I love taking on big hairy projects. I love creating new things, coding up a website, and watching an identity package take shape. I love being a part of a vibrant ministry and watching God change lives in our community.
I guess you could say that I love everything about my job except the occasional requirement to do “work.”Work is the part of your job that eats at you. It’s paperwork for the artist, voicemails for the introvert, and repetition for the creative mind. It’s the part of your day that slows progress to a halt, and it’s generally the biggest hurdle to getting things done.
Thankfully, I’ve learned some tricks to minimize the work that’s a part of my job. Here’s how I avoid the grind and make the most of my time in the office.
I have a limited capacity to remember things. No matter how noble my intentions to get things done, I will inevitably drop the ball on at least a few items from my weekly list. Checklists help keep me out of trouble in my personal life, and I do the same at work with the excellent Asana project management system.[quote]Checklists help keep me out of trouble in my personal life.[/quote]
If you’re not familiar with Asana, it’s a free tool that allows you and your coworkers to collaborate on projects through simple checklists and conversations. Instead of working my way through a long list of emails, I have everything that’s on my plate in one organized location.
Asana is a great way for me to micromanage myself and keep tabs on the projects my team is working on each week. Best of all, I no longer break into a cold sweat when I run across an email that fell through the cracks; my inbox is a safe place again.
Create a Robot Assistant
Project management is great until it adds to your workload. No one wants to stay organized when it takes twice as long just to stay on top of things. We remedied this issue at my church, Long Hollow, with a simple staff page and work order system using Wufoo forms.[quote]Project management is great until it adds to your workload.[/quote]
Our staff likes it because they have a streamlined system to hand projects off to our team. Our team likes it because those Wufoo forms do all of the busywork for us; who, what, where, when, and why get answers all at once instead of through a time-consuming email thread. We’ve even set Wufoo up to create Asana tasks for us, creating a seamless workflow that keeps us organized without extra work. It’s like having an extra project manager without the extra employee.
Keep a Spare Brain
I’ve used a lot of software and gadgets over the years, but none have had the impact on my life that Evernote has. I just can’t overstate how useful it is to me.
I can feel you rolling your eyes. After all, note-taking is nothing new. You already have a notes app on your phone, and a stack of Post-Its on your desk is probably good enough, right? I thought the same thing until I “doubled-down” on Evernote and went paperless with my entire life earlier last year.
It started in February when I realized my inbox wasn’t working. Some of you live with the “inbox zero” mindset… I live with “inbox fifty thousand.” I never archive my emails, and my work account contains every message I’ve received since I came on staff in 2007.
After spending hours a day hunting for information (passwords, print job quotes, contacts, etc.) in old emails, I decided it was time for a change. Throughout the spring, I made an effort to organize this critical information and transfer it to Evernote. After I tackled my inbox, I transferred documents from my file cabinets, scanned paper handouts from meetings, and even began keeping notes on important people in my life (birthdays, anniversaries, and minutia like favorite drinks at Starbucks).
My stress went down almost immediately, and my at-work focus has gone through the roof. There’s just something comforting about having everything you need to know in one secure place that you can access whenever you need it.
Build a Home in the Cloud
Once you organize your information, you’ll want to organize your work itself. With dozens of inexpensive services at your disposal, it’s time to move your team’s work into the cloud.
Our team made the jump with Dropbox for Business earlier this year. From logos to spreadsheets, photos to video clips, we now share a massive digital archive that we can access from anywhere in the world. Dropbox keeps solid backups for us, records version changes, and allows us to share enormous files with ease. The best part? I no longer have to drive to my office in the middle of the night just to grab a file.
Become a Single-Tasker
Ignorance is bliss, and that’s especially true of your inbox. Make sure you have specific blocks of time during your day where you’re doing nothing but chipping away at a single task. Close your email client. Turn off notifications. Close your office door.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can get done when you ignore all of the noise of the day.[quote]You’ll be surprised by how much you can get done when you ignore all of the noise of the day.[/quote]
Take Better Breaks
Everyone surfs the web at work, and truthfully, we’re better off for it. A quick laugh from a viral video or momentary shopping excursion can give your brain a break and knock your creativity into another gear.
Maximize that time by using a news aggregation service like Feedly. Whenever I need a brain break or want to “reward” myself for completing a task, I’ll pop over to Feedly for a few minutes to catch up on news, read Apple rumors, and get the latest buzz going around the web. It collects all of my favorite content in one place, and I don’t waste time hopping from site to site to see what’s new.
Speaking of breaks, make sure you disconnect from work as much as possible when you’re at home. With rare exceptions, you’ll rarely get an email in your inbox that can’t wait for tomorrow.[quote]You’ll rarely get an email in your inbox that can’t wait for tomorrow.[/quote]
So, that’s it! My secrets are out of the bag. Find a system that works for you, and take the time to actually implement it. You’ll be glad you did.