Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Processing your first inbox, part of Time Management Fundamentals.
- Now that you understand how what, when, where processing works, it's time for you, and me, to start practicing. I want what, when, where processing to become second nature to you, to get you conditioned to follow the same system every time. In the beginning, this system may be a little bit awkward for you, and that's okay. Just take your time, be patient and repeat with one item at a time until it becomes automatic. During the gathering video, I asked you to separate, into one box, any items that need to be dealt with this week.
We're going to begin practicing with this temporary one week box. I'm going to give you a few examples of how this is done. First, I pick up one item out of the gathering point. It's an offer for a credit card. I ask myself the question, what is the next step? So I pause to consider it. In this case, do I need a credit card? No. I don't need another credit card. So, I'm going to throw it away, that's the next step. When will it be done? Well, I'm going to do it now.
And, where is it's home? I want to be safe with my identity, so I'm going to throw it into a plastic slot that I've set aside and labeled for shredding. I have time set aside monthly for shredding. What I just did may seem very slow for something that seemed obvious to you. Keep in mind that repetition is a powerful teacher. So, even on obvious items, ask yourself the what, when, where questions.
Let's pick up one more item, a bank statement. What's the next step? Well, the next step is, I need to review it and make sure there aren't any strange charges on it. When will that step be done? Can I do it in five minutes or less? Yes, in this case I can do it in five minutes or less so there's no need to schedule it. No need to even pull out my calendaring system. So, I'm going to take it out and look at it. Where is its home? When I'm doing this step, its home is right here in my hands.
So I'm going to go ahead and do it right now. Oh great, it looks good. Am I done, yet? I reviewed it and everything looks good, so I processed the item, right? Not yet, because there are still more steps until its complete. I need to process it again, right now, by repeating the what, when, where questions. What's the next step? Now the next step is I need to file it. When will it be done? I can definitely file it in five minutes or less, so I'm going to do it now.
Where is its home? Well, its home is right here in the financial files that I set up for the month of January. So I stick it in the month of January, and I'm done with that. Now let's take an item that's a little bit more complex, that requires a little more action on my part than just filing something or throwing it away. I have a note here for myself, to follow up with Bob Jones. He was interested in receiving coaching and wanted me to follow-up in three to four months.
So, what's the next step? The next step is, I need to send him an email about this. When will it be done? Three to four months from now. That's pretty flexible; can I do it now? No, I can't do it now. Should I calendar it or task it? Will it take me more than 15 minutes, or is it time sensitive? Its completion date is flexible, and I doubt that sending an email will take more than several minutes. So, this belongs in the task reminder list.
I'm going to create a task reminder to e-mail Bob Jones. Let's open this up on the computer screen so you can see it. I'm using Google calendar right now, but most any program that can create automatic reminders can handle this. First, I'm going to create a secondary calendar, just for task reminders. These are not firm commitments on my schedule, but just reminders of when I'm most likely to do them.
Within this calendar, I'm going to set a pop-up notification to occur for anything I put in, zero minutes before it happens. Meaning, right on that time. I could also add e-mail or phone notifications if I preferred those to the pop-up. Then, I create an appointment to contact Bob Jones. Down in the description box, I could put some notes to remind me about our conversation, if I want. And then I'm going to put the time and the date on which I think I'll contact him.
Now, for the last question of processing, I have a what, I have a when, but now I need a where. Where is its home? Well, for the piece of paper that I'm holding, the home is the trash can, I don't need it, and when in doubt, if physical, throw it out. Let's do another quick example so I can show you how to use the calendar. Right here I have a pile of thank-you cards. These thank-you cards are for people who hired me to speak for their company last month.
Let's process it. What is the next step? Now, I need to write a handwritten note for each one of these clients, and I have several cards. When will it be done? Can I do this in five minutes or less? No, because I want to write a thoughtful note to each client. in fact, it will probably take me about thirty minutes. Because it's going to take me over 15 minutes, I know immediately this step has to go to the calendar. Most items you process will end up on your calendar.
I open up my calendar to set a time. Again, while you see me using Google Calendar, any calendaring program has this ability. I'm going to set a time in my calendar to complete these thank-you cards next week, on Thursday, at 9 A.M. That should give me plenty of time to go through and write thoughtful notes. I also want to look at my calendar and make sure there is plenty of buffer space on either side of this, and that I'm not cramming it in, and Thursday at nine looks good.
I've got at least a half an hour of space on either side of this, which is more than enough. Now that that's scheduled, I ask myself the last processing question, where is its home? I still have these cards, right? So, I pull out a manilla folder, label it, "Thank-you Cards," put the cards in, file it under "T" in the Miscellaneous Folders, and I'm done. I've processed the item, and it's complete.
Now, it's your turn. Please pause this course, and begin processing items from your inbox one at a time. Spend at least one hour practicing with the existing items that you have. This will help make this processing system become second nature to you. Conditioning your mind to get faster and faster at what, when, where processing.
Learn how to get more done in the shortest time possible and avoid the obstacles and distractions that can get in the way of good time management. Dave gives practical strategies for increasing productivity in three main areas: developing habits to be more organized and reducing clutter in your workspace; staying mentally on task and eliminate the to-dos you have floating in your head; and developing a time budget to get the most done during your workday and focus on your most valuable activities.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Finding your productivity style and motivation
- Understanding the principles of time management
- Avoiding the pitfalls of multitasking
- Narrowing your gathering points
- Consolidating email and voicemail accounts
- Practicing mind-clearing techniques
- Choosing and using calendar software
- Saying no with tact
- Mastering the what, when, where processing system
- Processing email vs. checking email
- Maintaining productivity gains