What is Mission Control, and it is worth it?, Nov 16

Mission Control Productivity, LLC is a business focused on helping people increase productivity (they’ve been around since 2003, based on the copyright notice on their web site). They promise that by using Mission Control you will find yourself accomplishing what is important to you. You will DOUBLE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY, while cutting stress in half. Given my interest in 2x productivity, I investigated some more.

What Do These Guys Teach?
The Mission Control web site offers a minimal amount of information about the content of their work. To get more you have to attend one of their for-fee workshops, or take one of their many online courses (as an aside, Microsoft has sponsored quite a number of webcasts that discuss how to implement Mission Control’s ideas with Microsoft products). However, thanks to Susan’s write-up of a Mission Control Workshop she attended, I note the following points of approach:

  • Mission Control teaches you to focus on your “concerns”, that being the most meaningful matters of life. Drive activity from importance and life mission, therefore, rather than what shows up.
  • Write lists of accomplishments against your concerns that you want to achieve. In the description of the accomplishment, note specifically what you are trying to achieve, or what you want to be different as a result of doing this thing.
  • Schedule these into periods of “now”, which are 15 minute blocks of time. You may be able to complete something in one period of “now”, or in multiple. Schedule it in. (And wow, you could even use this awesome form from the equally awesome David Seah).
  • Put things you can’t do right now onto a “Not-doing-now” list. You will get to it in the future, but not right now.
  • Put things that you won’t realistically ever get to on a “Never-doing-now” list. Review regularly as a reminder of what you aren’t spending your life on.
  • Have a capture tool with you at all times, in order to capture what shows up and so you can get everything off your mind. They even offer the Take Note Capture Tool (which sounds awfully like David’s NoteTaker Wallet, albeit at 1/10th of the price). They teach that you should put everything that comes up during the day into this tool, and then empty and review what’s therein regularly, sorting plans and obligations among your “now” lists.

So … whilst the ideas are definitely cool, it’s not a unique program or approach.

  • Drive Activity from Important Things. Covey taught Quadrant II planning years ago in The 7 Habits, and David Allen teaches the driving of activity off important things (his all time favorite quote for me is “Senior professionals drive most of their activity off a hard-nosed focus on what’s important, almost despite the work coming at them”).
  • Write Lists of Next Actions/Accomplishments. David teaches to write lists … organized by context, to have a capture tool with you at all times, to have someday/maybe lists, etc, etc.
  • Be Clear About Purpose. David says to clearly define your desired outcome … what you want to be different … and then ask “what’s the very next physical action”. Matt argues that Mission Control is unique in this regard vs. GTD, but I disagree.

Neither Covey nor Allen talk about a “I’m not doing that” list, however, and I do really like that idea. I already have one of those lists myself (generally statements like “I’m not going to buy another nice pen; I already have enough”. Hopefully that one will work …)

Will You Double Your Productivity?
So coming back to Mission Control’s fundamental promise (2x productivity), based on reading what I’ve read, I would say that “yes, you will double your productivity by embracing Mission Control” if and only if:

  1. You are still using old-paradigm to-do lists that are driven from urgency rather than importance; and
  2. You haven’t already embraced and engaged with David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

If those two conditions don’t apply, forget it. You might learn some new things that make a 5%-10% difference, but doubling? No way. It all depends where you’re starting from.

What About You?
I know Matt has been to the Workshop and says that he’s gotten value from it, and he’s compared similarities and differences (thanks Matt!). Anyone else? Is there more to learn than what I’ve discovered? It is worth it? I’d love to hear your take.

0 thoughts on “What is Mission Control, and it is worth it?, Nov 16

  1. interestingly I’ve started playing around with driving my day/week using a “what matters most” list rather than a “to do” list … which is along similar lines to some of what is discussed above

  2. Hi Michael. Thanks for the post, and the nice summary. I wanted to clarify the point re: “Be Clear About Purpose” – I said MC better ties in the purpose for doing things (you actually try to say why in your action)… I think this is one area that GTD doesn’t address strongly. I was talking specifically about next actions being connected to concerns, not about specifying the desired outcome of projects.
    Hope that helps! Please let me know if you pursue MC. I chose not to because a) they require scheduling everything, b) they are very digital-centric – I found that using a paper-based system is pretty actively discouraged. I believe MC would help some folks, just as GTD would help others, and I’m glad I went to the workshop, but then again, I’m studying these systems (freakish, I know).

  3. @Gavin … cool. Great to hear. Looking forward to catching up in person on Tuesday.
    @Matthew … thanks for the clarification. I hear what you’re saying, but I still take the view that in the idea application of GTD, you run projects (10,000 ft) off areas of responsibility (20,000 ft) … and thus actions are linked via a project to “concerns”. No?
    As another question / twist on MC … do they have the concept of a “next action” (call this person, email this person) … or merely a project to work on (something to accomplish)? For example, in a period of “now” … are you taught to do stuff on accomplishments, or to work on next actions toward those accomplishments?

  4. hello guys! I’m poking around and noticed this post and it’s good, Matt, to see you here too!
    given this was posted in 2006 – Michael, have you completed the Mission Control workshop yet?

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