As busy people who wear many hats, we have daily tasks, meetings, phone conferences, business trips, miscellaneous tasks, and occasionally picking up the cleaners. And on top of all that; there’s emails.
We’ve all heard the saying: you snooze, you lose! So how do we juggle all that and make sure that we not only stay on top of our game but that we actually get ahead of the game?
While finding the perfect solution may take a lifetime, here are some tips to help you along the way…
Depending on which industry you’re in, you probably have routine daily, weekly or monthly tasks that need to get done. Keeping track of accounts, sales, shipments, orders, etc. I find that the best way to keep track and be on top of such tasks should be via some sort of software, with customized reports that you can print on daily, weekly or monthly basis as needed.
These tasks should not be on a sticky note on your desk, nor in your email inbox, and not written on the palm of your hand. Software, software and again software!
At Evergreen we built a custom software called MasterPolicy. This system keeps track of literally every move in the company, with customized reports for every employee. The reports are automatically generated based on accounts’ statuses and open tickets and are printed daily. Those reports are used as the core task sheet for everything that needs to get done throughout the day.
You’re on the fly, and suddenly a great idea pops into your head, you shout “Hey Siri, remind me in 2 weeks at 9am about this new idea I just had” tee tee, “I will remind you in 2 weeks about this new idea I just had”.
Life goes on, 2 weeks pass, it’s 9 in the morning and you’re having breakfast with a client. buzzzzz… You peek at your phone under the table, and see “Reminder about this new idea I just had”. Heck, not now, SNOOOOOZE! This could go on for days, weeks and even years.
I recently met the owner of a moving company I used almost 3 years ago. He pulled out his phone, opens up his reminders and shows me that he has a reminder that he has to come fix my crib that broke during the move. It reminds him every other day for almost 3 years, and the job was still not done. (I told him its fine, he doesn’t have to come fix it and he can have the pleasure of marking that reminder as ‘done’). How unproductive.
Setting up tasks as “reminders”, may cause you to feel unproductive and behind on your tasks. Because while you’re setting the reminder you can’t really know where you’ll be at the time of the reminder, and what you will be up to at that moment. Inevitably, when you’re reminded, you snooze, and the past due tasks keep on piling up…
So what’s the solution you might ask? Keep it simple. For me, I simply keep a note on my phone of things I need to get done, and I make it my duty to take care of them one by one.
Calendar appointments should only be used for things that must happen at a specific time. For example; Meetings, conference calls and trips. The calendar should not be used for tasks with deadlines, those things should either go into your company’s software or in you’re to do note, and make sure to check them regularly and dedicate time to get it done.
There are many ways to manage your emails. Some use the ‘read and unread’ system, some use the ‘flagging’ system, and many like to use the ‘archiving system’, which I’m a big fan of as well.
Overloaded emails, can have the same effect as overloaded tasks. Very unproductive.
Why the ‘read and unread’ system may not work for you. Nowadays, we all get our emails on so many different devices. We get them on the computer, tablet, smartphone, and the very sophisticated people get it on their smart-watch too. You may read an email on your smart device but you can’t always take care of it on the spot, so now you have to mark the email as ‘unread’ so that you’ll still get to see it when you get to your computer. This system is not the most reliable, and there is a lot of room for error. If you forget to mark an email as unread, or you by mistake clicked into an email without even reading it, it falls through the cracks.
Same goes for the ‘flagging’ system.
Instead I like to use the ‘archiving’ system. The way this system works is that as soon as you’re done with an email you archive it. (The difference between ‘deleting’ and ‘archiving’ is that with archiving you still have that email, it is just placed in a different folder.) This way your inbox only has emails that still need your attention. (Depending on your email provider, some will give you the option to archive emails, for the rest you’ll need to dedicate a folder for emails that are to be archived.)
With this system you can read your emails on all your devices, and you don’t have to worry about losing them, because unless you physically ‘archived’ that email you’ll still have it in your inbox, and when you get back to the office, you only have to take care of whatever is in your inbox, and that’s it! The best part of the archiving system is that AHHHH moment when your inbox is empty. It’s one of the greatest pleasures one can have in this world. And you should focus on having that pleasure at least once a day.
Another great tool you may wanna use to help keep your inbox uncluttered, is the ‘CC’ system. In short, if your being copied on emails often, and you don’t need to take immediate action for those emails, you should set up a separate folder where all the emails you were CC’d on goes into, and it won’t buzz or notify you of every new CC email you get. You can set this up for all CC emails or only for specific people who CC you often. Click here to read more on this and how to set it up.
Personal tasks / Picking up the cleaners:
I’m not sure what the best system for this is. For me it’s my wife who reminds me about these things. (I usually try to have it done by the 5th reminder….)
Stay productive and enjoy life!