Last month, I asked the readers of my MarCom Writer newsletter to take a survey. One question I asked my subscribers was to rate the challenges they face on a regular basis.
Over 68% of respondents stated “lack of resources — time, budget, staff” as their number one challenge.
This blew the other responses out of the water by over 50%!
I can’t help with the lack of budget or staff, but I can help with the time issue.
I know, because it’s my issue, too. Like many professionals, I juggle family responsibilities, running a business, two dogs, and volunteer activities. I’ve been on overwhelm for a long time.
That is, until I discovered the book, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.
If you’re already a David Allen fan, pat yourself on the back. For those of you who missed the book, read on.
I’ve tried reading other productivity and time management books, especially those geared toward writers. However, their main drawback is that they tell you how to write more.
They don’t tell you how to maintain your sanity when all hell is breaking loose, how to work more productively in fewer hours, or how to integrate your work and personal life.
Allen’s book delivers that secret sauce in spades.
Rather than give simple platitudes for organizing your life, Allen addresses how we process information as knowledge workers.
He understands that we have overflowing email inboxes, desks piled high with paper and unread magazines, stuffed file folders, phones ringing incessantly, and constant interruptions — oh, and the dog is sick, your husband missed his plane and won’t be home tonight, and your child needs schlepping to baseball practice.
I read his book because I saw myself on every page. It also helped that I read it in small doses each day; I started making changes only after I had read it through once.
What I like best about this book is that Allen gives you strategies for keeping track of everything in your life — whether it’s your upcoming family vacation or the budget meeting in two weeks.
His main message is that you must get information out of your head and into a system, where you can track action items.
Suffice to say, his book has changed how I work in the following ways:
1. My office is completely free of junk!
Allen advocates cleaning out your office — from bookshelves to your email inbox. I carted books to the library “Friends” sale, threw away bags of old stuff, and whittled my email inbox from 150+ messages down to 10.
Now that I have a clean office and a desk I can actually see, I’ve experienced newfound energy. I feel excited about my work again and bounce into my office every morning ready to start my day. It’s a wonderful feeling.
2. I can find information.
Allen recommends you buy a label maker and label all your project folders (and whatever else needs labeling). I was dubious, but Jessica Albon, another Allen fan, said, “Do it. You’ll love it.” She is absolutely right.
Before reading Allen’s book, I would constantly “lose” things because I had no real system for dealing with “pending” items.
After reading Allen’s book, I went through exactly how I work and what information I need every day. I now have neatly arranged file drawers with every project, both personal and professional, in labeled file folders, arranged alphabetically.
What a difference! I can’t believe how much time I’ve saved implementing this system.
(And for you Allen fans — I love my 43 files! How did I live without those?)
3. I can now see what needs to be done.
The best part of Allen’s system, however, is that I can see things from the 30,000 foot perspective. This last week, for example, I finally implemented a process I’ve had on my mental “to-do” list for four years.
Since I had my notes and ideas readily at hand (in a nicely labeled file folder which I found in less than a second in my file drawer), I implemented the system in under an hour. The time spent developing it will save me countless hours andd frustration in the future — plus help me grow my business.
If you’re on overwhelm, I highly recommend you read Allen’s book. Take your time and really absorb what he’s telling you. Then, go buy that labeler and some fresh file folders, and start making changes.
His system really works!
If you’re already an Allen fan, post your your comments about how his systems have changed your life!
(For the record, this article is also the main article for the June issue of my newsletter. I’ve also asked my readers to post their thoughts as well.)