10 Ideas for Improved Organization and Effectiveness

  1. Drowning in PaperPre-planning

      • “For every 10 minutes of pre-planning you do, we get four to five hours of productivity improvements.”
      • On a weekly basis, schedule the most important tasks and activities first and build our week around them
      • “The best day begins the night before.”
        • Pre-plan day to focus on important and critical path items
        • Create the next day “To Do” list of up to 7 items
        • Set up time to “meet with ourselves” to do the most important during our “prime time.”


    • Pre-plan E-Mails, meetings, phone calls to make shorter and more effective
  2. Communication

    • To communicate better communicate less
    • Power of Three
      • Focus on the 3- 5 most important issues in any communication
      • As humans our ability to learn, understand, and implement is limited (and always over-estimated)
    • Shorter and more focused and clearer communication and E-Mails focused on actions that the other person needs to do – keep to one page or less
    • Proactive E-Mails when setting up meetings or activities – suggest the time for the meeting rather than asking for their suggestion
    • Bundle communication – call or E-Mail once about five things rather than five times each about one thing
  3. Think: What’s the Next Action?

    • Focus on the most important on the critical path
      • Always be prioritizing – WIN – What’s Important Now?
      • Too many tasks, too many priorities means no priority
    • Re-think our definition of urgent – not everything is urgent (and if truly urgent, pick up the phone and call).
  4. Manage E-Mails

    • Keep the In-box as clean as possible
    • Be brutal when going through E-Mails
      • Keep in mind – What’s the Next Action? For this E-Mail
      • Then delete, do (if can be done quickly), defer (and set up a reminder for a later time) or delegate
    • 80 / 20 response internally is good enough (80% perfect response immediately is better than a 100% response in five days)
    • Reduce thank you E-Mails and Reply Alls
    • Do not be the problem – how many E-Mails do we send out each day?
    • Create Outlook Rules / Quick Steps to move documents into folders and organize Outlook
  5. Task Management

    • Use a Day Planner, notebook with a To Do list, or the Notes app on our smart phone to manage immediate tasks and write our pre-planned notes for the next meeting
    • Use Tasks in our Outlook to manage tasks that are not immediate
      • These can link into our phones as a reminder
  6. Work without interruption

    • Turn off all pings, warnings, turn the sound off on our computer, etc.
    • Minimize distractions
    • It is OK to tell someone to come back
    • “Quiet hours” – shut the door, turn off the phone, shut down the E-Mail and work for 60 – 90 minutes straight with no interruption
  7. Manage upward

    • Ask for advice regularly – but, think through a possible solution before asking
    • Ask for help if overwhelmed
  8. Reduce our intake of unessential information from outside

    • Read the papers and surf the Internet only at set times during the day and much less
    • Skim through and then store non-urgent, nice to know, just in case information
    • Unsubscribe from websites, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to avoid clutter with E-Mails and reduce distractions
  9. Shorten meetings

    • Come with an agenda, stick to the agenda, move on
    • Avoid chit chat, especially at the beginning of meetings
    • Call time out to digressions and “going down the rabbit hole” in discussions
  10. Schedule downtime away from the phone and E-Mail to reduce stress and have work-life harmony

    • Evenings and weekends
    • Vacations



About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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