Systems for Repeating Tasks
So far, we’ve covered saying no, negotiating, and delegating. Today, we come to the fourth of my five options to get more done in your life—by spending less time on unimportant things—and this is to have a more efficient system.
Many people think this is the essence of time management. But I think it’s just one of the five tools, and for people who are already pretty organized, there’s not much more juice to be squeezed. For others whose life is a shambles, this can be a huge one!
Part of an efficient system is the whole subject of lists, which I will come back to later (I think lists deserve a whole day to themselves). There’s also the problem area of “things that repeat.”
When You Need to Build a System
Anything that repeats needs a system. Life is too short to set systems up for everything that might happen, but if you have a repeating problem, then you must have a system for it. If you often get to the office having forgotten your key, you need a system. If you often run out of milk and have to run to the corner shop every morning, you need a better system. If you sometimes run out of toner for your printer and so let a customer down, you need a better system for toner replenishment. Every little annoyance in your day could be eradicated if you had better systems; I bet they’ve all happened before—and you didn’t eradicate them last time.
So, the thought process is to think about Why it happened and How you can set up a system so it can never happen again. For example, in regards to the above situations, the thought process might be the following:
“Maybe I need a spare key that lives in my car so when I get to work, I always have a key, or maybe I should have an office key on both of my car-key bunches so I can’t arrive with the wrong bunch?”
“Maybe I need to check my milk supplies before I leave the house each day, freeze some milk, or have a habit where I always get milk at lunchtime when I’m near the shop?”
“Maybe I should always have a spare toner cartridge in stock, and as soon as I use it, I order another one? And I could have the web address of the toner people taped to the wall by the spare cartridge so it’s easy to reorder.”
Systems You Probably Need
Different people need different systems, obviously. But there is one important system that everyone needs (unless they have ingenious memory), and it’s a system for finding information. Personally, I can never remember the procedure for restarting my Wi-Fi router, how to share screens in Skype, what size of shirt I need, or the curry I had in Milton Keynes that was so good—in fact, what was the name of that restaurant?
Some people use paper notebooks or OneNote, but I just put everything into Evernote, which is a free app for phone and laptop. It allows me to search and find anything and therefore, avoid having to think about it twice. It’s my number-one favorite app—if you’ve not heard of it, then you should definitely check it out.
So, that’s four out of five. Tomorrow, I will reveal the fifth option for getting more done—I bet you can’t guess what it is.
Homework: Make a list of all repeating problems that you suffer from. What are the things that annoy you when they happen? What did you have to deal with today that was trivial and annoying? What systems can you bring in that will prevent these problems from recurring?
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