Gather Collect and gather all your documents in one location, a file basket on your desk, a folder on your computer. Get everything into one place, emails, printed files, electronic documents, etc.
Process Stick to the DOO (Do Only Once) rule as much as possible. Start at the top of the pile, and process each document, email, or piece of paper. Do not put anything back on the pile. Ask yourself if it is actionable. If not, ditch it, file it for future reference or put it in a Maybe Someday File in your filing system. If it is actionable, and the very next action will take less than two minutes, do it! Ask yourself if you are the best person to do this? If not, delegate it. If it is actionable, but you cannot do it now, Defer it.
Organize Organize the results of your initial processing into appropriately retrievable and reviewable categories. Always be asking yourself, “What is the next action?” The four key action categories are: • Projects (projects have more than one next action) • Calendar (for deferred actions that have a specific time and day) • ToDos (actions to be done asap, or that have a due date) • Waiting For (projects or actions others are supposed to be doing, which you need to keep track of) Add subcategories to these lists as required; you could create context folders for you, Todos like Errands, at Home, at the Office, On the phone, etc. Make a general filing system for information that have no Next Action, but which need to be retrievable. See Document Management tips for electronic files, or Setting up a Filing System for details on how to do this.
Review 1 Review calendar and ToDo lists daily, or at times you could do any of them. An example would be when you are waiting for a meeting; you could go through your ToDo list and see a quick call that can you can do while waiting or a quick email you can reply to on your Blackberry or iPhone. 2 Schedule and conduct a weekly review of your files to clean up, update, maintain and advance your systems. 3 Review your longer-term goals, values and visions as often as required to keep your Project list complete and current.
Do Make choices about your actions based on what you can do (context), how much time you have, how much energy you have, and then your goals and priorities. Stay flexible; keep a holistic approach to your goals and priorities. Trust your intuition in moment-to-moment decision-making. It needs to be OK with you to be doing or not doing what you are doing now.