QuickTip: Regularly Survey All That You Command

I’m not that old.  I grew up with microwaves and color television.  When I started working full time, we had fax machines, overnight mail services and voicemail was gaining acceptance.  However, as the world began to move faster and faster via technological advances like e-mail, the Internet and smartphones, our workflow processing behaviors took a turn for the worse.

The Way it Was and What’s Gone Wrong

You see, “back in the day” we started our days by looking at what had to get done … first. Then we started doing.  Today, it’s the opposite.  We jump to the doing – replying to e-mail and driving ahead – before considering what’s already on our plates. 

The purpose of these old-school review periods was to organize and prioritize our tasks, folding into the mix our appointments and other things that needed our attention.  Then we would move forward into the day and deal with what came our way.  This surveying behavior was usually repeated around the lunch hour and just before going home.  Functionally, we were keeping an eye on the big picture while dealing with the day-to-day details of our work.

This surveying process has largely been lost in today’s frenetic working world.  We’ve become addicted to “right now” – checking our e-mail on our smartphone and constantly seeking updates on various things via the Internet.  Most people have reviewed the latest e-mails that arrived overnight, often making commitments in response to them, before even reviewing what’s already on today’s to-do list!  This mindset – needing to stay Über-connected and ultra-“responsive” – is dramatically affecting our productivity, as well as our piece of mind.

Retake Command of Your World

This is a subject deserving of much more than a mere missive on corrective action.  Alas, I fear no one would read it due to the lack of perceived available time!  Consequently, I’ll keep my directive short:

Review What’s On Your Plate Three Times Each Day – Morning, Noon and Night

This is just common sense, but it’s not generally followed very much anymore.  All I’m suggesting is that people review the commitments they’ve already made before jumping in to the next batch of requests (e-mail, voice mails, meetings, etc.).  The more you know about your existing level of commitment, the better-able you’ll be to accurately judge and manage new commitments.  Moreover, when you start with “What’s on my plate?” you are taking command of your world.  When you’re waiting with baited breath of the next e-mail to land in your Inbox, you’re at the mercy of others.  It’s neither productive, nor enjoyable.

Just take a few minutes first thing in the morning, at mid-day, and just before going home to conduct a complete survey of everything on your desk or in your Inbox.  Consider what, if anything, needs to be re-prioritized and feel good about the things you’ve checked off the list.  In the end, you’ll see that this old-school behavior still drives terrific results in this modern-day world.

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