Randy Dean's Timely Tips

You may have read Timely Tips on Randy Dean's web site, but now you can interact with it here on Blogspot.com. Please feel free to add comments and tips of your own, and thank you for your continued interest.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Timely Tips© Volume 3, Issue 4; April 2006: Keep that Train of Thought Right on its Track

How many times have you been at work, and the phone rings, or someone walks in your office, or the e-mail "blings" and you decide to read it (a "no no" if you've read the past issues of Timely Tips!), and then when you come back to what you were doing, you completely forgot where you left off? And then, it takes you 5-10-15 minutes to figure out where you were, so you can get back to being productive again? Does this happen frequently to you? All the time? This is your "train of thought" getting knocked off of its track, and for many of us, it happens too often and really hurts our short term and long-term productivity.

But there is a pretty simple solution to help you get better at keeping your attention train on its track. It is a habit that I've used for years now, after hearing about it originally from time management guru David Allen (author of "Getting Things Done"), and it is REALLY simple:

Here's what you will need:
- A pen or pencil
- A sticky note and/or pad of scratch paper

Here's what you'll need to do: before you allow your attention to get diverted by an unexpected call or visitor, write a really quick note to remind yourself exactly where you are at on whatever it is you are working on, and what the very next step will be.

Here's how it works:

- The phone rings: pick up the phone, politely greet the caller, ask them to hold on a quick second, and write your reminder/next step note. Then, take the call.
- Someone walks in: greet them nicely, but ask them for just one second before they let you know why they stopped by. Write your reminder note. Then, talk to the visitor.
- The e-mail blings: now of course, you shouldn't be jumping over to check your e-mail every time it blings (I can't imagine anyone that has attended any of my courses is still doing that!!) ;-), but if you are expecting an important e-mail, before you look at it, stop and write your reminder note! Then, read your e-mail.

When you write your reminder note, either put it on top of your "priority" pile, or put it on a sticky note and attach it to the project folder you are working on. (Or, if you are a techie, you can always key your new reminder/next step right into your computer or PDA.)

Nearly everyone will give you a couple seconds to gather your train of thought if they are interrupting you unexpectedly. It is a common courtesy they should be willing to give you - take advantage of it. And then, when you come back to your project, task, or activity, your reminder note will help you get back to being productive in a matter of seconds - not minutes.

This is one of those "simple stupid" tips that will literally save you hundreds if not thousands of hours over your career. And a nice side benefit - by writing down where you are at on your project before taking the call or visitor, you can then give your caller or visitor your undivided attention, rather than spending the entire conversation trying to remember where you are at on your project. Pretty easy, eh?

Until next month, Stay Timely!


Post a Comment

<< Home