That’s a fact, our short-term memory is not very efficient. Perhaps are we able to remember a dozen things you have to do at the same time. Unfortunately, it is impossible to remember everything resulting in some stress caused by the fear of forgetting important things.
I attended a very interesting training given by Renaud Marly and introducing a bunch of good practices to help us in our daily tasks.
Make lists to capture your ideas
Choose your tool
- Use as much as possible a centralized tool to avoid losing control.
- I don’t want to disappoint you by saying that there is no good universal tool, the “Holy Grail” note-taking tool will never exist. Formats can be different, it can be a traditional paper tool like a notebook and a pencil, an electronic tool like a simple text file, a mindmapping tool or a more complex and complete software tool like Evernote… Try them and if you are satisfied with one of these tools, it means that you have found it… You will find a list of applications at the end of this post.
- Keep your list as simple as possible. Avoid using:
- Subsections of subsection. A list with two levels is more than enough (outcome / actions).
- Several fonts with different sizes and colors. Your list will be too complicated.
- This simplicity will allow you to be confident in your list by focusing on the essentials, content.
- It is not necessary, but remember to separate the actions from the outcomes:
- First level, outcome: deliverable, final result, decision, milestone
- Second level, actions: context, time, energy, priority
|Working in an office, I work most of my time on a PC and my inbox is always open. Here are the best practices to manage your emails.|
- Turn-off email notifications, this will allow you to minimize your downtime and stay focus on your work.
During a meeting, I guess you change your status to “Do not disturb” on your instant messaging application, here is a little bit the same.
Process all emails in one go
- Do it a few times a day, 3 or 4 times.
- Unless you work in a helpdesk service, it will be enough. In case of emergency, the person will call or visit you.
- The worst thing that can happen is that you have configured the push email service on your mobile phone to receive a notification of new incoming email. If you are in this situation, ask yourself: why did I do that? What are the good reasons?
Apply the “2-minutes” rule
- A rule to apply to every incoming email, three possible cases:
- Do it: If less than 2 minutes, process the email right now (read it, classify and store any attachments, do a quick check, reply if the sender is expecting your answer)
- Differ it: If you realize that it takes more than 2 minutes to process, flag it and put it in a todo-list
- Delegate it: You are expecting an action or reply of one of your addressee, use the “waiting for” rule (see below)
- At the end, the goal is to have no more email to process, the famous “Inbox 0“.
Apply the “waiting for” rule
- Goal is to keep track of every action you have delegated, the list of emails you are waiting for a reply.
- Some email clients allow you to use labels, in this case, create and apply a label “Waiting for”. If this is not the case, one trick is to send these emails with yourself in copy (bcc). A rule that you have previously created will take care to filter these messages, marking them as read and moving them in a special folder.
|Also note the existence of the Pomodoro technique, a time management method which uses a kitchen timer to work during periods of 25 minutes. These periods are separated by short breaks (5 minutes). Goal is to speed up your productivity by keeping your concentration level at an optimal level.|
What about me?
It is difficult to mix personal and professional parts of your life, we often need to use two different tools. I’m no exception to this rule.
I use a simple text file that I share on my various devices thanks to Dropbox. I have organized this file into 2 sections: the urgent things I have to do during the day or the week, and the less urgent and pending things I have to do during the month or the year.
The fact I use a simple text file is very important, it allows me to focus on the content only. Thus, I am not able to underline or put in bold sentences and that’s exactly what I want, I don’t want to waste time for that.
I use a classical notebook to write my different tasks. Actually, it is enough because I use Jira (a technical tool in relation to my job). Jira is an online bug tracker that allows you to create tasks you can assign, comment, prioritize, etc. From time to time, depending on the project and my team, I also use the famous agile task board with the three columns: todo, in progress, done. Each task corresponds to a post-it that I move from a column to another following its progress.
I read my emails as soon as I received them, I did not turn off the notifications. If I’m busy, I can be very focused on my work and not so easy to disturb. Sometimes, I even no longer see the notifications on the screen.
I look at it several times a day. These emails are less intrusive because I have to go to the webmail on my own to check my new incoming emails.
The last word
All these new habits are not so easy to start and some of them not very natural, but give it a try, persevere and stand firm, you will measure real progress.
Keep in mind that everyone has his/her own method, there is no standard or miracle one. A good technique for someone may not work for someone else.
What about you?