Okay, part of being successful is being productive. We’ve all got to be productive in order to get ahead. Even that lucky guy with the winning lottery ticket has to be productive so he can maintain his new found wealth, or it will leave him.
This quest for financial freedom has lead me along interesting learning paths. One of the most helpful “walks” was an honest desire to improve my organization skills and simultaneously put an END to my horrible procrastination habits. I linked to a web page that had a forum with some good personal habit suggestions, and someone there mentioned David Allen and his Getting Things Done. I researched more and read some of his works and heard an audio cassette, and this guy is pretty amazing. He works a single system [while of course the system has a few builtin "moving parts"] that he uses consistently and it allows him to take single steps to achieve a goal, organize all of his projects on tasks and context, and ease the stress of and reduce the amount of information that is weighing in on his head.
If you’re not already familiar with Getting Things Done, do yourself a favor and obtain it now. Make it a priority. He uses Outlook and has some excellent practices that really help simplify things and makes Microsoft’s Outlook a whole lot more functional for a professional. However, I’m going to skip explaining his system, assuming you’re already familiar with it. I’ve been able to expand on that system and make things work a little better for me, thanks to a new feature in Outlook 2003.
Based upon his concept of “one-inbox” webmail seems like such a likely candidate as a tool for the normal person who can access it at home, a coffee shop, quite frequently work, friends, without having to be tied to a hard drive. Unfortunately, not every webmail interface chimes right along with Outlook, but if you demand an IMAP (instead of POP3) account from your email provider, you can save your mail folders and messages on your providers server instead of having to download them all the time. It also allows you to mange it once. Having to do it once is a real time saver. David’s not afraid of having too many folders, and even goes so far as to require you create some. He suggests some that everyone should have, including an !Action and a !Waiting and these are part of his system. I found it unwieldy to try and drag messages and quickly get back to the Inbox, the !Action, and the !Waiting. If I had to scroll in order to click on them, that means they’re off my screen and are not visible! Now with Outlook 2003, I can use the new Favorite Folders feature. I’m able to drag the folders to the Favorites Folders area and it creates a shortcut to it. Thankfully, one click access to the folder I need, and what an improvement over the 2000/XP shortcut bar. As a bonus, it even shows how many new messages the folder contains.
Secondly, I’ll need a way to track my projects. I’ve found that sending myself a message is an effective way. It gets it in my inbox, and then I can deal with it when appropriate. As the project progresses, I get more and more notes on the subject, and I can simply reply to myself to keep a journal of the notes I’ve created. It also has an added benefit of instant date/time stamp. Even better, it integrates into an existing working system for me. Nothing is as natural as replying to a message. It is also Rich Text Format compatible. I can save and store attachments as needed.