Daily Routines

I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen (t|b). I follow the GTD principals both at work and personal life. The key part of making GTD successful are routines. In this post, I’m going to review my daily routine that keeps my GTD system running like a well-oiled machine.

For the daily routine, the morning fits my personality the best. I love getting up early and setting a goal for the day. You have to find the best time that works for you. Others like the evening to reflect on the day and set goals for the next, it is entirely up to you. Regardless of the time of day, the daily routine needs to hit on a few key areas: inbox zero, your calendar, and tasks for the day.

Inbox Zero
I’ve been a fan of this approach for over a year. I used to keep ‘to-do’ items in my email inbox that were usually just read emails that require some additional action. It got to be overwhelming and I found myself with hundreds of emails that required my time. By using Inbox Zero, I treat my email inbox as just another entry point into my trusted system (OmniFocus). I have multiple inboxes in my life, mail from home, drive by tasks at work, meetings, and blog posts or websites that I want to read. Once you realize that there are virtual inboxes everywhere in your life, you quickly understand that you need one system to organize them all.

Calendar
Each day your time is being demanded by multiple sources. 8am-5pm is usually your work commitments and after 5 pm is family/personal time. By reviewing your calendar ahead of the day you are able to better estimate what you can accomplish that day. If you have a big block of time available, that might be a perfect place to work on your big project or start working on one of your goals for month/quarter/year. Smaller blocks of time might be best for quick tasks or phone calls that need to be returned.

Tasks
Now that you have an understanding of what time you have available, you can decide which tasks you can work on for the day. Most people have hundreds of little tasks that need to be completed, but which ones are the key tasks that keep you moving in the direction of your goals? Those are the tasks that you want to prioritize first. By reviewing your tasks each day, you stay current on your most important tasks.

If you would like to know more about GTD, start with David’s book. He did a second revision a few years ago and this will give you the foundation of GTD and the advantages it gives you in your life. The key advantage of GTD for me is clearing my head of those ‘things’ that I can’t forget to do that will keep me up at night or cause me to go into firefighting mode when those ’things’ are due. GTD gives me the freedom to be creative with my brain instead of using it as a storage device that it wasn’t meant to be used for.

Doug Purnell
@SQLNikon
sqlnikon@gmail.com
https://sqlnikon.com

T-SQL Tuesday #97 – I am an Obliger

Goal Setting
This month’s T-SQL Tuesday (#tsql2sday) host is Malathi Mahadevan (b|t).
Goal setting has always been a difficult process for me. I always do a great job of researching/organizing my goals for the upcoming year but fall short in the execution phase. I tend to help others with their projects & tasks before mine; I have a hard time holding my self-accountable. For this reason, I decided to take advantage of a professional development program at work that allows us to talk with a career/life coach for a few sessions.

The timing of Malathi’s T-SQL Tuesday post was perfect. I had my coaching session scheduled and it’s review time at work so all these things coincided to make this a perfect time to understand why I have a hard time setting goals before I started building another list of for 2018.

During my coaching session with Barbara Demarest (http://www.barbarademarest.com) she mentioned a book by Gretchen Rubin (b|t) “The Four Tendencies”. Each of us can be grouped into four categories when it comes to completing goals; I’m an Obliger. You can take a 5-minute quiz and see which category you fall in. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Any surprises? Now that you have an understanding of your tendencies (Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, & Rebel), will you change your strategy for setting/completing your goals for 2018? I know I’m going to. I need external accountability to complete my goals. Because of my tendencies, I now know that I just can’t build a list of goals and hope to complete them. For 2018 I’m working on finding others to help me be accountable. It may be my supervisor, friend, or relative. By having external accountability I’ll be more successful in completing my goals. How about you?

Doug Purnell

Work Stoppage Events (Meetings)

As the calendar reminder comes up with the dreaded 15 minute warning for another work stoppage event, it occurred to me how import it is to prepare for meetings to make them as productive as possible.  I like to use Evernote to document all meetings and projects.  Each morning I take a look at the scheduled meetings and start a new note for each of them by creating three sections:

  1. Items to Discuss
  2. Notes
  3. To Do

Based on the meeting, I go through my master to do list and create bullets under ‘Items to Discuss’ to update the status of each item.  I also comb through my inbox and add any issues that might be relevant to the meeting.  It is important to spend time updating this section of meeting preparation, this can ultimately serve as a personal agenda so you can get all you points across to the rest of the attendees.

During the meeting I use the ‘Notes’ section to record items that pertain to my responsibilities and if actionable, they are recorded under the ‘To Do’ section.  Once I have time to review my notes from the meeting, I’ll create new tasks in my master to do list from the ‘To Do’ section and give each item a priority based on the other tasks.  I like to follow Brian Tracy’s (b|t) approach to prioritizing tasks based on his book Eat That Frog.

Frogs taste like chicken!

This is a great book that talks to procrastination and how to prioritize your biggest tasks (frogs) first instead of the smaller and easier tasks.  By using his system, I’m able to knock out my big frogs and feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders.   Before using his system, I would go through the day completing lots of smaller tasks, feeling great, but always knowing that the ‘big frog’ was always going to be sitting on my desk staring at me.

On a weekly basis I sit down with my manager for a one on one status meeting to talk through my priorities.  I would suggest this for everyone to make sure your priorities line up with what is expected of you.  Before each status meeting I’ll prepare the same way as any other meeting by creating a meeting template with in Evernote.  For my one on one meetings, I like to review completed tasks for the week and set priorities for the upcoming week.  Going over completed tasks is a great way to start the meeting off.  It will give your manager an update of items you’ve accomplished for the week and set the tone for the upcoming week.  Starting off on a good note leads to much more productive meeting in my opinion.

While I’m not in meetings and keeping my instances of SQL Server running their best, I like to use Thomas A. Limoncelli’s (b|t) recommendations in his book Time Management for System Administrators.  This is a great book for those just getting started or the seasoned veterans looking for ways to maximize their day.  One of his points in the book is to how to handle interruptions.  Interruptions can be handled in three ways:

  1. Delegate It
  2. Record It
  3. Do it

Everyone dreads that simple question, “You got a minute?”, that rarely lasts under a minute.  You get two or more of these questions a day, and you can throw a wrench into any plans you had for completing your priority tasks.  When someone asks you for help, they just want to be acknowledged.  This is where Tom’s process helps, first you acknowledge the question, then determine where it lies with your other priorities.

Monkeys don’t make good co-workers

If you have the opportunity to delegate it, this is always your best option, get the monkey off your back! If it needs your attention and can wait, record it as a tasks, give the person asking the question an estimate to complete and go back to doing your higher priority items.  The last option, and the most damaging, is doing the task at that instance.  This is the best outcome for the person asking the question because they receive instant gratification, but requires you to break your concentration on your current task and shift your focus to something new.  Don’t forget to record this as a completed item in your master to do list.  These ‘little’ interruptions can push other tasks out, so make sure your manager is updated on interruptions during your one on one.

I hope these tips and two book recommendations help you prioritize your day and take control of interruptions!

The Wonderful World of Blogging!

Welcome to my blog.  My name is Doug Purnell and I live in Greensboro, NC.  I’ve been in the technology world for the last 20 years ever since graduating from Appalachian State University with a Computer Science degree.  I started in the Visual Basic 4.0 & SQL Server 6.5 world back in the early 90’s and have loved IT ever since.

My goal is to try to convey my experiences in the IT world from SQL Server, VMware, and the data center.  I’ll even try to throw in a few thoughts on Apple products, Nikon Photography and my weekend cookouts on the smoker.