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Officiency in the Media

Getting our to-do list done one painless step at a time

by KJ McCorry

Boulder County Business Report, www.bcbr.com
March 18, 2005

Between 1973 and 2000 Americans have added almost 200 hours to their annual work schedules, according to the Current Population Survey of the U.S. With all this additional time, why don’t we feelthat we are getting things accomplished?

Most individuals feel that the daily routine of meetings, e-mail, mail, phone calls and generally “putting out fires” takes up the entire work day, leaving them unable to accomplish what they really want to get done. In order to get the items on your action list accomplished, it is important to take time to plan your day and/or week ahead. Planning your day or week means first looking at the bigger picture of everything you need to do and then determining what you need to focus on now, this day or this week. This involves not only looking at your task list, but your e-mail in-box, phone log, calendar and paper on your desk.

Planning should not take more than five to 10 minutes daily. Planning enables you to be clearer in your approach to your work and helps you to focus on what is important. By planning you are not relegating your day to hope, but you are giving conscious thought to what you want to accomplish.

Thus, significantly increasing the chances for you to accomplish what you have planned to accomplish.

In the multitasking world, training yourself to complete tasks is as necessary as starting them. Once you know what you want to accomplish, you need to start and complete that action item. Completing action items leaves a rewarding feeling and gives you energy to move onto the next task. Getting in the habit of completing something once you begin it, is key to getting things done.

Assign due dates to each and every task. You don’t have to be overwhelmed with your entire to-do list; you only need to address those items that you have scheduled to do this day or week. Assigning due dates gives you the power to plan more effectively. In reviewing your to-do list, you have the option of deletion, deferral or to take action, with each action item.

Delete those tasks that, for whatever reason, no longer need to be completed. If you find that certain action items are not important and most likely will never get done, then delete them off your list and feel guilt free.

Defer action items that you determine are not a priority to complete today or in the week, and assign a future due date. Some due dates are hard (not negotiable) dates, and some due dates can be moved forward depending on the task. The benefit of having a due date with each action item, is that it forces you to review that task again at a later time so that it doesn’t get lost or forgotten and can be integrated into your world. Be careful of constantly deferring action items. At some point, you either need to do it, or delete it.

Take action on the tasks that you have determined that you need to do today or this week. I suggest not picking more than 10 items per day. You need to be your own judge of how many items you can reasonably get accomplished when you are juggling the other daily demands of meetings, e-mails, phone calls and interruptions. Initially, select 10 items, but you might need to reduce that amount depending on your job and workload.

We all have our own excuses for not getting things done, and the list can be long. It is important to plan your day, set due dates with action items and complete what you begin. This will allow you to feel that envious sense of accomplishment at the end of day and provide you with the power to get things done.

K.J. McCorry is founder and president of Officiency Inc., a professional organizing company based in Boulder since 1996. She is a productivity and efficiency consultant that specializes in customizing systems for individuals and companies with office and computer organization. Her upcoming book,“Organize Your Work Day In No Time,” is being released in March 2005. She can be reached at www.officiency.com.

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