Organisation Is Everything

I am a list person. I’m also a minimalist. Clutter gets me down, whether it’s physical clutter at home or on my desk in the office,  e clutter in my inbox, my phone or my tablet or mental clutter. Stuff that messes with my head. It’s important that I therefore have an organisation strategy particularly at work. For me that means focussing on the minimalist in me and making sure that everything that comes in goes into it’s own place. That ‘place’ then gets referenced to a task and I know that only when I am on that task do I need to open the particular bucket.

Organisation and Workflow is Key to Success
(Image © Ross Burton. Flickr)

At the centre of everything is my to do list. Until recently, this was a macro driven Excel file but I wanted to move to a cross platform solution. The reason for that is that the best time to organise my to do list, to re-prioritise it or to allocate new tasks was those times when I wasn’t at my laptop. Being able to do it on the iPhone or iPad was favourable. For that reason I am using OmniFocus. It’s expensive for a simple task list but it does the best job that I have found. I tried outlook but the Mac version is lacking a lot of the viewing capability that the PC version has so that was a no starter. 


As soon as a task pops into my head I will note it in Omnifocus – either on my Mac or one of my devices. I’m not worried at this stage about setting detail just getting it down. At that stage it just goes loose in the Omnifocus inbox.  I should mention that I try not to have my email inbox open all the time. If I am working on a task, I will shut it down although as part of my regular hourly break from any task, I will take 5 minutes out to scan it. Again, any email that cannot be actioned immediately (less than 30 seconds) gets a task assigned to it and either filed in its final destination or filed in my action folder. (The task then associates delivery with an email in that folder). Incidentally, I have a rule which is based on a flag which automatically moves it to the action folder. 

I regularly take time out to review tasks in Omnifocus. At least twice a day – first and last half hour and ensure that they have completed elements for due dates, completion, project and context. I find context particularly useful for meetings with people. Flagging an action as Simon for instance means that as I head off to meet Simon, I can easily identify all the issues that I need to talk to him about. I find allocating to people more effective than the way that Omnifocus advises which is to allocate by location (work, at mac etc)

I take meeting notes using Evernote. Again, this allows me to be cross platform so that I only require my iPad in meetings rather than always lugging my laptop around with me. My Evernote has notebook stacks for each client as well as notebook stacks for personal and corporate entries. Each client stack is broken down into the individual projects that I own. I am quite sparing with tags but use them for anything I am likely to search on in future. The exception to that is any action noted in a meeting is marked as #A so that I know to pick it up as an action.  I have recently become much more disciplined at setting aside a period of time after each meeting to rewrite the notes taken in the meeting and to allocate any actions straight into Omnifocus. If I subsequently want to identify which meeting an action was from I can search on #A (slightly long winded but a rare occurrence) 
In summary then, my process is to put everything immediately in it’s place. Have one tool for each part of the process. (I no longer use paper to take notes in meetings for instance). Finally, having the discipline to review the task list at least twice a day and to write up meetings after they have finished.