Like many of you, I am often bombarded with invitations to try the latest and greatest gadgets and apps designed to save time, manage appointments / projects, and become more efficient in my day-to-day activities. Can any of you relate? I just bet that you can! Oftentimes, it's daunting and overwhelming to even think about where to begin, isn't it?
Well, before you waste any more time trying to navigate through the plethora of options, I suggest we all (myself included!) step back, take a deep breath, and regroup so we can put together a simple plan of attack ... because without any plan in place, we are left to flail and flounder, and ultimately end up in FAILURE.
Start by Making a List: The first task is to start a list of all the areas in which you need or want to improve upon in your processes and/or become more efficient in time and/or project management. If you have a difficult time with organizing your thoughts in the beginning, then just start off by writing down the first things that come to mind - you can then focus on organizing your thoughts on down the road. Oftentimes, the first items we think of are the most critical areas we need to address, so let your mind wander and then write those things that pop first in your mind. OR, if you detest writing, then feel free to use some of the hi-tech devices available at your fingertips - your smartphone most likely has an app where you can speak your thoughts, and then you can later organize those thoughts rather easily by organizing within your Notes app or copy / pasting in a Google Doc or Word document. Once you start, you'll most likely find this part of the process fun and easy!
Organize by Common Threads: Once you have accumulated sufficient information in the first step, then it's time to start organizing your thoughts by some common threads. You may have already mentally noted some common threads as you were creating your initial list. You will want to create 3-5 topics - any more than 5 will be overwhelming, 3 being an ideal number - and then start tagging your listed items by topic. If you hand-wrote your list, use color-coding so you can easily see which listed items match to your topics. Or if you used a Notes app or something similar, it's relatively easy to create tables or sections of your document where you can cut and paste the info under each topic quite easily. No matter how you approach this task, the idea is to synthesize the information in the first step so you can create a simple plan of attack. Also, be sure to organize each topic in order of priority - even if it's as elementary as stating you want to start NOW, Next Month, Next Year, etc.
Inventory What You Already Have: Once you've organized your ideas under 3-5 topics, and placed priorities on the order of attack, you'll want to take stock of what you already have available or own that may be able to handle the tasks at hand. If you already own something that may work, then you should try it out first before spending any additional money on something that may not do the job. For example, we often overlook the time-saving features that are at our fingertips with our Smartphones such as the built-in Calendar feature included with most phones. In my case, I've started using my phone calendar to record ALL my appointments. In addition, I have started using my phone instead of a watch as my main timepiece!
Do Further Research To Plug Gaps: If after inventorying what you already have and determining where there are gaps, then you can shift your research to investigating those particular areas where you need to plug those gaps. As you search, use your topic headings as key words. Or, if you are fortunate enough to belong to any groups with people working in your field of expertise on Facebook or LinkedIn, you can post a question ... but only AFTER searching the group first by keyword to see if your question has already been asked. And if you see a question relating to your topic, you can add a comment with your particular question if it's not answered in the responses to the original question. Most people in these groups will want to help, and they can provide you with objective advice and suggestions. Again, keep your focus on the priorities established in earlier steps so you do not overwhelm yourself as as you do your research.
Reorganize, Re-prioritize if Necessary: After doing the research and getting the info you need to plug in the gaps, you may need to reorganize and re-prioritize if necessary, along with putting some timetables on your next-steps. At this stage in the process, you are refining your plan of attack and focusing on completing those items you've determined are the HIGHEST priority first. For example, if you have determined that your highest priority is the need to become more efficient automating the input of data in your accounting system, then you would focus FIRST on those tasks that would help you accomplish these goals. Then, once you've tackled that priority and marked it off your list as done, then it's time to move onto the next priority, and so on.
Again, it's quite easy and normal to get overwhelmed when hearing about "this app" or "that procedure" or just wanting to be the most efficient in the use of your time and talents in life and work... I hope that this framework will provide you with a common-sense approach which will get you moving in the right direction in a most expedient manner. PS: If you find yourself getting "stuck" at any time in the process, I can help - reach out to me and set up a free one-hour consultation to get started!