Dec 28 2011

Six things I’m doing this week to hit the ground running in 2012

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I'm working on ways to simplify my day-to-day approach to work and be more effective.

It’s a slow week at work, the rest of the family is either doing other things or sleeping late, and I’ve been feeling lately like I’m not in control of things to the degree I have been in the past.  So I’m focusing on six things to get myself ready for next year — so I can be even better at executing on my goals…

  • Cleaning out my e-mail.  Yes, I’m one of those people who have 1,000+ items in my work e-mail and a somewhat smaller number in my home e-mail.  Our work system doesn’t let us keep more than three months in our Inbox so that tells you how bad things have gotten there.  But I’ve been saving important attachments to my laptop and printing out key messages and putting them in project folders.  I’m down to 680 and plan to be under 100 by the end of the week.
  • Eliminating piles.  Continuing the “I’m a packrat” theme, I finally confronted the three ugly piles (representing nearly three feet of paper) of completed projects, PowerPoint decks, and other “stuff” from the past year that needed attention (and a similar pile at home that includes ideas for blog posts and other things).  I got rid of two feet yesterday — most of that going into the shredder — and added a few important things to current project folders that will eliminate a frenzied search early in the New Year.
  • Blocking out time to get things done.  I listened to one of those “painfully obvious” podcasts (kudos to the guys at Career Tools) on the way home yesterday and immediately went into my laptop to block “me time” during the work day to ensure I could focus without distractions on MY key deliverables.  I recognize that there will be some unavoidable meetings that will be booked into that time, but now I’ll be able to consciously think about whether I really need to attend that meeting and/or will consider moving that Me Time into another open slot.
  • Taking a hard look at my project list.  One page that includes the project, key deliverables, and key partners.  There are too many items on the current list (which is arguably a good thing in the current environment), but I’m finding I need to reprioritize.  I’ve attached my project list template as one approach.  I include barriers in the Short-Term Deliverables column as needed, and put deadlines there.  Separate columns just got clunky.  I really think the Big Rocks section at the top helps me focus on the really important stuff.  My version is in Word, but I previously built it in Excel to help with sorting.  I know there are applications and other online tools for this.  For me, this works because I can store it on my desktop and easily update for 1-on-1s with my manager.
  • Identifying my Three Words for 2012.   Chris Brogan may not be the first to do this, but he’s certainly raised the visibility of this annual exercise.  These are words that will guide my (and your) efforts for the coming year.  It requires you to think through your biggest goals, your biggest rocks, and then think about how you’re going to achieve them in a simple, structured manner.  I’m still working on mine — and that will be the subject of a post later this week — by at least one will be Story focusing on the importance of narrative in what I do.
  • Better organize my Evernote files and start using a small notebook.  I downloaded Evernote about eight months ago but only recently started thinking through how to best use it — particularly since my company blocks it at work.  It’s a great way to capture ideas in one place from your phone, your desktop, or your web browser.  I need to spend some time this week searching out best practices and get into the habit of using it more than I have been.  I’ve also been carrying around a notebook for blog ideas and other thoughts that increasingly go through my mind without sticking long-term.  I think these two small things are a missed opportunity in 2011 that I need to focus on in 2012.

Are you cruising into the New Year by recharging your batteries and finishing a few projects or are you preparing to hit the ground running and execute on your key deliverables in 2012?  What are you doing to get ready?

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