Information flow structure = reduced time wasted

In an earlier post I identified a problem with information flow that was causing waste in my day.  I recognized that my activities were varied and lacked structure. I wanted to test the impact of structure on time spent finding emails and sorting out calendar conflicts. Master Getting Things Done the David Allen Way with Evernote by Dominic Wolff was my guide. The first phase follows this sequence of tasks:

  1. Move all information into Evernote Inbox.
  2. Review daily to determine status.
  3. If the item is actionable without additional resources, plan it on calendar.
  4. If the item is actionable and multi-step, set up a project. Plan steps on calendar.
  5. If the item is actionable but requires support of others, set up a project, plan steps on calendar.
  6. If it is actionable in 2 minutes or less, do it.
  7. If it is not actionable, file it (reference), file it for review at a later date, or trash it.

I have eliminated Outlook inbox clutter. I have completed six weeks at goal for my Inbox. Calendar conflicts have not occurred. I have not lost more than 2-3 minutes looking for information when needed.

Evernote is a productive resource. I have had the app for over a year but didn’t really leverage it until the last six weeks.  There are still some things to learn such as how to clip directly to Evernote from my iPad and iPhone. There are still some untapped practices to add such as collecting lists and notes as I go rather than waiting until the end of the day or week. Dominic Wolff’s structure for using Evernote is a good place to start. I find some of it a little more complex than I need at this point. Clearing email daily and moving all ideas, requests, to do items into a system clears the chaos.

Opportunity for improvement remains. Following the activity specification includes scheduling the work on the calendar. That discipline is not routine yet. As in most processes, when structure is implemented new wastes become visible. Eliminating information flow clutter did not directly increase delivery of planned projects and tasks.

Plan time = increased value delivery

The overarching target is to get more of the right things done, right? After completing the seven steps described above, the next step is to decide what the next action is. Sort actionable items into three groups – delegate, specific date and time (now, time and date during upcoming week), or do as soon as possible (next, soon, later).

This is where progress begins to mire down.  I have identified some barriers:

  1. Distractions. Ideas that pop up from many places catch my attention. Interruptions from my life that are important but unscheduled move me away from the schedule work priorities. There are more but you probably get the picture.
  2. Unplanned requests. Clients and colleagues have these from time to time. The requests are fair. They seem reasonable and simple. But sometimes they are like the clown in Stephen King’s novel It, growing and taking on lives of their own. The request consumes more energy bandwidth than they ever deserved much of which is of my own making.
  3. Actual time used is greater than time planned. I plan time required to do project work as though I have the ability to focus and think with the intensity of a 20 year old physics major overdosing on Starbucks. Beyond that, I am prone to over process.
  4. Standard work. I have standard work that requires weekly attention – arranging travel, expense reports, networking, and blog posts, as an example. These tasks do not always find their dedicated place on my calendar.
  5. My beliefs about time. Time is a non-renewable resource. Once used, it cannot be recovered. I don’t treat it that way. The path to excellence is paved with the ability to get the highest return on time invested.

So, the next leg of this personal lean journey is direct observation of the remainder of this week and next week to better define causes as well as a course of action going forward.