I just picked up a new book by author Sally McGhee, entitled “Take Back Your Life Using Microsoft Outlook.” This book has been a real surprise as it includes a unique time management system similar to David Allen’s, “Getting Things Done.” Over the next few days we’ll delve deep into the system, but today I’ll just cover a few of the highlights.
The first key that I have seen so far in the book is the use of Meaningful Objectives. This is the main concept in a complete workflow system built around Microsoft Outlook. Sally explains…
Meaningful Objectives are your North star, your guiding light, and your reference point for success or failure. Without meaning, objectives become dry and nothing more on a to-do list that you might (or might not) look at every now and then. You won’t be motivated to work on your objectives, but you’ll feel guilty if you don’t.
I like the term , Meaningful Objectives as it describes the importance of the items on my to-do list. It takes some of the Covey “7 habits” principles and adds them into a Getting Things Done framework. This is really exciting for me as I have found uses for both systems in my life. This book melds some of the concepts together.
When you have meaningful objectives and you tie them in with your “next actions,” you get Strategic Next Actions. The book explains…
The next step in the cycle of productivity is to create Strategic Next Actions that link to your Meaningful Objectives. You need to ensure that these actions are critical and don’t have any dependencies. You can only move forward in the cycle with an action item that can physically be completed in one, simple step.
The next step in the cycle is to schedule and complete strategic actions. This is somewhat different from the GTD model as next actions are scheduled on the calendar and marked off when completed. Sally explains…
My company’s statistics prove that there’s a 75 percent greater chance of a task being completed if it’s scheduled on your calendar rather than tracked on your task list or in your head. Placing a task on your calendar ensures that you see it and have time to complete it. When it’s on your task list, you may not look at it, and if you don’t allocate time to do it, it probably won’t happen.
There is definitely something to this. When I schedule time to do something it usually gets done. My experience with a focused 50 minute work period prove this. I am so much more productive when I’m working in a focused manner. Sally’s system would tie in very well with a 50 minute work structure and the strategic next actions would form the backbone.
The last step in the cycle of productivity is to review and acknowledge progress toward objectives. This is the check and balance system that keeps you on target towards your meaningful objectives. If something isn’t working, this step will get you back on track in a hurry. This step is very important…
Acknowledgement is critical because it’s the fuel that motivates you to keep completing the cycle of productivity. Reviewing is essential because it keeps you on course with your meaningful objectives, much like steering a ship, you have to continually adjust the helm to ensure you reach your destination.
The four step system can be visually summed up with the workflow diagram below.
I have been experimenting with some of Sally’s workflow setups using Microsoft Outlook and they show some real promise. In the next few days we’ll take a look at her “Four D’s of Decision Making,” and take a look at her complete workflow diagram. If you are looking for a productivity book that matches your lifestyle and you use Microsoft Outlook, this may be the system for you.
“The answer is not in doing more. It’s in slowing down so you can make better decisions and produce better results.” — Sally McGhee