Tuesday, January 07, 2014


My blog has moved to a new location.  If you are a follower of this blog please check out our new home at harveyyoung.com.  You should be able to view the blog on your computer as well as mobile devices.  The new site is simple, clean and easy to view.  There are more changes coming but for now I will be posting some of our most viewed posts from this site.  I look forward to seeing you in our new location and hope you will subscribe to be a follower.

Would love to hear your comments and thoughts.  Look for frequent posts on this new location.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Do That Thing

Here we are at day three of the new year.  By now we are struggling to remember that it is 2014.  We are writing the date incorrectly and we are still amazed about the blur that was 2013.  We are also now three days into our new plans, goals and resolutions.  How are you doing?

I have been thinking this week about the things I plan to do.  I have set goals and have developed a list of the daily and weekly activities that will move me forward towards my goals.  Some of these seem a bit scary at this point.  Great setup.  Yet, what really matters now is that I do those things.  While most goals fail because of a lack of explicit direction about what you are actually going to do, they also fail because we fail to do the thing we said we were going to do.

This post is not about planning.   It is about doing.  Remember that we are encouraging you to take small and incremental steps to achieve big results.  I have written about this before.  If you want to make any improvement you must start.  I start small.  So small in fact that perhaps it might seem laughable.  However, a small start certainly beats not starting at all.  Perhaps you are thinking that the conditions are not yet right, or you need some special tool or equipment.  Maybe you are waiting for someone else to start with you.  Any or all of these may be true but they are also classic ways to procrastinate.  

Let’s revisit a couple of simple ideas.  Did you determine what small activities will move you towards your goals?  This is your what to do.  Did you determine how often you will do those things?  This is your how much to do.  Finally, did you put the calendar on the wall?  Does it have any “X’s” yet?  This is your scoreboard.  Let’s get moving now.  If you already have three “X” marks then good for you.  Keep it going.  If you don’t have any “X” marks today you are going to get your first.  If you are wondering how, my advice is simple -  Do That Thing.
Remember that at this point we are not focused on quantity or even quality.  At this point we are focused on activity and the resultant change in behavior that is required to get your results.  

As soon as you finish reading this, I want you to get up, and Do That Thing.  Tweet me your results @copioustime.  Leave a comment here.  Most importantly, just Do That Thing.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Five to Fifteen Minutes a Day

Yesterday I wrote about the process of making Daily Rituals.  I want to continue that focus today.

I have learned that making progress in any area requires you to keep score of your progress.  By keeping score I mean to keep score in a public and visible way.  I have seen first hand the impact of keeping score.  This applies not just to areas of athletics but we see it in the most simple ways.  Just look around you at the number of people you notice wearing some sort of personal measurement device.  This trend is now a multi-million dollar business, with Nike creating a Rose Gold Fuel Band as people are tracking everything from their daily steps to their sleeping patterns.  The old adage is true, “You can not improve something you can not measure.”

I want to encourage you to capture the power of score keeping and daily measurement.  Here is the plan.  Today I want you to spend just five to fifteen minutes in a quiet place.  Turn off your email and all other distractions.  While you are in this quiet place choose one thing in your life you would like to improve.  Do not worry about how significant the improvement will be.  This is an exercise in consistency.  Next, determine what small daily activity would move your goal forward.  As an example, if you chose read more the small action might be read for 15 minutes each day.

Now that you have chosen your area of improvement and identified your small activity, the next thing you need to do is to find a calendar.  Choose a calendar you can hang on the wall.  The calendar will become your physical scoreboard.  Post the calendar in a prominent place it must be visible to you at all times.  Next, get a red marker and keep it beside the calendar.  Now, if you are with me so far you have earned your first check mark since you did spend 15 minutes deciding what you are going to do.  On your calendar mark a large red “X” for today.  Tomorrow you must do the small thing you chose (read for 15 minutes in our example).  Immediately after you complete your task go to the calendar and mark that big red “X.”  Do this EVERY day for the next two months.  Every day means seven days each week.

So what is the point?  Once you get enough red marks you will not want to miss a day.  You will get your red mark because the activity is small.  In about two months you will have a new habit.  Don’t set a time for doing your activity.  Just do it every day. before the day ends.

Let me know if you are willing to join me on this.  I started yesterday and have earned my two marks.  Good Luck.    

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Daily Rituals

We spend so much time talking about what we want to do but we often never really get started.  Yet, there are in fact many things we do perhaps almost automatically and unconsciously.  These are our habits and they all started small.  Habits such as our morning rituals that we do daily.  Every day.  Ever wonder how those habits began?  What makes those habits stick for us such that they are things we do without thought or prompting?

I believe that in order to move from what we talk about or even hope to do requires us to create new habits or rituals.  The process of creating these habits is most effectively accomplished when we start small.  Let’s take a simple habit like our daily cup of coffee.  Many years ago when I started drinking coffee it was centered around relaxation and a social activity.  I would “go for coffee” with people from work.  That activity was intended to be a break from the work, which is what I wanted.  The coffee was just an activity.  Coffee was located in an area of the office where people would gather and sit for a few minutes.  It was common to enjoy your coffee in the break room before returning to work.  That simple routine was relaxing, did not take a large amount of time, and created many memories of conversations with friends and colleagues.  Over the coming years going for coffee became something that was then done before arriving at work.  Then it was the idea of stopping at a familiar place to get that first morning cup.  The quality of that cup of coffee was really high and it became a central ritual to my morning.  As time passed the morning cup of coffee became something that I made at home seeking to replicate the quality of that cup that I purchased at my local coffee shop.  Ultimately making that morning cup of coffee became so automatic that it was a part of my daily routine.  It required little thought.

Looking back on that small ritual I realize that the creation of new rituals in many ways may be as simple as having a daily cup of coffee.  Start with thinking about what you want (a moment of relaxation).  Next determine some small movement towards what you want (go to the break room for a few minutes).  Then, determine what you will do in that small increment of time (have a cup of coffee).  Finally, just do that every day.  Moving from desire to routines and ultimately habits is just this simple.   

As we seek to make improvements in our lives we must move our desires to a point of action and daily routines.  Small and simple acts that move us from where we are to where we want to be.

What do you want?  What simple act can you take to move in that direction?  

Monday, December 09, 2013

Life's Operating System

The classic definition of a system is that it is a set of procedures or operations that are used to achieve a specific result.  We don’t think of our lives as having an operating system and in fact I would argue that most people do not see the value of understanding their inherent system.  What we often see instead is that we have desires or even goals but no systems. Goals are important, but a goal does not help us to understand how to achieve the desired result.  A system is required to move us forward incrementally to results we desire.  Understanding your system is an important hack.

I think that it would be beneficial to view life from the perspective of having an operating system.  For the sake of simplicity lets call this Life Operating System or LiOS.  As I thought about this I began to wonder if there would be versions of this operating system.  I have concluded that there should be.  As we mature it is likely that we would use different versions of an operating system.  As an example in the earliest stages of life version 1 would include the very basics of life learning such as learning to sleep, talk and walk.  In our early learning years we might be using OS 2.  Adolescence would bring on OS 3 while adulthood might be OS 4, etc.  Each version would include features that build upon the previous versions yet the upgrades would be essential to our continuum of growth and maturity.  

I am well over 50.  By my rough estimate I am now utilizing LiOS 7.  If you are wondering, I do not imagine that there would be ten versions.  In LiOS 7 there are a number of key features.  In this version those fortunate enough to have established a career and family are also likely very busy.  This version comes with features to manage that busyness.  Features include the ability to reduce distractions, connectedness, and awareness of the need for renewal,  Another feature is the ability to maintain relevance.

If we assume that we are all users of our respective operating systems then it becomes important to learn the features and benefits of that system.  Here is what I have learned about LiOS 7.  Experience, wisdom and hope are key features. Exercise and diet are also features.  Not every feature of this system is positive.  While there would be an inclination to call these negative features bugs, I have just come to recognize that like most operating systems we are likely to not want all the features that are built in.  One such reality is that the system does come to an end.  This is one constant in all versions.

What do you think are other features of this operating system?  How might this approach benefit our thinking?  Finally, what are you doing to master your system.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Are You a Basket Case?

Clutter is a great distraction.  There are a number of solutions to reducing clutter but the one that I see implemented most often is the placing of “baskets” in those places that tend to collect clutter.  I am fairly organized and as I write this in my office I notice that there are no less than fifteen such containers.  Not all of them are baskets.  I have a couple of wooden boxes, there are metal tins, and two large wooden boxes.  Each of these items were acquired with the intent of organizing my clutter.  I am guessing that each time I have introduced a new container the idea has worked.  The problem is that every time my office becomes cluttered I acquire a new basket of some sort.  This is how I arrived at more than fifteen.   I don’t know the contents of all the containers but several of them are full.

Baskets take up physical space.  Yet, they don’t exist just in our offices.  There are a number of other physical and virtual containers in our lives.  Your email inbox is one of those places.  The Task or To Do List serves as another container and then there are all the paper notes.  There are cloud containers such as Dropbox and Evernote.  These are all wonderful tools but they can be like just another basket.  Just yesterday I decided to clean up the clutter on my computer desktop.  I moved the files to a folder called “Desktop to vet” this sounded very organized when I created it yesterday.  I just checked and there are 102 files.  That is not organized.

I have way too many “baskets” in my life.  This is not a post about getting to inbox zero.  Rather, I am just concerned that we are holding too much stuff.  I am suggesting that we need to empty the containers and I can certainly say that in my case I need to reduce the number of baskets.  

The following is my plan.  First, I am committing to review the contents of at least one container every day.  The goal is to make decisions about where stuff belongs.  Each day I will place the contents in an appropriate long term location which will frequently include deleting, giving away, or throwing away items.  My goal is to reduce baskets and know their contents.  Here are some examples of potential baskets.  Empty the Trash on your computer;  Delete no less than 25 email messages every day;  Remove papers from your briefcase or purse;  Read the notes in your notebook and file them in an appropriate place:  Make decisions about files on your desktop and delete them.  Reduce your cloud storage.  Open an actual basket and get rid of stuff.  Do this every day.  Start today.

Will you join me in assessing just how many “baskets” you have in your life and empty a few?  Hit me back to share your thoughts.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Pre-Game Warm-Up Routine

This is not a blog about sports which might make today’s title a bit misleading.  Although, as often happens in life the inspiration for the post came from watching a sporting event.  

On Friday night I had a chance to watch the beginning of the Miami Heat basketball game.  This is not typical for me but while channel surfing I saw that the Heat game was about to begin so I stopped on the channel.  While sitting there watching I watched LeBron James during the pre-game warm-ups.  I observed him smiling, taking shots and generally having a relaxing time on the court.  As I continued to watch it appeared that several players decided to practice dunking the ball.  In the short few minutes that followed I watched a number of spectacular dunks executed by LeBron that made me wonder why he does not participate in the NBA dunk competition.  Admittedly it was fun to watch and caused me to stay tuned to the game longer than I might otherwise have done.

The thought of watching the players in their pre-game routine stayed with me for much of the weekend.  I know that for athletes pre-game activities are an important part of the game itself.  You can see them stretching, throwing the ball, running the bases or running routes.  All of this activity is designed to help them perform better during the game.  While I am not much of an athlete, this caused me to think about my own routines and I realized that in many ways I have a pre-game routine.  While the game I play in is far different from a sports competition, the game requires me to be “on” and at my best.  My routine starts when I wake up which more often than not happens around 5:00am.  I don’t normally wake to an alarm clock but find myself naturally becoming aware that I am awake.  When I am on my regular schedule I am fairly guaranteed that this will happen around the same time every day, even on weekends.  Once awake I lay in bed for a while just processing my thoughts and observing where my mind is.  I think about my dreams from the prior night and I begin to think through my day.  This typically lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes but I usually do not fall back to sleep as I wake up feeling rested.  Once up I go through the typical morning routines that we all have around personal hygiene and then I start my morning exercise which is followed by my shower then a light breakfast.  I do this routine no less than four days each week and I strive to make it six.  I find on the days that I follow my routine I feel best and my energy level and focus is highest.  I am working to make morning meditation a part of this routine as I think it would help my overall outlook and performance during the day.  

You might note in this that I did not mention email.  That is not part of my morning routine.  Most days I do not look at email prior to at least 7:00am and sometimes slightly longer.  Email is just not the best way to start a productive day.

The question that I am asking my readers to ponder today is this.  Do you have a pre-game routine that you follow?  Does your routine boost your energy and improve your outlook?  And finally, what changes do you need to make to start your day off with a smile and bounce in your step?

Friday, March 01, 2013

This is What I Think

As a person more oriented to introversion than extroversion I find that I spend lots of time thinking.  Sometimes we call this living in our head and while that is helpful, I think that sometimes you need to flesh out those thoughts and take the time to examine them externally.  As I have written before  I take lots of notes on paper which are intended to capture many of the thoughts I have during the week.  Looking back at those notes some of my thoughts are random, some have spurred ideas, some express a frustration, and some are worth celebrating.  I decided that today I would share just a few of the thoughts I have captured from the past week.

So here is what I think:

I think it says a lot about our nation that we began this week worried about who wore what on the Red Carpet and we are ending our week worried about the impact of federal budget cuts.  I think that Sequester is dumb for both sides.  But I also think that neither side has it right yet.  We should manage our expenses and monitor our revenue.  If you need a history lesson on this examine the airline industry since the 80s.  I think that having breakfast with my uncles this week was one of the highlights of my week.  I think that just because someone does not share your point of view that does not make them aggressive or your enemy.  I think that we should strive to wake up by 5:00am.  If you are tired at that time then you stayed up too late.  I think we should listen longer to people, and open doors.  I think that if you hug someone you should hold on until they let go.  I think that you should not read your email first thing in the morning.  I doubt it is really that important.  I think that you should spend the time during which you are not reading email to meditate, pray, exercise and organize your day.  I think that we should drink water in the morning before we drink caffeine (by the way it will cause you to drink less caffeine).  I think that Jack Lalanne had it right that there are too many unhappy people.  If you are too young to know who that is you should watch this he was not perfect and he did not live forever, but his views about health still resonate.  I think we should exercise six days each week.  I don’t always achieve that but it remains a goal that I focus on.  I think you should take the time to know how your phone and computer actually work.  These are powerful productivity tools.  I think that those of us over 45 should check our Blood Pressure more often.  I learned this last week and was shocked.  I think you should know who your partners are and make sure you are adding value to them.  I think that we all need a cheering section (thanks Chuck).  I also think that we should be  part of the cheering section for someone else.  Start by cheering those that you love.  I think there should be a perceptible difference between your waist and your chest.  I also think that most americans already have achieved that but perhaps we should change the perception.  I think that time is a resource that should never be wasted.  I also think that the greatest poverty in our world is the failure to pay attention (thanks Brian Tome).  Finally, I think that you need a notebook to capture your thoughts.

Thanks for listening.  What do you think?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are You Listening

Yesterday I boarded a flight to Philadelphia.  That is nothing new as when you live in Pittsburgh to fly most places you either fly to Philly or to Charlotte.  The good news was that Philly was my final destination.  What was very different about the flight was that my seat was one row from the rear of the plane.  Normally I would prefer not to sit that far back but this was only a short flight.  

As seems to happen more and more often this flight was full.  Since we were flying mid-day there were a number of business people with their briefcases, backpacks, and pretty much everything else they were allowed to carry on to the plane.  There was even a young mother carrying a fairly young child joining us in the back of the plane.  Sometimes when I see a young baby I get a bit anxious as flying is not yet normal for them and can be upsetting.  Actually, I wonder whether flying is normal for anyone even those that fly frequently.  

Our flight attendant got everyone boarded about fifteen minutes early.  This was no small feat.  Then she proceeded to make an announcement explaining why she was moving us along so quickly.  It turns out that yesterday was the equivalent of her Friday (it was Tuesday for me) and she had a date in Philadelphia.  The point being she wanted to get home and get ready.  She then proceeded to make all of the customary announcements that are required by law and airline safety rules.  I have heard these announcements thousands of times yet I still stop what I am doing to listen.  Perhaps because I typically sit in the front of the aircraft I listen as a means of being polite to the person that will be serving me for the duration of the flight.  It is also possible that I listen because I think it is prudent to do so.  Either way, I do listen.  

As I sat in the rear of the plane what I observed was that very few of my fellow passengers were listening at all.  I saw people playing with their stuff, wearing their headphones, and texting/reading email, but very few were listening.  At one point our flight attendant said in her Philadelphia accent “lissen.”  That did not seem to work.  When the plane was taxiing to the runway there were still a number of people that had to be told to remove their headphones, and turn off their electronic devices.  This included my seat mate who was asked by a pilot after repeated requests, to turn his phone off (it was ringing at the time).

I think that we are becoming a society that does not listen very much.  We have way too many ways to ignore the people around us and given that most of us carry our personal information and entertainment everywhere we go why would we listen to anyone at all?  The problem is that in failing to listen we are also failing to learn.  We are missing the world around us.  We are not seeing because we are not listening and when we don’t see we can’t be productive.  See what I am saying?

All year I have been hearing the same message over and over again.  I am listening and waiting to see what this is all about, and as a final note I hope that flight attendant had a great date since I was listening.  

Are you listening?  Listening requires action.  What are you going to do?  If you want to read more about listening Go Here  If you like this post please post a link on FaceBook or Twitter.  I would like to know if you are listening.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Greatness Guy

I was having a conversation with a colleague in a coffee shop several months ago.  We talked about family, philosophy, exercise and food.  Pretty much the usual conversation when you meet someone in person for the first time.  As we got around to the work that we were preparing for that day my colleague shared with me his role based approach to his job.  On the surface someone that did not really know him would say that he has a sales role in our organization.  However, my colleague told me that he sees himself as a “Greatness Guy.”

To the uninformed, my colleague’s self-ascribed title might seem a bit arrogant.  But this bears a fuller explanation.  We work for FranklinCovey.  Our organization has as its mission the following:  We enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere.  My colleague (we can call him Mark since that is his real name) sees his role in sales in our company as one of creating opportunities for greatness for our clients.  Thus, the role of Greatness Guy.  

I was thinking about Mark today and that statement came back to me.  Imagine what might be different in your world if you stopped seeing yourself from just your job title.  Let’s say you are a third grade school teacher but instead see yourself as a Creator of Curious Minds.  Or rather than seeing yourself as a Manager see yourself as a Communicator of your team’s Worth and Potential.  As a Mom you could see yourself as a  Character and Competence Coach.  Or for yourself you could become a Corporate Athlete.

What Mark has realized is that there is great power in thinking about our roles from a different perspective.  When we focus on the outcomes we want to achieve we can see and do things differently.  Your accountability increases, and you establish a clear set of expectations about what you can be counted on to do and achieve.

A significant part of being productive is to first decide what you really want to achieve. We can choose to decide for ourselves what we want to do or we can wait until the priorities of others dictate our responses.  A focused and proactive approach to our own most important outcomes and priorities is fulfilling and increases the chances that we might actually get something done that really matters.

Oh yes, and as for Mark, he is not just selling solutions, he is enabling greatness with people and organizations around the world.  What roles do you play that you need to think about differently?  Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Productivity is About Getting Things Done

This past week I had the opportunity to work with a couple of different organizations on improving their productivity.  I find often times that at the end of the session I get several comments from people that indicate that they appreciate the ideas and that they are anxious to begin to apply the concepts.  That feels fulfilling at the end of a long day working with a large group.  But, when you think about it that is not the point of spending time working on productivity concepts.

What we really want as a tangible outcome from a day focused on Productivity is an improvement in the amount of work we get done.  Whether you are improving your email processing, reducing the size of your inbox, or defining your roles and goals, none of this will matter if you don’t deliver your projects on time.  

Determine what works for you to get done the things that you really need to do.  If the systems you are using cause you to spend more time on them than you do on doing your real work, then it is time for a new system.  Remember, the choices we make each day should lead us to greater levels of productivity, not organized and systemic procrastination.

Choose well.

Monday, February 18, 2013

You Don't Have An Email Problem

I read an interesting article in TechCrunch over the weekend that offered a compelling defense of email. The article acknowledges that email has gotten out of control and that certain segments of our population (think millennials and other tech savvy groups) see email as bloated, outmoded, and very old school. To a degree I can see their point of view.  There are certainly other forms of instant communication that can be efficient for the “I need it right now” crowd. Urgency addiction aside, I believe that there is still a important role for email and that rather than email being the problem, the problem is more than likely you.  We don't have a problem with email, rather we have accumulated a series of bad habits as it relates to our use and abuse of the medium. 

Think for a moment about the ways in which you typically use email each day. If you are like many people you check email first thing in the morning (probably on a smartphone), often times before you are even fully awake and usually before you have your first cup of your preferred morning beverage. Things can fall apart right there. If you have received a message related to work you are most likely to move into work mode almost instantly. Perhaps this has even changed your morning plans as now you believe you need to get to the office as quickly as possible to deal with that problem. If, however you did survive the morning look at your messages without any significant problems you may now be likely to check your messages a few more times during your commute (there is just something about those unopened messages). When you do get to the office you sit down and turn on your computer and once again the very first thing you are likely to see is email. Every one of these actions is based on a series of habits you have likely formed over a number of years. These habits are typically at play without you even acknowledging them. Have you stopped to ask yourself lately if they are serving you well?  

Every day people complain about the volume of email messages they receive or about the size of their inbox. While many of the complaints are valid, I rarely see people actively engaged in changing the situation. There are solutions available. But there are also a number of myths that complicate the ways in which we interact with our email inbox.

The first myth is that email is bad. I read about companies that are abolishing email.  Some schedule days when email is not permitted as in no email Fridays.  The sense is that eliminating email will make them more productive. I doubt seriously that this is true. I know that in my world the abolition of email would make many of my client and personal interactions much less efficient, and likely far less timely. 

The second myth is that we should strive for "Inbox Zero."  To me this seems absurd. In a world where many of us receive an average of 150 emails each day striving for inbox zero could easily consume more than three hours of your day.  If we assume that you do receive an average of 150 emails each day, and your average processing time for these messages is a mere two minutes each, you would spend five hours each day to achieve inbox zero.  I quite imagine that spending this much time keeping your inbox empty would be at a considerable costs to the other areas where you are accountable for results.  

The third myth is that you don’t need a system for handling email.  This is perhaps the greatest myth of all since it is likely that more people ascribe to this myth than the previous two.  You need a system.  A system is simply a set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.  Or to quote Orison Swett Marden, “A good system shortens the road to the goal.”  While I have indicated above that your goal should not be inbox zero, you do still need to manage your email, and that is best accomplished by employing a system that works for you.

So, if you have bad habits related to email it is time to change those habits.  Email can be a very helpful and productive tool when you apply solid habits.  As a starting place you should determine what are the requirements in terms of email response time in your organization or culture.  I have found that this is one of those great assumptions we have about our workplaces.  It is likely that your assumptions about email response time is greater than your work culture requires.  Determining what is required will free you up to determine how often you should process your inbox.  While three times each day is likely not to be an effective method for your workplace, it is also likely that 30 to 50 times each day would be considered excessive and unnecessary.  You need to find the proper balance that works for you. 

Once you know how many times per day you should process your messages next look for ways to reduce the actual handling time per message.  An example of viable ways to do that would be rules in Outlook or Lotus Notes or Filters in Gmail. Applying rules or filters can automate the processing of a considerable number of messages, perhaps as much as 25% of the messages you receive could be processed by a rule or filter.

Finally, create your own set of verbs that describe how you will process messages.  I use five.  They are Do, Delete, Archive, Label, and Later.  When processing messages I apply one of these verbs to every message I open or review.  This simplifies processing as I have reduced the number of decisions I must make in order to process each message.  Using this method I can power through a significant number of messages during each of my “processing sessions” which happen every time I choose to open my inbox.  I try to never open the inbox unless I have time for a processing session even if that means as little as 5 or 10 minutes.  You will be amazed as to how efficient this can be.

My final thoughts about your email habits relates to the ways in which we choose to be notified of our incoming messages.  I prefer to turn off all notifications, badges, and alerts related to incoming messages.  These turn out to be merely audible, visual, and at times physical (when you use the vibrate feature on a phone) distractions.  I take the position that I will always have new messages and therefore there is no reason to check to see if that is true.  Further, by deciding when I can process messages I am more focused when I do check my email.  This requires a significant amount of discipline which I admit I fail at from time to time.  Still, the key is to begin to make this a habit and like the formation of all good habits it takes time before they stick.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.  Also, for those that read this post if you think it would be helpful to a friend or colleague please feel free to forward the link or email the post.   

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Still Write Notes on Paper

In a world of ever proliferating digital devices it is in some ways surprising that we are still taking notes on paper.  Yet, despite the many promises and predictions that have been made, paper based notes are still one of the primary ways in which individuals create and keep notes.  The challenge today however is that while many are still taking notes on paper the sheer volume of information we create, receive and need to retain puts a strain on our ability to keep up with those same notes.  In addition, we are challenged today to be able to find the notes after they are written.  I have personally seen many different systems which are attempts to integrate paper with digital notes but each of these systems is either redundant or assumes a level of extra work that most people are unlikely to continue to do over time.  While I remain a huge proponent of digital based notes, I find that in my day-to-day work I still have a need for notes on paper.  Even this document which is clearly being created digitally was first sketched out in my Moleskine notebook.  

I have developed a system for taking notes on paper that is really an evolution of the way in which I formerly took notes using a Franklin Planner.  The system I use allows me to take paper notes without having a need to digitize those notes, while still making the notes searchable.  Using my system requires a few decisions and some discipline.  What follows is an outline of my system with a bit of guidance provided along the way.  Please note that this is a fairly long post due to the number of specific directions. 

To make the best or optimum use of this system you must first decide if your workflow can be accomplished using just one notebook.  This is a very important consideration since the need to have multiple notebooks would make this system cumbersome.  My own life and work does allow for the use of one notebook which I carry at all times (even on weekends).  Once a decision has been made to limit my notebook entries to just one book then the type of book becomes the next critical decision.  I personally use the Moleskine Ruled Notebook in the hard cover 5 X 8.25 size.  This book is large enough for taking notes during meetings and telephone calls but is also small enough to carry with me.  The hard cover works well when I am taking notes in my lap such as while waiting in airports, sitting on planes (another feature is that paper notebooks are permitted to remain “on” during takeoff and landing) or moving about throughout the day.  

The Moleskine notebooks have 260 pages.  Typically for my use the notebook will last between three and five months depending on my work schedule and the time of year.  The Moleskine notebook is more expensive than most notebooks.  In stores such as Target or Barnes and Noble they can cost about $18.00.  However, there are typically very competitive prices for these notebooks on Amazon.  Lately I have been able to purchase books for around $10.00 each.  Despite the cost I have found that the binding in a Moleskine book is such that the book will always lay flat.  The pages will not typically turn automatically thereby requiring you to hold down the page when writing.  This feature might not be important to some but this feature alone has made me a loyal Moleskine user.  By the way, the Moleskine is considered to be among the more fashionable notebooks to carry but while this is a nice bonus (it will make people see you as smarter and perhaps a bit hipper) I buy them because I like the pages, and the way the book works for me.

Once you have selected your notebook we move to setting it up.  I recommend that you place your name and contact information on the inside page.  I also like to note the date that the notebook is started as a quick reference.  The notebook I am currently using was started on October 2, 2012 and will likely last until almost the end of February given where I am in the book as of this writing.  Just as an aside I write fewer notes during the holidays and as such this book will last a full five months.

The key to making your notebook searchable is the creation of an index.  In many ways the index works in the same fashion as the index in a book.  It will be the first place you will look to find information inside the book and will save you from skimming pages when you want to find specific information.  What makes the index work is the weekly review process I will describe in the following.

To create the index I turn to the back of my notebook.  From the last page I count off six pages (starting with the last lined page of the book as the very last page is an unlined page).  The logic for counting off six pages is that it will allow for the creation of six months of index pages which is likely going to always be a minimum of one month more that you need.  Additionally, having six pages will permit each month’s index to run longer than one page if necessary but I have rarely found that to be the case.

Your sixth page (counting from the rear) will be marked for the starting month’s Index.  In my current notebook the sixth page is marked “October Index” since the notebook was started on October 2.  I write the index label at the top of the page in the center.    

Entries on the index page will be made at least weekly and in some cases more often.  I use a simple criterion to determine if an entry should be made.  When I review my notes during the week I ask myself if it is likely that I will need to review that note again.  If the answer to this question is “yes” I make a reference on the index page.  Some notes I know instantly will need to be indexed and when that is true I index those notes right away.  The references on the index page are noted with a code that tells me which page of my notebook the note is written on and will also tell me which sequence number represents the particular note.  An example would be as follows:  On the 16th of November the second note I wrote was related to my preparation for a coaching call with a client.  Since time spent coaching clients is something that I bill for this is a note I would want to quickly locate in the future.  The code I write in the index is “16-2 Coaching with the name of the client.”  This tells me that the note was written on the 16th of November and it was the second note that I wrote on that day.  The sequence is important since sometimes my notes may be several pages long.  The sequence number helps me to quickly locate the page on which this particular note is located.  

When taking notes I start each day using the right hand page in my notebook.  While I can’t say that I have a particular reason why I begin each day on the right page I think it is mostly driven by the fact that I am right handed.  For me this is the easiest place to write notes.  I generally begin each day with a blank page.  At the top of the page I write the date on the right hand side.  I typically write the date using the following format “2/1” I don’t typically include the year since the date for the beginning and the end of the notebook will be indicated on the front cover page.  When I write my first note of the day I move to the first line of the page and I write the number “1” and I place a circle around the number.  The circle denotes that this is my first note of the day.  The circle helps me to easily see that this number is the sequence number.  

I generally write my notes on the right hand side of the page.  However, during the day I frequently have a use for the left hand pages.  I call these the “notes” pages.  I will typically use the left side for jotting quick notes such as things that I am capturing quickly that may not necessarily be worthy of a sequenced note.  As an example my left hand page notes over the past week included items such as “cancel Marriott hotel”, the names of a group of people I met while conducting a course, and an address I wrote down that I needed for making a hotel reservation.  Sometimes I will index these notes but that is not typical.  Finally, I will usually use the left hand page for capturing tasks that I do not have time to put into my Task Management system.  When I do this I will note an asterisk next to the item so that I know it represents a task that I will need to either do or manage later.

All in all my system is fairly simple.  I hope that perhaps you will find it useful for managing your paper notes.  While I expect that more and more people will ultimately use digital notes I think that this system is a good way of managing those notes that we place on paper until we all move to totally digital notes.

I would very much enjoy getting your comments on this system.  Also, if you have recommendations for improvements I would love to hear them.  It has taken me about six years to make the system work for me yet I welcome an opportunity for improvements. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Why I Left Facebook

My first technology action of the new year was to deactivate my Facebook account.  This is something I considered doing for a while but decided that today would be the day to make the move.  I noticed that while I was not very active on Facebook, the action to deactivate my account caused me to pause for a moment.  I wondered what my “friends” would think of my action.  I also wondered how I would get those occasional post out when I did choose to use the service.  I felt an uncomfortable sense of loss when I clicked the button to deactivate my account I noticed myself pausing before I clicked the button.

As I thought about leaving Facebook I examined the ways in which I have used the site.  For the most part I tend to read the posts of others.  I “like” those posts that I find fun or thought provoking and occasionally leave brief comments.  I have never forwarded a Facebook post, and my own posts are typically automated posts from the running application I use.  I also noticed that there were some 30 applications that I had granted permission to post on my behalf.  I don’t know if or when those applications have posted to my account but it certainly made me wonder how there got to be 30 of them.

Over the past year I have learned some interesting things about Facebook and the ways in which I use it.  One of the things that finally struck me is how tools like Facebook can become rather invasive.  We give up a significant amount of our privacy when we use these tools.  Some of what we give up is voluntary when we post messages and perhaps we give up that privacy intentionally.  But we also perhaps lose sight of the fact that often times our posts can and will likely be read by those for whom they were not intended.  This can make for uncomfortable relationships with work colleagues, saddening surprises from close friends, and an awareness of the details of the lives of those you know that you would rather not have.  

Finally, Facebook can create strange obligations.  While I have not received many direct messages, I usually find it odd that people close to me would choose to communicate with me through this method.  While I understand when something is forwarded through Facebook, the messages that strike me as odd are those simply written for me.  Since I was never a regular user of the site I had to be told to go there to get these messages.  Of course, I would be told that either by telephone or email or sometimes face-to-face.  In my mind it just seems that those sentiments could have just as easily been shared in those same face-to-face conversations or the email that advised me of them.

When I deactivated my Facebook account I was given the option to make it temporary.  I did select that option as I have no idea at this point as to whether or not I will someday want to be back on Facebook.  After all, could more than 500 million people be wrong?  And then I ask the question “will anyone miss me on Facebook?”

So let me know your thoughts.  Would you consider leaving Facebook this year?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do You Like What You See

I am fortunate in that my writing is inspired. Note that I did not necessarily say that my writing is inspiring, but rather I am suggesting that what I write on a typical day is inspired by the words of others or the things I observe. This post was inspired by my younger brother as I had a chance to listen to a talk he gave recently.

My brother is a Teaching Pastor at a large church in Cincinnati. What he now calls talks we would have referred to as preaching when we were growing up. Yet, having listened to many of my brother's talks, I would be very hard pressed to actually call it preaching as that is not what he does (and I for one am so grateful about that). My brother's talks certainly have a biblical message and are designed to help us to improve our life and our living from an eternal perspective. It is so opposed to the literal shouting we grew up with as the preacher would in essence try to shout, scream or sing you into being convinced about whatever they were speaking about at the time. My brother uses a primarily calm voice, well articulated ideas and a flow that one can easily follow. Last week he was speaking about a biblical story of a lame man who sat by a pool for over 30 years hoping to be healed of his affliction. As the story unfolds the man becomes hopeful upon seeing Jesus that he will be healed. Instead of miraculously healing the man Jesus ask him an important question. The question was "Do you want to be healed?"

The analogy my brother drew was that this man had the power all along to heal his own affliction. Put another way the worst thing that could have been done for this man would have been to heal him as had he been healed he never would have been aware of his own power. This man would have simply remained in his own way blocking himself from the very thing he said that he wanted (which was to get in the pool and be healed).

I was inspired by my brother's talk as I thought of how often it is that we in effect block our ability to get better. Whether that means getting past self doubt, fear, or even many physical ailments we experience. We have the power to make changes in our lives just as did the man by the pool but rather than make changes we just sit beside the pool waiting for someone else to take us in. We make excuses for years about why we can not get the thing we want but never hold ourselves accountable.

There is a line in one of my favorite Mary J. Blige songs which goes "I like what I see when I'm looking at me as I'm walking past the mirror" (inspired once again). As I thought about this I wondered how many people would say that. So many people are unhappy with what they see looking back at them yet those same people would not put in the effort to change what they see. For some it might be as simple as loving themselves more so that they do appreciate who and what they are. For others it might require the hard work of making tough life changes so that they can see something different. In both cases the only thing that is keeping them from seeing something they like is they themselves. Yet, like the man at the pool they just make excuses.
John Wooden, the former Basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins was famous for saying "the worst thing we can do for those we love are the things that they should and could do for themselves.". I quote this often as a reminder that we should help people to get out of their own way by commanding that they do more for themselves.

As I prepared for a trip this morning I walked past my full length mirror many times. I did not see a world class athlete, a business mogul, a rock star or even a very young man. What I saw was the father, consultant, partner, son and friend that I am. I saw a guy that works hard almost every day at getting better. I like that guy and I am glad that I got out of his way many years ago. Now I am recommending that you get out of your way. You already have all that you need to do whatever you need or want to do. Start doing it right now.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Running Your Race at a Different Pace

Sometimes I hear words that for whatever reason tend to resonate with me.  Often I will hear the same word repeated over and over again in conversations with different people.  When that happens I tend to spend a bit more time thinking about the word.  Today the word that I heard or thought of a number of times before I started writing this is "pace."  
Today is one of those days when the outside temperature was at 80 when I was having a cup of tea.  The weather forecaster said that was our low for the day.  My early plan was to spend time outside writing today but realized after a few moments that it was too hot to sit outside.  I also realized that I would need to adjust my pace for the day  
As a runner I find that I am often very focused on pace.  When I run I pay considerable attention to the pace at which I am running often making minor adjustments to either go faster or to  slow down.  Sometimes I see my pace and reconcile that with the way I feel.  At other times I become aware of my pace and I am surprised that I am either going  too slow or on rare occasions going too fast.  Almost always when I become aware of pace I make some sort of adjustment.  Rarely do I just accept the information.
I think that being a runner makes me more aware of pace than most people.  Runners have a an internal clock that tells us what we are doing and makes us acutely aware of how we are feeling.  I am not so sure that non-runners have this mechanism.  That is unfortunate as I find that a keen awareness of pace would serve everyone well.  I sometimes watch my friends and colleagues approaching burn out simply because they find themselves "running" too fast with the things they are doing.  Or I listen to friends that describe their planned activities which include far too many things that they are cramming in to their day.  I even wonder in amazement when I see parents that are running all over the place moving their children from one activity to the next while complaining that they are too busy.  I think that in all of these cases people are not very aware of their pace.  
When I was growing up we talked about summertime as a time of "easy living."  The pace was expected to be slower, the days lazier and the focus was on enjoying life.  Now we are trying to get the kids into a summer program that will improve their skills in one area or another, we take summer courses to enhance our own skills, and what we used to call summer driving is not to a vacation spot but rather it is from activity to activity.  I think we are just failing to pay attention to the pace.
I wonder what we would be doing today or this weekend if we were to view it from a lens of how we might feel about it ten years from now.  Would we make the same commitments?  Would we run around doing the things that are right now stressing us out?  Would we rather have taken the time to enjoy a lunch with a friend or coffee with a loved one just enjoying the sun or sitting in park?  
This weekend as we head into the holiday next week let's be more aware of our pace.  Perhaps you want to run the next half of your personal race a bit slower than the last one.  Or at least take a small piece of time to just slow down.  The weather across the country presents an excellent opportunity.  You will not be perceived as a slacker if you do nothing in the heat.  But call this a practice session to a slower pace.  Commit to slowing down this summer.  Life really is not a race and there is no prize given for being the person that finishes life first.  
This post is the shortest I have written in a while.  The reason is that I am watching my pace.   

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Counting Counts

Photo Courtesy of Skidder from Flickr

I have realized lately that I have long been preoccupied with counting.  Perhaps this makes me not very different from most people as we live in a world where we count things for a variety of reasons.  In business we count things like revenue and profit.  Our sense is that the more you have (the higher the count) the better off you are.  On a personal level we have come to see the american obsession of counting our weight (here the less you have the better off you are) or counting our calories (trying to stay below 2,000 calories per day so that we can lower our overall weight).  My sense is that no matter your station in life you are involved in some sort of count.  
I think that counting is a wonderful thing.  It really does help us to keep track.  At sporting events we count the scoreboard.  Our hope is that our team has the higher score.  We count our consumption of certain substances (I am not functioning yet as I have only had one cup of coffee today), or we count the hours (just three more hours to go before this day ends).  We do spend a great deal of our time in some sort of count.
As I have been thinking about this the idea of counting can have three very positive impacts on our behavior.  First, counting promotes discipline (think calorie counting), second, counting is motivational (just 5 more pushups to reach my goal today), and finally, counting is rhythmic, (it takes me about 15 minutes before I get into my groove).  We can harness these three attributes of counting to mold our existing behavior patterns and also to create new patterns.  What follows are my thoughts about how to best accomplish this:
Counting promotes discipline.  When we engage in a count we have a clear sense of what we want to achieve.  We set out with a clearly defined goal and our desire and intent is to achieve that goal.  Whether the goal is large or small is not important.  Once you set the goal to a specific count you want to achieve that number.  You gain a heightened sense of awareness of the count.  Counts of this type are best set in the form of weekly goals.  As an example perhaps you want to limit calories for the week.  This is much easier than perhaps daily calorie consumption as you have the whole week to achieve the number.  As you visit the count each day you can make behavior adjustments as necessary.  In this way a goal is viewed as far more likely to be achieved as you have seven chances to stay on course.
Counting is motivational.  Counts can motivate us.  In this example once you commit to achieving a specific count you become highly motivated to achieve the desired result.  I have been wearing a Nike FuelBand for a little over a month now.  The band tracks an algorithm created by Nike that measures Fuel achieved per day.  While a Fuel number in and of itself is meaningless, once you begin to wear the band you want to achieve the  daily Fuel goal you set.  My goal is 2,000 Fuel points per day.  As an example of how these points are tracked a three mile run for me is about 1,100 Fuel points.  In order to achieve my daily goal of 2,000 points I need to run as well as remain physically active throughout the day.  The fact that I am in pursuit of this goal keeps me mindful of my activities.  I stand as often as I can (I am writing this post while standing at my desk) and take the stairs and walk throughout the day to achieve the goal I set.  While there are days that I don’t achieve my goal, most days I am highly motivated to reach the goal of 2,000.  Since I started wearing the band my longest streak of reaching 2,000 points is 13 days in a row.  During that streak I recall one day when I needed to walk about half a mile at the end of the day to reach my goal.  Even though I was tired the half mile walk was motivating and I was really glad that I kept the streak alive.  Just as a point of reference the streak ended yesterday when I only achieved 1,100 points on my day off when I did not run or work and just sat around.  After suffering through that disappointment I am however back on track today having already achieved 1,881 points before 11:00am.
A count is rhythmic.  When I run I am aware that I run faster the longer I run.  In running language this is called a reverse split.  I keep a count of my pace every half mile.  No matter how slowly I run at the beginning of my run I know that the pace is going to get faster the longer I go.  In a five mile run I will typically improve by as much as one minute per mile.  I sense the rhythm of this as I feel the pace change.  I can hear my footsteps and become aware of the shift in cadence.  Throughout my runs I generally know when I am running even slightly faster or slightly slower than before.  This rhythm helps me to stay focused and on pace for the run.  The per mile split is the count that I can feel.
You might want to consider how you use counts in your day to day.  Perhaps your job requires you to make a certain number of calls per day or produce a certain quantity of something.  Maybe you set a reading goal of half a book every week which translates to so many pages read every day.  But whatever endeavors you are pursuing, know that counting really does count.  I set a goal for myself this year to learn a new language.  I have not yet assigned a count to that goal and it is lagging behind terribly.  This week I am assigning a count to that goal and I expect that the results are going to improve.  
One final thought.  Whatever you are counting you must be willing to share your count with your friends.  I use Facebook to post my counts.  Every run I post the results on FB.  Only a few of my family members, friends and colleagues even pay attention to those counts but I know that the few that do are there cheering me on.  Why not take a minute and post something that really matters on your FaceBook account today.  Post something that you are counting.  If we are already friends and I see your post you can COUNT on me cheering you on.  
By the way, I am counting one blog posting a week.  Right on target.

Monday, June 11, 2012

225 Pushups Per Week

Photo Courtesy of SheepGuardingLlama from Flickr

I have been working on a small experiment around achieving personal goals and making the goal a habit.  But before I share the technique, perhaps a back story is appropriate.  
Last year while training for a marathon I broke my foot.  The broken foot took running out of my fitness equation for months and I was looking for something else that I could do to at least stay in some form of being in shape.  In my search I came across an idea about doing 100 pushups per day.  Having never reached such a goal I decided that this might be an appropriate fitness goal for me.  I reached that goal last August and remember telling a work colleague about how proud I was about being able to do 100 pushups in 5 sets.  Shortly after I reached the goal (I ultimately achieved 107 pushups) I stopped doing pushups as a part of my fitness regimen.  As the months have rolled by quickly since last August I have had various challenges to keeping my fitness regimen.  When I was able to add distance running back in my routine I found myself experiencing various foot problems related to the break.  I would stop and start always ending with pain or minor injury.  Finally, in frustration, I took time to reevaluate my situation.  I first had to come to grips with the painful reality that I am not as young as I once was but also that the foot injury was a direct result of not taking things in moderation.  My break was as a direct result of over training, and putting on too many miles far too quickly.  I was also running too fast for my level of fitness always pushing harder with little appropriate rest.  A month or so ago I finally got it.  I recognized that I really needed to add moderation, pace, and rest to my schedule.  While this likely makes a great deal of sense to most people it is not the process I have followed traditionally.  I felt that getting fit was about running harder, pushing further and not stopping.  I know differently now.
In order to get back to comfortably running distance I set myself on a path to running just 15 miles per week while making sure that I ran 5 times each week.  For a regular runner 15 miles per week over 5 runs is not very much running.  Of course this is really just 3 miles per day.  The point however was not the number of miles per day but rather getting to a place where I could know that I would consistently run 5 days per week.  I recognized that over time the miles would add up but while getting back to 5 days per week I would allow my foot to adjust to the frequency of running and recovery.  At the same time I was recreating the running habit for me.  
One of the challenges I have usually faced when I run regularly is that I don’t feel that I have time for any exercise beyond running.  This means for me that the running causes me to lose muscle as well as fat.  This year I wanted to make sure that as I got my running pace back that I would also get my strength back to the level where it was last summer.  I really wanted to get back to 100 pushups per day.  Suddenly an idea came to me that really is an interpretation of something I heard from another runner (credit to Laurel Youse).  She said “no matter how slow or how far you run you are lapping everyone else that is not running at all.”  I trust that I have faithfully translated Laurel’s quote but it caused me to realize something.  In order to convert my desire to build strength and muscle in addition to aerobic fitness I needed to develop a new habit.  My running 5 days per week is part of my running habit but I did not have a strength habit.  Laurel’s quote also reminded me that it did not matter how small you start.  
Just over a month ago I set out to do 40 pushups in a week.  I recall telling that story while giving a presentation recently.  During a break a man walked up to me and said “you were really joking about 40 pushups per week right?”  He went on to say “you really can do more than 40 pushups in a week right?”  My response to him was of course I could do more than 40 pushups in a week but that prior to setting that goal I was not doing 40 pushups per week.  I also asked him how many pushups he was doing each week.  His response was zero.  right then I realized that I was on to something.  My 40 pushups per week were actually lapping his zero pushups per week.  Since I set my 40 pushups per week goal a little over a month ago I have consistently been doing a growing number of pushups each week.  Last week I successfully accomplished 210 pushups while maintaining my distance running schedule.  The goal for this week is 225 pushups which means just 32 pushups per day with one day requiring 33 pushups assuming that I do this every day (which has been my habit these past few weeks).
Here is why this has worked for me.  First, I started small with a goal that I knew I could easily achieve while establishing the habit.  Next, I increased the number weekly using last week’s performance as my guage.  If the number felt too easy I increased the weekly goal.  Finally, I worried less about the total than I did about the habit.  The key has been in establishing a habit of daily activity to achieve a new goal.
So here is the question.  Do you have something you have been putting off?  Perhaps my plan will help.  Set a goal today that you want to reach.  Make the goal so small that you would be hard pressed to actually fail but still spread the goal out over the course of a week.  Don’t exceed your goal that first week or for a while as you build your new habit.  You will be amazed by what happens.  
I want to hear your comments and I want to know your goals.  Next I will write about how you can track your goals and perhaps how you might use public accountability to keep you focused (think Facebook).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Technology Based Productivity System

Flanders Technology International 1988
Photo By:  FotoBart

A colleague posed a question to me recently.  She asked “Is there an app that we can use that is true to FranklinCovey’s Time Management methodology?”  The quick answer is no, at least based on my research.  There are any number of apps that help you to accomplish parts of the methodology, but nothing that is a complete system.  The question caused me to begin to think about what I have been teaching these past six years and how I have personally adapted my own planning tools to accommodate my planning needs but also to help me to be able to teach FranklinCovey’s Time Management concepts with integrity.  
For those perhaps unfamiliar with FranklinCovey’s Time Management concepts, let me first summarize them here.  The method I am describing is based on the Franklin Planner.  The planner has been the planning tool for individuals world wide for more than 25 years.  While there remains a significant number of users of this powerful tool, in my work I often encounter individuals that will say “I used to use a Franklin Planner but then I bought this.”  At this point the person is always holding up and waving a smartphone of some type and explaining that they are now using a digital system. Usually after a few questions though they admit that their system is lacking a number of features that they could use. 
The FranklinCovey methodology is based upon the combined work of both Stephen Covey and Hyrum Smith.  At the core of the system is a view that we want to achieve meaningful if not extraordinary results in both our professional and private lives.  The view is that our lives are an indivisible whole and that we are incapable of effectively and completely separating the two.  Put simply, we do work at home and we sometimes do personal things at work.  So the system asks us to be clear about what we view as our mission.  From a clear sense of mission one can develop a number of roles that are defined by that mission.  The roles are varied, they cover our work/personal lives and serve as a reference point whereby we can ask ourselves about our performance in each individual area.
Once the core concept of mission/roles is established the methodology then uses a weekly and daily planning approach that acts as the rudder of the system.  The system is then complimented with a note taking approach and filing system.  While this is a very broad summarization of the methodology, it describes the essence for our purposes here.
I believe in this approach as an effective method to assure that you stay focused on accomplishing those things that are important to you.  And yet while I remain true to the approach, the technology tools I use have caused me to long ago abandon a Franklin Planner.  I am upfront and unapologetic about this.  I have adapted a system that is dependent upon the technology tools I prefer to use, but my approach to FranklinCovey’s Time Management methodology is what I consider to be “Tool Agnostic.”  By this I mean that given one’s tool preferences you can employ the methodology using whatever set of tools suits your individual preferences.  What follows is my approach:
The foundation of my system is my view that you must decide how you will handle all incoming information.  This is an expansion of FranklinCovey’s Core Four concept.  In that concept it is assumed that information may be translated into four distinct areas.  These are Tasks, Notes and Documents, Calendar entries or Contacts.  While I agree with this concept I view it from a three part perspective.  My three parts are what I refer to as Capture Systems, Processing Systems, and finally Synchronization Systems.  Your developed planning system must contemplate all three.  I would describe each of these systems as follows:
Capture Systems:  This is the preferred system you use to capture incoming information whether that information is digital, verbal, or thoughts/ideas.  The key to this is to develop a consistent system for capturing all types of information.  As an example, I use Evernote as my place for capturing ideas, thoughts and information that comes to me digitally (usually via news feeds or blogs).  For email I use Gmail.  It is my view that this is one of the most robust email systems available.  The storage space is substantial (for about $50 per year I have email storage of 25gb plus cloud storage of 100gb for files).  Within Gmail I can employ drag and drop techniques and shortcuts to process information.  But the real power of Gmail for me is the ability to search email extensively.  Further, Gmail provides cloud storage of information which is then easily accessed on every device I use (MacBook, iPhone, iPad and still a BlackBerry).  I also have one bit of old tech that is a significant part of my capture system.  I use a simple Moleskine hard cover notebook which is indexed in a manner similar to a Franklin Planner.  I still take hand written notes and I make no attempt to digitize those notes as the index makes my notebook fully searchable.  Also, I can still write notes in all environments where using an electronic tool is either inefficient or impractical.
Processing Systems:  Processing requires the development of a series of habits.  Here I think action.  The actions are condensed to a few key verbs.  They are Delete, Do, and File (Delete is my favorite).  I add to these verbs a certain amount of automated processes which are rules and labels.  This sorts and processes information as it arrives saving time but also providing visual clues when needed.  Again, sorting and processing without having to open the email is the key.  The Processing System essentially causes you to handle all incoming information just once whenever possible.
Synchronization Systems:  Synchronization makes everything work.  Through synchronization you eliminate the need to input information multiple times.  Here you must decide what will be the method you choose to make sure that everything is in every place.  You may have multiple synchronization systems as long as you can avoid duplicates.  To synchronize the Core Four noted above I use iCloud.  iCloud also synchronizes with Reqall which is where I tend to create and track tasks.  Evernote is my second synchronization system as I can access information maintained there on any of my devices and they remain synchronized at all times.  My final synchronization system is Google which connects to my Google Drive, iCloud, and Reqall.  I rely on this to move information so that I can see it on all of my tools.  
Finally, I add to all of this a significant use of Cloud services.  I use DropBox, Google Drive and Box.net as my Cloud storage systems.  I have about 250gb of storage space in the cloud using each service differently for certain types of information and files.  The cost are not insignificant at this point but will likely fall over time.  All of these services have free storage usually in the range of 2gb or higher.  Generally, for many people the free storage is more than enough.  My High School age sons just use their free Box.net storage which is adequate for their school needs.
I still work from a core and perhaps foundational belief that you must determine what is important to you (your mission) and from your mission you must identify your most important roles that will help you to fulfill that mission.  After that it is simply a matter of deciding what tools and technology you will use to get it all done.  I would love to hear your comments about how you do this.