9 tools for building a habit of executing

Ok, the statistic may be a little skewed, but I don’t think it’s that far off. The trick is to build a habit of execution–a propensity for action–that fits within a broad strategic framework.

In other words, to use a little sports lingo (which I’m terrible at doing, I’ll admit), have a game plan and run it.

The greatest game plan in the world doesn’t help if you don’t get off the bench.

I’ve posted before about tools I use to do daily work. Here is my shorter list of tools I use to build a habit of executing.

1. Hacking a GTD Moleskine. I don’t keep my to-do list in my iPhone or iPad. It’s much quicker to simply keep it in a Moleskin notebook, and never worry about it crashing or running out of power. I know, so 1950s of me or something. This particular “hack” is the most successful I’ve ever used. I’ve used it without change for 2 years straight now.

2. Simple tools. I keep things as simple as possible. No fancy MS Word documents, etc. 99% of all new documents are done in Google Docs. I never use anything except Google Docs unless there is a compelling reason. I have 1 database in Access that won’t presently work anywhere else, 1 spreadsheet in Excel that is too big for Google (ha!), and my Powerpoints (which are too large, since I normally build powerpoints with 1 slide for every 10 seconds of a talk, featuring one picture). By keeping things as simple as possible, I don’t suffer downtime from computer failure.

3. Inbox Zero. I normally apply this only to my “important” items. If an email contains an action, it gets starred upon receipt, and goes into my starred items. That’s where I live to get things done. Once it’s complete, it’s flagged with a “@Done” label and archived. Anything that is not “important” or “starred” in Gmail goes into my “everything else” list, which is usually completely ignored unless needed (I treat most of Gmail as an archive for news which is searched only on demand). In other words, if you want me to do something, you have to send an email which contains a very precise action, or it might not get done.

4. Get up and go see. Go ask. Don’t just sit behind a desk typing emails. If you never SEE anyone, you are missing something like half to three quarters of communication–they’re body language.

5. Information consumption and sharing is different from work, and is not “getting things done.” I’ve built a number of very simple tools which enable me to rapidly consume and share information–e.g. while the family is watching something on television for an hour, I can browse newsfeeds on my iPad. This is for enjoyment and edification. It doesn’t count toward getting things done. If I spend a day where I am only sharing items, it’s a day where nothing was accomplished.

6. Measure everything against the goal. New workers. If it’s not resulting in new workers, it needs to be considered for abandonment.

7. Schedule for the compass, not the clock. And everything else Covey says. If you haven’t read his stuff, you shouldn’t be reading any more of mine until you do. That’s my opinion, anyway.

8. Be constantly reading long-form material that is insightful. Short form articles tell you about events but not about meaning. (Plus, don’t just read from one “kind” of long-form material–read lots of stuff. Even stuff you know you’re not going to agree with.)

9. At night, be done. I go home and do stuff to relax and be with the family. I love cooking and reading/writing stories, especially science fiction. You need time to recharge.

Justin Long9 tools for building a habit of executing