By Mary Foley
Is your personal productivity in the tank from the daily deluge of email and requests? Tempted to leave everything unanswered and start over somewhere else? You’ll be good for a week, maybe.
A savvy gal Amy shared with me that she was about to start the new position. But she had a big dilemma:
“My new position involves managing and tracking a LOT more activities. My email inbox has grown beyond my comfort and I want to implement some good strategies to start my new position positively, to being organized and to go full speed ahead.
Any advice, like going to my local office supply store to see if they have some type of magical notebook?”
Oh, if only there were a magical notebook! Whoever creates that product will save the world by increasing every hard working professional woman’s productivity, efficiency, and, most importantly, her sanity.
Until then, here are 3 ideas I shared with Amy to create her own magic. Not very glam, but they work. They can give your wand some new mojo, too!
Magical Productivity Idea #1 – Get comfortable with not being so tidy
Amy said her “email inbox has grown beyond my comfort.” Ah, when we’re aspiring, life is always pushing us to learn something new. Discomfort is part of the process.
What does Amy need to learn? That we live in a work world of too much, too fast. As someone who prefers to get everything done and on time, this is tough. NO, it’s impossible! Accept that reality pronto and start looking for ways to loosen up your own expectations of yourself. Often that means you getting more comfortable with things being not so tidy. Don’t worry, it will be there tomorrow and you’re still more tidy than most.
Magical Productivity Idea #2 – Constantly ask “What’s most important now?”
When it comes to never-ending emails and requests your best friend is the question “What’s most important now?” Ask that question to yourself, to your boss, or to a client.
A good example is how I quickly I responded to Amy’s email asking for advice. For the love of an empty email box, I wish I answered within 24 hours. But, for the love of my sanity and well-being, I put my clients and even more important activities with deadlines first.
Amy’s request was still important, but could also wait. She didn’t seem to mind. I was still able to respond in a useful time frame and that’s what matters.
Magical Productivity Idea #3 – Use an email and paper system that works for YOU
Systems are your other best friend because they answer the question “How do I organize all this stuff so I can find it later and don’t forget it?” That’s why at minimum you need an email and paper system to organize by either category and/or priority.
There are a ton of ideas on how to do this. What matters is finding one that works for YOU. I tend to go simple and old-school.
Personally, I check email throughout the day. I then respond immediately to the quick or urgent, file it in an email folder with related items, keep it in my inbox to be dealt with in 24 hours, or delete it (my favorite!).
For paper, I use a 31-day file system. You first create 31 folders and number them for each day of the month. Then you take another 12 folders and label one for each month of the year. As paper-based items comes in (even ones you print out), you immediately decide when you need to take action. If it’s this month, then you put it in the file of the exact day you need to deal with it. If it’s a month in the future, you file it there.
For this system to work, you have to take action on the current day’s folders every day. If you don’t get to everything, then decide when you will and file it forward. Also, at the beginning of each month you pull out that month’s folder, look at each piece of paper, and assign it to one of the day folders for that month.
How about you? What’s your Magical Productivity Idea that’s worked for YOU?