There’s a tsunami of data coming at you: emails, texts, invitations, workshops, invitations for coffee, blog posts, WSJ articles, radio shows clips from NPR, reports, surveys. How do you keeps things moving forward? How do you stop missing things? Because you know if things get behind you —- it’s over. Probably gone forever. How do you keep the important stuff in front of you? Up front, where you know you can process it.

I’m struggling as much as anyone. I’m in two to three businesses every week, trying to scale them with the owner and great teams. I’ve trapped a few ideas below to help keep your productivity high. Most of them are quite basic but if done religiously every day can make a huge difference.

 Email inboxes
  1. Clean your email inbox down to zero. I’ve just archived about 82,000 emails in Gmail. I’ve tested finding a dozen or so emails from the archives and they appeared instantly. The search engine is so much better these days.
  2. For those emails that require follow up – I batch them up by people and wait for it – I print them out. It just seems much easier to sit down with my little batch of emails with each person and deal with them.
  3. I also push emails into folders using Gmail label functionality. This is great for recruitment projects and filing resumes, or project related threads where I can review them later.
  4. I also find Boomerang a great app to push emails into my inbox for next week, or tomorrow, or on Friday, when I know I will be able to answer.
 Meetings & Calls
  1. Batch your calls to stay productive. I build a calls list which I attack every morning from 9 till 10. Obviously in a sales-based role you need to allocate a huge part of your week to phone work which clearly will be more than one hour, but I still believe in allocating segments of the week to specific tasks.
  2. For all those coffee meetings with external partners, prospective clients, suppliers, competitors etc, I find it’s so easy to say you’ll meet and then forget. Instead allocate a few hours that you keep for these meetings. Friday mornings in my case, send an electronic invite and lock it down. It’s great to say to people, “yes love to meet, my Friday mornings are free and the first slot is Feb 21.”
  3. The use of talking points. Meetings are unproductive for three main reasons – lack of preparation, undefined questions the meeting has to answer and follow through. Build your talking points that need to be worked through (it will also help you decide who needs to be in the meeting), frame the questions you want answered and trap and email actions agreed.
  1. These days so many problems need to be solved by a multi-departmental team. So the secret of getting stuff done is defining the most appropriate projects. I recommend “Scoping Meetings” to hash out all the issues that need to be solved by the project. An example always helps. In rolling out a new Services Division, the following issues emerged from a Scoping Meeting:
      • Define service offerings
      • Price offerings
      • Review sales narrative
      • Define pipeline development rules
      • Allocate resources
      • Automate service renewals through email system
      • Build marketing campaigns
  2. Keeping tabs on projects is always challenging. As soon as an issue is worthy of project status, I trap it on my master sheet and allocate a number. Folder opened up, actions trapped and plan for completion drawn up. Keep the master sheet handy, alpha sort it with it’s number. New projects get a new number. Simple and effective.
  3. I’ve also become a big fan of the Monday issues meeting. The key management team should try to meet for 30 mins early, 8 or 8.30 on a Monday morning, to agree the weekly agenda items that need to be moved forward. Not everything can be actioned every week.
  4. High on my list of Technology to help with project management – 37 Signals, Google Docs, and Dropbox.
  5. High on my list of Technology for sharing stuff (whether project related or not) HootSuite, Shareaholic, and Snagit. And you must get digital subscriptions to your favorite newspapers and magazines and share those great articles.

These are just a few thoughts to help you. I’m sure you have your favorite tools.

Related Posts: How To Measure Velocity in Projects,  Checklists To Transform Meetings