We live our lives surrounded by gizmo’s.
Not, unfortunately, the cute fluffy ones from my second favourite Christmas movie, but stuff designed to make our lives easier, to save us time.
These gizmo’s used to be ‘things’, like food processors and microwaves.
Now, as our lives have become increasingly complex, we are ruled over by the digital kind of gizmo’s…… apps and services that promise to help us be more organised and productive.
There’s a gizmo for everything…… From calendar apps & planners to fitness and activity trackers. There are task managers, dream catchers and goal setting apps. File sharing and collaboration apps. Food diary and sleep tracking apps. Reminder apps, project management apps & team chat apps. There’s apps for managing your central heating, and for turning lights on and off. Social media manager apps and customer support apps.
There are apps to control other apps.
And I’m not even going to start on all the apps to help you manage the ever expanding email monster lurking in your nightmares!
These apps all have one thing in common….. they promise to simplify our hectic lives, helping us in turn to do more, be more, achieve more.
But if left to their own devises, these gizmos can turn into gremlins that seem to conspire against you.
The reminder app that somehow forgets to remind you of an appointment. The email app that only lets you see that important message once, then hides it somewhere you can’t find it. The task management app that takes more time to manage than the tasks actually take to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good app! But there is something WAY more important than finding the perfect app to manage the thing you think you need to manage.
First up you need a system.
Actually, you need systems, plural, for managing the many aspects of your life.
The systems need to be simple and sustainable if you want to use those gizmo’s for good, without them turning into gremlins.
(Billy had a system – just 3 simple rules to follow to stop Gizmo turning into Gremlins, but even that was too complicated!)
Let’s take email as an example.
I used to use an email app that was designed around a simple premise – getting your inbox to zero. With a simple swipe you could delete, archive emails or ‘hide’ them until a later date. So if you didn’t want to see the email about tickets going on sale for your favourite band until the date of the sale, you could ‘hide’ that email until that date.
This was the ‘do it, dump it, date it’ approach so many time management and productivity folk go on about.
If you processed each email you’d basically have an empty mailbox. Score!
And it was an incredibly powerful app.
But it was a TOOL, a gizmo, not a system in itself. It still needed a system to manage it.
So, sticking with email as an example, what things might this system cover?
– When are you going to ‘process’ your email?
– How do you decide if you will ‘do’ an email straight away, or schedule it?
– How do you file your emails, in case you need them later?
– How do you keep track of emails waiting for a reply?
– What do you do with attachments?
That’s just a few things you would need to consider, but hopefully you see where this is going.
Now these don’t have to be lengthy written instruction manuals that you would find in an office. And they don’t need to be systems that you will stick with until the end of time.
But you need to decide what you are going to do, and where, when and how you are going to do it.
The why should be obvious.
If you don’t have a system all you can do is react to stuff.
In email, most people’s ‘system’ is to quickly scan new messages to see if there is anything ‘urgent’ they need to deal with. They might dump anything they obviously don’t need, and the rest of their messages sit in the inbox as a reminder that they need to do something. And they probably sit there until they become the ‘urgent’ thing to deal with.
Personally, I find that quickly ‘scanning’ emails has a horrible side effect. My head is flooded with all these “to-do’s” that resurface at inappropriate moments i.e. when you are doing anything else! You know, like when you are having lovely walk with the dogs and then your brain shouts at you….. “did you remember to deal with the message from Sue about the new fliers?” And then, because it’s now in your head, when you get back on line you have to be able to find the blooming email. Then you find it and realise you either missed the deadline, or it’s not till next week. In which case you probably set the message back to unread so you can come back and deal with it later.
That is NOT a system. That is a mess!
At this point you could be using the best email management app in the world, you will still be drowning in unread messages and unable to find the important ones.
And the same applies for ALL your gizmo’s.
The file sharing app that has a sneaky gremlin hiding your files? How about taming the gremlin with a naming convention system?
The calendar app with the lazy gremlin who doesn’t issue timely reminders? Tame him with a simple system for reviewing your schedule and reminders daily.
So next time you think ‘there must be an app for that’, first decide if you have a system for ‘that’. Adding an app to a system can indeed help you be more, do more, achieve more.
Without the system, you will likely spend any time saved chasing gremlins.
Oh, so what’s my system for dealing with my email? That needs a whole article of it’s own, so please do come back later for that!