Judi's productivity tip of the day

My life is one conference call after another these days. When I meet with someone in person, I take notes on my PocketPC PDA. I’ve found that when I take notes on paper, I come home the notes go on my desk or stay in the notebook in my purse or bag.

Even when I take notes on the PDA in a note or Word doc or Word/OneNote on the PC they still fester before I refer to them.

So I started taking my notes in my Task application (PocketInformant on the PDA, Outlook on the PC). Sometimes I need to record general information but most of the time I need to take action on whatever we’re talking about. Rather than taking notes and then figuring out how I’m going to react later, I start a new Task with details in the note description. I don’t edit myself at this point. I just get it in there. Putting it in my Tasks application keeps it in front of my nose.

Later, when it’s all in Outlook (after a sync) I look at each task I’ve created and I ask myself, “Can I accomplish this in 1 minute or less?” If the answer is “yes” I do it right then. It may be just sending someone a file or making a quick change to something.

If the answer is no, I ask myself “Is this task a milestone?” By that I mean is this something that’s the end, or the means to the end that require more tasks to get there. “Send John the mission statement file” is a task. “Design the newsletter” is a milestone with tasks that have to happen first before this can be cleared from my plate.

Here’s where my new favorite application Taskline comes in. It’s an add-in for Outlook For each task, I figure out how much time I think it’s going to take and its priority. Then I run Taskline and it schedules my tasks into a separate calendar in Outlook. I may have 50 tasks in my folder, but doing one thing at a time when I’ve scheduled time to do it saves a lot of stress. My downtime (and buffer for unexpected emergencies) comes from completing tasks ahead of schedule.

If it’s something that I took notes on but someone else has to do, then I try to make it a Task Request and send it to them. I’m careful about using Task Requests only with folks who are comfortable receiving them (and I know they use Outlook) and we’ve cleared the idea in advance.

People who work with me are finding that if I say, “I’ll call you next week and we’ll talk about it” or “I’ll look into that and get back to you” that I’m actually going to do that. Gives off a nice illusion of efficiency. Often I find that I’m doing something that I don’t really want to do just to get it out of the list.

I know I should add housework to the task list…but nyahhhh.

This is why I stopped using Basecamp, MasterListPro or Remember the Milk. I just can’t get the same level of “in-your-face” control with web services for tasks as I can out of Outlook/Pocket Informant.