How to Organize Your Work. And Your Life.
Ok, here it is. Full disclosure: I am not an organized person. Not by a long shot. So why am I writing this blog?
Truth is, I’ve learned the hard way (a few too many times) that the real world has a near zero-tolerance policy for catastrophic failure. This isn’t high school. You can’t pass with a D, make up exams, miss class, turn in late work, pass go, or collect $200.
In the real world, you need to be right 95% of the time.
So over the years, I’ve adopted a number of systems to keep myself on track, get my work in on time, and combat my habitual tendency to forget everything but my own birthday.
1. Write EVERYTHING Down
If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done. Period. There’s just too much stuff in my head. (Currently, “My Shiny Teeth and Me” by Chip Skylark)
Chances are you’re the same way. Because on average, the human brain can only hold 7 pieces of information in short-term memory. Any more than that and you’re setting yourself up for failure.
This is why the humble to-do list is such a powerful external memory aid. By writing your tasks down instead of trying to remember them all, you’ll give yourself permission to forget and free up the energy to focus on the task at hand.
2. Take Time to Plan
When you create a to-do list, you can easily review and prioritize the most important tasks. This is also a good time to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks—a core component of productivity consultant David Allan’s popular book “Getting Things Done”.
You might think that more time spent planning means less time getting stuff done, but a few minutes prioritizing and planning how to tackle your workload can increase your productivity by 25% or more—that’s two extra hours every day.
So take a second to make a plan of attack. Write it down. Get it out of your head. Because less time spent thinking about how a project is going to get done means more energy to focus on the work in front of you.
3. Set Reminders
Lists are great for allowing us to ‘forget’ important tasks and focus on what needs to get done but are really bad at reminding you when things need to be done.
For example, if you have a call at 3:00 pm, your to-do list is going to be about as useful as a screen door on a submarine if you don’t remember to actually check it at 2:45. So unless you want to keep all your appointments top-of-mind throughout the day, set a reminder on your phone.
Today, apps like google calendar make it easy to record important events and get a reminder a few minutes before. Our Senior Account Executive, Jane, swears by them: “iPhone alerts are my life. I have like 10 a day.”
What techniques do you use to stay on top of your work? Let us know in the comments below. Or, if you have a marketing problem you want to get out of your head (and into ours) contact us. We’re always glad to help.