One of the most important elements of being a leader is keeping track of information and time. As I have progressed from simply being led, to also leading, there are many practices that I have picked up along the way that have helped to keep me on track. This has come about as the result of trial and error, as well as taking from the practices of others. It is important to remember that everyone must find their own style and practices that work for them.
Checklists, for me, are one of the most important aspects of my time management process. Keeping track of what I need to accomplish has been a fluid process over the last few years. One of the practices that I established early in my career was to centralize my action item lists. The first iteration was my email inbox. Those who emailed me would automatically be on the list because their message was kept in my inbox. As soon as it was taken care of, I would file it away. For the other items I needed to accomplish, I would simply email myself.
Email has two positive features as my checklist. First, it is easy to access as it is on my computer, as well as my phone. And the second, if I accidentally delete something, I can go back to my sent folder and retrieve it. Next, I added in calendar reminders, which have their own characteristics that are beneficial and each is emailed right to my inbox.
My calendar is where I put appointments in red to ensure they stand out, and everything else is in blue (as an Arizona Wildcat, those are the only two colors I know how to use). I set calendar reminders to accomplish certain tasks on a regular basis, such as submitting timesheets, but it is also makes it easy to push things back when needed. Something I learned, early on, with the calendar as a checklist, is that care must be taken to prevent it from getting out of hand. By setting a calendar reminder to come up when items need to be accomplished, it leaves less clutter on my email checklist. I have found the email and calendar checklist system to be very effective, and it has long been a part of my life.
The most recent element added to my checklist process is a desktop sticky note. Sitting on the right side of my screen, I track my major work, school and personal items. It is always there and, again, very easy to update. This has only been for around for three weeks, so it is still in the experimental phase, but it has been working so far.
Finally, while at work, I also use written sticky notes (my only non-digital reminder) to keep track of urgent and important items. These are generally for phone calls, emails and meetings that must be taken care of within 24 hours. I write them down and put them in front on my keyboard so they cannot be missed. When accomplished, I simply throw them away.
My current process has only come about after traveling on a long road. While the system I have used has changed over the years, it has done so usually as I become more involved and have more responsibilities; needing something to keep me on track. These have been excellent methods that keep me about 99% focused on what needs to be accomplished and when. It isn’t perfect, but that is why it is a journey.
What is your best method to keep track of your information and to do list? Please leave your ideas in a comment below.