The Content of the Weekly Review and Planning

The Content of the Weekly Review and Planning

Howto, Self-help

I’ve kept the habit of the Weekly Review and Planning for a good while now and for the most part have not changed it that much. It’s a solid habit from which I’ve benefited greatly. If you haven’t started this habit I highly recommend that you consider it for yourself. The content hasn’t so much changed for me as it has matured.  The basic idea here is taking 15 to 30 minutes to step back from the work and consider the impact you’re having.

Did you accomplish what you set out to do this week?  Were you effective in communicating with your team?  Do you need to make any adjustments next week?  Do you need to seize the opportunity to reach out and tell someone thanks for a great job?


What work did you do this week?  Nothing fancy, just a word or two about the most important things you completed.  If nothing was completed what projects did you work on?


What are a couple of things you’re proud of?  Are there any changes you wanted to make recently that you got right this week?  What projects did you really get right?


What didn’t go as planned this week?  Is there something you know you should have done but never got around to?  Was your communication less than stellar with your team?  What needs a little work next week?

Lessons Learned

What did you learn from the experience of this week?  How will you be better next week as a result of having gone through this one?

Next Week Will Be Successful If…

By the time you get to Friday you probably already have the schedule set for next week.  Even so, it’s important to make sure what you have planned includes what really matters.  If not, this is a good time to make an adjustment you’ll thank yourself for next Friday.

What’s New

What’s new is that as this process has matured for me I’ve found myself spending a few extra minutes jotting things down throughout the week.  Sometimes when something happens in the week I might take a moment to jot a note down on my iPhone to go into the WR&P.

There are a lot of times I find that after a meeting or during church or while I’m reading a book I find something new to throw into the Lessons Learned section.  It turns out there’s a lot to learn from life, and it’s useful all over life, wether we’re at work or not.

How’s It Working Out For You?

I’d love to hear how this habit is working out for you.  For me I’ve been able to make some noticeable improvements in my quality of work, interactions with team members, and life at home.  This simple habit continues to pay off week after week, year after year.


When, by Daniel Pink

Among the topics in this book, around the middle of the book the author describes the research that supports why good endings and beginnings matter.  In this case we’re creating a thoughtful ending for our week and setting next week up for a great beginning.

Crank Your Workday Enthusiasm up to Eleven

Crank Your Workday Enthusiasm up to Eleven


One key element that consistently adds to the success and enjoyment of a workday is having positive interactions with coworkers.  Anytime we encounter a person who has an upbeat attitude with a cheerful manner we tend to contribute more to the conversation and walk away from it feeling energized.

The Habit

I say BE THAT PERSON with the upbeat attitude and cheerful manner. While you may not naturally beam sunshine everywhere you go, there are a few simple things you can add to your day to increase the amount of fun you have, which will improve your interactions with others.  Anytime we can improve the days of those we meet we pave the way for better relationships, more opportunity, and in the process increase our sense of self-worth.

The Method

As often as possible, I start the day with movement.  For me that means walking or jogging for 30 minutes (or longer, if time allows).  It’s not always the first thing on my mind, but I have never — not even once — regretted going out for a exercise once I got started.  Without exception, getting started with a little exercise in the morning improves my day every time.  I start the day with a clearer mind and less stress, and find my thoughts are easier to organize and the projects I work on require less effort to begin when I’ve started with movement.

During the morning exercise I often listen to music, news, podcasts, or just tune in to whatever nature is happening around me as I go.  I try to make sure that the things going into my brain are helpful and positive things.  Whatever we fuel up with tends to come back out naturally, so I try to make sure what’s fueling my morning mindset looks like success when it comes back out to others I meet throughout the day.

If at all possible, I try to work in at least a small amount of carefully-selected music that inspires me to have fun.  Doing this as closely as possible before the workday starts really puts me in a mindset to help people I meet have a better day.  I used to start the day Dwight Schrute style but I’ve learned more recently that any music that makes me smile and feel like dancing in my chair is the best way to go.

The Tool

spotifyiconHere’s a playlist I’ve been grooming for just such an occasion as the workday:

Darren’s Spotify Playlist for Workday Enthusiasm


Keep Email in its Box with Inbox Zero

Keep Email in its Box with Inbox Zero

Self-help, Technology

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

We all have a love/hate relationship with email, except maybe without the love. Yes, email is terrible, but it’s part of life so we may as well deal with it in this guide. I recommend looking at email at least once per day and no more often than three or four times per day, depending on the length of your work day. If you’re an eight-to-fiver, twice is plenty. If you run from five am to midnight, you may need to deal with email as many as four times a day.

The Habit

Check sometime in the morning. Schedule it AROUND your big rocks. Give it anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes and get through it then. If you have more email than you can read in that amount of time, make use of rules, filters, and assistants to get you through the list every single time.

Do Inbox Zero. Delete, delegate, do, defer.

Delete what needn’t be there (and unsubscribe, rule, or filter it away from your inbox forever).

Delegate what must be done, but not by you, and schedule time to train involved parties on how to do the work, and how not to involve you. Empowering others is one of the qualities of highly effective professionals.

Do what must be done. Do it right now.

Defer what can’t be done now. Sparingly, you may need to schedule some things for a later time. Put them on your calendar or todo list, and get them out of your inbox.

Inbox Zero

David Allen’s Getting Things Done

The Tools

How To Make More Effective Use of Your Office Productivity Software

Shrink the Window and Shrink the Energy


Next Page: Weekly Review and Planning

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

On Sunsetting Code

On Sunsetting Code

Self-help, Technology

Today I took a call from a colleague asking if we could extend an existing app to support new changes that had been made in the business. When scoping the project and prioritizing we realized that we have outgrown the app and need to replace it with a 3rd party solution in order to provide the level of scale we want to provide without having to add weeks of development time and priority waits. Before I move on, just a quick note of nostalgia about that killer app.

15 years ago I wrote an application to provide us with a repository of information. We called it our knowledgebase. If we learned how to do something for a client our practice became to “add it to the KB” so we could use it later. It became a selling point. Each client benefits from our extensive base of collective knowledge gathered through years of experience and hard work. The app itself was a tinny piece of classic ASP code written in VB, initially stored in an Access database, later upgraded to SQL Server. It was connected to our customer list from the accounting system, enhanced with document management capabilities, and refined countless times over the years.

A few years later while sitting around a conference room table loaded with monitors and takeout containers, spreadsheets on projectors, I contemplated with three longtime colleagues how we could help the team leap from our homegrown ticketing system and knowledgebase to our recent purchase of ConnectWise – a professional tool with greater scalability. It had one major problem. No KB — at least not like the one to which we had all grown accustomed. While we mulled, I surfed through the database and threw a couple of views together, and in the span of ten or so minutes threw together some shaky code that worked! We had a simple but elegant solution to our problem. Team members could now enter information into the system without modification, and we could retrieve it using this new app. It was fast, simple, and effective.

It was quick moment of pride as I got to use some talent and skill to quickly solve a business problem with some great teammates.

Years have gone by and that dodgy code has matured into a professionally coded web application integrated with Active Directory used thousands of times a day by a team over 100 strong and growing. As we step into the next level of maturity for our company we need to grow faster than my little two-person team of jacks-of-all-trades can responsibly manage given our current set of priorities.

So it is with sadness and just a tiny bit of pride that I recognize the end is near for an application that has lived and grown with me for the last decade and a half.

It was great fun to grow together.

Set Boundaries with Your Time and Money

Set Boundaries with Your Time and Money

Howto, Self-help, Technology

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

The Habits


The Covey organization does a fabulous job of describing life as boulders, rocks, pebbles, and sand. You’ve likely heard the analogy a dozen different ways, but it goes something like this. Picture your life as a jar and things to do like things you put inside the jar. Fill the jar halfway with sand then try putting in 20 large rocks and you’ll run out of jar before your run out of rocks. Start with the rocks, however, and you’ll find that the sand just finds a place to live inside the jar. It’s a great analogy for life. If we prioritize the things that are most important, the rest will fall into place. If we fail to do that, the unimportant things will throw the important things out of our lives, and our lives will be less fulfilling. Simple stuff.

Time blocking is the digital calendar way of putting the rocks in the jar first. Take the most important todos from your task list and drag them to your calendar so they have a set time and date. Do this before you schedule anything else. The big rocks are your vacation with family, your annual retreat, strategic planning, project work that will get your business and life to the next level. Schedule these things first, and make sure you don’t blow them off. Everything else will happily find a home on your schedule; make sure you do these things without failing!


These two topics go hand in hand because they are the two most essential, but also absolutely finite resources we have.  In the same way time blocking budgets the time you spend on the things that are most important for you to accomplish in life, the habit of consistent financial budgeting (and living by the budget) helps you to map out a path to achieve the goals using the financial resources at your disposal.

My wife and I learned about financial budgeting — and looking at finances from a new perspective of purpose — by taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course, and it has changed our lives and improved our marriage without a doubt.

The basic principle of budgeting is to recognize how much money you have coming in, and learn to operate with that amount of money, and it really is as simple as it sounds.  When you use a monthly written budget you discover your ability to live according a disciplined financial mission and begin reaching your financial goals more quickly than you ever thought possible.

The Tools

Time Blocking – The One Thing

Financial Budgeting – Financial Peace University
If a book is more your speed check out The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

NEXT PAGE: Keep Email in its Box with Inbox Zero


This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

Say Yes

Say Yes


Recently I was given the opportunity to help lead songs at our church and in the short time I’ve been doing this I have been amazed at how rewarding it has been.

As it turns out, when you make time and room available for God in your life he can do way more with it than you ever could have done with that time or space.  If you have a nagging sense that you should be doing something for God, I highly recommend that you say yes to whatever that thing is, and then hang on for the amazing journey you’re about to embark upon.

Here are some of the fun and unexpected surprises that have come out of the experience in just a few weeks’ time.

I Get Out of It More Than I Put In

This should not have been such a surprise to me, but it was.  There’s a ton of people doing a ton of work between the Sundays so that you and I can stroll our sleepy-eyed, donut crusted faces into the church building and halfheartedly listen to some guy talk about something or another and halfheartedly mouth words to songs while thinking about The Game and The Chili — if we even bother to show up at all.  Who knew?  When we show up and really tune in we get so much more from it than we put in.

Roots Grow Deeper

Working hard with a purpose pulls you closer to your purpose. And when that purpose comes from God he gets all freaky supernatural with the time and effort you offer up. Like that time-space thing I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  You give him space in your life and he moves in, sets up shop… hires a staff, knocks down a few walls and puts in a foosball table.


Yeah, You Really Do Have Time

As our family has said yes to a few of these “God things” over the last couple of years we’ve worried whether we’ll have the time to follow through. Will we say yes only to find out we’re miserable because we’re “busier” now, or disappoint people when we sputter out of gas?  So far we haven’t run out of gas or out of time.  When you make time for important things, you have all the time you need.

Say Yes.

Weekly Review and Planning

Weekly Review and Planning

Howto, Self-help, Technology

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

For the past year I’ve kept a habit that has helped me significantly to grow professionally and to be more productive.  That habit is what I call the weekly review and planning pause.  This simple, 30 minute appointment is on my calendar toward the end of each week for the purpose of helping me assess what I did, whether or not I’m proud of what I did, and what I’m going to do next week to do as well as or better than I did this week.

The goods with this one are in the repetition.  A wise guy once said to me “perfect practice makes for perfect performance,” and I believe it.  What we practice we become good at, and what we become good at we have a shot at becoming great at.  I don’t know about you but I don’t just want to be decent, or even good, at what I do.  I want to be awesome.  Amazing.  Outstanding.  Here’s one of the things I do every week to try and get there.

  1. Make Sure It’s Quiet.  If you need to leave the office, leave the office.  If you don’t have the freedom to leave the office (your employer has totally missed out on helping you to be your best and serve them better – you should talk to them about this), then do this planning after hours or wait for a time when it’s naturally quiet around the office.  This is important.  Make time for it.
  2. Record The Review – paper, digital, black box recorder.  Whatever.  I don’t care.  Just put it down so you can review it later.  Why spend time doing it if you can’t look back at the data later?
  3. Be Consistent.  Do the review every week.  Answer the same questions.  Give it the same effort every time.  That is, unless you’re okay with totally mediocre performance.  In that case, do whatever you want to do.  But that’s not you.  You’re a pro.  You’re a ninja.  You’re striving for mastery.  So you’ll be consistent.
  4. Review.  Rinse.  Repeat.  After you’ve been doing these activities for a few weeks you’ll pick up patterns and start to hold yourself accountable for achieving better results every time.  You’ll find those ways you’re getting in the way of your own success and making life harder than necessary for yourself and those around you.

I recommend recording the following five bits of information:

  1. Activities. What did I spend my (my organization’s) time doing this week?  To what end did I strive, what was my purpose in showing up for work this week?
  2. Setbacks. What just didn’t go right for me this week?  What mistakes did I make that I can avoid next week?  What behaviors can I improve on next week?
  3. Lessons Learned.  Sometimes this one is something that really bit you in the butt.  Sometimes it’s a profound moment of learning and growth.  One week for me during a chat my plumber he laid down on me some of the most profound people management advice I’d ever heard.  What rocked your world this week?  Whether it was pleasant or painful, it will make you better.
  4. Accomplishments.  What have you forgotten to celebrate.  What level of awesome did you throw out for the world this week that you’ve been too busy looking down to celebrate?  Write it down.  This is the stuff you’ll look back on and say “I rock.  I need to do more of that.”
  5. Next Week Will Be Successful If…  Write down the 3-5 things you need to accomplish next week in order to get to the next step on your goal plan.  No matter what happens next week, if you get these things done, you’ll have lived to fight another day.

That’s it.  Five things.  You write these five things down every week and two things will happen. You’ll start performing better on Monday and you’ll go home on Friday unburdened, ready to rock it with the people you love.  After all, they’re the reason you do this, right?

Rock next week.

Next Page: Get It Right EVERY TIME (not just the first time)

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

What Marbles Taught Me About Life

What Marbles Taught Me About Life


Today started with a fabulous brisk walk in the cool autumn air, blood pumping, mind waking up and filling up with positivity. It was going to be a pretty good day.  We had an appointment with a doctor for one of the kids, and while waiting in the lobby I noticed this really neat mosaic sconce made from marbles.  Didn’t think much about it at the time, but thought enough of it to take a photo.

While at the doctor’s office with my family the news we received wasn’t quite what we had envisioned for the day.  Things were going to be fine, but we going to go a completely different direction than expected.  It struck me that life is a lot like the sconce.

Life gives us a lot of marbles that, of themselves, look uninteresting and unremarkable.  But from the perspective of the one who created the mosaic they all have purpose, they belong exactly where they are, and the end result is beautiful.


Four Simple Steps To Actually REACHING Your Goals

Four Simple Steps To Actually REACHING Your Goals



In this post I intend to give you my best strategy to really achieve your goals.  With this strategy you’ll reach your goals and do it more quickly than you thought was possible.  This strategy is simple, easy to remember, and costs nothing.

There are a couple of great books on the subject, and I’ll link to them at the bottom of this article. The concept is NOT new.  It’s been around a long time, and thousands of people have been successful by following this principle, yet it’s so often overlooked I just HAD to write about it. Here are the 4 Simple Steps to REALLY accomplishing your goals:

  1. Identify your roles in life
  2. Start with the end
  3. Back up into the present
  4. GO!

Identify Your Roles In Life

The first step to take is to identify what roles you play, or at least which ones you haven’t yet taken to 100% success.  It’s probably pretty easy to come up with about 5-8 really important areas of the life you want to live.  You don’t have to be there yet – that’s what goals are for.  To do the things you’re meant to do, but haven’t done yet.  Some examples might be:

  • Mother
  • Husband
  • CEO
  • Board Member
  • Community Leader
  • Faithful giver
  • Loyal friend

I found 6.  Your mileage may vary, but spending some time honestly working out what you think you were put on this earth to do is most important to your success in reaching your goals.  If you don’t have a true purpose, you’ll never have the motivation to do it well.

Start With The End

What is it that you want to accomplish?  Picture yourself doing it, being great at it, and enjoying the satisfaction of success in that area.  You’re going to repeat this for each area you mentioned in the first step.

After writing it down on paper, I found a good way to help me with this was to use a mindmapping program on a computer and connect it to my daily task list.  But that’s just for me.  I use computers every day so that was the right fit for me. Maybe you use your phone every day, maybe computers aren’t your thing, and a drawing on a piece of paper sitting on the back of your front door is right tool for you.  Whatever it is, do it.  It’s important.  You must see your goals every day right in front of your face so you can’t forget.

Back Up To The Present

Starting from the end you just envisioned, and repeating for each role you live (or want to live), back up one step to what you need to do in the next 5 years in order to accomplish that goal.  If you’re saving to buy a house with cash, maybe 5 years isn’t long enough.  Start 10 years out, whatever works for you, make the goal realistic and specific, and start from there.

Once you’ve figured out what you need to do in 5 years’ time in order to reach your goal for this area of your life, write it down, and step back to the 3 year mark.  What do you need to do in 3 years’ time in order to be ready to start on the things you need to do in 5 years to reach your goal.  Write it down.

Keep stepping backward until you’ve written down key milestones for each area of your life, all the way from the goal itself to what you need to do right now – today.


Whatever that thing is for each area, do it.  Today.  Right now.  Don’t delay, don’t hesitate.  Do it.  Now.  For real.  What are you waiting for?  You just sat down and planned out your next 5 years. You know pretty much everything you need to do in order to reach your goals.  Not only that, you pretty much know that if you don’t do those things, you won’t reach your goals. So get started, get your list done today, and repeat tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

Look at your list every day, make sure at a minimum that you do what’s on your list, without making any excuses, without accepting no for an answer… and your goals are as good as done.


The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

Mastering The Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish


XMind Free Mind Mapping Tool for Mac, PC and Linux

XMindLook for connecting XMind to Outlook

XMindSync for Online Todo managers

Fighting Away From The Rocks

Fighting Away From The Rocks

Self-help, Technology

Let me start by saying I wrote this blog post specifically around the image.  I didn’t set out to do that for today’s blog post; I intended to give a demonstration of how to use some really cool technologies to make your life as a developer easier.  Here’s what happened.

I’m cruising swiftly toward the end of a very frustrating week.  It’s just been one of those weeks where nothing seems to work out the way I planned it, and each day puts me a little farther behind schedule.  At one point today I actually caught myself just staring off into space, thinking what-in-the-WORLD-has-happened-to-this-week? It’s just like the picture.  Some people might see the ocean in all its blueness and vastness and potential.  I see that too, but what I see first is…

A Bunch of Rocks

That’s what this week has been like.  It’s like we have this grand voyage to embark upon, but we keep getting smashed up against those rocks are are getting nowhere.  Just when we get a stroke ahead a big wave smacks us in the face and slams us back up against those jagged, unrelenting rocks.

Climbing the Cliff

It’s obvious the same approach is useless, so I think it’s time to climb up the rock face, and create a new plan.  And once we’ve got a new plan, we’re going to find a runway and launch out into the open water where those rocks can’t drag us down.

What’s Dragging You Down This Week?

This week has definitely been more than I’d bargained for.  What’s been challenging you this week, and better yet — how are you going to refocus and relaunch for better success? Comment in the spaces below, or hit me up on twitter @sed8me.