An outsider has an unfair advantage of seeing your situation without the emotional cloud you experience up close. They can see what you are doing and how it impacts your life and work without much effort.
However, trying to assess ourselves is difficult because we are attached to our habits. It’s part of what helps us get through the days and make sense of the chaos.
But small tweaks can make a large impact. Your workflow is different than mine, so I am not going to presume there is a magic way of doing things. But working with individuals and organizations that are serious about productivity has shown me a few tips. Here’s a few to think about integrating into your own daily habits. It’s a way of gaming your system to open up opportunity later.
Capture Ideas with A Quick List System
Your ideas are fleeting and having a method and way of grabbing them before they disappear is critical. I like using my Google tasks or Evernote on my mobile devices or computer. They all sync up and I can review them when I have convenience.
The important part is having something that is quick and that you can sort out later when you have some breathing room. If you have to do the sorting right there when you capture, it can be discouraging over time. Just consider it a bucket that you can review later.
Schedule Your Action Lists
At some point you have to organize your thoughts. When you do this, put them into action lists – projects, CRM, etc. – that allows you to execute quickly in a focused manner.
This kind of active sorting presumes you did the thinking already about what is the next step. You are setting yourself up to complete actions.
This is a critical step because much of what is a stumbling block for people working in the knowledge economy is making meaning of information. They have to define what is a clear action from nebulous inputs. Get this habit going and you train yourself to focus on what matters and filter out noise.
Create Powerful Reminder Systems
To move actions forward depends on other people. Consider yourself a manager in all your interactions. You may not have direct authority, but you do have to use the skills of a manager well. When someone does not respond or forgets because they are overwhelmed, take it upon yourself to have a way of following up.
A simple tool like Followup.cc works well with your email communications to ensure you get alerted and reminded to round back if you do not hear an answer.
Look For Shortcuts to be Ready
Gaming your system does require a continual vigilance and desire to improve your performance. You have to be introspective and on the lookout for ways to shortcut a process.
It’s a form of being ready to take action. I think of work like a world-class hurdler that studies the mechanics and fine points. Studying your craft and getting better is part of the work, not just grinding it out and hoping for the best.
Ultimately, the goal is to be ready and aware. It’s a form of control that allows you to play above the chaos rather than get pulled by the current continually reacting.
Look around. Make the tweaks. Little ways of gaming your productivity play out in rewards such as taking advantage of new opportunities and having more peace of mind in the midst of the work.