How’s your personal productivity? Do you keep papers, desktop files, and emails from time immemorial because you are afraid you’ll need them “someday”?
Do you claim the 1000+ emails lurking in your inbox are easier to retrieve that way?
Stop making excuses for why you don’t have a more efficient and effective way to handle paperwork and information flow. You can make two decisions that will revolutionize your personal productivity.
Decision #1: Decide What’s Important
For better personal productivity, determine what’s important. Look at your current company and department goals as well as routine tasks and activities required of your role. These the main “buckets” or categories for the stuff flowing through your office. Use these categories to create physical folders for hard copies, computer folders for electronic documents, and possibly email folders for incoming messages.
For example, you may need physical and electronic folders for current projects (“Project XYZ”), meetings (“Weekly Operations Meeting” or “Quarterly Off-Site”), committees (“Safety Committee”), and individual folders for each of your direct reports to store routine or important papers, e-documents, and email messages.
Decision #2: Decide Each Item’s Fate
Next, better personal productivity means you must decide how you will appropriately dispense with each item coming across your desk. This requires the discipline of allowing information to collect in your inboxes without getting distracted by them being dropped in a physical inbox or by an electronic alert that appears on your screen each time a new email arrives. It also requires the discipline of taking time up to two times a day to go through your inboxes — top to bottom — to handle what’s there.
After you assess each item in your inboxes, the dispensation of it might require you to: do something with it (e.g., make a quick phone call, put it on a meeting agenda, sign it and forward it on, etc.), appropriately re-route it to someone else, schedule it for a later time or date, or discard/delete it as unimportant or not relevant.
Other tips for deciding:
- Let email rules decide for you. Set up email rules for automatic handling of incoming email. (In a corporate setting, I really liked having a “CC” rule that automatically routed email I was merely CC’d on to a special folder.)
- Limit the time you spend looking at the stuff coming your way by checking your inboxes no more than twice per day. (Better yet, train an administrative assistant – if you have one – to screen your inflow, so you see only what is truly important.)
- Don’t worry about discarding or deleting most things — if it’s that important to someone else, they will follow up with you about it, and can usually send you another copy if needed.
Once you decide what’s important and decide how to dispense with each item as part of a regular routine, you will feel more on top of things and will have revolutionized your own productivity.