Do you ever come to the end of a day and realize that you have looked at the same email 3 or 4 times and it still sits there? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you get your email down below 100 unread? Are you wasting too much time on internal process? Do you get a sense of accomplishment if you get your internal reports done on time but did not move a single sale forward?
Welcome to the world of ‘busy work’. An old boss of mine described ‘busy work’ as those non-revenue generating activities that reps would cleave to. I have seen many an unsuccessful rep talk about how they respond to email quickly, or are up to date on all of their reports or how they are ‘so busy all the time, lots to do’ – but remain at the bottom of the sales heap.
Why are they at the bottom? Chances are they are busy in the wrong way. What is the right way? It is not doing email, it is meeting customers, driving deals, generating revenue.
Earlier this year I found ‘busy work’ manifesting itself in my email and task list. I would look at the same emails many, many times before actioning them. Outlook was becoming my action item/reminder repository. I was also using Tablet Franklin Covey software, which was becoming problematic. The traditional Covey model of A, B and C was not working for me. My task list was growing, it did not match how I worked and I was getting frustrated.
A friend put me onto Getting Things Done, which he learned from a Microsoft blog. This changed my work life in a few key ways:
1. It made me realize that the source of my stress was that I did not have a trusted repository for the things I needed to do. The hypothesis of the book is that the mind is like RAM (Random Access Memory, on a computer) and that you need to flush that RAM into a trusted repository, which eliminates stress. Otherwise, the mind will just keep working and popping things up such as ‘Close that $5M deal’, ‘call that customer’ or ‘change the oil’ with no end in sight. And as the mind has no ability to remember in priority (i.e. It prioritizes ‘change the oil’ in the same way that it prioritizes ‘get your heart medicine so you don’t die’), the randomness will cause additional stress. So, first step, you need to have a system that you trust so that the mind can rest.
2. It made me realize that email is a source of stress and wasted time. I would look at the same emails over and over, either as reminders or as items that need to be addressed and this was a huge waste of time and it created stress. Every time I looked at Outlook, I was looking at hundreds of undone emails .. that nagged at me.
3. It made me realize that the traditional approach of A,B,C task lists did not work because it did not take into account how I worked. I work in the office, out of the office, on the road. I have email, voicemail and instant messenger as communications models. My tasks are not just work tasks, I need a way to figure out my life inside and outside of work. Last, I live in Outlook. Having a task list outside of Outlook that did not take into account how I work each and every day (Which changes) was not working.
So, while on vacation, I took this book and read it. To me, it made sense. I then implemented it, and since then, my productivity has shot through the roof. And you know what? I have referenced it to 20 or 30 people and I know of many who have come back and told me that it has changed the way that they work.
If you want to be more productive, I highly recommend you read the book and then implement the process (If you use Outlook – you need to buy the add-in also, it is amazing). It had a huge impact on me and thousands of others. It may free up some time so you can go out and see a movie.