This piece is part of a series. You can read part 1 here.
So now we have things we've eliminated anything we don't need, incubated anything we want to look at later, moved some things to reference material, and we're left with next actions and desired outcomes.
If we look at the next actions, it's time to ask another question:
Will it take 2 minutes or less?
If yes, do it. If it takes 2 minutes or less, it's quicker to do it now than to have to delegate it and track or to have to add it to a list and have it on that list. This is a game changer. If you only take one thing from this whole series, this one is the most likely to give you gains far greater than the effort involved.
If no, another question:
Am I the best one to be doing it?
If no, delegate it. Let the relevant person know what they should do and give an expectation on time frames. If you're delegating upwards or horizontally, you can do this politely by saying "I'll check in next week about it" or something like that.
If yes, we're going to defer it.
Why not just do it now? That might be the right call, but we don't have infinite time and usually, we're not just looking at the one single item - we're looking at an inbox full of them. In addition, we want to put all of the actions next to each other so that we can choose what the best use of our time is.
Place (aka organise)
You can defer an action in two ways. If it is to be done on a specific day, put it in the calendar. If not, place it into a list.
If you've never had lists before, I would suggest starting with one list, and when it gets too long, separate it out into buckets that make sense for you.
Another best practice I've seen is contexts. This could be physical contexts like at home, at work, calls, at laptop, anywhere, or at the shops. Some people do time contexts: first thing, late morning, afternoon, evening, weekend.
Different things work for different people. It took experimentation to find what fit me well and I still change it up every now and then.
Other tips around this:
- Location-based reminders are pretty good now. I'll often add any errand-y things (eg. pick up the book order) as a reminder which will ping me when I come within 200m of a specific location. This does require you going to that place before you need to do the thing so if it's not a place you go regularly (eg. the hardware store), you'll need to use a different system.
- You can use the "put it in front of the door" system for certain tasks. Need to remember to put on a load of laundry? Put a basket in front of the bedroom door. Need to remember to call your mum first thing in the morning? Put a post it note on the kettle (assuming you're a coffee drinker). There are many variations on this.
An aside about the follow up (aka waiting for) list
If you don't have one of these lists, I highly recommend creating one. The idea is to track anything you've delegated to someone else. I wouldn't rely on just checking sent email largely because of the multiple modes of communication we have - one thing might start with an email and continue with a follow up via slack or you talk about it in passing or there's an urgent text message in there. You can do it in any app, or on paper. Create an entry with the person's name, what you're waiting on (in brief!), the mode you last contacted them with, and the date. Add additional follow ups as they come.
emailed 10/3, text 17/3
I look at mine when I finish up every day - it takes 3 seconds if no follow ups are necessary and it avoids things slipping through the cracks.