It’s December, and most of us are taking time to not only reflect on the past, but also plan for the future. As you consider your lessons from 2015 and how life will be different in 2016, one of the most important things to discover is the power of productivity.
We’re all saturated with information, content, distractions, and shiny objects. The Information Age is an incredible time to be alive, but suddenly we’re all responsible for effectively sorting all of the opportunities and demands that come our way. In fact, even just a few minutes of inefficiency in a normal workday can mean hours of lost time in a year, let alone a lifetime.
Perhaps you’re like me. I run a busy financial practice and not only need to be responsive to clients, but also create valuable trainings, write articles on deadline, take press interviews, and still find time to love my husband, see my friends, and get to the gym. I’m not interested in letting my quality of life slip, and I don’t have room for much inefficiency.
Because of this, I take effective time management very seriously and have created a system that works for me. I’m happy to share it with you, in the hopes that it inspires you to take 2016 by the horns and clear the mental and physical clutter from your life!
Keep a Clean Desktop.
Both your physical desk and your computer desktop are a manifestation of the clutter in your brain, so it’s important to de-clutter both. Take the time to file things effectively so that you can find them when you need them. Don’t keep tasks, letters, or undone items on your physical desk — that sucks your energy. Put them on your task list and file them away.
For example, yesterday I received a smog check letter from the DMV. When I get something like that, I don’t let it sit on my desk where it would stress me out. Instead, I immediately either put a, “Get a smog check” appointment on my calendar, or I put it on my task list and file the letter where I can’t see it. I note in the calendar item or the task list where to find the DMV letter so I know exactly how to complete the task.
Use an Email Client with Folders.
Folders are critical! I use Outlook to organize my emails, but you might use Mail or Gmail — whatever works for you. You have to be able to organize emails for storage, action, and follow-up.
The Finder tool on my MacBook Air is incredible, so I rarely have to sift through storage folders anymore, but when I do, I can almost always find what I’m looking for because I create my file structure in a logical way that makes sense to me.
I file copies of emails that I’m waiting on responses to, and emails that represent a task assigned to me, in separate folders, and I have an appointment on my calendar each week to review these folders completely and take care of unfinished business. This way, my inbox stays organized, I don’t miss important emails, and I get to inbox zero each morning.
Relate to Everything as a Thing or a Task.
Some emails are parts of a conversation, but many are simply tasks. These tasks can be organized in email, but I prefer to use a task management system. I personally love Trello, as it populates to all my devices and my tasks can be organized on various boards that I can look at (or not). I can also share boards with my team and we all have clarity about current projects and priorities.
Keep Important Things at the Top and Dump the Rest.
At any given time, you have way more on your mind and on your plate than you can handle, process, or think about. It’s important to create ways to keep the time-critical and money making things top of mind and store the rest to be reviewed, scheduled, and handled later!
I have a folder in my email as well as a board in Trello labeled, “Today.” Each morning, I spend time going through Trello and email, and determine the critical tasks I need to get done, and move them there. Then, I shut email off and finish those items before I open my day up to the requests of the world.
This process, as long as you follow its structure, is amazingly effective. I have the same number of hours in the day as I’ve always had, but I have the experience of being 10 times as productive!
If you like the idea of organizing your day and consciously managing your life, and you’d like to dive a little deeper, I have a training video for you! Click here to see exactly how this process looks, the file structure that works for me, and an example of how I manage tasks and emails for maximum productivity. (Warning: It’s a bit of a long training video, but if watching this for 20 minutes can save you 20 minutes a day, it’s well worth your time!)
Hilary Hendershott is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.