Friday, October 30, 2009

My Other Inboxes

You have to get used to having multiple inboxes. Essentially, everyone is going to have a series of places where they keep things that need to be dealt with later.

I keep a list of my inboxes and how to process them so it forces me to work through the list.

Here's a more detailed version of what I do and how I do it.

1) Phone messages: My secretary has a little area where all my written phone messages are kept. I return the calls and then put the messages into the case file. If they don't have a case file, I file them under incoming calls.

2) Incoming Calls folder: These are calls from people who have not hired me. I call them back after a few days and ask them if there's anything else I can do to help them. After a week or so, I file those messages under "Old Calls". I never revisit "Old Calls" unless someone calls me and says, "I spoke to you a few months ago".

3) My wallet: I put receipts and business cards in here. I empty it out once a day into a folder for that month's expenses and another folder for business cards.

4) My desk: At the end of the day my desk is cluttered with numerous files that I've been working on. At the beginning of the day I clean it off and file everything.

5) Inbox/Outbox: My secretary and I each have a physical inbox where we put documents that the other person needs to address.

6) Briefcase: I empty my briefcase every day and make sure each document is dealt with.

7) Calendar: It's important to constantly look at my calendar so I know how to prioritize my work.

8) Home: I have a little table at home that I put all work things on that have managed to make it to my house. I put the work items in my briefcase and then process them at the office.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Empty Email Inbox

I receive dozens of emails a day. My email inbox typically says something like "showing 32 emails." This is because I repeatedly purge my inbox of emails on a regular basis.

Here's how I clean out my inbox

  • I delete pointless emails.
  • I archive emails that have even the scintilla of possible future use under any circumstances. (I can always search for words that might have appeared in the email later).
  • I act on emails if they fall within the two minute rule and then delete or archive them.
  • If something is going to take more than two minutes but needs to be dealt with on any time frame (by tomorrow, by the end of the week, by the end of the year) I file that email under the folder _FOLLOW UP.
  • If the email is interesting but I don't know when I'd address it (example: the title of an interesting book), I file it under _HOLD.
  • If there's nothing I can do with the email and I'm just waiting on someone else to do something, I file it under _WAITING ON.
  • If the email is associated with a specific broad project I will file it under that project. For example, all Marketing related emails are filed under "Marketing".

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Two Minute Rule

Once you have something in your inbox, the next question is, "What to do with it?"

If the item can be resolved within two minutes (more or less) then just act on it immediately.

For example, when you get a telephone call describing a situation it can almost always be immediately handled by another telephone call or email. There is no need to jot anything down or schedule anything for later. Just do it NOW!

I find that probably 50% of the stuff in my inboxes can be resolved with the two minute rule. It might take me an hour a day to work through all these little items with little, seemingly, to show for it. But, all those little to-do items are gone forever and my mind is free for the more substantive work ahead.

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Step: The Inbox

What is an Inbox? An inbox is a place where there is paper, messages, stuff that needs to get dealt with at sometime.

Obviously, there is no "one size fits all" inbox that you can dump everything into because you can't put phone messages and emails into a physical box and you can't put letters and paperwork into a phone or computer.

This issues of multiple inboxes provokes the paralysis a lot of people get when organizing because "it all seems like too much".

I avoid this paralysis and just get down to business by opening up a document every morning the minute I get into the office called "Office Plan". "Office Plan" is essentially a list of all my inboxes and how to process them.

"Office plan" looks like this (note: I havn't figured out how to do indentation on html so I hope you can follow along):

1. Go through Google Calendar to see what's coming up this month

(a) does anything need to be done today, create an email task, or phone note.

2. Go through office voicemail

(a) Make a note of all new calls. Put in the incoming calls folder

(b) Make a note of existing client calls. Put it in that clients folder

3. Go through cell-phone voicemail.

(a) Make a note of all new calls. Put in the incoming calls folder.

(b) Make a note of existing client calls. Put it in that clients folder.

4. Go through phone notes (I keep notes on my google phone as I go through the day)

(a) If finished, erase

(b) If can be processed at the office, turn into an email)

5. Go through bag and move all items into appropriate folders.

6. Clean desk and put everything in the physical inbox.

7. Go through your wallet and take out receipts and cards.

8. Go through physical inbox.(The physical inbox is literally a box by my desk of letters, paperwork from my secretary, anything physical)

(a) Make a task out of all items and file it appropriately on gmail.

(b) Receipts?

i. Make a note on what it was for and who it was for.

ii. Make a copy. One for the file and one for that months files.

9. Go through the master sheet (I'll explain this later)

(a) Does the mastersheet reflect all the clients we have?

(b) Update the master sheet.

(c) Check master sheet against google calendar.

(d) Anything need to be done with them today.

i. Put the to-be-done-today tasks in your email.

10. Go through Gmail inbox (I use gmail as a task manager, which I'll explain later)

(a) Clean out inbox and file everything appropriately

i. If you can do it in less than 2 minutes, just do it.

ii. If not, file it under _FOLLOWUP, _WAITINGON, or _HOLD

(b) Go through the _WAITINGON file

i. Move it to _FOLLOWUP if need be.

(c) Go through _FOLLOWUP file.

i. Schedule the “must do” tasks on a physical piece of paper and place by the computer

(a) Do a 10 minute dash on each. (I'll explain what this means later)

11.Go through incoming calls folder

(a) Less than a week → Call them back.

i. Make sure they're in the incoming calls document.

(b) Older than a week → Send them mail if they gave you an address. Staple their phone call with a copy of their letter and physically file it under “sent mail”

After going through this list (which takes at least an hour). I know that everything is in it's place and I feel cool, calm, and collected to proceed with the substantive work of the day.

I'll be explaining the individual steps in future posts.

GTD overview

This diagram explains GTD better than any long winded description could. Basically, paperwork goes in an inbox and then gets processed. Don't stress about what to do, just put it in the inbox and then process it like you do everything else.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting Things Done

"Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity" is a book by David Allen which outlines a philosophy for processing work.

My quickest description is that it describes creating a place where all incoming work is waiting and processing through it in the fastest and most effective way.

The real genius behind GTD is that it really eliminates the stress that most people associate with organizing themselves.

I think reading the book is essential to get the zeitgeist of the system but the book does not describe the specific system you should be implementing for your particular work. Especially because the book is a bit dated and doesn't describe how to take advantage of today's technology. Don't worry, though. I'll be trying to help with that through this blog.

First Post

This Blog's purpose is to help expose David Allen's "Getting Things Done" or "GTD" system to the legal community at large. Hopefully, other lawyers will share their experiences and tips with GTD in their own practice so all will be able to benefit.

My name is Russell Knight and I am the owner of Law Offices of Russell D. Knight, a small but busy law firm in Chicago, IL. I run my life using GTD and the system is absolutely essential for successfully running my practice. I plan to share tips and suggestions for implementing GTD at a law practice or in life, in general.

Thank you for reading and stay posted.