The Final Five: my countdown of, yep, you guessed it, the final five posts of the calendar year. And what a better way to wind down 2011 (read: phone it in while I’m on vacation) than some 2012 lists! Tune in all week long for five things to try, four things to look forward to, three confessions, two amazing people and the one last thing to start the year off right.
There are some who go out of their way to avoid using the end of the year as some sort of logical starting and ending point. I am not one of those people. Perhaps it’s my nature, perhaps it’s the fact that I have the week off, but I always use this time of year as an opportunity to recharge and reassess. It’s a chance to game plan the things I want to work on in the coming year (more on this later in the week). While I don’t always hit the ground running on January 1st (in fact, I go out of my way not to as trying to do everything at once is a sure-fire way for me to fail), I like to determine and begin planning a few self-improvement projects for the coming year.
With that in mind, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share a few of the things that worked for me in 2011.
- Get Out Of Your Inbox – You’re likely already familiar with this, probably because you’ve seen someone tweet out #INBOXZERO! the one time they burned through all of the messages in their inbox. While processing all of your email is one of the core tenants of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero, it’s often mistaken as the central theme. The real idea is getting your work and more importantly yourself out of your inbox, to determine what is truly important rather than constantly jumping into your email. If you find yourself living your life in Outlook or Gmail, give Merlin’s seminal talk to the team at Google a shot. If you’re already familiar and need a few ideas on how to implement Inbox Zero, I’ve got you covered.
- Get Your Writing In Sync – We have a lot of devices these days. These devices are far more powerful and far more portable than any of us would have imagined. Combine that with a wave of new tools such as Dropbox and iCloud and we have not only access to a wealth of information at our finger tips, but we have OUR information with us at all times. Yet many of us still treat where we write and where we work as precious. If you are looking to get a lot more done in the new year, you’d be surprised just how much of it you can accomplish on the go (hell, I’m doing a lot of my writing on the Subway). There is a renaissance happening in text-editing applications; services like Dropbox, applications like Simplenote and nvALT1, empower you to write seamlessly between all of your devices. What’s written on the subway now appears at my Mac by the time I arrive at my desk.
- Read A Lot More of A Lot Less – Between work, writing, and family, it can be a challenge to find time to focus in on a good book. That said, what comes out of your fingers is only as good as the ideas you put into your head. You can’t steal from yourself, now can you The time-crunch of our lives, coupled with near unlimited options, makes it challenging to get through a 300-1000 page book. Add that to the fact that most 300-page books really needed to be about a 100-page book and the next thing you know, you’re in danger of reading less. An alternative is to start reading more, smaller things. More blogs, more manifestos, more ebooks. We tend to treat shorter as worse, but more often than not, more is just unnecessary. Be selective about what you read, but know that you can find some truly inspirational and useful ideas in 300-1000 word posts. Occasionally it does take a book to truly cover a concept (and I read some great ones in 2011), but you can learn a lot from reading lots of little pieces. Especially when you can take advantage of an amazing app like Instapaper to help pull them all together.
- Listen To What You Love – Part of the challenge with getting through a good book is the sheer number of quality options at our disposal. Long gone are the days of four or even 4,000 television channels. We have more books, shows, blogs, and news sites vying for our attention and in this swirl of information, there is one medium that gets overlooked more than any other: the Podcast. Today you can give yourself a damn good education on just about any subject you can imagine on iTunes for free. When my interest in social marketing emerged, I was able to learn so much from The Six Pixels of Separation, Marketing Over Coffee and The Duct Tape Marketing podcasts. As my love for tech continues to grow, networks like 5by5 and 70Decibels have given me a wealth of options for just about any aspect of the tech world. If you aren’t using podcasts to learn whatever it is you’re hoping to improve at and you aren’t using apps like Instacast to help you stay on top of the latest and greatest shows, you’re making your life a lot harder.
- Organize Your Chaos – To say I am naturally a disorganized mess is an insult to disorganized messes. So one of my more daunting goals for 2011 was to finally get a handle on task management. While it was a bumpy road and a fight against my nature every step of the way, I think I’ve finally found a system that works for me. Over time, my system has grown to include a mixture of Due for small reminders, Fantastical for managing appointments and Omnifocus for just about everything else. While everyone’s system will vary, it’s essential to learn to not only manage the things you want and need to accomplish, but also to wrangle the various emails, files and reference material needed to accomplish them. If you struggle with organization, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the tools are finally at hand for taking control of chaos. It’s a long, often painful road, but if you need a starting point, you could do a lot worse than David Sparks’ Omnifocus videos (Episodes 1, 2 and 3).
Hopefully this will give you a few things to consider as you assess your goals for the coming year. Feel free to jump into the comments and let me know what worked for you in 2011 that the rest of us might want to take a look at in the new year.
These are the ones I like, there are but there are a wealth of choices here. ↩