The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits

My picture nameGreetings and welcome to Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column Of Joy, formerly Steve's Weekly Column of Sensible Paper-Based Planning, formerly Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column Of Insanity, formerly Slick Leon's Fun With Data (New Jersey Street Edition), formerly an online ad for Big Vladamir's Discount Online House Of Classic Soviet Typewriters ("Come for the quality, stay for the kitsch").

This week, well, let's just say I've had a revelation. Doug Johnston, chief cook and template wrangler 'round these here parts, asked for suggestions for Ver 3 of his Hipster PDA Planner ("The hippest thing in paper-based planning since Gutenberg got leather pants") and I gave him a suggestion. A good one. One that made sense. People don't seem to be able to deal with it. There's talk that I may have been abducted. There's talk that I may be an alien. Well, let me tell you, people, I've turned a corner and everyone can just deal with it. I've realised that I've been wasting my life writing silly columns and I've come to understand the joy inherent in giving good, solid advice. So, with that in mind, I present to you a review of a planning system so hallowed, so proven through the ages and yet so underappreciated that it must be seen, must be acknowledged, and must be understood. Most people consider Steven Covey's The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People to be one of the most influential works on paper-based planning and productivity, and while this book is insanely popular and extremely influential, what is not known is that it is, in fact, largely an adaptation of an older, far more ancient book, the subject of my column today: that most seminal work of paper-based planning written by that most famoustist of hobbits, Mr. Frodo Baggins, namely, A Halfling's Guide To How To Work Middle Earth Before It Works You: Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits.

Perhaps I should indicate my motivation for this week's column right off the top. I hadn't ever really looked at the list on this site of the all-time most popular columns, except in passing, but I did this week. And you know what I found? No Steve. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Pas de Stephan. Keine Steffan. Bubkis. Not one of my columns in the Top 5. I was stunned... more so than usual. I give and I give for you people, and I can't even make the top five? Not even my column on singing your daily schedule to Elvis Presley tunes? You don't even give props to the King?! You people won't give a man an inch, I swear.

Well, maybe, in the end, it's partly my fault. Maybe I haven't been giving the most helpful advice. Maybe, just maybe, perhaps, I have been opting for the purient comment, the silly suggestion, where maybe a more serious note would be warranted. Well, that brings us to this week's topic, which is a review of the classic Hobbit planning manual, serious suggestions for better efficiency, no matter how hairy your feet. This week's column combines the best of both worlds and I'm confident that, together, we can make the top 5. Come on, we can do it. Tell your friends. Onward!

Frodo Baggins, of course, the hero of the famous tale The Lord Of The Rings, sat down to write out his adventures for others to read, but he also contributed a great deal to primitive paper-based planning, an accomplishment for which he has not received proper consideration. His lesser-known work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits, is a system which can be used by all in practical, everyday situations and which was adapted from lessons learned on his various adventures. Most of these will seem familiar to any devotee of paper-based planning, but with a little bit of that special Hobbit magic. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits has just been released in a new leather-bound 7000th Anniversary Edition, available for a limited time to those who really, really believe.

The book details many specfic and travel-tested strategems for organising yourself and for defusing potentially hostile situations, but the heart of the book is its seven hobbit life-habits.

Excerpts from A Halfling's Guide To How To Work Middle Earth Before It Works You: Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits by Frodo Baggins

  • Be proactive: "This was a hard-learned lesson for me. My faithful friend Samwise Gamgee and I waited far too long in the Shire for Gandalf to return and ended up having to make our way to Rivendell while being followed by the Ringwraiths. If I had to do that again, I would have sat down with quill and parchment and set out a list of objectives for the mission and started much earlier. I would have had an easier time of it."
  • Begin with the end in mind: "When we set out with the ring from Rivendell, we knew we had to take the ring to Mordor and we kept that in mind all the time, no matter what happened. I would stare at the ring in my hand a lot, dramatically zooming in on it, several times a day, just to remind myself what we were supposed to be doing. Sam kept wanting to leave and go to the beach, but I'd just sigh, turn around and smack him in the head. Sam's an idiot. Never work with an idiot, that's another good thing to remember."
  • Put first things first: "Boy, Barliman Butterbur should have remembered this one! Because he wasn't able to keep his tasks prioritized ('one thing drives out another, as we say in Bree!') he forgot to send me the message from Gandalf to leave the Shire and thus cost us a lot of trouble. I would have smacked him in the head as well, but he was too tall."
  • Think win/win: "We had to keep this in mind at the Council of Elrond. Someone suggested just throwing the ring in the ocean, but Gandalf reminded them that this would just put the danger off for some years and it would come back. 'Throw the ring in the ocean!' 'Bury the ring in a forest!' Ya know, I had to work with some of the densest people on this stupid job. Never let your team be picked by a committee, that's another key thing to remember."
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood: "Well, as much as possible, anyway. Gandalf told me not to do anything with the ring and went to research it and make sure that it was the One Ring, which was the right thing to do, but he made the mistake of going to Saruman the White, the head of his order, who turned out ot be evil. This just shows the danger of involving upper management too much in your projects, because very often, upper management are evil megolomaniacal villains who want to take over the world by breeding an unholy army of the night. Much of the time, anyway."
  • Synergize: "When the Council met to discuss what to do with the ring, Elrond was acutely aware of the importance of synergy, to make sure the whole team was on the same... to, uh, make sure that the concept for the mission was well under... to underline the importance of... o.k, I admit it! I don't know what the hell synergy means! Happy?!"
  • Sharpen the sword: "It's important to constantly remind yourself why you are on the mission you're on, what you purpose is, why you're doing all the work. Motivation is key. Since we could really look after ourselves socially or physically, we concentrated on the spiritual. I'd say all the time, 'Sam, do you remember when we used to go to the Swinging Lantern and watch the furry maidens dance?' And Sam would nod and smile. He always liked the maidens. Contrary to rumour."

The book contains many other pieces of advice, such as How to sharpen your sword in the dark, How to pick up elf girls when you don't speak the language, and --in this special anniverary edition only and not to be missed-- Planning for greater efficiency: How to smite your inner dragon. This will be perfect for the efficiency lover on your Christmas list.

Well, that's the best I can do. Magic, mystical beasts and paper-based efficiency: what more can you ask for? Tell your friends and I'm sure we can crack the top 5! Until next time, keep your pen on the page and your sword in your hand.

Steve Sharam
p.s. Don't forget to check out 5 Stages Of Grieving For A Friend Who's Getting Married on

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This would be from the Getting Rings Done series, right?

Ugh, groan. That's terrible.

Ugh, groan. That's terrible. I can't believe I didn't think of it:P

Steve Sharam