Die Empty

Todd Henry commented once on a podcast that the most expensive real estate is the graveyard, because that is where ideas/innovations die. Below is the meaning of EMPTY from his book: Die Empty.

Die EmptyDie Empty

Remember that in order to do your best work, you must engage in Mapping, Making, and Meshing, including the subtle forms of each discussed throughout the book. The following process is designed to help you examine your life daily for areas where you might be slipping into stasis.


There is a five-step process you can follow to scan your life for potential action points, and position yourself to do work you’ll be proud of later. While the approach described below is introduced in a work context, any and all of these questions can benefit you in any aspect of your life. It’s impossible to truly separate your “work” life from your “personal” life, so there is little difference between the demands on your time from your job or your family and friends. You still have only so many resources to go around, and you have to get good at how you allocate them. Feel free to adapt the process to fit your needs and to help you gain traction on what matters most to you.

Set aside ten to fifteen minutes each day to perform a daily checkpoint. (For those who are already doing a daily checkpoint recommended in The Accidental Creative, the concepts described in this chapter can simply be folded into that time, as many of the concepts overlap.) The daily checkpoint is designed to help you determine how you will engage your day, and to predetermine how you handle any obstacles that arise on your path to getting your best work out of you. The five-step process follows the acronym EMPTY. Take out a fresh piece of paper or open a new file and follow the exercises below.

E: Focus on your Ethics

In Chapter 7 you were challenged to develop a code of ethics for how you will engage your day. Your code of ethics consists of several words that define your engagement, your relationships, and what specific aspects of yourself you will bring to your work each day. Write the words that comprise your code of ethics on the page, then do the following.

Look at today’s appointments, commitments, and tasks. Take a few minutes to look over your upcoming commitments. Review everything that will require your focus, time, and energy today.

Consider how you will apply your ethic to each of them. As you glance at your commitments, how will you engage them to- day? Will any of them require more focus, time, or energy than the others? What can you do to ensure that you’I1live out your ethic as you move through your day?

Consider potential pitfalls. Are there any items on your daily list that you know will present a challenge to your ability to live out your ethic? (Maybe an especially tense meeting, challenging relationship, or mind-numbing task?) Determine in advance how you are going to deal with these challenges when they arise. By doing so, you lessen the chance that: those pitfalls will sidetrack you, because you will have a plan for dealing with them.

M: Focus on your Mission

As discussed in Chapter 4, so much of your effectiveness is about defining the battles that you know you need to fight, and directing your resources toward them. As you survey your daily commitments, ask yourself the following:

What change will exist today as a result of my efforts? Is there a step goal on the agenda for today? Determine now how you will know if your day was a success, and commit to working until you’ve achieved it. Be realistic, and recognize that big, long-term success is actually the result of a long string of daily successes, If you stretch yourself to win the smaller battles each day, then you will someday find you’re making important progress on the larger fight. Focus on the right battles and the war will take care of itself.

What isn’t already represented? What have you been meaning to do, but haven’t made the effort to work it into your daily routine? Do you need to add a task, a call, or some other kind of action to your day? What do you need to start that you’ve been putting off?

What needs to go away? A big part of having a defined understanding of your important battles is knowing when things need to be moved off your plate. You cannot do everything at once or you will do nothing well. You must prune your life so that your most important priorities can have the focus, time, and energy they need from you. What needs to be removed from your lists today so that you can focus your attention on what’s most important?

P: Focus on People

As mentioned in Chapter 10, your relationships are critical and are the biggest opportunity for you to add and receive value in your life and work. Take a minute to consider the relationships in your life, and specifically those you’ll engage in today.

Who will you interact with today? Take a look at your calendar and your other commitments and think about each of the people you’ll interact with today. For a brief minute, consider them, what you value about them, and any outstanding issues that may need to be resolved.

Are there any open relational loops to close? As you survey your daily schedule, do you see any opportunities to close open loops or engage in conversations that might help bring better alignment or clarity? Do you need to have any of the five conversations (clarity, expectations, fear, engagement, final 10 percent) in order to gain better understanding of the relationship or your work? Is there anyone you need to reconnect with or write a note to?

How can you serve others today? Again, as you think about the people you’ll encounter today, is there. any way in which you could serve them that would be unexpected or add a disproportionate amount of value? It’s easy to allow relationships to slip into autopilot, or to take them for granted. How could you surprise someone today with generosity or encouragement?

T: Focus on Tasks

This is the nitty-gritty part of your day, really. You make progress only if you engage with urgency and diligence in your tasks. But sometimes the tasks that show up on your list aren’t necessarily the ones that should be there. You inherit tasks from yesterday or turn your task list into more of a wish list.

Consider your daily priorities. What absolutely must get done today, and when will you do it? If you’re able, block off time on your calendar to engage in your most important tasks so that you’re not trying to do them in the cracks and crevices of your schedule. Dedicate specific time blocks to delve deeply into them so that you don’t have to stress and wonder when they’ll get done. This will free you up to be present in all of your other commitments today. Brilliant work demands dedicated time on your calendar.

Define your projects. It’s impossible to solve a problem you haven’t defined, and yet many of us drift from day to day with a vague sense of the projects we’re responsible for without ever stopping to truly consider the issues at hand. As you consider the projects you are accountable for, take a few minutes to consider the problems you are still trying to solve. I realize that this may sound a little obvious, but consider that the answers to those questions change frequently, sometimes as often as daily if you’re making good progress. Simply take a few minutes to make certain that the problems you were solving yesterday are still the problems you’re working to solve today. Don’t get carried along by your work-define it, daily.

Y: Focus on You

In the fray of daily work, it’s so easy to lose track of yourself. You can easily get caught up in checking things off lists and managing your relationships that you neglect to do the small but consequential things that lay the foundation for your future effectiveness.

What will you do today to develop yourself? Are you learning a new skill, tackling a passion project, or pursuing a specific curiosity? Will you take a risk to try something new? Commit today to doing something that will stretch you beyond your present bounds and force you to grow. If you do this daily, you will eventually find that the incremental stretching will add up to remarkable growth over weeks, months, and years.

What do you need to start moving on? Is there anything you’re feeling a sense of urgency to start? Sometimes you have a nagging sense in the back of your mind that you should be doing something, but then the practical side of you kicks in and begins to edit your thoughts. “What if?” and “Maybe I should … ” quickly turn into “That’s not practical” and “You just need to focus on what’s in front of you.” Get started. Today’s the day.

Be grateful. Take a few minutes to be grateful for your life. It doesn’t matter how much or little you have, there are always things to be thankful for, and when you focus your mind on what you have rather than obsessing on all the things you lack, it has an amazing effect on your ability to be present in your day and pour yourself fully into your work.

Dream a little. If you have time left, spend some time dreaming a bit about what you’d like to see happen. In an ideal world, how would you spend your days, what kinds of opportunities would you have, and who would you interact with? Are there latent dreams or ambitions that you’ve allowed to fall to the side that you need to pickup, dust off, and begin acting on? Are there any items that you would add to the “before I die” wall that you’ve been neglecting because you simply didn’t know where to begin? If something comes to mind every day as you engage in this exercise, then it’s something to pay attention to.


TMN: Email Is Not Your Job

Below is a blog post from Time Management Ninja. Are you stuck in your inbox? There are 5 tips on how to avoid the email inbox trap.

Email Is Not Your Job 

Some days it seems like all you do is email.

You get to the end of the day and you haven’t escaped your inbox.

Are you stuck endlessly processing emails instead of getting work done?

Email is Not Work 

Email dominates too many businesses. It is one of the top time wasters in most companies.

The irony is that once upon a time, email was supposed to increase the speed and productivity of businesses. However, it is estimated that workers spend a third of their time reading and responding to email.

Yet, email is not work.

It doesn’t get things done…

Email doesn’t write a report.
Email doesn’t design new products.
Email doesn’t train and mentor others.
Email doesn’t create new ideas.

Rather is it a slow back and forth of inefficient communication.

It is busy work in disguise.

Never Getting Out of Your Inbox 

Are you stuck in your inbox?

Responding to every email that arrives. Jumping with a Pavlovian response to each email notification.

Co-workers ask you, “Did you get the email I just sent two minutes ago?

This behavior is not productive.

In fact, it makes email look like the worst invention ever.

Email has its positive uses . However, usually email prevents you from getting to your work.

Here Are 5 Tips to Help You Avoid the Email Inbox Trap:

  1. Turn Off the Notifications – I’d love to meet the individual who thought it was a good idea to make a noise and pop-up a message every time an email arrives. Turn off the dings and notifications. You don’t need to know when the latest spam message arrives. (If you must know when an important message arrives, then use a VIP list or a service like AwayFind .)
  2. Consider Turning Off Email on Your Mobile Device – Do you really need to check email at lunch, in the elevator, in the car, in the bathroom, and in bed? The answer is no. Only turn on your email when you need it.
  3. Check It Less Frequently – Reduce the number of times you check email per day. Start small. If you are currently checking email 37 times a day , then try cutting that number in half. Set specific times of day when you check it, and eventually you can minimize the number of times a day you look in your inbox.
  4. Get Work and Tasks Out of Your Inbox – One reason people get stuck in their inbox is because they use it as their default todo list. Instead, get those tasks out of your inbox and onto your task list. Add the todo to your list and file the email in your archive. Otherwise, you will lose important tasks in the clutter of new messages.
  5. Communicate Directly – Don’t play email Ping-Pong all day long. I have seen instances of 15 email messages to schedule a single meeting. Rather, call or go see the person. Face-to-face is more efficient than the email back and forth.

Email is Not Your Job 

Email is one of the greatest distraction machines ever created.

Don’t sit there responding to each and every message that drops into your inbox.

Get out of your inbox and go get your work done. (Tweet this Quote )

Add an Hour to Your Day


Time change at the end of Daylight Saving Time
Image via Wikipedia


Below is a blog from Harvard Business Review.

Add an Hour to Your Day

by Ron Ashkenas

What would you do with an extra hour? Sounds like the plot device of a romantic comedy — but in truth it’s an opportunity that many world residents receive around this time every year. I’m talking about the shift from Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time in the EU) to Standard Time when we turn back our clocks and repeat one hour.

Now, let me acknowledge that it’s not really an “extra” hour. You have to give it back in the spring, and it doesn’t really affect your lifespan. However, it’s important to consider what to do with extra time — since one of the most frequent concerns of managers is not having enough.

A number of years ago, I co-authored a piece in HBR with Robert H. Schaffer about why managers waste time. In the article, we shared a question that had been posed to dozens of managers: Imagine if the president of your company personally asked you to take on a special assignment — working directly for her. The project would take one day per week but you would have to continue your regular job in the remaining time. Would you take the assignment? By now we’ve asked this question to hundreds of managers — most who complain about not having enough time already — and 99% say they would take the assignment.

The reality is that we all have “extra” hours available, without having to turn back the clock. Sometimes it takes a presidential request or a customer crisis to find them; and sometimes it takes a personal incentive such as clearing the decks before a vacation. But we all know that those hidden hours exist, buried in unnecessary meetingsinefficient work processesinterruptions, false starts, PowerPoint perfection, misplaced files, and a host of other time-wasters. We may assume that these patterns are part of the normal rhythm of imperfect organizational life — but unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) we know that these inefficiencies give us a cushion in case we have to suddenly step up the pace.

It is still likely that most managers have more cushion than they actually need — and some of that time could be applied to reducing today’s feeling of overload, instead of waiting for a crisis or special event. If that applies to you, then here are a couple of ideas for identifying and capturing a few additional hours:

1. Do a quick calendar analysis. Go back through the last few months of your Outlook calendar, Lotus Notes, or handwritten diary. Put a checkmark next to all of the activities or meetings that — in retrospect — truly advanced your organizational or personal goals. Then look at the remaining items. Which ones had no impact on these goals? If you had not spent the time, would it have made a difference? See if you can find a pattern. Finally, look forward at your next couple of months and see if there are meetings or activities that you could bypass or eliminate without any consequence.

2. Ask for feedback. Our time-wasting patterns are often invisible to us — but apparent to those around us. So a second useful step is to ask your subordinates or colleagues if they could identify some activities that you could do less often, do in less time, or stop doing altogether. For example, one manager who did this was told that he didn’t need to attend a weekly operations meeting that was run by one of his people — a meeting that he habitually sat in on as a way of “lending support.”

None of us have the luxury of finding more time by simply turning back the clock — except when Daylight Saving Time ends. For the rest of the year, we need to find other ways.

How do you find extra time?

Inspiring Staff

Another excerpt from Linchpin : are you indispensible? By Seth Godin.

Inspiring Staff

Organizations obey Newton’s laws. A team at rest tends to stay at rest. Forward motion isn’t the default state of any group of people, particularly groups with lots of people. Cynics and politics and coordination kick in and everything grinds to a halt.

In a factory, this isn’t really a problem. The owner controls the boss who controls the foreman who controls the worker. It’s a tightly linked chain, and things get done because there is cash to be made. Most modern organizations are now far more amorphous than this. Responsibility isn’t as clear, deliverables aren’t as measurable, and goals aren’t as cut and dried. So things slow down.

The linchpin changes that. Understanding that your job is to make something happen changes what you do all day. If you can only cajole, not force, if you can only lead, not push, then you make different choices.

You can’t say, “Get more excited and insightful or you’re fired.” Actually, you can, but it won’t work. The front-desk worker at a hotel who runs out in the middle of the night to buy gym shorts for a guest isn’t doing it out of fear of being reprimanded. He does it because he was inspired to do so by a leader ~ho wasn’t even in the hotel when the clerk decided to contribute.

Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande is one of the best books I’ve read. The book has interesting stories about Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and David Lee Roth’s demand that all brown M&M’s be removed from his bowl in his dressing room.

There are two types of Checklists a DO-CONFIRM and READ-DO. Below is an excerpt from the book.

When you’re making a checklist, (Daniel) Boorman explained, you have a number of key decisions. You must define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used (unless the moment is obvious, like when a warning light goes on or an engine fails). You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. With a DO-CONFIRM checklist, he said, team members perform their jobs from memory and experience, often separately: But then they stop. They pause to run the checklist and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done. With a READ-DO checklist, on the other hand, people carry out the tasks as they check them off-it’s more like a recipe.  So for any new checklist created from scratch, you have to pick the type that makes the most sense for the situation.

The checklist cannot be lengthy: A rule of thumb some use is to keep it to between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory. Boorman didn’t think one had to be religious on this point.

“It all depends on the context,” he said. “In some situations you have only twenty seconds. In others, you may have several minutes.”

But after about sixty to ninety seconds at a given pause point, the checklist often becomes a distraction from other things. People start “shortcutting.” Steps get missed. So you want to keep the list short by focusing on what he called “the killer items” –the steps that are most dangerous to skip and sometimes overlooked nonetheless. (Data establishing which steps are most critical and how frequently people miss them are highly coveted in aviation, though not always available.)

The wording should be simple and exact, Boorman went on, and use the familiar language of the profession. Even the look of the checklist matters. Ideally; it should fit on one page. It should be free of clutter and unnecessary colors. It should use both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading.

I would like to start sharing checklists for the building industry. Below is a PDF containing a checklist for making a checklist and a Window-Door checklist (Form). Please leave any comments you’re interested in sharing.


Window-Door 2010