- Plan ahead (with contingency)
- Whatever works for you – personal JIRA, Trello, stacked sticky notes, dead tree notebook
- Stay focussed
- Specify windows to check your email (e.g. first thing in AM and after lunch) and ignore emails until that window
- Rather than letting new tasks distract you, write them down, then continue on your current task – and have a time to review and prioritize those tasks during the day.
- Avoid context switching – humans are very bad at multitasking and your brain is highly prone to disk-thrashing, especially if you think you’re good at multitasking. See this TIME article for a summary of the research.
- Some people work best with time-boxing : concentrate on a single task for a fixed period of time. Read about the Pomodoro technique.
- Say No if you need to – or you’ll disappoint
- If someone asks you to do something, get a deadline for it to help you decide if you have time
- Track as you go
- 6 minutes are a good building block of time to decimalise your day, especially if you’re filling out timesheets.
- If you’re working on more than 1 project, you’re going to forget very quickly what you’ve done by the end of the week
- Review your time – find ways to optimise
- Personal retrospectives. Are you spending your time on what you should be spending it on?
- Learn when to delegate, both to management and within your team.
“People aren’t complying with our data quality. Users keep putting in wrong email addresses.”
“The new computer system will fix that”
“Users complain that there’s too many steps to sign off expenses”
“Each step will be faster in the new computer system”
“Staff have low job satisfaction”
“New computer system!”
“Our users aren’t interested in that new feature”
“New computer system!”
“We’ve been hacked with a social engineering attack”
“NEW COMPUTER SYSTEM!”
Changing one thing is rarely the answer. There are many pain points and problems we all face day to day. It’s tempting to try and fix them all together, but unless you understand why the problem exists and what the parameters are to fix that problem, you can’t fix it.
Sometimes New Computer System (TM) will fix multiple problems, if they’ve been defined and the system has been designed to do so. But don’t expect it to fix everything because it’s new. That’s how to make people disenchanted.
If you think one system will rule them all, you may as well throw your team in the fire now before you waste time and money on a misguided transformation.
I’ve been trying out the inbox zero philosophy (Google Video : Inbox Zero) for a while to keep on top of my email, and I’ve got it working quite well at work (Outlook) and in my personal GMail account. Since I’ve had quite a deluge of email recently for various reasons, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on it.
The most important thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not just about emptying your inbox, it’s about managing what gets in there in the first place. In order to do this, I make sure I filter out anything that doesn’t need to be read immediately (sorry Red Gate, the newsletters are a great after-lunch read but you’re not *that* important). You can see ideas for folder names or other ways of marking emails via the links above (but folders and stars/flags are worth using). I can then sort through the filtered emails when I have some spare time, such as during a compile, or when it becomes relevant to a conversation I’m having.
What all this means is the pop-ups from Outlook or Pidgin only show me the stuff that’s worth interrupting my flow for, so I can monitor my email without being distracted by information overload, and I can either deal with it immediately or add it to my ToDo list or archive as appropriate.
I can then do some pre-emptive multitasking by setting aside time each day or week to look through the filtered stuff (e.g. just before/after lunch, start/end of day, depending on my work load).
The most important thing I’ve discovered is this :
It strikes me though that the most important thing that generalises a lot of the tips is this: Avoid multitasking.
If it’s not something you’ve tried before, it’s definitely worth checking out.