The following is from guest writer, Ed Russo.
Even if you’re not a huge Blue Collar Comedy fan, you are probably familiar with Larry the Cable Guy’s “Git ‘r done” trademarked catch phrase. Despite the heavy drawl we can decipher a pretty significant motivational message: finish the job. As kids we heard this all the time. Finish cleaning your room. Finish your homework. Finish your vegetables. But when it comes to business, how many of us finish anything? So many tasks provide maintenance more than completion.
Most of us are proud multi-taskers. This entails managing several projects simultaneously that are all in different phases of the project cycle. Many of our projects “end” with a new program or product as the result. We are then charged with managing this new endeavor. With all of the emphasis on status updates and measureable outcomes, is any project ever really complete?
We need to find victory in completing tasks effectively and efficiently. Tasks are the steps we do every day – phone calls, answering emails, processing requisitions, scheduling meetings, completing action items, coaching employees, etc. According to one time management expert, a traditional “to do” list may not be the way to go.
In his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen outlines a system for streamlining tasks. Believe it or not he utilizes old-school in-baskets and filing systems to organize work.
Capture: Collect what has your attention. Data dump – clear your mind. During this first step, write down 100% of everything you have to do at work, at home, and wherever else you do stuff. By writing all of this down it gets out of your head and creates “psychic bandwidth” for creativity and productivity. This process can take hours but it is liberating.
Clarify: Process what it means. Take everything that you captured and ask: Is it actionable? If no, trash it, incubate it, or file it as reference. If yes, decide the very next action required. If it takes less than two minutes, do it now. If not, delegate it or put it on a list to do when you can.
Organize: Put it where it belongs. Put action items on the correct lists. For example, create lists for the appropriate categories—calls to make, errands to run, emails to send, etc. I like to think of this as triage. This is where the in-basket comes to life.
Reflect: Review frequently. Look over your lists as often as necessary to determine what to do next. Conduct a weekly review to clean up, update your lists, and clear your mind.
Engage: Simply do. Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence. Git ‘r done. Do it or do something with it.
Lately my in-basket was becoming a static storage facility. David Allen’s system immediately changed my behavior by forcing me to identify what needs to be done next with each item. Everything is now identified as actionable or is archived as reference material. In some cases, the best action has been to throw it away.
This system may not provide a comprehensive project management structure but it will provide you a way to de-clutter your mind, desk, and mailbox. With these beasts tamed you will be better prepared to focus on the meaningful work that demands your creativity and undivided attention.
Like, share, and comment on this article. Then close your web-browser and triage your inbox. Be like Larry and “Git ‘r done.” Sleeveless flannel shirt not required.
Ed Russo is the Program Manager for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Mr. Russo works with educators, law enforcement, community leaders, and government officials to implement child safety resources into schools and communities across the country. Through presentations and trainings, Mr. Russo provides participants with information about how safety resources can help prevent the victimization of children. Prior to joining the Center he was a Human Resources Manager in a Florida County Clerk’s Office and has over 18 years of teaching experience. Mr. Russo is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a BS degree in Education.