Newsletter 11: March 17, 2008
Approx 650 words - I'll be brief, but feel free to read quickly.
Come with me one last time, for now, to the United Kingdom. I used to work there in an organization which had been set up by the national government and originally staffed with civil servants, and which was still run according to the excellent principles the Service has developed over the centuries. The UK has a politically independent career civil service which takes its work seriously and performs it professionally.
A thing it does really well is filing. You may have heard of Registry, the central storage and retrieval department, from John le Carre or Adam Hall or someone. Itís all true. In those happy days I could throw a document in the filing basket and, when I wanted it again, somebody would know for certain where to get it. Letís be honest, doing that reliably is different from what happens in many offices. And itís such an important function.
But the greatest thing that Registry does is the bring-up system. You can send a file to Registry with the request that it comes back to you on another day, and it will.
Simple? But so important. It freed me up enormously. When you're staring at an in-basket with more things than you can handle, which do you start with? Probably none of them. Come on, you know Iím right.
But if you could put most of them into an automatic system which would take them away and reliably bring them back later, then you could really prioritize. You could say Iíll do these four jobs today, and Iíll look at this one tomorrow, that one the next day, those ones on Monday... Trust me, itís liberating. Itís the best getting-things-actually-done system Iíve ever used, and Iíve often wished I had it again.
Because putting a thing on your to-do list isnít getting it out of your way, itís getting it mixed up with the things you actually do need to handle today. Leaving an email in your in-box isnít clearing your mind, itís being repeatedly re-minded of it. Throwing bills into a shoebox that you open every week or two works only if you can effectively remind yourself to do an unenjoyable task.
All of this is my way of introducing you to my new virtual personal assistant Sandy. Sandy does all of the following and more: keeps my shopping lists(s), keeps my to-do lists, keeps my daily calendar. But best of all, guess what? she keeps all the emails I want to get around to later, and brings them back exactly when I said I wanted them.
I never intended to spend my time in these letters advertising other peopleís software, and I donít plan to do it again. But I had to tell you about this, because Sandyís exactly what I personally wanted, and is the most exciting of the ideas for Getting Writing Done that have been on my mind lately.
Something you can try today: Just check her out. It costs nothing. As always, donít spend valuable writing time on it. But do get to know her over a few days, tell her to adjust the things that donít work for you, and then see if she frees up some of your time or, more important, some of your headspace for things you actually need to be getting on with.
David Jung McGarva
+1 (818) 707 1871
Write me: david at todayiwrite dot com
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