Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting There

Make more room for creativity in your life! Here are seven tips for streamlining work and life:

Practice Google Fu. A close relative to Kung Fu: Don't let "I don't know" become a stumbling block to the fulfillment of your goals and dreams. Look it up. Ask someone. Learn advanced boolean search rhetoric. (Need a basic primer? Start here.) Become a Google Fu Master.

Don't Fight the Flow unless you have to. If there's nothing urgent on the horizon, clear the decks. Something unexpected is always on the way — could be an emergency, could be an opportunity. In either case, make room for it: Run errands, pay bills, file papers, clean up the office. And if you're tired, rest.

Become an email Ninja. In other words, stealthily process emails OUT of the inbox. Look at it once and decide: Do I want to keep this? Where does it belong? File it where you can find it. Do I need to do something with this? Send quick responses now. Note more involved tasks on an Actions List. Make a folder for things you want to read when/if time allows - get that stuff out of the inbox. Nothing should be in there except brand new mail.

Eliminate Mental Clutter. Your brain is the ultimate inbox, but it works best if you can focus deeply on one project at a time. To get the incoming chatter off your mind, capture it. I keep a notepad beside me as I'm working, so that I can record, "buy stamps" as it flits through my head, "call mechanic", "follow up w/Client B" and then turn my attention back to the project at hand. Later, I'll look at that notepad again, and handle whatever is recorded there.

File Everything. Maps, menus, receipts, bills, contracts, newspaper clippings, paint chips, brochures, warranties, instruction manuals, passwords, bits of poetry written on napkins, even spare screws and washers... anything on paper, or that can be written on paper, or saved onto a compact disk, and anything flat and small enough to fit into a Ziploc bag inside a file folder— In other words, anything that you aren't currently using that's cluttering up your space – label a file, slip it inside, and file it. When you want it later, you'll know exactly where to find it.

Do the most important thing first. It sounds simple, but this statement is tricky. Important to whom? Important for what? In this case, I'm talking about you and your happiness. If a little yoga in the morning will make the entire work day more pleasant, than this is absolutely more important than the looming deadline or the big project you've been agonizing over. If all you've ever wanted to do is write a novel but there are dishes to be washed, then the dishes can wait while you jot down two or three pages. Remember: Important is not the same things as urgent.

Have any tips to add? Write them in the comments. Let's learn from each other!

1 comment:

jane collins said...

Thanks for tip #1. I've learned a bit more Google-ease.

For a stategy for sorting out "what's important vs. what's urgent," I'd recommend Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Successful People. It's aimed at a corporate management audience, but he has excellent ideas about time management.