Things That Work

One of the worst things about being sick is that you often can't think straight enough to take care of yourself adequately. A couple years ago I had an idea about that. I had just gotten over a nasty cold, and had a clear memory of the things that did and didn't work. You know, the stuff you always forget the next time you're sick. So I wrote a simple list on a 3x5 card, put it in an envelope marked COLD AND FLU, and stuffed that envelope in the same cupboard where we keep drugs.

The only flaw is remembering to look at it, as it's kind of up against the side of the cupboard, and not as easy to spot as it should be. I was almost a day into this cold before the Spousal Unit grabbed it. Therein was the fact that the drugs I'd already bought in desperation didn't work--I could have avoided learning that lesson again!--and a short list of what did work. Hot liquids, hot showers, and a half-dozen other tips that I'm now implementing. I feel a lot better today. [edit: except for the masses of typos and errors I've had to correct in this post because I'm still a bit addled.]

It's in the same family of Merlin's habit of making lists before you need them. Prepare now, while you have the leisure to do so, and you'll thank yourself later.

On our work blog, we've begun a category called "Modest Proposals" (thanks, Rory!) where we list thing things we are learning about managing. I kicked it off today with a note about managing email:

Normally, I have one email in my inbox. No, really.

Every morning, I come in and glance at a small post-it stuck to my monitor (and I'm not the only one, though I think I do it differently) that holds a short list of the things I do every morning:

  • Email

  • Helpdesk
  • Newsgroups
  • Inbox
  • Tada list
  • Projects

When I hit that first item, I go to Lotus Notes, mark everything in my mailbox unread, and go through it note by note. If I can handle it in ten minutes or less, I just do it. That clears out most things. If it's information on something pending, it goes in a Waiting folder. If it's something I must keep, it gets filed. If it's something that's going to take a while, it gets transferred to my task system. This leaves my mailbox uncluttered so I can handle things more easily throughout the day.

But what about that last email? It's kittens. Yeah, I admit it. Kittens. I don't remember where I got the idea, but I suspect it was this wonderful business writer. The trick is you keep a motivational email at the end of your mailbox. A picture of your kids, your pets, a beautiful sunset, or even kittens. It's difficult to sell this idea, it's something that must be experienced. When I get to the end of my mailbox, the final motivational email makes it very clear I've done so--it's a clear demarcation that means I can stop going through email and move on to the next thing on my list, and it's a stress-buster as well. I've had a motivational email at the bottom of my mailbox for over a year now, and I can say with confidence that it's very effective.

So, in a nutshell:

It's easier to keep up with email than it is to catch up. Once a day, clear everything out. A clutter-free mailbox is much, much easier to deal with. And get some kittens.

1 Comment

...or for boys who like sparkly things.

Implementation of both GTD and YMOYL require the use of a handy notepad--something I like having around anyway. Notepads all over the house, no problem. But what about when I'm tooling around, purseless and packless?

Being a woman who uses her pockets, I decided to look for a keychain notepad. Most of the ones out there are very shoddy, but I found some well-made, snazzy ones sold on the cheap from Highsmith. I've been using mine for several days, and it works fabulously. The snap is secure, the cover is neato, and the pages tear out very easily for dropping off at the inbox.