Running a project, managing a family, building a house are all complicated undertakings. There are dozens of tasks with different priorities, people you need to speak with, emails to follow up on, questions to be answered, blog posts to make - lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Sunny, from the Billtrust implementation team, seems to think that I have some secret sauce to maximizing my productivity so I said to myself - "Self, that sounds like a blog post".
Here are my top tips:
- Turn off all of your email pop-up messages - Any task that you work on requires a certain amount of start-up time to become fully productive. If you're constantly being interrupted by those annoying Outlook pop-up boxes, you're mind gets reset and you have to start over. This is a no brainer. Do this now, don't read on, I'll wait.
- Turn off Instant Messenger - same reasons as #1. Do you really need to be instantly reachable? OMG! LMK when you're done.
- Call your mother and tell her you love her. This will make you feel good about yourself, which will make you more productive, and also you'll spend less time worrying whether you called your mother to tell her you love her.
- Think in the car/subway/bus on the way to work of the three things you absolutely must accomplish today. When you get to the office, write them down, and don't leave until they're done.
- Don't be a slave to Outlook or whatever your email program is. Email is one of the best productivity tools invented. You can communicate with many people at any time of day at any location in the world and do it all asynchronously (i.e. both sender and recipient don't need to be available, unlike a phone call). However, and this is a big however, email can be a huge distraction if you're constantly checking it. I struggle with this all the time. Start by checking email just once per hour and then see if you can do it once every two hours. I promise you that there is nothing in your inbox that needs to be checked every 5 minutes. I've been recently been shutting down Outlook altogether to avoid the temptation to check.
- Don't answer emails that aren't directed at you. I'm of the mindset that if people want an answer from you, they should either include only you in the TO: line of the email or specifically ask for your input in the body of the mail.
- Reply / file / delete - You should do one and only one of those three things to each email. If your Inbox has more than 5-10 messages after you're done processing email, you've got a problem.
- Stay fully caffeinated. Some people think I have a Diet Coke problem. They're probably right, however if you're not awake and not alert, than you're not going to be productive. Each person needs to figure out what they need to be awake and alert. For me, it's a D.C. every few hours.
- YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE ONE, AND ONLY ONE, TODO LIST - You know what drives me crazy, waitresses that try to memorize my order because half the time they forget something. I swear I'm not impressed that you don't have to write it down. You could probably build a house without a blueprint, but why would you? This couldn't be more true for items on your TODO list. You might remember what you have to do, but you definitely will remember if you write it down. My personal preference is to use the Outlook Tasks list. I've added a custom column called priority that I rank each of my TODOs with a 0 thru 9 (all geeks start there numbering systems at zero, how about you?). Each day I scan my TODO list and make sure I've got the priorities correct and then I bang out as many as I can. On the flip side, there are people who have many lists and I think this is self-defeating. If you do this, you're burning too many cycles managing your lists.
- Stop reading all those blogs.