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User to User: Organize your Time by the Compass, not the Clock

User to User: Organize your Time by the Compass, not the Clock

Hal turns the HP 100LX into an effective time management tool by focusing on important goals rather than urgent ones.

By Hal Goldstein

I've used an HP Palmtop for over three years, and now, thanks to Steven Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill's new book, First Things First, I finally use my Palmtop to effectively organize my time. (Covey authored the best-seller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)

I've tried many times in the past to use my HP 95LX Palmtop and then my HP 100LX to organize my day. However, my ToDo lists became unmanageable -too long, with no underlying organization. In addition, a large 100LX to-do list can mean sluggish Palmtop performance. I even tried creating my own 100LX to-do template using the BUILT-IN Database program. That proved to be too cumbersome to keep using. I was even ready to commit the ultimate heresy: move to a more powerful desktop personal information manager and transfer data back and forth between my desktop and Palmtop. But I hesitated -something didn't click, and I couldn't put my finger on it.

Then I read Covey's book and realized that the problem wasn't my time management methodology, but my "paradigm" or internal map of time management. Like many people, I had adopted a "clock" rather than a "compass" point-of-view. In other words, I organized my day around getting as much done as possible rather than accomplishing that which was truly important to me.

Too much to do; not enough time to do it!

Let me give a little background. My wife Rita and I started Thaddeus Computing (previously called Personalized Software) from a small two bedroom house in Fairfield, Iowa almost ten years ago. Now we have a dozen employees who have taken over most of the day-to-day activities. However, I am still ultimately responsible for the quality of The HP Palmtop Paper, for marketing it, and for making sure that you get it as promised. In my non-business life, we recently adopted two children plus we have other personally fulfilling but time-consuming activities. In others words, as most of you can relate to, I feel I have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Generally, when starting a small business, the focus is on urgent tasks, deadlines, and putting out "fires." As our business grew, my role changed from a doer to a manager and a leader. However, as Covey calls it, my "urgency addiction" did not go away. Operating in a "third generation" "clock-based" paradigm, I tried to be more efficient, tried to get as much done in a day as possible, tried to "manage" my time as best as I could. However, at the end of the day, I was tired and aware of the mountain of goals I hadn't accomplished.

Covey describes a fourth generation paradigm where the compass -universal principles, inner direction, and purpose -rules rather than the clock. Covey focuses on importance-driven rather than urgency-driven planning, where effectiveness (results) is emphasized, rather than efficiency (process). Doing the right thing is considered first, before doing things right. Leadership (direction, vision) is primary over management.

In this context Covey presents his organizing tool, a weekly planning method, which has made me more effective (and more efficient). The nice thing is that this method adapts very well to the HP 100LX (and could be made to work on the 95LX with add-in programs like Notepad<ON DISK ICON> and ABKTOOL<ON DISK ICON>).

I combine the HP 100LX Database program with the Appointment Book to implement the Covey weekly planning method. I use 100Buddy to link these two BUILT-IN applications (although 100Buddy isn't necessary).

Setting up the weekly planning database

As we examine the database template I developed, you'll get more of a feel for the Covey system. Our discussion will involve some surface-level details associated with day-to-day and weekly planning (i.e. setting up this database, pressing these buttons). In fact, you can use this system to become only more efficient in the "clock-driven" sense. However, Covey supplies the underlying principles of "personal mission" and "deeply defined roles" that serve as the foundation for this planning system and moves us from third-generation urgency thinking to fourth-generation importance-based "personal leadership" thinking.

This discussion is not intended to be a tutorial on setting up an HP 100LX Database, although you should be able to pick up some tips. Expect more Database discussions in future issues. If you haven't used the 100LX Database, The 100LX Quick Start Guide, page 8-1, is quite helpful. Once you get a feel for using Database, you'll find many possible uses. The template, 1STTHING.GDB <ON DISK ICON>, that I describe below is available on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK and on CompuServe.

The nice thing about the BUILT-IN Database is that you can customize the data entry screen according to what you are trying to track. In this example we make rich use of "Option Boxes" that make both entering goals and later viewing them from different perspectives a breeze. Here is a sample data entry screen:

1stTHING Database: Graphic

 When defining an HP 100LX Database, one is allowed to define different "Field Types". In this Covey template, the phrase "Qual of life depends .... stimulus/response" at the top is made up of four Label fields (each label can have at most 16 characters). The Goal box is a Text field. There are seven Group Box fields named "Role", "Aspect", "Type", "Pri", "QD", "Kind", and "Who". The first 6 Group Boxes contain Option Buttons, while the seventh "Who" box contains Check Boxes. Only one Option Button per Group Box can be marked. You can check any number of Check Boxes in a Group Box.

The top line is a core idea in First Things First. When unabbreviated it reads "Quality of life depends on what happens in the space between stimulus and response." Covey's point is that there is a space between when a stimulus reaches our senses and when we respond to it. It is in that space where "we put our integrity on the line", and where we can be proactive (deal with the stimulus) rather than reactive (wait until it deals with us). That space is where our personal freedom resides and can be developed.

Using the weekly planning database

When I want to enter a new goal, I press (F2) (Add) from the main index screen. The previous screen appears and I am placed in the Goal text field. There I write my goal, for example, "call HP", "write PTP Covey article", "play basketball with the kids", "work on marriage mission statement with Rita", "determine Palmtop Paper renewal strategy".

After entering a new goal, I tab to Role Group Box. From here, I further define the goal by checking off option buttons in the Group Boxes. I can tab to the desired Group Box and use the arrow keys to select the desired option. However, it's easier to just type the underlined letter of the desired option. For example, say I enter "Write PTP Covey article" as my goal. I press (ENTER) or (<Tab>) to move to the Role box and then type p for "Pubs-Thaddeus", my role as director of publications at Thaddeus Computing. I then type L for "Mental" since it is primarily a mental activity, k since it is in the upcoming "weekly" goal, h for Hi priority. Then I type 1 for Quadrant 1 "urgent" activity (I promised managing editor, Richard Hall, the article by the end of the week. I'll explain Quadrants below). Finally, I press o for Do since this is a commitment rather than an area of pursuit I focus my attention on. (Covey defines these two kinds of goals as "determinations" (Do) and "concentrations" (Focus)).

When I defined the data base and gave the fields names, I simply placed a & before the letter I wanted underlined in the field name. Pressing the letter (or if you are in a text box, Alt and the letter) puts you in that field.

The remaining fields on this Database goal screen are optional and my invention, not directly part of the Covey planner. I date stamp the Date in which I set the goal by pressing (Fn) (,). I am not sure how I am going to use the date field -perhaps see what goals have been hanging around for a long time -but I included it since entering the date only takes two key strokes.

If I want to add some notes about the goal, I press (ENTER) again. (Since in defining the Database screen, I positioned the Note field slightly higher than Done, Note comes after Date). If I have a lot of notes, or I want to document and date the progress of a goal, I can press (F3) and expand the Note field to an entire screen. The Done field (press (ALT) Done) is used later to check a goal as done. Finally, since my work requires a lot of delegation and collaboration, I've included check boxes to indicate who is working on the goal with me. I can then define a Subset that will let me look at an individual's goals.

The rest of the fields, I consider optional. If I am finished, I press (F10) to go back to the index of goals or (F2) to add another goal.

Although the explanation is a bit wordy, the process of entering goals is quite simple. Press (F2) (Add), type the goal, press six letters and issue a date stamp. Optionally you can add notes and assign other people to the task.

Understanding the Covey system: Missions and Roles

Covey system planning is directed by the compass rather than the clock and focuses on what is important rather than what is urgent. Covey and the Merrill's emphasize the need for a mission statement and well-thought-out roles. A mission statement describes the underlying guiding principle of all goals. It is "True North" for your compass and is based on universal principals as well as individual propensities. It is the standard from which you can determine the importance of your goals.

The roles one plays in life relate to the mission statement. I am a Father, a husband, and the head of marketing for our company. Covey recommends not to select more than 7 roles. If necessary, he suggests folding in several sub-roles under one role as I have under "CEO Bus, Pers". Here I put the managerial and financial activities of my business and personal affairs.

In addition, Covey suggests that everyone select "Sharpen the Saw" as an additional role. This metaphor implies developing yourself each week mentally, physically, socially/emotionally, and spiritually so that you can be more effective in all your goals. He further states that all roles and goals have these four Sharpen-the-Saw aspects, and a proper balance should be maintained.

Each Role has "Context" goals associated with it, which are more than just middle-range or long-range goals ("clock" rather than "compass" concepts). For example, a context goal for my role as Publisher of Thaddeus Computing is to "Produce quality, practical publications that deliver more than what we promise." This is certainly a long-range goal, but it is more. It is a goal that relates to my personal mission statement, the mission of Thaddeus Computing, and to other goals. A "what/why/ how" format allows the connection between the Context goal, the mission, principles, and other goals. "What" is defined in the Goal field: the goal statement itself. "Why have the goal" and "how can the goal be achieved" can be part of the Database Note.

Define Goals in Notes Field: Graphic

 Plan one week at a time

Covey feels weekly planning allows proper focus on goal setting. Daily planning can be too myopic and urgency-driven. Weekly planning lets you schedule first that which is really important for each of the roles. Once important things are assigned, other goals can be scheduled.

A subtlety in the system has helped my weekly planning quite a bit. I am always thinking of things to do. Many of these ideas are quite useful. In the past, as good ideas piled on, an internal nagging increased. No matter how much I accomplished in a day, there was an ever-increasing pile of good ideas I "should" have done. Now when I get the idea, I simply enter it into my database. It takes about 30 seconds to type the goal and the six letters for the six categories. The thing that's made my weekly planning better is that I now enter "Perhaps" as the goal Type in most cases. This lets me off the hook until Saturday morning when I create next week's schedule. (Occasionally, as necessary, I add it to "Weekly" goal, or it may in fact be a longer term "Context" goal.)

A final powerful concept on which the Covey system is based, is that all activities and goals can be divided into four quadrants, defining their urgency and importance.

Covey divides activities into four groups or "quadrants":

Q-I: Urgent and Important;

Q-II: Not Urgent, Important;

Q-III: Urgent, Not important;

Q-IV: Not urgent, Not important.

According to Covey, many of us spend much of our time in urgency Quadrants I and III and then, exhausted, fall into QIV activities such as mindless TV. Usually, the most important things in our lives are Q-II activities. The database I've defined only has QI and QII, the two important categories.

Subsets - getting ready to plan the next week

We're now ready to plan the week. Much of the power you gain by putting the Covey system on the Palmtop comes from the improved ability to view the goals from a variety of perspectives. This ability helps immensely when planning the upcoming week.

The 100LX Subset capability lets you view your database of goals in a variety of ways. For example, you may want to schedule goals for each Roles, while maintaining a reasonable balance and synergy between mental, physical, social, and spiritual activities.

The HP 100LX Database lets you define up to 16 subsets. I have a subset defined for each role.

Subset Screen with List of Subsets: Graphic

 So, for example, when it comes to weekly planning, I look at all my Context, Perhaps, and Archived goals as Husband (Archived goals are completed goals that I decided not to delete for future reference). I then choose the one or two most important goals and change the goal from Perhaps to Weekly. I transfer these goals over to my Appointment Book as described later on in this article.

I do this with each of my roles. In addition, if I sense I am not attending to, say, my physical/material well-being as much as I should, I'll look at the physical subset of goals. I can also look at the QI (urgent goals) and Hi (high priority-goals) and select Weekly goals from there.

I then look at my Appointment Book's Weekly view and see if I have over-packed it. At that time I relegate those goals that aren't of greatest importance, back to Perhaps.

Each Subset allows me to view the index screen of goals in different ways. Consider the following screens containing my "Model Business -Publications" subset and my "This Week" subset view.

Subset View: Model Business: Graphic

Subset View: This Week's Goals:  Graphic

 Notice that I have selected different fields to be displayed. On my Publications view used for weekly planning, I want to know the goal type (Perhaps, Context, Weekly) and whether it is a spiritual, physical, social, or mental activity. For my Weekly view I want to know whether the activity is urgent or not (Q1 or Q2), and what level of priority. It is also nice to see the activity checked as Done. The Note in the top Weekly record contains my mission statement. (I put a space at the beginning of the "Have fun" so that it appears at the top of the list.)

Connecting to APPT

Now it is time to schedule my goals into the HP 100LX Appointment Book. I use the daily view, the Week-at-a-glance view, and the ToDo section in this planning.

First I schedule all that I can schedule at specific times. I block out time in the week for the most important activities first. For example, I schedule every Saturday morning to play or do projects with the boys. (I enter this as a repeating weekly appointment.) I may schedule time away from the office to work on an article for The HP Palmtop Paper. Another several hours are blocked for physical exercise to keep me in shape. If an urgent matter interferes with a block of time, then I reschedule that block as I would if an important meeting got interrupted.

Some activities, such as keeping up with CompuServe activity or reading a book, I do not schedule for a specific time, but put it in my to-do's for automatic carry forward. When I have free time in the day, I check my to-dos and attend to these activities.

The scheduling process is quite painless even sort of fun with the help of 100Buddy <ON DISK ICON>. I created a Smart Clip (named ">100Buddy") that consists only of the Goal field. I highlight an item from the index list of my Weekly subset and press (Fn) (A) or (Fn) (T). 100Buddy automatically writes the goal in the Appt or ToDo Description field, and pops up the calendar so I can assign the date. I then tab to the time field and key in a time, or delete the time to make the goal an event for the day.

Appointment Entry with Calendar Displayed:  Graphic

 At any time from the main Appt screen I can press (F8) (Week) to see how my Week is shaping up. (As needed, I use the Fn Space Zoom feature to blow up or reduce the size of the type and view of the week)

Appointments: Weekly View Hourly Appointment Intervals: Graphic

Weekly View: 30 Minute Intervals: Graphic

Weekly View: 15 Minute Intervals: Graphic

 I go back to Database using the 100Buddy feature of pressing (PHONE) twice.

There are two types of goals that I schedule as to-do's using the 100Buddy Fn-t link. Type 1 are on-going daily goals such as doing yoga asanas and getting on CompuServe. I give those the "Priority" label "DY". Most of those just remain in the ToDo list. My default Priority is "1T" one time for goals such as reading a book or working on a marketing plan. These are often "Focus" goals, goals that I want to make time for as gaps in my schedule appear.

Goals can be easily clipped and sent to APPT or ToDo without 100Buddy, but using Buddy does save repetitive keystrokes.

What next?

I wanted to write this article while the Covey book was fresh in my mind and just after creating the data base. The method has not yet stood the test of time for me, but I like it and intuitively it feels right. As I write this, I have taken a personal retreat with my wife to work on this article, my mission statement, context goals, and a new newsletter idea related to personal effectiveness principles and the HP Palmtop.

I hope this article sparks some discussion on CompuServe and letters to the editor. I'll be interested in your reaction to this type of article as well as your suggestions for refinements to my HP Palmtop implementation of Covey Leadership Center "fourth generation" weekly planning approach.

iPhone Life magazine

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