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Everyone is busy. During the day we received additional requests for help, ideas that pop into our heads and there are other project tasks that we need to undertake. How we capture and then process these items can affect our productivity and effectiveness. Having an approach that suits you is key to making sure that progress gets made.
The biggest failure that I see is not have a 'mechanism' to capture the new items that make up your workload. For some this is a notepad with 'to do' items on it. For others this is their in-tray, their e-mail inbox, an app on their phone, a whiteboard in their office, or something else altogether. Whatever it is that you use it is essential that you use it to ensure that everything is captured. Don't let anything fall down the cracks.
Once you have a mechanism in place then you can review and prioritise the actions in your list. I see many quick tasks get stuck behind longer tasks. The quick tasks might get another colleague's project back on track and so making the right decision about what to work on is critical, especially if you work as part of a team. Working from the top-down makes sense only if you have recently prioritised your list. Take the time out to evaluate your (consolidated) list and work out what will get you the best results for the least amount of effort and prioritise accordingly.
Finding a small chunk of time is also essential in order to get through your list(s). However you capture your items you will end up with a list of some sort. Even a small amount of time each week will allow you to complete a few tasks and make sure that there is nothing in your queue of work that is going to bite you if you leave it for a few more days. Flushing these queues periodically is also a good way to make sure that work flows and it keeps you right with your obligations.
People often rely too heavily on their e-mail programs and their memories, not always the best strategy for productive task management. If you find yourself being chased for information, struggling to close out actions, remembering what you were asked to do, or feel a little overwhelmed with what you have to do then please review the three main steps listed above:
- capture everything,
- regularly nibble your way through your list.
Be systematic in your capturing and processing. Build a routine, form a habit. It will make your working life easier if you haven't done this already.
...fixing MRP systems and re-engineering business processes