Managing Abundance

So, you want more. Good for you. You want more time, more money, more stuff, more satisfaction, more life. Great! You strive for abundance which, by the way, happens to be our natural state as human beings. But are you prepared for that? Are you really ready to enjoy what you wish?

I’m not talking from a philosophical, law-of-attraction-ish standpoint. I’m talking from a very practical, day to day approach for managing your future abundance. If you consciously chose abundance and if you achieve it honestly, then you have to be able to actually manage it.

During my life I had several abundance thresholds. When I left home and came in my country’s main town to study, I had virtually nothing. I worked during my studies and I successfully managed to financially sustain myself during that time, and I did it more than decent. During next years I passed over several abundance milestones: from going out of the student’s hostel to rent my own apartment, later to buy my own apartment, and even later to move into my own house. Which, by the way, I discovered I had to clean a lot.

Each time I reached those milestones I faced several challenges. Each time I had to cope with a bigger flow of stuff coming into my life. But it wasn’t only stuff, it was more than that. I realized that abundance can walk into your life by taking one of the following three shapes. There is another one, the 4th shape, but I reserved a special chapter to it, at the end of this post.

1. You can have more stuff: 2 cars instead of one, a house instead of an apartment, more gadgets, more clothes, more things – you know the drill…
2. You can have more action: going to the gym, socializing in a different way, making appearance to new events, doing something completely new – everything that your new status requires from you to do in order to keep it up and running
3. You can be involved in new relationships: new friends, new social positions for you, a pool guy, a maid, a chauffeur, or just new persons that needs your constant attention

Don’t laugh. Or if you laugh just keep reading because this is about you and the abundance you are eager to achieve. It will include all this stuff. It will change your life. It will challenge you at a very deep level. It’s ok to laugh, as long as you’ll be prepared.

Failing to realistically manage your abundance can have unpleasant consequences. You can find yourself overwhelmed and lose track of your possessions, or you can fail in managing your new level of relationships and let your wealth slip through your fingers. Or you can be fooled into a “don’t deserve this because I don’t don’t know how to handle it” pattern, which is even worse than the first situation.

So here comes the practical advice:

Read moreManaging Abundance

Staying GTD Over The Hype

Two or three years ago, a strange topic about organization skills, de-cluttering and mind like water exploded on the Internet. It was about GTD, or Getting Things Done, a methodology for boosting productivity invented and shared by David Alled in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity [aff link]. This phenomenon lead to a sudden surge of new blogs, with 43folders.com of Merlin Mann becoming the icon blog for this trend. Soon, other useful and very popular blogs appeared. At that time even yours truly was a GTD wannabee and one of my very first posts in this blog – and one of the most popular, I must say – was about GTD for people in transition countries. GTD posts and blogs where spreading over the internet at light speed. It was the Golden Era.

But now the hype is over. Merlin Mann has switched his 43folder.com and we must re-learn how to use what was once the Internet Bible of the common GTD’er. Icon GTD blogger Brett Kelly handed over his popular GTD property Cranking Widgets Blog to a new voice, Andy Parkinson and in recent posts claim he cured his addiction for this technique.

GTD hype is over for good. But the benefits are here to stay. In this post I’ll outline what was left from GTD in my productivity rituals after the drop of the hype.

GTD Leftovers

There are at least 4 different things that somehow survived the golden era of GTD in my organizational behavior. Let’s take them one at  time:

Emptying your RAM

And getting rid of  “open loops”. In GTD terminology an “open loop” is a thought that is not solved, hence keep popping up in your head all the time. Solving this “open loop” is a matter of taking it out of your head and storing it in a trusted system, for further processing. This is something I kept and found extremely useful.

I don’t know about your brain, but my brain is not a rolodex for sure. I prefer to use my brain for doing creative stuff like writing, coding or something like that. I also use it for learning, either by absorbing information, either by experiencing. I don’t want to be bothered in these processes by unsolved “open loops”.

Next actions

I kept the habit of breaking projects into “next actions”. In GTD jargon, a “next action” is the next physical action required to move forward a project and it doesn’t have nothing to do with the logical structure of the project, most of the time. For instance, if your project is to change your plumbing, the next action will be “look up phone number of the plumber in the agenda @phone” and not “call the plumber”.  “Call the plumber” comes next to “look up the phone number”. Pretty logical, of course.

Next actions are a fantastic glue to my flow. After I created and constantly sustained the habit of breaking my projects into next actions, something nice happened: I started doing stuff instead of organize my day all day long.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s effective.

Read moreStaying GTD Over The Hype

Starting To Coach

Yesterday I had my first session as a coach. It started at 10:00 AM in the morning and lasted about 70 minutes. I just felt great during the whole session and from the feed-back I got from the person being coached, the feeling was shared. What is this coaching about? And why and how am I doing it? Well, let’s take it one step at a time…

After several weeks of discussions and alternative scenarios, Diana and I decided it’s time to slow down the move to New Zealand for a few months. It doesn’t make any sense to pursue it on this economical context. The destination is still the same, but we delayed the date of departure. It’s the same thing as looking through the mirror and decide to postpone your hiking because it is so raining outside. We both agreed this is the best move we can make now.

So, after waking up with a buffer of few more months ahead me I had to face a challenge. What am I going to do? A part from this blogging on eDragonu, of course. While being a very fulfilling activity for myself, this blog – and the business behind it – doesn’t necessarily have to be the only activity. I had to do a short analyze and sketch the short term schedule for the next period.

It took no more than a few days and I came up with two main goals: teaching and coaching. The teaching will involve live training sessions on topics that I’ve been writing about in the last few years, like time management, personal development, productivity and effectiveness, and, of course, GTD. Coaching will have the same underlying fundament, it will only have a different, one to one approach.

Why Am I Coaching?

The short answer is: because somebody asked me to. The long answer has some more subtle reasons, of course.

Read moreStarting To Coach

Power Blogging With Mac Journal – GTD Style

I started to use Mac Journal 2 years ago. Initially I was using it only for my journaling activities. I needed something a little more versatile than my plain text file structure, and with some searching facilities integrated. Fortunately, Mac Journal proved to have all this, and even more. I soon discovered that I can remotely publish to my blogs from within Journal, download posts into it (for backup or just convenience) and brainstorm my future posts.

During the past few months, since I decided to make from blogging my main activity – after selling my online publishing business – I started to use Journal intensively. In this post I’ll share how I use Mac Journal for blogging, how I set up my blogging environment and how I applied, using Mac Journal’s powerful “smart journals” feature, a GTD-like blogging scaffold.

Setting Up A Remote Blog From Within Mac Journal

This is not a mandatory step, as you can always use your online blogging admin interface, but it might be of interest. You can add a blog to your journal by selecting the option “Edit blog server” from the “Journal” menu. A pop-up with some simple options will appear. If you’re on a wordpress set up, as most of the people, you should check the “Movable Type” type of your publishing method. A good idea is to add “xmlrpc.php” to your post URL and the admin username. That’s it, you’re now connected to your blog and can start publish remotely. You can even download the entries from your blog into Mac Journal, by choosing “Download entires from blog…” from the same “Journal” menu. Of course, you can have more than one blog set up, if you have more than one.

Establish Your Blogging Habits

Mac Journal lets you apply some sort of meta data to your posts. That will not be transferred to your blog, but it’s a convenient way to organize your blogging habits. Some of that meta data is: status, priority and ranking. There are also others like: tags, annotations or even colored label, if you want, which can be used for some neat visual effects. Let’s see how we can use this meta data in order to set up a more productive blogging environment.

First of all, you need a congruent blog routine for this to work. If you’re going to use this on a daily basis, you have to establish some rules for your idea brainstorming or future posts. My data input set up is like this: whenever I add an idea for a post, I also add the status, which is most of the time “Not Started”, for ideas that are just popping out of my head, the priority, which can be any number from 1 to 5, and a rating and color label (this is only for internal auditing purposes).

The priority number is used for slipping up posts into “Next Posts” and “Someday / Maybe” posts and it uses a 3/4 threshold. Meaning any priority between 1 and 3 (inclusive) will go on the “Someday / Maybe” posts, and any priority between 4 (inclusive) and 5 will go into “Next Posts”. “Someday /Maybe” and “Next Posts” are smart journals. And they can get really smart, you’ll see. The rating and label are just metrics for auditing my blog activity. With a color label I can see at a glance how many working post I have, how many published, and so on.

Read morePower Blogging With Mac Journal – GTD Style

Mind Mapping For iPhone: iBlueSky

After my last GTD software review, the article about OmniFocus for iPhone, I received a lot of positive feed-back. But among all the messages, there was a specific email which intrigued me. It was an email from a United Kingdom based software company called Tenero, in which the main developer announced the availability of a mind mapping software for iPhone. Are you kidding? A mind mapping application for an iPhone? That would be really something.

Minutes after I received the message from the developer, I checked AppStore, search for an application called iBlueSky, and installed it. And started to play with it. And continued to play with it. And played with it even more. And, if I wouldn’t have to write this post, I assure that I would play with it even now 🙂 .

How to mind map with your iPhone

The first thing you notice when you use iBlueSky is the extreme simplicity of the interface. You only have 3 buttons on the lower bar and this is actually all you need.

Adding child items is as easy as hitting the “+” icon in the lower bar. Before that, you have to select the item which will contain the child branch. If you want to delete an item, or even an entire branch, you hit the recycle bin icon. Easy as pie. And if you want to edit the content of an item, double click it:

And yes, this is actually an iPhone in landscape mode, and we all know that this is the best mode for text input, since the keyboard will spread over much more space. I personally think that the lack of a landscape mode in the Mail of iPhone is a serious drawback, by the way…

Read moreMind Mapping For iPhone: iBlueSky

OmniFocus for iPhone – a GTD application reviewed

A simple Google search for omnifocus is revealing more than 220.000 results (as of October 2008), which, for a personal task manager application, is a lot. And I would say that this popularity is well deserved by OmniFocus. Not only because it won the Apple Awards for Best iPhone Productivity Application in 2008, but because is a really useful piece of software. OmniGroup, the makers of OmniFocus, are well known in the Mac world for their OmniOutliner and OmniPlan products. I used OmniOutliner a lot until I shifted to mind mapping but I still use it from time to time even today. As for OmniPlan, it was a key factor in big projects, when I used to run my own online publishing business.

But from a large structure planning application to a personal organizer implementing GTD there is quite a gap, and one cannot expect to apply the same knowledge in both areas. Maybe this is why OmniGroup made some very interesting moves back in 2006-2007, bringing into the development team of what they called at that time Omni Fu the icon GTD blogger Merlin Mann, and the maker of a popular GTD implementation called Kinkless, Ethan Schoonover. I dare to say that OmniFocus wouldn’t be what it is today without the advices and know-how of those GTD gurus.

But enough with praises, and let’s start reviewing OmniFocus for iPhone. I expect this post to be rather big, so put aside some time to read it. Also, I must say that the intended audience for this goes from the unexperienced iPhone user who wants to increase personal productivity to the moderate GTD follower, so if you fall between these categories, give it a read.

GTD with an iPhone

The first and the most important thing about OmniFocus is its compliance with the GTD methodology. For those of you unaware of this concept, GTD is a methodology invented by David Allen, which can dramatically boost one’s personal productivity. In short, by using GTD you are doing stuff (Actions) grouped together (Projects) in specific locations (Contexts) and by taking one step at a time (Next Actions). OmniFocus lets you add your Projects, fill them with Actions, assign them to Contexts, and see when and where you can do them. But a picture is worth a thousand words (have I already said that?) so here is how the home screen of OmniFocus looks like:

OmniFocus for iPhone home screen
OmniFocus home screen

Projects and Contexts are just usual handles for task management, so these are pretty self explanatory, but what you can see at a glance in the home screen is also the time constraint for your activities. Being able to see on the home screen how many tasks are due soon, how many are overdue and how many important (flagged) tasks you have is such a time saver. Another noticeable thing is the lower sidebar, which features icons for nearby contexts, syncing, and quick add an action to Inbox. That lower bar is available all over the application. Simple and clear interface.

Read moreOmniFocus for iPhone – a GTD application reviewed

Manage Your Time As You Manage Your Money

Time is money, that’s one of the oldest English sentences I learned. I guess I wasn’t even in school, and I remember I knew the meaning of this. And keep in mind that English is not my primary language, I was born and raised Romanian. Years after, I still surprise myself thinking in these terms. There is a common understanding that your time is one of your most precious assets, so you should take good care of it. Interestingly enough, this happens mostly in Western cultures, Eastern cultures seems to have a more relaxed attitude towards time.

But even more interesting is the fact that, despite the ubiquity of this saying, almost everybody tries to avoid its message. Don’t get me wrong, people are still putting a high value on time, making it a very precious asset, but almost nobody really treats time the same way they treats their money. People are eager for free time, they are making a lot of effort to gain some extra time, but once they get it, they are wasting it instantly, in a way they will never do to their money. In this post I’ll try to share a few simple and easy ideas for really keeping your time safely in your wallet, the same way you do with your finances.

Keep it clean

If you are a person moderately rich, I bet your wallet looks like a pharmacy. It’s clean and ordered and you know in less than a second where to find the ten dollar bill, as well as the Mastercard you use for shopping only. And even if you are not a moderately rich person, but you have a positive attitude towards money, I bet your wallet is clean and ordered. I know mine is. And I know I have quite a positive attitude towards money.

So why don’t we do the same with our time? For me, that translates in a very clean and ordered working routine. If time will be sliced into ten, twenty and fifty dollars bills, I would know instantly how much do I have left, and where I find the needed bill every time I need it. Slicing my time in ordered pieces, the same way I did with bills and cards in my wallet helped me a lot. And is such a simple yet powerful analogy: keep your time as your wallet.

Read moreManage Your Time As You Manage Your Money

GTD as a downshifting tool

Downshifting is a good thing. As one of the bloggers who haven’t blogged for the last few weeks, I can assure you that downshifting is good for your health. I’m not going to explain what downshifting is, I’m sure that a whole library couldn’t give you an exact idea, but I will tell you how … Read more GTD as a downshifting tool