The Afterword is primarily an exhortation to connect with the author. One quote for getting work done stood out, “The answer is monotasking— delivering the vital few by skipping the useful many.” The concept of linking starting and finishing and controlling WIP is so intrinsically obvious that it borders on being a truism, BUT almost every person, team, and organization throws this basic knowledge out the window thinking they are special. Until about five’ish years ago I was no different.  My work approach was altered by Staffan’s first book, Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, so I expected a great deal from this book. It delivered but it delivered mostly because the second time I read it I put it to use. Just reading this book is intellectually interesting; putting it to use is valuable. The approach of finding one important item from each chapter and then trying to put it into action drove points home for me immediately. I hope my learning by trial and error was useful to the readers of the blog. To date, the short list concept has been the most important takeaway from the approach. The ironic part is that I messed my initial implementation up and almost abandoned the idea. It really works. One learning from the approach is that if an experiment doesn’t work learn and try again. 

Bottom line:  Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg gets my highest recommendation: it is very useful. (I have to say that I really hate the limit on exporting notes set by the publisher on the Kindle.)

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Week 9 of our re-read of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg is the last numbered chapter, next week we will wrap things up.  This chapter really is about the self-care needed to be both effective and creative. There are a number of ideas in this chapter that if you’re not familiar with them are frankly just really good ideas. Many of the ideas in this chapter I have been using for years and some of the inferred issues I am still working on. Sleep is the biggest problem I struggle with.  

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This chapter struck several chords during both of my reads of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. Staffan opens the chapter, Simplifying Cooperation, by pointing out that “effective communication gives you more discretionary time.” This is one of the principles underpinning most agile approaches. If you improve communication by making it as intimate as it needs to be you can reduce status giving and taking as well as at least some of the follow-ups and clarifications that seem to spin-off discussions.

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This week’s chapter of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. is Progress Incrementally. I was first exposed to the idea of incrementalism and timeboxing by my mother while helping (or voluntold) with the housework. I would vacuum rugs for about 5 minutes, have the work inspected, and then, invariably do some rework before moving off to the next timebox. As a child, I just assumed you should get feedback early in the process. I later ran into timeboxes in Champy and Hammer’s book Reengineering The Corporation. The idea was a revelation in the work environment I was in at the time.  In both cases the duration timebox was different, but the message was similar. If you break work up into smaller pieces you can assess progress, get feedback, can change tact or do something more important (this is where I ask Lakein’s question – “What is the best use of my time right now?”) much sooner than if you wait until your think you are done. On top of all of those benefits, increments also help people and teams to achieve focus. This week I have succeeded in turning off all my interruptions (Slack, Text, Teams, Twitter, email, and others) as I am doing my monotasking sessions, a type of incrementalism . . . at least in the morning. I do pop many of those apps back on briefly at the end of each panorama session to make sure no emergencies have occurred. Afternoons are tough due to meetings and other hardscape activities, therefore I moved as many of my focus activities earlier in the day (as a morning person, this suits me) when I can quietly timebox.

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This week’s chapter of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. is Never Procrastinate. I have been working on procrastination and overcommitting my whole life. Compared to my 7th-grade self I have made step changes.  Even compared to my 2020 self, I do a better job at avoiding procrastination and overcommitting.  My five short list begins with the admonition: 

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In Chapter 2 of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg, Staffan describes how to create a short list of five items and then to push everything else to the “grass catcher” list. I have been working on using this approach this week with a special focus on capturing the date an item was added to the list and the stakeholder for the item. In the past, I trimmed my list on a quarterly basis. I use the dramatic approach of starting a new list saving only those items on my short list. This week I tried Staffan’s weekly approach, trimming off a few older items on a weekly basis. The date added is useful but what I found more useful was asking myself the question, “am I really going to do this or is this an aspirational item?” Cue the chainsaw; even though I started a new list on July 1st I was able to remove several items from my new grass catcher list.

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Finally, we have reached Chapter 2 of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. It is ironic that a failure in my ability to control WIP in my personal life led to a two-week delay in delivering the re-read of this chapter titled, Cut Down on Tasks to Do. All the hand wringing aside, the delay has allowed me to reflect more on the chapter and to hone my use of the short-list and panorama cues and sessions. Long swaths of meetings still give me trouble, but getting the short list down to tasks that I missed in my first read of Chapter 2 has made a ton (imperial or metric) of difference. 

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This week we focus on Chapter One of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg, which is titled Monotasking In A Nutshell. This chapter lays the foundation for translating the Five Axioms of Monotasking into a simple and straightforward approach. 

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The first chapter in  Monotasking by Staffan Noteberg is the introduction, titled The Five Axioms of Monotasking.  As a reminder, an axiom is a statement that is regarded as being established, accepted, or that is self-evident. These five truths form the foundation from which the book proceeds. Each of the five axioms Staffan identifies is useful individually if taken to heart and then used to shape how you work. As a whole they are powerful.

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We start our re-read of Monotasking by Staffan Noteberg.  The book is 237 pages published by Racehorse Publishing (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) and was released in English on June 1, 2021. For most of the readers of the blog and listeners to the podcast, this will be an initial read. The book’s contents include a Preface, Introduction, seven numbered chapters, an Afterword, and then other stuff like index and more (we will not cover the other stuff but I am glad for the index and endnotes). This re-read will take between 10 and 11 eleven weeks barring disasters or absolutely perfect Saturdays. 

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