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Bringing order to a chaotic work day

Posted by Ravi Banda on March 9, 2010


My usual day started with early morning meetings, catching up on email, looking up my memory for the to-do tasks and following up with my team by writing more emails, participating in meetings, and resulting in more emails.

As you can imagine, it was pretty hectic, a reactive work style and of my own doing. However much I tried to come out of it, I sunk in further so decided to take help from the “Productivity” class – one of the cool benefits of working @ Oracle is the access to a wide-variety of development tools (ok – I had to put in my compliments for Oracle somewhere :-) )

My style is now “task based” and its simple –

  • I am writing down all tasks – work and personal (using Outlook) with the goal of not relying on memory.
  • I have set myself a frequency on checking mail (every 1 hour)
  • I am now quickly processing the mail and dividing into 3 buckets
    - If it can be replied quickly in 1 min or less, do it immediately.
    - If it needs an action or following up with someone, create a Task for it and set a Start Date and Due Date. The tendency is to focus more on Due Date but at the same time “Start Date” is critical, as setting it correctly based on the work load for today / tomorrow and the current week, will determine how successfully I will get to it and complete it.
    - If it’s a FYI mail, move it into an archive folder and rely on “search” tools to find it later
  • All I am now focused is to get the Tasks done and yes – writing this blog post was a task for Today.

I now have a “0” mail Inbox and a healthy list of 30 tasks that I need to do this week.

The added benefit of having Tasks is that I can now lookup my Tasks for the last week and send my Goals mail (which is the work I did last week + work to do this week) to my team. For some of the larger tasks – I can also pull them easily into my performance review document

My team is also following this approach, and as a result, we are all now competing with each other to show who is more productive. And, just the fact that, I have come out of a 2 year blog hibernation shows how happy I am with the new “me”.

What about you ? Do you have any productivity tips to share ?

7 Responses to “Bringing order to a chaotic work day”

  1. Meg Bear said

    I tend to think of this kind of thing as “operational efficiency”. If you get that right you can scale so much better.

    Thanks for sharing your useful tips Ravi. I look forward to more blogs as a result ;-)

    -Meg

  2. Louise Barnfield said

    Thanks Ravi! You’ve reminded me of a few excellent tips. Will try to follow your lead, and address some of my own operational de-ficiencies! :-)

  3. Amy Wilson said

    What a great post, Ravi! You are a great new YOU!

  4. I a big to-do list maker and I can tell you it’s pretty sad when I finish a task only to find it was never on my list in the first place. Nothing to cross off! (And yes I often add the task and immediately cross it off).

    I need to figure out when exactly you are checking your hourly email so I can time the ones I send to you so they end up at the top of your pile.

    Some good tips here, I haven’t tried the ‘start date’ thing. I have many tasks (on my home to-do list) that have been carried forward for a couple of years. Maybe I would feel better about them if I just put the start date at 1/1/2011.

    Welcome out of your hibernation!

    • Ha! On those times when I’m using a checklist, I do that same thing, Kathi. I feel like now the checklist is my scorecard and I want the credit for all the things I did. Anyway, like Louise said, it’s good to get the occasional refresher on operational efficiencies. Thanks, Ravi!

    • Ravi Banda said

      Kathi – I always put your mails on the top of the pile and you can always reach me on IM :-)

  5. Sounds like a great approach, Ravi. Very GTD – “Getting Things Done” – in its simplicity.

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