Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Many of you got a good dose of snow over the weekend. I’m not going to talk about being snowed in but about that horrible feeling of being snowed under.
I decided to use these first few weeks of January to work on my systems– something I always resolve on January 1st but never allocate enough time to do. It always takes far longer than I estimate and I end up feeling guilty enough to give up and “get back to work” before the job is done. It’s part of the reason I spend the rest of the year feeling snowed under with work.
In my last job our office manager, Anna, always came back to work in January carrying boxes of manila folders. She took the files from the year before last and put them in cardboard boxes, carefully labeled with the year and the kinds of files–accounts payable, vendors, customers, etc.–and had them carried upstairs to the file room. Then she moved the previous year’s files down a drawer, and made fresh files for each account. Being the boss and being a person who doesn’t like change, I’d always moan when I went to reach for an oft-opened drawer and found fresh, empty folders. But Anna knew what she was doing.
Managing our projects, our family, our lives is a challenge. It’s easy to get snowed under.
I’ve been reading the book, Do More Better, by Tim Challies and he sets out a great productivity plan, giving step-by-step instructions. His advice is to have three systems–an information system (I’m using Evernote), a calendar (I use the Apple Calendar) and a task management system (I’m trying Nozbe, but he recommends Todoist). I also made use of online instruction, taking Dave Crenshaw’s Time Management Fundamentals through the learning site, Lynda.com. I followed his advice and used his method of processing–hence boxes of unprocessed stuff that needs to be done. I took a photo of some of my boxes for Facebook. Scary! Plus I’m using Anna’s filing method and creating new files for everything.
I also took the plunge and updated all my computer and mobile device operating systems, knowing I’ll have to patiently work through the glitches and software bugs that will arise. But if I don’t bite the bullet and get it done, I’ll soon find everything obsolete.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because, many of you are starting out on your writing careers. This may be the last time you ever have breathing room enough to think about productivity, to become familiar with the programs and systems you will desperately need once your career moves into high gear. Forget spring cleaning, use this time to do an audit of your systems and think through how you manage information. One day, if not today, you will be snowed under with information.
- Read and work through a good time management book like Challies book or Getting Things Done by David Allen.
- Try Lynda.com. A trial membership offers ten days free and you can take as many courses as you can fit in ten days. Take a time management course like the one I took from Dave Crenshaw. Take an in-depth course on Evernote and all the other software you need to dig into.These courses are superb. You may end up like me and decide to invest in lifelong learning.
- Download and install all system upgrades and app updates. I know you hate to mess with things when everything is humming along nicely but. . . it’s a necessary evil.
- Keep at it until everything is operational. Don’t settle for workarounds. If you have to call helplines, get ‘er done.
- Dig in and begin to cultivate good habits for handling email and processing information.
- Set up your reader list and decide the many ways you are going to capture this information and build this database. (Nothing makes you more attractive to a publisher than a vigorous database.)
- Build good habits early in your career. It may make all the difference in the world later.
So, did you groan when you saw I was writing about productivity again? (I know, I’m a productivity geek.) What tips do you have for the rest of us?