Do your daily tasks include handling a large amount of incoming information that you are expected to process, act on, and keep track of? Do you feel like you are constantly getting busier, with more responsibilities, with no end in sight, and cannot currently handle it all? Would you like to boost your effectiveness at work without spending thousands of dollars on fancy gadgets (which you probably already own?)
If you do not have an intentionally crafted system to accomplish this, you will be stuck in ineffectiveness. E-mail handling and information / task / workflow management are skills that need to be acquired in this day and age.
Here is the best way I am aware of craft that system.
0. Admit your lack of effectiveness and organization. Repent.
I have theological reasoning here, but if you do not feel your need, you will never do what it takes to get better.
1. Mark off two weeks in your calendar.
Clear it of all non-essential tasks (volunteer projects, hobbies, and time wasters: TV, video games, Facebook and Twitter). My guess is you could carve out enough time simply by abstaining from Facebook and TV for two weeks. During this free-up time, complete the next steps listed here. Keep that time free and boom, your New Year’s Resolution Reading Goal (NYRRG) is in reach, even if you start now. (Four months left on those resolutions!!!)
2. Learn GTD
Purchase the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity” by David Allen. Read it twice. The first time, read it through quickly to get the idea. The second time, do everything he says to do. No really, do it all. Buy the folders and a filing box or cabinet (or clear out the one you already have and put it to good use this time).
3. Zero Your E-mail Inbox
Watch the video of Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero” presentation. Delete or archive everything that is currently in your inbox in a folder called “to file”, set up the folder structure he suggests, and use your E-mail in this way from now on. Trust me on this one. Get rid of all of your ridiculous e-mail folders. They aren’t helping you.
4. Use Evernote + The Secret Weapon
Download a copy of Evernote for your computer, then watch the video and read the manifesto and articles on The Secret Weapon Web site. This will teach you how to set up and use Evernote to accomplish the GTD techniques you learned above.
By this time you will have your mind opened to a world of possibility and freedom from thought and pressure. You will understand your system and how it applies to your specific work. Continue to buy tools and modify the system to fit you perfectly.
What’s Best Next?
Matt Perman keeps an incredible blog on the art of effectiveness in your work (i.e., productivity, properly defined) at whatsbestnext.com. His book, by the same name, comes out soon. It will go on my list above when it is out. I have read the manuscript. Pre-order it.
Doing all of these things will have the same effect on your effectiveness in your tasks as Financial Peace Univeristy will have on your personal finances, or Take Shape For Life (or a similar program) has on your health. (I need to do that second one still…)
Enjoy the creative freedom, the room to breathe and think that a “trusted system” of tracking your tasks and important information, and the skill set of handling your e-mail (E-mail handling is a skill set that needs to be learned!)