Fewer gathering places helps efficiency

I am working with one of my coaching students on productivity and have shared a few items that really seem to be a great hit with this student. I thought I would share one or two of them here as well in case it may be of help others.

The one for today is to have less “gathering places”. Here is what I mean. Often times we pick things up and lay them down in a variety of places. Then when it is time to find those items again, be it a sticky note, car keys, letter, or whatever we have to hunt around to find out where we put it. This always takes time.

Instead, I recommend setting up 6-7 “gathering places” for specific reasons. Here are mine as an example:

1. Evernote app. Here is an app that I have on my iPhone, Macbook Pro, and iPad that syncs between all of them. I probably use this as my main gathering place since I can store photos and text and do a search for anything even with a photo. I can search for a word and it will highlight every place that word shows up, even in photos. I keep a file in Evernote titled “Process” which means I will check through there every Monday to file things, or read items that I did not have time to tend to but just threw them in there.

2. Big Box. Here is an old school idea that I still find very useful. Get a big box and keep in the corner of your office, or a decorative one to keep in the corner of one of your rooms in your house. When your hands touch something and you don’t have time or are not sure where to put it, throw it in that box. At the end of every day schedule 20-30 minutes before you leave the office or go to bed to empty this box.

3. File Cabinet. This is one that I do not use often, only because I scan with Neat Receipts portable scanner. I also take pictures of items that would usually go in a file cabinet and keep in Evernote or Neat Receipts (this is my 4th gathering place I will mention next). But sometimes you may have a contract, lease, mortgage papers stuff like that which you can still keep in a file cabinet. In my file cabinet I have a folder at the front of it labeled…you guesses it, “process”. I use this if I have a paper to do something with but don’t have the time take a picture of or scan, so I throw it in my Process folder in the file cabinet. Every Monday this process folder is one I go through as well to do what needs to be with each piece there.

4. Neat Receipts with my scanner. I touched on this above but briefly this is where all my scanned items will go. Within Neat Receipts I have folders set up to accommodate everything I need to file.

5. Email. This is one that I see many misuse. They keep their inbox as a storage place and work off of it. I don’t recommend this as it will eventually catch up to you and cloud your mind, thinking, decisions, and in the end not make you as productive as you could be. Instead file your emails once you read them, make a decision. Ask yourself these three questions:

A. What is the next step?

B. When will it be done?

C. Where is it’s home?

I will share more on these 3 questions at a latter time.

6. Calendar. This is one that I feel many people under utilize. I am a Mac guy and so I enjoy iCal with it’s many color coded options and more. This is another item I will get into at a later time, but decisions need to be made on if what you are filing in this gathering place is a calendar item, a to-do, or a task? In iCal it will handle all 3 of these choices in this one gathering place.

7. Wild Card or voice mail. I don’t recommend voice mail but some use it well. I have listed “Wild Card” because, with some social networking out there, some of us have started to figure out a system to use this as a gathering place.

In closing, remember these are mine, you may have others. The bottom line is to try and live with this principle of fewer gathering places so that you can be more productive and efficient.

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