One of the best administrative professionals, and most productive people I know, is my mother. She is 78 years old and still works full-time as the personal assistant to the CEO of a bank! (I come from great genes – it makes me very optimistic about my long-term future!) One of her secrets to productivity is what is often called “a tickler file.” Many people used to employ such a system, but like a lot of good things, people stopped using it, even though it was so simple. Basically, the tickler file is a reminder system based on the days of the month, and months of the year, and simply consists of a set of file folders, “1-31” and “January – December”.
Under the heading of “everything old is new again” – it is time to bring that old system back – only it’s bigger and better than ever before. Now called “The GO System: Get Organized for Life”, it is a new 2-hour seminar being offered by many of the PTACs (Productivity Trainer and Authorized Consultants) around the country – and let me tell you why I’m so excited about it!
Surveys show that people’s stress levels are at an all-time high – and a major source of that stress is “information overload.” In fact, we know that there are six major issues that cause people to be disorganized. If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you can relate!
Information comes to us in 5 ways:
3. Voice mail
4. Verbal messages
5. Thoughts in your head
Think of a 5-lane highway. You are speeding down the highway and suddenly you see orange barrels, and you know you’re in trouble! That’s exactly what happens when you sit down at your desk and are overwhelmed with where to begin. Do you start with the e-mail? Most people do, but should you? Or if you start with the verbal message you got on your way to the office, the highest priority could be in the “In Box” you haven’t looked at in days – or it could be the idea you had in the shower that morning! How do you figure out what is most important – now?
There are only 5 possibilities of what to do with the information:
3. Do it now
4. File it for reference
5. File it for action
Let’s look at each one:
Discard I’ve spent lots of time promoting the power of The Art of Wastebasketry®!” Don’t overlook the productive power of asking “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn’t have this or didn’t do this?”
Delegate One question you should ask yourself in this area: “If you are not delegating some of your work, why not?” The most productive people in the world are those who spend 80% of their time doing what ONLY they can do, and surrounding themselves with people whose talents are complimentary to theirs.
Do it now Here’s a good question to ask about this one: “Is this the BEST use of my time right now?”
File for reference These are things you want or need to keep for future reference. Fortunately, you don’t have any stress there, because with The Paper Tiger software you can find anything you file in 5 seconds or less!
File for follow-up These are things you want to or need to do. In the Paper Tiger software system, we call these “Action Files”. In other words, the ball is in your court to take action. That’s where the GO System comes in.
Let us go back to that 5-lane highway. When the 5 lanes begin to merge into one, you probably feel stress, but when you finally merge into that one lane, you are on your way to your destination with ease. That brings me to the missing piece in personal productivity – a system for merging those 5 lanes of information into one. In my book, Taming the Paper Tiger at Work, I address how to manage paper, electronic documents, voice mail, and “to do” lists. These are great tips and now I am sharing information on how to take those principles a step further: to integrate them into one system, using an “old but new” tool: The Go System.
Here is the magic! Regardless of the form which the information takes – paper, electronic, voice mail, a verbal message, or an idea in your head – your reaction is “I have to DO this.” If you are serious about increasing your productivity and prioritizing your work, the question you have to answer is “When?” As scary as it is sometimes, you have to decide. (Remember, “Clutter is postponed decisions®”) When you make that decision, you put the reminder to do it in your tickler system. Now you have a tool that enables you to prioritize your work – and to measure whether the interruption of the moment is more important than what you said you were going to do today.
When people, especially highly organized administrative professionals, hear about this system, their first reaction is often fear. It’s the same reaction people experience when they first encounter the Paper Tiger numerical filing system – that would never work for me – but I don’t know anyone who goes back to the alphabetical system after giving The Paper Tiger a serious try!