hiTask Blog

Sep 05

Success and Motivation - You only have to be right once!

In basketball you have to shoot 50pct. If you make an extra 10 shots per hundred, you are an All-Star. In baseball you have to get a hit 30 pct of the time. If you get an extra 10 hits per hundred at bats, you are on the cover of every magazine, lead off every SportsCenter and make the Hall of Fame.

In Business, the odds are a little different. You don’t have to break the Mendoza line (hitting .200). In fact, it doesnt matter how many times you strike out. In business, to be a success, you only have to be right once.

One single solitary time and you are set for life. That’s the beauty of the business world.

I like to tell the story of how I started my first business at age 12, selling garbage bags. No one ever has asked if I was any good or made money at it. I was, and I did…enough to buy some tennis shoes :).

I like to tell the story of how I started up a bar, Motley’s Pub when I wasn’t even of legal drinking age the summer before my senior year at Indiana University. No one really asks me how it turned out. It was great until we got busted for letting a 16-year-old win a wet t-shirt contest (I swear I checked her ID, and it was good!).

No one really asks me about my adventures working for Mellon Bank, or Tronics 2000, or trying to start a business selling powdered milk (it was cheaper by the gallon, and I thought it tasted good). They don’t ask me about working as a bartender at night at Elans when I first got to Dallas, or getting fired from my job at Your Business Software for wanting to close a sale rather than sweeping the floor and opening up the store.

No ever asked me about what it was like when I started MicroSolutions and how I used to count the months I was in business, hoping to outlast my previous endeavors and make this one a success.

With every effort, I learned a lot. With every mistake and failure, not only mine, but of those around me, I learned what not to do. I also got to study the success of those I did business with as well. I had more than a healthy dose of fear, and an unlimited amount of hope, and more importantly, no limit on time and effort.

Fortunately, things turned out well for me with MicroSolutions. I sold it after 7 years and made enough money to take time off and have a whole lot of fun.

Back then I can remember vividly people telling me how lucky I was to sell my business at the right time.

Then when I took that money and started trading technology stocks that were in the areas that MIcroSolutions focused on. I remember vividly being told how lucky I was to have expertise in such a hot area, as technology stocks started to trade up.

Of course, no one wanted to comment on how lucky I was to spend time reading software manuals, or Cisco Router manuals, or sitting in my house testing and comparing new technologies, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

The point of all this is that it doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and either should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because…

All that matters in business is that you get it right once.

Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

from Psychology - The Search for Understanding 
by Janet A. Simons, Donald B. Irwin and Beverly A. Drinnien
West Publishing Company, New York, 1987


Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that has influenced a number of different fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high level of practicality of Maslow’s theory. This theory accurately describes many realities of personal experiences. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize some features of their experience or behavior which is true and identifiable but which they have never put into words.

Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that human beings are pushed and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviorism) or of unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists focus upon potentials. They believe that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labeled “fully functioning person”, “healthy personality”, or as Maslow calls this level, “self-actualizing person.”

Maslow has set up a hierarchic theory of needs. All of his basic needs are instinctoid, equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition that is then fashioned fully as the person grows. If the environment is right, people will grow straight and beautiful, actualizing the potentials they have inherited. If the environment is not “right” (and mostly it is not) they will not grow tall and straight and beautiful.

Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow’s basic needs are as follows:

Physiological NeedsThese are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person’s search for satisfaction.

Safety NeedsWhen all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.

Needs of Love, Affection and BelongingnessWhen the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

Needs for EsteemWhen the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

Needs for Self-ActualizationWhen all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.” “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a self-actualizing person of his/her own kind. Ten points that educators should address are listed:

  1. We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
  2. We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.
  3. We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.
  4. We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
  5. We must accept the person as he or she is and help the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.
  6. We must see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
  7. We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
  8. We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.
  9. We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
  10. We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making good choices.

Building a GTD House

There was a great discussion on GTD Connect about how to setup a new GTD system. I offered some tips on what I would consider when building a system.

I look at a GTD system as being like a house. You need 5 basic rooms in that house for your Projects and Actions (10k and runway). For most people, their Calendar already lives somewhere. If that works for you, keep it there. If not, find somewhere else for it that does work for a complete personal/professional view of calendar stuff. For the other 4 rooms, you just need something that will allow you to create lists that can sort by context/category, allow due date (but not force it) and allow a field to capture additional notes on the entry (when needed). So that house might look like:

Ground floor (where you’ll spend most of your time):
Next Actions list(s) (these are context lists tracking your next actions)
Calendar
Waiting For list(s)

Second floor (good overview, looking down on the ground floor):
Projects list(s)

Attic (place to keep the ‘seasonal’, not yet needed stuff):
Someday/Maybe list(s)

You want this house to live somewhere that is:
- a place you like (don’t underestimate this one)
- a place you can access the information easily (too slow will fustrate you)
- somewhere you feel free putting things into (not everyone wants “get legs waxed” on their work computer)
- portable, if needed (printing works, if not handheld sync)
- something you would feel like maintaining if you were sick in bed (don’t get sucked into complicated is better)
- it is scalable for your personal and professional work (give yourself room to capture it all and continue to grow)

Out in the backyard, in a tool shed you can get to easily, you’ll also want a place for your non-actionable stuff (checklists, reference lists and reference files.) And, please, get a good filing cabinet!

By the way, this is not in the GTD book—just my way of explaining this after years of doing seminars and looking for the easiest way to demystify “lists” for people.

Hope it helps.

Full archive available here

New Feature: Activity feed

You can see all that’s happening in your hiTask account easily by checking the Activity tab. Task completion, comments, changes and everything else, all listed there.

Aug 24

Though Time-Consuming, To-Do Lists Are a Way of Life

For John David Herman, to-do lists are an effort to alleviate clutter in his brain. For years, the telecommunications-brokerage founder used thousands of 3-inch-by-5-inch index cards to manage everything he had to do and when he had to do it. All of this took an immense amount of time, particularly because it often involved copying information from business cards.

His system also had imperfections. Sometimes he would lose track of a card or, worse, lose it altogether. “Then you have to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times in 25 years that happens.”

Finally, back in 1996, Mr. Herman dumped his cards. By then he had duplicated the contents of every card in a database program, FileMaker, which synchronizes with a calendar program, which synchronizes with a hand-held computer. “I spent a couple of family vacations” copying the data, he says.

Spending vast quantities of time to ensure that you don’t waste any of it may not seem to make a lot of sense. Certainly some of that time could be better spent doing some of the things that are being put on the list. But anyone familiar with agendas knows that getting things done is rarely on them.

For some aficionados, a to-do list is a talisman to ward off the steady creep of forgetfulness. For others, it’s a method to boost self-esteem or reduce clutter. Whatever its purpose, some advice for the uninitiated to avoid getting trampled: Never stand between a hippo and water or a lister and his list.

Oftentimes, list makers scorn the laggards among us whose failed efforts to become listers are symbolized by all the furry balls of illegible paper that get left behind in the washing machine.

"It’s almost impossible for me to trust a nonlister," admits Ilya Welfeld. "It’s hard for me to believe that anything will get done." She’s so committed that she has made lists of lists to organize her work as a communications consultant. She even shanghaied her three-year-old son’s easel to assemble her "priority list," which isn’t to be confused with her main to-do list, which she compiles in Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks.

If Alan Friedman, a 24-year-old mortgage broker, wants his wife to pick up orange juice, he makes sure to add it to her list. “After three or four times of not getting orange juice, I finally wrote it down,” says the nonlister. If he ever made lists himself, he adds, he’d need a list just to know where he put his lists. (Once, to try to become a lister, he bought himself a Palm hand-held. How did it work out? “I lost it,” he says.)

In fact, to-do lists often aren’t the key to productivity they’re cracked up to be. Harold Taylor, a time-management consultant in Keswick, Ontario, says lists can become a procrastination tool. “The name of the game becomes getting as many things done as possible as opposed to getting the most important things done,” he says. He claims to know people who add tasks to their to-do lists after they’ve completed them just so they can cross them off. He adds that pocket computers can make things worse. “If you’re disorganized,” he says, “all this technology does is speed up your disorganization.”

Julie Morgenstern, a professional organizer and author of “Making Work Work,” estimates that as many as 30% of listers spend more time managing their lists than completing what’s on them. “It can be a sign of being overwhelmed,” she says. “They are more comfortable in the pause mode than the action mode. It’s safer to be planning than doing.”

Nonetheless, Rick Sonkin says his to-do system has been running smoothly for 25 years. “I’ll make the note in the office so when I get home, I’ll be forced to relieve my pockets of the notes,” he explains. “So then I’ll be forced to read the note, at which time I’ll execute the note, at which time I’ll throw the note out.” (In the event a task isn’t done that night, Mr. Sonkin puts the outstanding note in his wallet, which reminds him to put it back in his shirt pocket the next morning. “It’s a carry-over system,” he says.)

Deanna Brown, publisher of Breathe magazine, makes her list each day to improve her self-esteem. “The more things I get to cross off, the more accomplished I feel,” she says. “Sure, I could probably accomplish a handful more things every day if I didn’t write the list, but they might not be the right things.”

Ms. Brown devotes 30 minutes a day to creating her list — and not, say, calling her mother, a to-do item that has been on her list for about a month. The fact that her mom “made the list means that I’m thinking about her,” she notes.

Stan Collender, managing director of the business communications firm Financial Dynamics, is a recovering listiac. He used to make extensive lists each night for the next day, marking the high-priority items with a star and the highest of the high-priority items with a double star. He says he became “a slave to them,” missing more important priorities that emerged during the day.

But he couldn’t quit cold turkey, so he kept making lists but downgraded his expectations of how many of the tasks he needed to accomplish. His lists today are a reminder of things that need to get done “at some point,” he says.

Email your comments to cjeditor@dowjones.com.

Aug 07

The art of improv: How to make decisions without a script

It’s known as ‘The Actor’s Nightmare,’ but it happens just as frequently in business: you step in front of an audience ready to dazzle them with your brilliance.

Then you freeze.

What do you do?

For many people, the ability to think on one’s feet is either an inherited trait, a special talent, or a skill as mysterious as it is elusive.

We know differently.

Responsiveness pays off

So much of your success in business depends on your ability to be nimble and responsive to the dynamics around you – among your colleagues, with your customers, your competitors, or the market you work in.

What if you could learn to be supremely confident in all these situations? How would it feel to be quicker on your feet in presentations? Or more nimble around changing team dynamics?

What if you could become productive overall – and someone widely recognized for having great ideas and amazing collaboration skills?

And finally, what if the source of that new confidence was the special lessons, insights, and learning that actors in a unique art form rely on every minute they’re on stage?

I’m referring to the art of improvisation – and the fact that improv-based training is drawing wide attention in the business world today for its unique application to our fast-moving times.

Affirmation, creation, and mutual support

Improvisation involves working without a script. The special magic of an improv performance comes in the training the actors receive in how to navigate a scene, then show they’re performing in ways that build, support, and enhance each other.

At its essence, improvisation is about affirmation, creation, and mutual support.

A simple premise

Improvisational training is best explained this way: one person puts forward an idea or proposition, and other members of the group acknowledge and build upon that idea.

This simple premise is a great tool for brainstorming or presenting to groups in an interactive setting – and it allows new ideas to grow and reach their full potential before being bombarded by the common objections that stop most ideas in their tracks.

Is it naïve to suggest that what works for actors will work in business? Is all this easier said than done?

The easy answer, of course, is to point to the hundreds of companies that have embraced improv methods to help them change their cultures, align their people, develop their leaders, and connect better with their customers.

Jul 30

Getting Things Done - Collection, Processing, and Organizing chart.
Formally on: https://www.bol.ucla.edu/~smerino/gtd/gtd-1.html and ZenHabits.net

Getting Things Done - Collection, Processing, and Organizing chart.

Formally on: https://www.bol.ucla.edu/~smerino/gtd/gtd-1.html and ZenHabits.net

Jul 24

Android app updated with timer and fresh look

Update of Android app is available!

Jun 27

New: big, beautiful Calendar to see your events and tasks in weekly and monthly grid!

New: big, beautiful Calendar to see your events and tasks in weekly and monthly grid!image

Jun 21

Organsmic Systems Psychology

Biology, based on physics and chemistry, is the core of the knowledge that humans need indispensably for organizing better their survival, because it is necessarily the basis for the evolvement of behavioral sciences which are essential for the evolvement of social sciences.

Through the application of organismic-systems biology to human behavior LvB conceived and developed the organismic-systems psychology, as the theoretical prospect needed for the gradual comprehension of the various ways human personalities may evolve and how could they evolve properly, being supported by a holistic interpretation of human behavior.

Every human individual is an open system with uniquely human qualities; then every human individual should be treated and respected as a whole dynamic entity and should not be considered and used as an object or as a fragment of a whole person. Humans should not see each other as embodiments of one or several human traits, but instead as complex and ever changing systems that may achieve a revolution of harmony.

"What is badly needed is a timely image of man. Since the previous proud image derived from religion and philosophy does not serve modern needs efficiently, a new image should be synthesized… I would contend that this is a very important business indeed—to find out what actually is human."

Learning to see the individual human being as a whole dynamic entity rather than as an assortment of parts, processes and traits leads towards finding out how to tackle those societal problems caused by the fact that many people are nowadays product of a modern Zeitgeist of machine idolatry reinforced every day by mechanistic interpretations of their biological features and their social prospects.

Humans perceive patterns “Gestalten” rather than sums of sensations; then human behavior should not be dissected into different and non-related responses. Human personality is more than the sum of its parts. The values that should help every human to develop his/her individuality ought to be derived from the proper comprehension of the nature of life, which would lead every one of us “…to treat life with reverence, (then) we will tend to treat each other with respect”

The basic question about the mind-body problem is the riddle of the mind interacting with the body. The “self” is not separate from the external world and the cosmos in every personality, as they are a continuum. When mind and body are treated separately they are distorted conceptually till they become linguistic fictions. Psychology and biology are really two aspects of only one discipline, so are psychiatry and medicine. To continue handling the mind-body dualism reinforce the myth that maintains the presence of behaviorism, which is unacceptable because the organism is not a passive automaton reacting to stimuli, it is indeed an autonomous active system. The human being seen as a mind-body unity would lead towards a holistic medicine. But, what prevails is an increasing medical specialization, which is accelerating the dehumanization of medicine. Medical specialists being trained by means of reductionist views accept easily to be mechanistically inclined. The holistic approach should be adopted at once by the medical profession. Every patient should be diagnosed and treated as a psychophysical whole. The unitary concept of mental illness propounds that mental disorder is a systemic disease rather than a number of separate diseases. Disturbed individuals should be helped to restore the “vital balance”. Every human being exhibits “equi-final self-preservation” which makes possible to emphasize the body’s natural healing powers of any patient who ought to use his/her inner directed ability to protect or restore his/her respective wholeness.

The Bertalanffian organismic-systems psychology was the basis for his “new image of man”, which embodies individual responsibility and individual worth. This image was developed to combat the fallacy shared by robotomorphism and zoomorphism: the principle of reactivity according to which all behavior is strictly utilitarian, consisting of the gratification of needs or relaxation of tensions. LvB faulted Freud for “reducing human behavior to animal ‘drives’, ‘instincts’, or [biological] ‘tissue needs’—essentially sex, hunger, and aggression”, though he lauded Freud’s psychoanalytic exploration of the unconscious, which sounds unmechanistic. Neither Homo sapiens is a conditioned-response kind of robot nor is an incorrigible mere ape. A self-image portraying the human as just another animal would tend to make us indifferent to social inequalities and to make us fatalistic about the recurrence of war. An image depicting the human being as merely a physico-chemical machine would encourage people in all walks of life to treat their fellow human being as an assembly-line object to be manipulated rather than as a unique individual. “The image of man is not only a theoretical question,… it is a question of the preservation of man as human”.