Ever wondered why some people seem to get more work done, and in less time, too?
Ever found yourself sitting at the desk with work piling up and 100+ emails in the inbox, not knowing where to start?
This series will help you get underway to become more productive and get work done in time for Friday night at the local pub.
You see, being productive doesn’t happen by chance, or to put it in the words of Paul J. Meyer:
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
I think there are three prerequisites to become productive:
- Get organized
- Stop procrastinating
- Communicate effectively
In this post I focus on getting organized. In the next post I’ll write about how to stop procrastinating. For some tips on how to communicate effectively, please read the previous post: Three Tips for Effective Communication.
How To Get Organized
A key characteristic of any system or method is capturing all incoming information: conversations, actions, ideas, appointments, and so on.
Some people prefer more hands-on stuff like a pen and notebook for this while others prefer some kind of power chord wizardry. I belong to the latter group.
Once information is collected, it needs to be processed. High priority things need to be identified, deadlines need to be checked, and so on. Equally important, things that are not important or downright irrelevant needs to be archived, deleted or postponed.
Finally, new information as well as stuff already “in the system” needs to be reviewed regularly.
To avoid information overload (and being able to focus) a system needs to:
- Hide information that is irrelevant at the moment.
- Be as simple as possible, yet capable of capturing everything.
- Be easily accessible.
Once you have a working system, the real trick is to avoid returning to old ways. When – not if – this happens, remember that you have a system, and that you know how to get back on track using it. (How else did you start using it in the first place?)
For many people, the biggest source of incoming information is the email inbox. Gaining control of the inbox can therefore be key to succeed.
I like to keep my email setup as simple as possible.
I process emails regularly, but don’t let it interrupt other work.
For things that are actionable, I categorize and flag the email, converting it to a task or calendar item. I then move the email to a folder appropriately named archive.
I delete or archive irrelevant/unimportant emails immediately, too. You can also try setting up filters to automatically archive certain irrelevant emails.
Admittedly a bit drastic, some people suffering from inbox overload automatically archive emails they have been CC’d.
Here’s a great video about Inbox Zero.
Look at it!
Finding a System That Works (for You)
I would recommend starting by looking at some well proven method, for example GTD (Getting Things Done). As you start implementing whatever system you choose: adapt it to best fit your needs.
Whether or not it’s a good idea to include everything in the system from the beginning, or to adopt a divide and conquer approach, I don’t know.
If you feel that email is the biggest issue, it might be a good idea to start there.
On the other hand, if you leave some parts out of the system, the benefits might be negligible at the same time as the risk of reverting to old habits increase.
Do you have any suggestions on how to go about getting your stuff in order? Please drop a comment below!
This was the first post of three in a series about how to attain productivity bliss. The topic for the next post is Stop Procrastinating.