© Jan Jasper; 2001-2012
Compile Best Practices
Upon completing a project, think over what you learned and how you could make it easier the next time. Don't just hope you'll
remember - make notes, and preferably in a computer file, not on paper where the notes could get lost. For example, if you run training
sessions and the materials often
arrive at the last minute, analyze why -- are they compiled at the last minute? Is your printer unreliable? Decide how you can
prevent a recurrence, make a note of your decision and file it conspicuously in the front of your training file.
Rather than listening to everyone complain about meetings, enlist their help in improving
them! At the end of each meeting, discuss what was good and bad about the meeting and how future meetings can be improved.
Leave your voice mail or answering machine on, then return calls all in a row.
Keep note cards in your briefcase so you can use waiting time to send thank-you notes to people who've helped you. People are pretty
tired of email by now, so receiving a card by postal mail is refreshing and appreciated. Or drop the newsletters and magazines
you've been meaning to read into your briefcase -- you can even read while waiting on line at the post office.
If someone repeatedly cancels appointments at the last minute, try to avoid dealing with that person. Unless they're crucially
important, drop them. If it's a client, ask yourself if your time wouldn't be better spent courting new clients. If they waste
enough of your time that it interferes with your ability to develop new business, where will you be if this client dries up?
If you meet with people outside your office, leave if they keep you waiting more than 10 minutes. You can do this with just about
everyone besides your boss. Or a less drastic approach is to meet them in your office instead of off-site, so if you're kept waiting
you can work while you wait. Better yet, see how many of your meetings can be held on the phone instead of in person.
Private Work Sessions
Schedule hunks of time to tackle work that requires concentration. Treat it like a real appointment - if anyone wants to schedule
something for that time, say politely "I'm already booked, sorry." During your work session, let voice mail pick up your calls and
resist the temptation to check your e-mail every 15 minutes. Unplug the internet cable, or turn off the wireless card, if necessary.
Put specific subject headers in all the e-mail you send; when recipients reply your header will carry over. The result: your archived
e-mails will have useful, specific subject lines such as "Agenda for April 3 staff meeting" and "Question about deadline on
Smith account" rather than vague, useless headers such as "Agenda" and "Question." Some e-mail programs (including Microsoft Outlook*)
permit you to change headers on mail
already sent to you, so if you get a message with an ambiguous subject line, you can change it.
Your secretary, if you have one, should process your email and postal mail. Not only does it save you time, it also helps your
secretary become familiar with your work.
If you're afraid you'll forget that 2:00 p.m. phone call, set an alarm in your computer to sound a few minutes before 2:00 pm.
This will free up your mental energy.
Do It Now
Whenever possible, dispatch routine tasks and requests immediately. Anything that'll take two minutes, do it right then. Be careful,
though, to not use this tactic to check lots of easy, low-priority tasks off your list - while you avoid the more difficult work
that's actually more important.
Keep your briefcase open beside your desk, ready to receive any papers you need to take with you to work off-site, whether at
home in evenings or on an upcoming business trip.
When quitting for the day, or if you have to leave for a meeting, jot a few notes about where you left off and what your next
step is. This will make it easier to get your momentum back quickly at the next work session.
Avoid the temptation to shift from one half-finished task to another. Try to complete things before moving on to the next task.
Use Your Planning Tools to Empty Your Head
Jot down tasks and reminders in your task list to empty your head. Then, when you sit down to plan, schedule
these actions into open time slots on your calendar. You'll prevent many crises by planning ahead.
Take Care of You
If you don't take care of your health, you'll lose far more time in the long run than you'll save in the short run by skimping
on eating well, exercising, or getting adequate sleep. Especially when you're pressured at work, schedule healthful
activities (aerobics class, night out with your spouse, etc.) just like you would schedule business meetings.
Many people, upon returning from vacation, are so overwhelmed with emails and phone messages that before long they're stressed
out like they never had a vacation. You can't do everything all at once; so make a list, set priorities, and do the most important
tasks first. Some people prefer to return home a day early from a two week trip so they can get unpacked, do the laundry, and
stock the house with groceries. Consider if you're better off checking email occasionally while on vacation - it may be worth it
if it spares you from returning home to hundreds or thousands of messages. But this doesn't mean you should spend half of your
vacation checking email.
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of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)."
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