person.

            My log consists of an Excel spreadsheet. Cell A1 has the column header "Date". Going down that column there are a year's worth of dates: July 1, July 2, July 3, . . . Cell B1 has the column header "Zero". Days that I get to zero I write "1", days that I don't I write "0". (The 1 means "yes" and the 0 means "no". The 1 means I got to zero and the 0 means I did not get to zero.)

            I set myself this zero-base goal because this was one of my GTD sticking points from the beginning. From the first day I started implementing GTD I recognized its power. NA's organized by contexts was incredible. The idea of a complete trusted system was awesome.

            But . . . for about two years I neglected the processing rules. I would not process my inbox from top to bottom. I would pick and choose and let some stuff lie there for long periods of time. I was not naive. I knew that what I was doing was contrary to DA's recommendations and, almost certainly, contrary to my self-interest. And yet I continued to be lackadaisical about this.

            So I made getting to zero base a goal in my annual plan for this year. I use the book My Best Year Yet, which I learned about on this board, as a template for my annual planning process. I recognized that not getting to zero base was a significant roadblock in my personal growth.

            For me, making this one change has had extraordinarily beneficial consequences. What's measured gets done. I am keeping score each week so I make a lot of effort to get to zero. I've been doing this for six weeks and now it is an ingrained habit.

            The beneficial consequences range far beyond having an empty inbox. My tendency towards procrastination has been greatly decreased. I have become much more aggressive about getting things done (no capital letters). In the past, I would put off processing items that required tough decisions. But now I know that if I avoid processing the item I will not get to zero and I will not be able to write a "1" in my log. At the end of the week I will have failed to satisfy one of the major goals that I established in my annual plan.

            So I grit my teeth, bite the bullet, and [insert your favorite metaphor here]. I process the damned item by putting a NA into my trusted system. Wheww! It was hard. It never gets easy. But like any habit, eventually you get used to it.

            The book My Best Year Yet suggests setting guidelines for oneself each year. Basically these are affirmations. I look at these during my Weekly Review. My guidelines for this year are:
            I do the tough stuff first.
            I tolerate high levels of frustration and disapproval.
            I give my son time and attention.
            The zero-base goal coordinates wonderfully with the first two guidelines. I still have a strong tendency to find easy things to do so as to avoid the tough stuff. Getting my inbox to empty is a great aid in developing the habit of doing the tough stuff first.

            In order to do the tough stuff first, one needs to experience frustration and disapproval. Doing tough stuff is often frustrating. It's frustrating to deal with some new, unfamiliar, ill-defined, complex problem.. Personal growth involves tolerating high levels of frustration. I had a tendency to avoid frustration. Obviously this made me much less effective. Now I push myself a little harder. When things are tough they are frustrating. I push myself to do the tough stuff, which means tolerating the frustration.

            Often the tough stuff involves doing something that might very well piss someone off. Call the customer whose order we messed up. Call the vendor who sent me a defective product. Give someone a smaller raise than they wanted. Give someone a poor performance review.

            This is the kind of stuff I would love to procrastinate on. It's almost always unpleasant and difficult. But I am finding that as I develop the zero-base habit I am more able to plod through whatever it is I need to do. As I have solidified my zero-base habit I have strengthened my tolerance of frustration and disapproval.

            I will conclude with a panegyric to David Allen. The GTD book, and the GTD Fast audio tracks, remain, after two years, as fresh and as worthy of close study as ever. Viva David Allen! Viva GTD! Viva Zero Base!

            Comment


            • #7
              "0" for zero.

              Originally posted by moises
              Days that I get to zero I write "1", days that I don't I write "0". (The 1 means "yes" and the 0 means "no". The 1 means I got to zero and the 0 means I did not get to zero.)
              I would rather write "0" for days when I get to zero and "1" when I do not. Then I could count cells with "0" using simple Excel formula.

              Comment


              • #8
                using 1 allows simple sum

                using 1 for zero days may seem inverted, but it is easier to use a sum to get your count than it is to count only those cells that contain 0.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Log

                  Thanks, Moises, for the explanation and inspiration.

                  Reminds me alot of "scorecards" which we used to use when I worked at an oil company. We would identify some of the key factors in our business - not things like "total oil produced", but small things like "average number of days a well is down for servicing" to measure our own behaviors that contributed to "total oil produced".

                  This is kind of the same thing, for productivity. I was using goals like that for awhile, maybe I need to go back. Accountability is hard for me though!

                  I need to find ways to make it fun. Sometimes I measure the total number of NA's (other than "waiting fors"), and it feels gratifying to see that number start to fall as I get more caught up.

                  Thanks again!
                  Taxgeek

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by taxgeek
                    Sometimes I measure the total number of NA's (other than "waiting fors"), and it feels gratifying to see that number start to fall as I get more caught up.
                    Cool! I just started doing that, too!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Desultory
                      Cool! I just started doing that, too!
                      For me, I've made an effort not to fall into this, because I see it as a "trap". The more and more I try to stop looking at NA's as "ToDo's" rather than as reminders, the more and more relaxed I become.

                      The reason that I refer to it as a trap is that the list is never really going to shrink by any significant margin - there is never any lack of things to get done!

                      So the less I look at GTD as tackling some "ToDo list", the more and more relaxed I've become.

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