Posts Tagged ‘done’

Do you ever forget things at work?

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

I very rarely forget things at work and you? For me, it’s merely a matter of professionalism. I hate it when people make promises and simply forget. If they forget, it either means that they’re not well organized or that they don’t care.

At work, people will rarely see me without a notepad around.

They might think I do this so I can write down my incredible ideas… But actually I mostly use my notepad to write down things that I should do, verify or check. The thing is that I don’t trust my memory all that much. Maybe I should trust it more, maybe not.. I simply believe that I’ve got enough on my mind already without cluttering it with a todo list. My notepad is my trusted system.


Humans are creatures of habit and I’m no exception. I’ve started doing this a long time ago and it has served me well. Today, I wouldn’t consider working in a different way.

Notepads contain tons of paper memory cells

Notepads contain tons of paper memory cells

Basically, my notepad is my personal backlog and I apply an Agile-ish method to organize/prioritize it regularly. My method is the following:

  • When I write things down, I always note the date & context (e.g., meeting xyz)
  • I always write down things to be done  & deadlines if any
  • I use simple labels to categorize my notes: todo, to check, …
  • When I review my notes, I simply use fluorescent pens to mark things that are done/not relevant anymore
  • Whenever tasks concern other people, I introduce them in our shared issue management system, put priorities accordingly & let people know
Create your own color code for tasks

Create your own color code for tasks

My notepad not only serves as a backlog but also represents my log file. Should there be a doubt in my mind about whether x or y was said or promised (e.g., deliver x by date y), it should be in it. Of course whenever we hold meetings, I also try to publish the meeting minutes & the agreed action plan…

My notepads are also secure because my handwriting is so terrible that probably very few people in the world could mimic it. My handwriting is actually so bad that even the confidentiality is ensured as even fewer people can actually read it ;-). The only missing property is availability, which can indeed be a problem sometimes…

I’ve read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book a few years back and I really recommend you to go grab a copy and do the same if you haven’t already. The GTD methodology is super simple and can really help you get (more) organized. Basically it’s just a small set of ideas and principles to follow to be more efficient and take informed decisions.

I can’t say that I fully apply David’s methodology. I’ve just adapted it for my own needs and it works like a charm.

Here are the main principles that I apply:

  • Capture everything that is relevant: what I’ve explained above and also the mindmap that I always carry around with me
  • Review the notes a first time and decide what is actionable
  • 2 minute rule: if it takes less that 2 minutes, do it immediately; otherwise, delegate what can be (see Management 3.0 delegation guidelines)
  • Put reminders for important tasks / tasks where there’s a strict deadline
  • Review the backlog regularly enough to update/prioritize and decide what to do next

Finally, I also apply the Inbox Zero principle, as described by Merlin Mann, simply because I want to have a single system for managing my personal backlog. E-mail is not meant to hold todo lists, thus whenever a mail comes in, if it contains actionable things, they just join the other ones in my notepad and the mails are archived.

If you’re interested in GTD, be aware that there are a few talks on Youtube about it.

And you, how do you organize yourself?