What is the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning? I get my morning fix of caffeine. But after that? Check email? Socialize with coworkers? Review your to do list for the day?
I always start with a task that I decided upon the day before. This is the sort of task that if I got nothing else done that day I’d still be happy. Most people, like me, are most productive in the morning right after getting to work. It’s only rational to do something that makes a difference first thing in the morning.
You don’t only have to stick with one task only. I’ve found one to three tasks to be the maximum amount though – don’t overestimate your productivity. Only after that it is time to check your email. It doesn’t make a real difference to the people who sent you the emails in terms of delay. But it sure makes a huge difference to you. As you open that email inbox you will accumulate tasks, important ones I might add, faster than you can clear them. That’s why it’s so important to get the ball rolling and really accomplish something before you start with the mostly trivial albeit important tasks.
You got the three tasks out of the way, what’s next? You process the emails and see that you have 20 tasks to do and you possibly cannot complete all of them today. Instead of ranking them in the order of importance you prioritize them according to urgency.
You write down the things that you absolutely need to get done today. These are the kind of things for which you need to stay late at the office. Everything else you write down on a different list that you consult after the urgent tasks are done.
If you want to get even more organized just add one more level and divide up the everything else list to two. The first one being opportunities list and the other being everything else. Opportunities are the tasks that you need to get done within a week. Then you get a new everything else list.
Now you have a very simple system that can be handled on pen and paper. And it takes less than two minutes to manage every day.
Every morning after your one to three “VIP” tasks is the time to review the opportunities list and promote items to today list. Then you can process all the emails and record tasks accordingly.
Everything else? Look through the list once a week, preferably on Friday so you can prepare for next week and you don’t have to stress the weekend away trying to remember if you forgot something. All you need to do is promote tasks to opportunities list and you’re done.
A word of warning: don’t overpopulate your opportunities list. You need to check that once a day and if the list is 500 items you will fail. It’s only for items that need to get done in a week. Everything else goes to everything else list. Most of the time this is a dumping ground for a lot of trivial and unimportant stuff. But you might need to do them in two weeks so you need to keep track of them anyway.
Here’s an example for you.
Paul Rauno Merisalu December 10th, 2012