Everyday we are deluged with input: email, tasks, meeting requests, status updates, paperwork, text messages. The list goes on and on.
Being able to process all this input quickly and effectively is essential for success. A failure to do so leads to forgotten meetings, lapsed deadlines, and misplaced priorities.
Here are eight questions with a visual flow chart to process input that comes your way throughout the day. Answering these questions will help you manage your workflow powerfully and productively.
Is this item of input something you need to know or something you need to do?
- If this item of input is something you need to know, that is, it’s information, proceed to Question 2.
- If this item of input is something you need to do, that is, it’s an action, proceed to Question 5.
Does this information serve the vision you have for your life and work?
- If YES, read, watch, or listen to and proceed to Question 3.
- If NO, discard.
Will you need to access this information again?
- If YES, proceed to Question 4.
- If NO, discard.
Can you save this information electronically?
- If YES, place it in Evernote or a similar A-Z electronic filing system.
- If NO, place it in A-Z paper filing system.
Does this action serve the vision you have for your life and work?
- If YES, proceed to Question 6.
- If NO, decline.
Is this action a meeting or a task?
- If this action is a meeting, schedule it in your calendar for a specific day and time with the person(s) and the place. Set recurrences if appropriate.
- If this action is a task, proceed to Question 7.
Does this task have a deadline associated with it?
- If YES, place it in your daily task list with an assigned due date that allows plenty of time to meet the deadline. Proceed to Question 8.
- If NO, place it in a Someday task list that you review regularly.
Can you reasonably complete the meeting and task commitments you’ve made this week?
- If YES, move forward in your week. Explore completing tasks from your Someday list.
- If NO, reschedule meetings and delegate or eliminate tasks until you arrive at a reasonable plan for the week.
What is your vision for your life and work?
Please note that the decisions related to processing all daily input are based on the vision you have for your life and work. Anything less places you at mercy of the demands and expectations of others; living the life they have planned for you, not the one you should be living yourself.
That vision is determined by your answers to these four questions:
- What kind of person will you be? How are you staying healthy and strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
- What kind of relationships will you have? How are you investing in the lives of those whom you love the most?
- What kind of work will you do? What is the best way to make a contribution in the marketplace with the gifts and abilities you possess?
- How will you give back? What causes are you supporting with your time, talent, and treasure?
Take the time this week to answer these questions and use your answers as a filter for the demands of each day.