Whether we like it or not, paperless systems are slow reaching mass acceptance. Unless you work for a company that has invested in paperless processes, you likely see loads of paper coming across your desk.
How do you deal with it? You could explore a personal paperless system. However, if that’s not workable for you right now, make sure you have a good filing system in place.
When building you system, consider these factors:
- Don’t be too logical. It’s your system, and no one else will be using it. It only needs to make sense toyou.
- Keep it simple. Use a limited number of categories. You may find the these five to be adequate:
- Projects – files with information related to different projects you are working on.
- Instant Tasks – folders on little jobs to fill in your time when you have a few minutes. Perhaps low priority letters to be answered, or general interest articles.
- Self-Development- folders related to training: books, articles, etc.
- Ideas – items you wish to investigate further to improve your operation.
- Reference Information – a resource for different things you are involved with. Keep separate folders by topic and refer to them when you need statistics, examples, quotations, etc.
- Colour code you files. Use colours to highlight priorities within each category to draw attention toyour most important items. This is easily accomplished by using different color highlighters and marking individual folders.
- Schedule a regular filing time. Keep your filing current so time won’t be wasted searching for an item.
- Purge! Clean your files periodically to keep the volume of material to an essential minimum. This also will reduce time going through files when you are looking for something.
There are few statements I make with absolute certainty, but it is safe to say, I’m a terrible golfer.
One of my bad habits is griping the club too tightly. If your grip is too tight, you have less control over the club and its speed. That means the ball goes everywhere but where you want. Trust me, I have water hazards full of experience.
Hanging on to anything tightly reduces the amount of control you have. Try grabbing a cat.
Your ability to control is proportionate to your ability to relax. If you’re negotiating with me and you’re tied to your position, I can control the situation. The grip you have on your position is going to slow you down as you try and react to my counter proposals.
It’s the same thing with your to-do list. You’re working on the year-end report that was due last week, the phone is ringing, e-mail is coming in and the boss is assigning new projects. The natural response is to tighten up and try and hold on to control of the sitaution.
David Allen uses the analogy, “mind like water”. If you throw a stone into a pond how does it react? You don’t hear, “Oh, my bottom’s already covered with stones,” or “I need to calculate the displacement of this stone,” or “How big a splash should I make?”. The water reacts in proportion to the size of the stone and then relaxes back to its normal surface.
To be in control, you need systems that can help you absorb new demands and then relax to your previous state of doing. When stuff comes over your horizon, you need to be able to refocus on it quickly, put it into a system that you are comfortable with, knowing it will be looked after in the proper place and time.
Between meetings, to-do lists, preparing supper, shopping and driving the kids, how do you remember all you have to do? David Allen says that your brain is not the most efficient memory tool and it will only trust systems that it knows works. Good memory recall is as simple as finding those things that will jog your brain at the time it needs to remember.
Here are 10 easy tricks to jog your memory:
- Write it down – My number one favourite trick: carry a notebook, have good lists, etc. I carry a small 2 X 4 inch notepad and a Pilot G-2 Mini pen in my wallet. That way, no matter where I am, I can write a quick note to process later.
- Record it – Use the “record” function of your smartphone to grab your thoughts. There are times when writing a note is not convenient or even safe. There are many apps that let you record things as they occur to you. Personal Assistant devices such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant allow you to trigger the service with a voice command, so you can add notes “hands-free”. When you’re back at your desk, you can transcribe the recorded notes into your tracking system.
- Call yourself – If you’re at the office and want a reminder when you get home, call your home phone and leave a message.
- Send yourself an e-mail – This trick can work a couple of ways. You can use it in much the same way as calling yourself. I will often send a quick e-mail from home to work as a reminder of something I can only do from the office or during work hours. As well, most calendar software or services can send a reminder of a scheduled event via e-mail. When you enter calendar data, use the settings that send an e-mail reminder.
- Use sticky notes – My wife’s favourite is the sticky note. She keeps them everywhere. She writes her errand list on a note and sticks it to the dashboard of the car as a reminder. Bathroom mirrors, fridge doors, outside doors and briefcases are all fair game for one of her sticky reminders.
- Have a place for things – Those things that need “regular” remembering -car keys, wallet, glasses, cell phone, etc.- are easy to recall if they are in the same place every time. Hang your keys by the door. Take them from the hook as you leave and hang them up as soon as you return. Dresser tops, purses, briefcases, hooks are all good places to keep those things you need frequently.
- Set timers and alarms – Use audible reminders for short-term recall. They’re not just for baking. If you have to call someone back in a half hour, set an alarm on you computer or cell phone to jog your memory in 30 minutes. If you have 30 minutes to enjoy a coffee before leaving the house for a concert, set the alarm to remind you.
- Self-motivate – Instead of saying, “I’ll probably forget.” Tell yourself that you’re going to remember. A positive mental approach goes a long way to stimulating your mind.
- Visualize – Some personal development involves a bigger sort of reminder. If you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, you need to “remember” your goal and the process. Stick a picture of a skinny person on the fridge. Write your desired weight and target date on the picture. That will help you to remember to ignore the ice cream and eat some fruit instead.
- Keep Healthy – Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, that you are exercising and eating balance meals. All of these things contribute to keeping your memory working well.
The first five tricks are concrete tools to which you can refer to help recall. The second five are more mental in nature, stimulating your brain to make its best effort. Together, these tricks should keep you from forgetting, not only the urgent things that can control your thoughts and time, but the important things that will improve your life.
Is your email killing your productivity? Then it’s time for some basic e-mail management. With a few simple steps, you can maintain control over your in-box:
- Use the software: Set up your e-mail client to manage as much of the incoming mail as possible. Create filters to route unnecessary messages past your in-box and into a folder. Make sure your spam settings and databases are active and up to date. The more you automate your e-mail, the less time you spend reading and deleting.
- Turn off your new mail notification: You don’t have to read every piece of e-mail the moment it arrives. Pop-ups, beeps and “you’ve got mail” notifications can be too distracting to ignore. Turn them off!
- Don’t read and respond to each incoming message: Dealing with each e-mail as it arrives can create constant interruption to your work-flow. Set aside time each day where you deal with your e-mail. Have a process —such as this one— for clearing your in-box.
- Manage e-mail during times of lower energy: Don’t deal with e-mail during your most creative or productive times of the day. Processing e-mail doesn’t require much energy. Don’t waste your creative periods on something as routine as e-mail.
You’ve got a full hour between meetings. Plenty of time to put the finishing touches on the month end staffing report. You pull up the spreadsheet, print off your boss’s e-mailed comments, dig out your notes from the last meeting and settle down to work. No sooner do you start to enter data, than Jane wanders in, sits down and asks if you’ve heard the latest rumour about Bob down in purchasing. Before you know it, your full hour has dwindled to 17 minutes.
Controlling drop-in visitors who interrupt your workflow requires both tact and judgement. The office culture where you work can have considerable influence on this practice. If yours is an organization that encourages less-formal communication, you may find people dropping by to discuss anything from last night’s big game to next week’s big presentation.
For those days when you need a block of uninterrupted time to work on a project, here are five tips to help you control drop-in traffic.
- Be the visitor. If you have to speak with someone, go to their office. That way, you can control the length of the visit. When your done, excuse yourself and leave.
- Turn away from the door. If your work space is arranged so that you sit with your back to the door, visitors can see that you are working and they might be less likely to disturb you.
- Close the door. If you have a door. This isn’t workable in a cube farm. In that case, you might have to resort to the Les Nessman solution.
- Stand up for visitors. If a visitor comes into your office, stand up to greet them and don’t invite them to sit down. This will often shorten the length of their visit.
- Tell them politely. If you’re busy at the moment, ask them to come back. Set a specific appointment time if necessary.
The most extreme solution I’ve ever come across was someone who sawed an inch off the front legs of the chairs in his office. Trying to keep from sliding off required just enough effort to discourage people from staying long. With a little courtesy and the above steps, you shouldn’t have to resort to such drastic measures.