I've just finished reading Michael Linenberger's book "Master Your Work Day Now!" You may recall I've reviewed Michael's previous book, "Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook," (TWC) here in the past. You'll also recall that I'm a big fan of his views on productivity and focus, as well as the framework he's created to achieve both. His methods are very consistent with David Allen's "Getting Things Done," but he definitely has his own (pragmatic) spin on the techniques, plus some changes that may make the methods easier to implement.
This book was timely, at least for me. I loved Michael's last book, which focuses on using Microsoft Outlook as a productivity hub; however, I am using a Mac for most of my work these days which means I use Entourage which is very different from Outlook. The result? My old tools, tips, and tricks have to be adapted to a new platform. This book works well for that, since it is system-agnostic. In fact, the basics of the system Michael takes you through are demonstrated using a couple of sheets of paper (yes, ye olde paper).
At first I was wondering whether this was just a rehash of Michael's last book. Verdict? It's not. While I recognized a lot of the core concepts that carried forward from TWC, but this is by no means a re-hash of the previous material.
Layers of work
There is a hierarchy in Michael's view of the world from most "important" to most "optional" -
- Critical Now: Must do today
- Target Now (would like to do today)
- Significant Outcomes (SOCs): Achieve or make progress toward, within this week
- Opportunity Now (start this week or next; review daily)
- Over the Horizon
- Review Weekly
- Review Monthly
- Review Every 3 Months
- Review Every 6 Months
- Review Every 12 Months
My favorite new concept here is the "Significant Outcome," or "SOC." A SOC is used to keep your attention on a "milestone" toward a goal - you can think of it as a way of identifying something as "I want to make progress on this area this week" - it's not a specific task, just a specific zone of activity you want to move forward in a given week. This is a good reminder so you can move things ahead when you have a few moments here and there.
To make this easier to jump into, Michael also provides a great set of free resources on the Master Your Workday Now! web site. These resources include a workbook, some Word and Mind Manager templates, and other resources to help you apply the techniques in the book (you can sign up now, just by providing your email address - which isn't shared with any other organizations).
The bigger picture
One other thing I loved in this book was the section (and the tools) that deals with how to create a Vision, Goals, etc. These are not new concepts to me, of course, but I never can seem to write goals or visions that feel "right" to me. Finally, from this book, I have found a process I can actually use.
As a visual person, the many examples in Michael's book really helped me "get" the concepts faster - in addition to the mindmaps he shares, there are examples of goals, projects, filled-in templates, and other visual artifacts.
The book also guides you through very specific steps to connect your actions to your goals & aspirations, and take specific steps to "activate" your goals so they are more likely to stick.
In summary, I was expecting this book to be more of the same with regard to productivity, email management, "Getting Things Done"-like techniques, etc. I found it to be way more than that, and recommend it to anyone looking to use their time more effectively and more meaningfully.
If you read Master Your Workday Now! I'd love to hear what you think.