Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
A few weeks I started thinking about how every “system” says that you don’t need special tools to implement their system…but also has the tools available. I came to the conclusion that the reason so many people buy, and discard, these specialized tools is that it is easier to buy a pre-made one and bend our styles to the tool than to make a productivity system without guidance. The aim of this series is going to be to help us define our tool set to make us productive.
How the Information Comes In
One of the things that I believe is assumed in many productivity systems is that the way we process information must be built on where it comes in. David Allen gets closest to this concept when he says that we need to minimize our in-boxes. But I believe where information comes in needs to drive, in part, how we track it.
Figuring Out Where It Comes In
List all the places that you get information. Like most people, you will probably have a combination of physical information (mail, papers, reports, magazines) and electronic (email, voice mail, newsletters). It is important to get all of the places captured in your list, even things like where you jot notes (post it notes, notebooks) and other things you need to pay attention to (children’s backpacks or school binders).
Case Study: Where My Information Comes From
Currently, my in boxes are:
- Home email (consolidates GMail, ISP, and blog email)
- Work email (2 – client and employer)
- US mail – home
- Papers from spouse
- Daughter’s backpack and school binder
- Voice mail: home, home answering machine, work
Figuring Out How You Prefer to Get Information
There is room for consolidation here. You should always try to minimize where information is coming in, just so you aren’t checking many places.
There is also room for consolidating methods of receipt. If you prefer to receive things electronically, for example, you can see if you can arrange for more to be received that way. For example, there are services now that will receive faxes and email you the result. Jott can transcribe voice mail to email (for a charge). Email accounts can be consolidated. You could sign up for electronic statements and receipts.
Look at How You Receive Information Based on Your System Choices
Splitting your in boxes based on how many systems you have can be considered to. If you are running different systems for work and home, this can play out differently
Case Study: My System
In my case, my work information is almost all electronic. Almost everything comes in via email, and anything that comes in from voice mail is transcribed into the tracking system which then sends out email. In the case that I do receive paper, our copier will turn that into a PDF and email it to me. So my work system is 100% electronic.
At home, I do not have the ability to be 100% electronic. I still receive postal mail that requires attention. As far as consolidation, my email has been combined to two GMail accounts (one for personal/blog and the other for a volunteer position). My husband and daughter know where my designated in boxes are, and papers end up there. For voice mail, I will be putting a message on the home voice mail (which was included when we upgraded to FIOS, but we can’t turn off) that no messages should be left there, as they will not be checked. That leaves the answering machine and the notebook, both of which are processed daily.
Photo by deeAuvil.com