A few simple rules to reduce lost time, increase personal effectiveness

Thinking about everything all the time is one of the paths to madness. When you've not committed your tasks to paper, you loop them around in your head, madly rehearsing them like an actor having trouble remembering their lines. Your brain says "milk, eggs, detonator cord," over and over in a futile attempt to keep your shopping list from slipping away from you. One ring of your cell phone, and it's your task list, bright idea, or project outline are lost like a sand mandala in a windstorm.

One of the ways effective people handle the constant onslaught of ideas and information in their life is to develop a few simple rules and then follow them.  Having rules means they don't spend a minute or two contemplating what to do about a problem.  They've decided in advance that simple problems can be eradicated with simple tactics and that employing those tactics returns them time that can be used to work on higher quality projects.

A few simple rules to reduce lost time, increase personal effectiveness

  • No looping todo items. If you find yourself repeating a to do item to yourself, it goes on the paper list that is with you always.
  • If a cheap pen fails you, throw it away immediately. Waiting for crappy products to get better is a waste of time.
  • ALWAYS carry a pen and paper. The ability to remember and act on more information than the other guy is a strategic advantage in nearly all endeavors. The medium of pen and paper has a faster write speed, find speed, or retrieval speed than any other information device you may carry.
  • Read emails only once. Either take whatever action you might ever take, write any required action on your task list, or save/delete it.  And especially don't fall in the trap of handling it once on your Blackberry and once on your desktop PC. Handling emails twice (or more) is a time killer.
  • Write emails any time.  Read emails on a limited schedule.  The schedule for processing your inbox can be whatever you want it to be, but without structure it will simply take up your every free moment.  If answering emails pays your bills, then do it. I recently met a CFO that refused to carry a smart phone and then only read and responded to his emails at 4 PM every day. It seems to me that a guy with a net worth like his must be doing something right.

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.