Friday, January 29, 2010

Do you TRUST your "system" or is email hijacking it?

Touch things once! I have blogged about this previously. You have probably heard that comment from many sources. We are only supposed to touch emails once, and letters, and memos, and file folders, and blah blah blah.

The question is -- Why is this so hard? Why do we touch things multiple times?

Think about some emails you receive .... emails that invariably sit in your inbox longer than they should .... emails that you glance at multiple times. This may be because:

1.) You are not sure what to do with it.
2.) You are sure what to do with it, but you need it to stay there to remind you later "what to do".
3.) You are waiting on someone or something else before you take action.

These examples are all inputs that need to go into your "system". Unfortunately when an input comes to us in the form of an email we forget about our "system" and work within our email "system".

Let me explain that a little better with an example: If someone (let's call him Ted) walks into your office and requests you to attend a meeting next week, but you are still not sure if you are going to be on a business trip, you must DO something with that request. "Ted I'll have to get back to you ..." (and you make a note somewhere, put it on a list, make a to-do, etc. so you will know to get back to Ted)

However, if someone sends you an email with the same request to be in a meeting next week, the very same meeting that you are not sure you can attend yet, many of us have conditioned our self to simply leave the email in our inbox. There it is - instead of putting it into your system, you have made your email inbox work as an extra part of your system. Now you have multiple systems!

Put another way, it's as if you told "Ted" to just stay right in your doorway and continue to ask you to attend the meeting UNTIL you are able to get back to him. Poor Ted! He is going to get tired standing there with his mouth open, but Ted actually becomes part of your system because you know he will be there!

So challenge yourself to "process" your emails and take the actions to where they need to be (a to-do list, action list, your calendar, etc.) -- YOUR SINGLE (TRUSTED) SYSTEM!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The Vacation Phenomena" for Time Management

Many accountants (and others for that matter) have noted to me they "manage their time" well right before they go on vacation. Could it be the excitement of the vacation that gets their energy and productivity levels revving? Sure, and there are two things I have noticed when you explore the vacation phenomena a little more ..

(1) They plan! They review their open projects and priorities and plan to act to be where they need those items to be when they leave.

That sounds obvious but why can't we do that more on "normal days"? Where do you need to be at the end of the day? They take the time to reflect on where they are versus where they need to be....and they prioritize! Their to-do list will not be completed but the most important actions (and results) will! Interestingly, I find those about to go on vacation more realistic with what they will actually be able to "get done" and they also are better at saying "no", another skill we can challenge ourselves to do more.

(2) Related to #1, they look for closure! They want to know anything that is delegated is thoroughly understood. They want to get certain projects either finished or to a pretty specific and measurable milestone. In short they want to know exactly where everything stands when they leave and they want others to know that also.

Since most of us continually work in teams, wouldn't it be great if that happened more .... we all know where we "stand"?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year Goal - Two considerations when creating it

New Years Resolutions: They are sometimes exciting to create, exciting to start, but many times they are not as exciting to continue....

Why is that?

Two BIG reasons:

1.) If you have a new goal and chances are it is pretty big, have you actually created a realistic plan around achieving your goal? What keeps you on track? How is it SO motivating and inspiring that you will "sacrifice" to ensure you stay on track? Where do you start? How have you documented it? How have you shared it with others? How are you (or others) going to hold yourself accountable? How do you allocate the time needed? and that brings us to #2 ....

2.) If you are going to be doing something "new" chances are that will take up some or a lot of your time. So, the simple but sometimes difficult question is: What will you NOT do so you can do the "new" thing(s)? What will you eliminate in your life so you can replace it with your new goal(s)? You did not achieve them in the past and you filled up that time with something else, so what is it? Consider documenting that also. That can be just as powerful.