by Kerri Loudoun, IABC London Director of Professional Development
As communicators we tend to be juggling a lot of details. Deadlines must be met, prep for internal meetings is required, presentations to stakeholders need completing, briefs to designers need to be created. And any project manager will tell you the stories of getting everything you’ve been waiting on from all the people, all at once.
Being organized is critical to ensure things don’t fall through the cracks. Early in my career, I relied on my inbox to guide my duties for the day. I would file emails from my inbox, into organized subfolders once the task was complete. So I would attempt to keep my inbox to all emails being above the fold. I thought I was pretty clever to be honest. But there were weeks where I’d have to scroll through 100+ emails and then the anxiety kicked in because my method was overwhelming me. But I kept telling myself I was being productive, and this was the best system my novice employee brain could come up with.
But no one ever told me about the value of using a task management system! It seems I missed the memo.
There are a number of digital tools you can use. You can keep it simple by using the task feature in your Outlook, or Notes on your Apple device. A colleague of mine actually places to-do items directly into his calendar and blocks out specific timing to get the task complete. Some other systems* to try are: Remember the Milk; Things (in the App store); OmniFocus; Toodledo; and the ever popular Basecamp. Depending on your role, there is one system out there that is likely a great fit for your needs.
Personally, I use Reminders on my desktop and have it synced to my iPhone. I have my lists segmented by client and/or project that is on the go. I can attached timers that will be triggered when the deadline approaches. And because I’m a nerd, I keep a running tally each day, of how many items I completed from my to-do list. But I love any chance to gamify my life ha!
Organizing your daily/weekly tasks based on your emails is a sure-fire way to make mistakes and miss important things. According to a study completed in 2017 by Carleton University, 11.7 hours are spent reading and answering emails at work, and a whopping 5.3 hours outside of office hours. Keeping your to-do list out of your inbox, and in your task manager, will help streamline the time you do spend replying to emails. Hopefully, you’ll get heaps more done too!