The blog

Previous article

Next article

02 Jun

Take control of everything incoming

Datum: 2010-06-02 22:48

Many of us expe­ri­ence chaos from time to time in our every­day life when we are flood­ed by a con­stant stream of pro­pos­als, infor­ma­tion and mes­sages, more or less unchecked, through too many dif­fer­ent chan­nels. It’s as if we are exposed to a bunch of pipelines which deliv­er con­tri­bu­tions to our every­day planning. 

??If we’re not to drown in piles of paper, loads of unread e‑mail and to-do notes, we need to quick­ly deal with what­ev­er comes in and imme­di­ate­ly deter­mine what it means to us, or bet­ter up, deter­mine what to do with it and what actions it requires.

The chan­nels involved

I feel that the num­ber of pos­si­ble chan­nels we are exposed to are increas­ing at a steady pace. To be more spe­cif­ic, the chan­nels may for exam­ple be the obvious:

  • E‑mail
  • Cell phone
  • Home‑, or office phone
  • Voice mail box on your cell phone
  • Voice mail box for the home phone of office phone
  • SMS
  • Mail
  • Instant Mes­sag­ing (Win­dows Live Mes­sen­ger for example)

How­ev­er, there are also many oth­er ways through which infor­ma­tion is pro­vid­ed that may not spon­ta­neous­ly appear to be chan­nels, but which still sup­ply infor­ma­tion and mate­ri­als for to-do-items.

  • Your desk, where col­leagues drop off notes for you.
  • A missed call on your cell phone (A missed call means that Some­body didn’t get a hold of you.” You need to decide if you should call back or not.)
  • Meet­ings (Who does what when as the next step?)
  • Col­leagues who stop you in the hall­way (… and ask you about some­thing or want you to do something.)
  • Your mind, where things pop up when you least expect them to.
  • Peo­ple you run into or meet at a par­ty (”Lunch? Def­i­nite­ly, I’ll take care of it!”)
  • RSS News Read­er, where you keep track of blogs et c (You read some­thing relat­ed to a poten­tial client. Does it start a sales process or not?)
  • Issue Track­ing Systems
  • To-do items from the project sites relat­ed to projects you’re involved in
  • Intranet with inter­nal com­pa­ny news
  • Dis­cus­sion-groups you’re keep­ing an eye on.
  • Face­book, LinkedIn, Twit­ter and oth­er social networks

?As you can see, we are already at 20 dif­fer­ent chan­nels and count­ing, and still these are fair­ly com­mon ways through which we obtain information.

The prob­lems this creates

The prob­lems with hav­ing many incom­ing chan­nels are several. 
More chan­nels means it’s hard­er to man­age to go through them all.
The more chan­nels you have, the eas­i­er it is that a chan­nel is for­got­ten and the infor­ma­tion that is incom­ing” through that chan­nel is left undealt-with.
The more chan­nels you have, your time and focus will be increas­ing­ly scat­tered (since you are inter­rupt­ed more fre­quent­ly from sev­er­al dif­fer­ent direc­tions), you will have a hard time focus­ing on one thing for a longer peri­od of time, and you lose track of what you are doing over and over again.

What you can do

If this feels famil­iar, strive to have few­er incom­ing chan­nels and decide how, when and where you’re going to take action and deter­mine what to do with the mate­r­i­al enter­ing through each channel.

  1. On a blank sheet of paper with a pen you enjoy writ­ing with, write down all incom­ing chan­nels you are exposed to today.?? This means all the ways which pro­vide an inflow of phys­i­cal things, infor­ma­tion which will become to-do tasks, ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al, large or small projects, good ideas, things you need on a par­tic­u­lar day, trash and things you are wait­ing for oth­ers to come back to you with.
  2. Con­sid­er whether you can get rid of one or more channels.
  3. For each indi­vid­ual chan­nel, decide upon a strat­e­gy of how and when you go through its infor­ma­tion and when you keep the chan­nel open or closed, so that you’re able to take con­trol over when you are exposed to each inflow.?? So, when do you keep your mobile turned on or off? How often do you check your e‑mail? When and where do you go through your voice notes from the Dic­ta­phone and do some­thing tan­gi­ble with them?
  4. Think the sys­tem through and make sure that it’s easy to add things to your to-do-list when you go through or keep the chan­nel open, and that you have a well thought out sys­tem of mid­dle-stor­age” for the ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al, in case you go through the chan­nel some­where else than in your office where you have direct access to your ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al sys­tem (set of binders, sus­pen­sion file cab­i­net, etc).?? Make sure that the to-do-list is in an eas­i­ly acces­si­ble form, portable, eas­i­ly sort­ed and edit­ed. Oth­er­wise you can’t get rid of that one voice­mail mes­sage until you are at your to-do list, you have boot­ed it, logged in, scrolled to the right place and typed down what you’ve got to do.?? Always car­ry a sort­ing” fold­er in your bag when you’re away from the office and place all the papers you’ve decid­ed are ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al in it. Write down where it will be filed once in the office on a post-it note or direct­ly on the doc­u­ment. When you are back at the office, emp­ty the fold­er and imme­di­ate­ly sort the mate­r­i­al into the right place (which is easy since you’ve already decid­ed where it should be placed).

What are you think­ing of?

What issue in struc­tur­al think­ing or struc­ture man­age­ment do you pon­der on the most? What issues are you most keen to solve when it comes to your own struc­ture? As you might know by now, good struc­ture and how to sim­pli­fy every­day tasks are some of my major inter­ests, both pri­vate­ly and in my role as a struktör. 

I hope to raise your ques­tion in an upcom­ing blog­post, so please leave a com­ment below.