Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Personal productivity – Follow Ups

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested in personal productivity. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but I guess it must have been at some point during my second year at university that I realized that even with very little sleep I only had so much time to get things done in-between getting up and hanging out at the bar in our student residence in the evenings…

Previously - during my last two years at schools – I started heavily relying on all sorts of lists, both on paper and my computer, to keep an overview of the things I had to do. Later I started using my mobile phone to write down all kinds of thoughts, ideas, to-do’s and other information while on the road.

I now have a pretty confusing (for outsiders) system of post-its (I count about 20 on my desk at this very moment), notes/tasks on my mobile phone (sync’ed to my computer) and e-mail tagging rules to to organize my to-do’s.

However lately I’ve been hitting a road block as I’m realizing that doing things is one thing, but following up and following through with something you’ve started doing is something entirely different.

For example for olpcnews we often get contacted by guest authors who want to submit an article. I read through the submission, write up some feedback and send it back to the author. My to-do list for the day then says read Ubuntu-for-XO submission.

Now the problem here is that I’ve only done part of what is really a multi-step task. And it’s all too easy to forget about the other steps in case I don’t get a reply from the original author which automatically triggers me to setup a new to-do task.

Dealing with this kind of scenario has become increasingly error-prone and time consuming. For some time I kept a second list on my desk with the names of people I had to follow up with on something. I also set myself reminders on my phone to follow up whether something has been done x days after I completed my initial task. Needless to say all of that only works so well and creates quite a lot of overhead…

One thing that would tremendously help me is an extension for  Thunderbird (my e-mail client of choice) which would allow me to set an automatic follow-up reminder before sending an e-mail. (Potentially even customizable depending on what kind of e-mail I send, e.g. replies to messages sent to editors [ AT] olpcnews [DOT] com come with a default 3-day reminder.)

The same kind of functionality should also be available for my mobile phone (which runs Symbian S60 3rd edition), allowing me to mark a task as done, setting up an automatic reminder and then pushing it off my regular tasks list and onto a separate follow-up list.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen any efforts heading into that direction so I guess for the moment being I’m stuck with my current system…

Blog: Personal Productivity – thoughts on follow-ups

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