Tag Archives: GTD

Your Password as a Mantra to Improve Quality Consciousness

How many times a day do you type in your password? Is it a good password? Is it a password that’s helping you focus the attention of your unconscious on the stuff you want to attract into your business or your life?

A password is essentially a mantra – a “word or sound repeated to aid concentration” – according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Typically, it’s just a word or string of characters repeated so that we can access the computing resources we need. People often pick passwords or pass phrases that are already memorable – your dog’s name, your kid’s birthday, a secret inside joke – but since the password is already technically a mantra, I think it can be much better used to create something memorable for your future, or to take advantage of an upcoming opportunity! And if you’re required to change your password so frequently at work (like me, every 90 days) this technique helps you remember your password more easily too.

ISO 9000 p. 3.1.5 (formerly ISO 8402:1994) defines quality as “the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” In industry, we usually think of a product or a process as the entity, and then we work on improving the product’s quality or improving the effectiveness or efficiency of the process. So why don’t we turn it inside out and think of ourselves as the entity?

That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish by proposing the notion of quality consciousness, which asks the question: “What are the totality of characteristics of YOU that bear upon your ability to satisfy the stated and implied needs of yourself, your communities, and the organizations where you contribute your talent?”

The three aspects of quality consciousness are AWARENESS of what quality means in a particular context, ALIGNMENT of you and your talents with the problem to be solved and the environment in which the problem and its solution are embedded, and the ability to focus your ATTENTION on the problem or situation that needs to be improved.

ATTENTION is a tricky one, though. Not only do you have to tame the distractions that are gnawing at your conscious mind, but your unconscious mind can grab your attention as well. There are plenty of techniques out there for getting your conscious mind to focus, such as David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology. But there aren’t that many techniques that help you focus the attention of your unconscious mind, which is why password-as-mantra is such a useful approach.

Choosing a password-as-mantra can help you focus your unconscious mind on the things you want to achieve in the near term. Why? Because after a while, you don’t even think about entering your password… it’s just part of you… and that’s when your unconscious is actively working with it.

(I’ve been using my password as a mantra for a few years with great results. Other people have apparently figured this out too and are doing it.  I brought the idea up in one of Jeannette Maw’s GVU discussion groups, and it turns out lots of other people are doing it – we just haven’t been talking about it!)

Quality and Productivity Through Reflection

mirrorOn April 9, 2009, Computerworld published a highly “Digg-ed” post entitled “Why Goofing Off Boosts Productivity”. This article highlighted some recent research results from the University of Melbourne that demonstrated the utility of occasional Twittering and Facebook-ing from work, and suggested some additional anecdotal reasons why “Internet slacking” might be productive.

Productivity has been described in many ways, for example as the ratio of output to input , task completion through David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or focus on business results using the concept of the Results-Only Work Environment.

But it is easy to forget that quality and sustainability also play a role in productivity as well. Jorgenson & Griliches (1967), for example, explicitly define productivity as the ratio of total input quality and quantity to total output quality and quantity. Hawken, Lovins & Lovins (1999) consider total-resource productivity in Natural Capitalism, a measure that emphasizes the efficiency with which a production process uses its energy, natural resources and other inputs. That is, you can’t be productive if you are creating a lot of waste – and you are optimally productive if the outputs of your process are useful inputs to someone else’s process!

Problem-solving capacity, in my opinion, represents one of the key elements in total resource productivity – and one that we routinely overlook. As a result of the process of working, can you simultaneously accomplish results and emerge feeling refreshed and renewed? The human psyche and capability to achieve is the ultimate renewable resource, and “burnout” is the indicator that you may be sacrificing total-resource productivity for higher levels of “more traditional” productivity.

The same theme was touched on in an April 8, 2009 post by Dan Markovitz called Why Isn’t Thinking Time Part of Your Standard Work? Although it is acknowledged that thought without action may not be productive, he notes that action without thought can be wasteful as well:

Action without thought leads inevitably to one of the seven forms of muda. It’s very hard to actually stop doing and start thinking, but that’s the real way to eliminate waste and create value. There’s a recent story about a computer room at Toyota’s Torrance headquarters that was getting too warm. Most people would get that email and immediately turn up the air conditioner. You know, respond immediately to the email. But these guys did a root cause analysis and found that the real problem was a blocked air duct. The symptoms didn’t go away immediately, but the real problem was actually solved. It just required some time to think.

The lessons here are interconnected: a) quality and “people-sustainability” are factors in total resource productivity, and b) time to think and reflect contributes to quality in the problem-solving process. Not building “reflective time” into a project schedule or a GTD/ROWE process can negatively impact results when the whole system is considered.


Hawken, P., Lovins, A. & Lovins, L. H. (1999). Natural Capitalism. Little, Brown, & Co.: New York.
Jorgenson, D.W. & Griliches, Z. (1967). “The Explanation of Productivity Change”. Review of Economic Studies 34(99): 249–283.