13 January 2014

Managing Mondays -- how to "hopefully" be more productive all week long!

Source: http://img1.picturescafe.com/pc/monday/monday_005.jpg

Mondays can be a very exciting day and also a challenging day. 

After hopefully taking the weekend off, away from work and genealogy, I kind of find that Mondays set the tone for my week.  If I don’t have my act together on Mondays, the ensuing week is often chaotic and a bit undisciplined!

That said, I have some Monday rituals and then some daily ones to try and keep me on track for the week.  With all the distractions of life, including social networking websites , having some discipline as you start (and end) your week can be invaluable.  Here are some of my rituals to help me “manage” the quantity of information that comes my way.  These also help me “manage” when I spend time reading the received material so that I am not constantly being distracted by “new” information.

Additionally, I do a lot of work at the North Carolina Archives which is closed on Mondays.  This makes Mondays a particularly good day to work on all the other stuff since I couldn’t go to the archives if I wanted to.

I bet many of my rituals might match your own rituals.  Do you have other rituals you engage in that help you “tame” all the information you are bombarded with?

Monday rituals:
1. This is an anti-ritual.  I try very very hard to never schedule any appointments or meetings on Mondays unless I cannot avoid doing so.
2. I use Mondays to identify and prioritize my work for the week, accounting for the constraints of any already scheduled time. 
3. I typically establish which days I will go to what archives (NC, UNC, Duke, etc) and related and also when I will run any needed errands.
4. I process any material collected during the previous week’s research trips and write up said research.  Often this extends into Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday depending on how successful my research trips were.
5. If I have writing deadlines, Mondays (or weekends) end up being the best time for this type of work.

Daily rituals:
1. Review all e-mails that have arrived since I last checked.  Even if they are supposed to be auto-sorted using rules by Outlook (my desktop e-mail program), I still eye-ball every e-mail.  Each is then “filed” to be read later, deleted as junk, marked as spam, kept where is (e.g., the auto-sorting mechanism worked and I’m good!), moved to a client file or project file, quickly responded to, etc.
2. The above includes genealogically-related newsletters which I receive via email, which is most of them.  They auto sort to a file surprisingly called “Genealogy Newsletters.”  I just make sure that they all ended up there and then eliminate any duplicate copies (e.g. ones I receive personally vs those received as editor of Upfront with NGS, and those that Outlook just seems to love to create duplicates of)
3. Any e-mails that need a response that will require more than a quick one-liner are kept in my inbox to be dealt with after lunch.
4. Listen to any phone messages that have come in over night. I use a VOIP system and I have it send me an e-mail for any phone message sent.  I also get text notifications.  If the message is an FYI type, I immediately file or delete.  If I need to call back or follow-up with an e-mail or respond in some other fashion, it is kept in my inbox to be dealt with after lunch.
5. Review all FB posts posted since I last checked.  I try to check at least once per day even on weekends. It’s important to know what I have winnowed what I “see” on my FB feed down to what are most important for me to see “real-time.”  These include posts by family members, select colleagues, select companies/repositories/archives/libraries, select genealogical or historical societies, and more.
6. Any FB posts (or substitute here Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or whatever social media outlets you follow) that catch my eye I then e-mail to myself with a subject line that Outlook will then appropriately sort (e.g. any ideas I have for Upfront with NGS blog posts or mini-bytes have that subject line and so are automatically filed to the same-named working files).
7. Dig in to work.  Unless there is a phone call that I am expecting, I let all phone calls go to voice mail. 
8. Unless there is a critical e-mail expected, I do not check my e-mails until I stop for lunch.
9. After lunch and before resuming my work, I now respond to any e-mails or phone calls that require my attention, and I take a quick look to see if there are any time-critical e-mails.
10. Resume work.
11. As the day ends, collect the mail (I am at the end of the route) and immediately throw out, shred, file or put in a “to handle” pile (e.g. checks to deposit, client packets to peruse, etc).  I sometimes handle such immediately and on some days I wait until the next morning depending on how stridently I’m being called to exercise and/or eat dinner.
12. At the end of the day, I will typically review “any” new e-mails which have arrived. They are managed in the same fashion as in the morning.  Though any e-mails requiring action are kept in my inbox and I re-mark as unread so that I will notice them the next morning.
13. I will often re-check FB to see what has newly posted since the morning.  This concludes my work day.
14. If I am being a good girl, once my work day is done, I will NOT look at FB nor check my e-mails.  Though, I have to be honest and say that I will periodically check my e-mail during commercials while watching tv, or waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, etc.

Weekly rituals:
1. Remember all those collected genealogy newsletters?  Unless some bit of “news” caught my eye in real-time (FB is good for that since something “hot” will be re-posted many times), as Friday rolls around, I try to make the time to skim over the newsletters which have been collected all week.  If that doesn’t work out, over my coffee on Saturday always works for me.
2. Make sure that my Google Calendar has an “hard” deadlines, appointments, etc for the upcoming week with reminders (I have Google Calendar send me e-mails (since again I can “file” those as needed) normally a few days or a week and then a few hours before something scheduled will occur to keep it on my radar).  When I am not home, I have a tendency to check my e-mails about every hour on a business day and so will be “adequately” warned of anything on my schedule.
3. Though I mentioned Google Calendar, I am still in love with my weekly paper calendar (mostly because it also serves as my “diary”) and so I peek ahead to the next week to see what is scheduled.

The above isn’t everything that I do to try and manage how I work and handle e-mails, phone calls, social media, etc, and it gives you a sense of how I have tried to bring some order and discipline to my work day so that I am not constantly distracted by the e-mails, FB posts, phone calls, etc which are constantly bombarding my computer and allows me to actually get needed work completed.

Please share the “rituals” that help you tame your work days and week!

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