What’s not getting done tonight.

September 17, 2008

Tonight the cat decided that she would be a trusted system tonight, at least as far as making me not use my notebook is concerned.

ProductivityFail.jpg

Sometimes we all need our own reminders that the goal of implementing a good system for managing our work isn’t just about getting more done. It’s about taking care of what we need to do so we can relax and spend time on what matters.

If you haven’t been reading over at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann’s been writing about focusing on what you can do once you’ve gotten organized.

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Plan for success: rethinking the to-do list

August 13, 2008

Take a quick look at your current project list, and notice what kinds of names you’ve given your projects and tasks.

Do you have a “Sales” project, or projects named “Increase current account sales 5% this quarter” and “Generate 20 new leads”?

On a personal level, do you have “Spend more time with family and friends” as a goal? Do you have self-improvement projects that say that, or ones that are called “September dinner party with the neighbors” and “Week Vacation with Family in Boundary Waters”?

I’m finding more and more that the phrasing of those project names makes a big difference. “September Dinner Party” is a project you can finish. “Spend more time with friends”, even if there are specific events in there that will make that happen, is probably not something you’ll ever cross off your list as having completed to your satisfaction. You know when they are done, you can complete them, and replace them with the next specific project that fits with your bigger goals of growing your company, improving your personal life, etc. Giving your projects a clear, specific outcome as a name means you can win.

It’s a lot harder to feel like you’re making progress when the stuff you’re working on never goes away. Think of the difference between looking at your to-do list at the end of the week and seeing that you’ve crossed off 75 things, which meant two projects were finished and the rest closer to completion. Or looking at those same 75 things and knowing you’ve done some work that inched you along a list of things that will never be finished and never end, even if you’d cranked through 100 items instead of those 75.

Be specific. Make your project names reflect the outcome you want. And enjoy the satisfaction of being able to mark things DONE.

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Speed up email with custom email templates

July 23, 2008

I’ve been talking with one of our users about ways to streamline some of his business operations. Sending inquiry emails to sale listings takes up a lot of his time, so we were looking for a way to speed those up. Developing email templates is a great way to speed up your workflow on repetitive tasks. Unlike mass mailings, it still allows you add a personal touch and comment to each recipient.

Tim Ferris has more on creating and using standardized emails in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s also got some great comments about making email productive and not getting bogged checking messages all day.

Outlook’s built in template function makes it easy to save them, but opening one up takes almost as long as rewriting for short messages. Greg Shultz over has TechRepubic has a nice tutorial on creating your templates and then adding them to your menu bar so you can generate emails from a template quickly.

If you’re a Gmail user, this handy Google homepage module can help you create you templates as well: Gmail Template Generator. Here’s a quick example to show it in action.

Just type in the details in the form.

Hit “generate” to create the message and see how it looks.

Then bookmark the URL to save the template.