Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Few Things I’ve Done To Manage the Workload

Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill cites an Accenture study that found middle managers spending two hours a day searching for information, half of which turns out to be of no value (and that was three years ago!). Today, I don’t know a single direct marketer -- a single person, actually -- who isn’t overwhelmed.

The following tactics have helped me cope over the last few months:

1. File incoming email to folders. As an editor in the direct marketing field, I need to read every notable industry publication and blog. BUT, I can’t afford the distraction of messages invading my inbox. To cope, I set up filters to hide my mail before I see it. Especially useful has been my “electronic newsletters folder," which contains every e-newsletter, press release, blog or announcement related to the industry. About once a week I spend an hour inside that folder. Estimated time savings: ½-hour per day.

2. Tell everything. is a free service from Oslo, Norway, that reminds me of every must-recall detail, large or small, personal or professional. This service says it’s in beta, but I’ve never had any reminder system – human or otherwise -- that is easier or more reliable. Laytr helps keep my inbox clean, too, because I set-up alerts for stuff I need to deal with, but can't right now. Estimated time savings: I can’t even estimate because peace of mind is priceless.

3. Hit delete. No matter how much I filter my email, the SPAM comes. I used to suppress my instinct to delete. No more. Delete, delete, delete. It’s fun. Estimated time savings: 20 minutes/day.

4. Screen all phone calls. Vonage sends me an email that contains an audio file of every incoming phone message. This tells me who's called and why. Estimated time savings: 15 minutes/day.

5. Listen later. Online educational meetings and webinars are great, but they take an hour or two. Most of us can pick up the meat by registering ahead and downloading when a) we’re less busy; b) we’re in the mood to focus; c) we’re ready to take notes. Estimated time savings: 1 hour per week.

6. Contain news consumption to one online daily newspaper. The news summary allows me to scan the planetary zeitgeist first thing in the morning and/or go back later for details. Important headlines arrive as the news occurs. Estimated time savings: ½ hour per day (and YES, I miss reading -- and touching -- the full print newspaper).

7. Respect the 5x8. I have a 5x8 notebook beside my computer where I record everything … to-do, to-call, to-think-about, to-remember, to-follow-up-on, to-be-or-not-to-be. There is no question – ever. When I complete tasks, I check them off the list (very satisfying). I write down phone numbers, names, snippets of phone calls, ideas, concepts, working titles for articles, shopping lists, etc. When I have filled one page, I copy all the incompleted items to a new page and begin again. Estimated time savings: whatever I might have otherwise spent on mental health counseling.

8. Be less social. I’m not tweeting as frequently. I’m blogging fewer times per month. I visit the LinkedIn groups less often, so I cut my group memberships my 25%. My Facebook friends number 20. I did recently reactivate Quora. The information there is selective and intelligent and -- so far, unlike LinkedIn -- nobody is promoting anything. Apparently, such antisocial behavior mirrors a trend that Forrester reports: namely, that social behaviors have reached a plateau. Estimated time savings: 1 hour per day.

I sit in front of a computer most of the day. Your work life may be different. For example, if you’re on the road, I’m sure your smart phone is the essence of your work plan. If you’re moving around your office or plant, you have a different set of challenges. How are you coping?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

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