The work day begins for most, as soon as your eyes open from a deep sleep. Sure you’ve still got to get ready, make some coffee, grab breakfast, and commute to your place of employment; but the communications-aspect of the work day begins immediately.
You grab your smart-phone; instantly a voicemail from an unknown phone number is already glaring you in the eyes. Who could it be this early? It would be unethical to ignore it until you arrive at the office. Sure enough, it’s a secretary calling before business hours reminding you that your boss has mandated that you stop by the bank on your way in to obtain financial reports that were requested.
No big deal, as you realize working under someone comes with extra leg-work, errands, and tasks. So your day has to start a little bit scrambled now, and with a little bit more urgency to meet your boss’s early morning demand. As you finish up your personal morning grooming and routine, your smart-phone beeps in again with a flurry of text messages and e-mails. You inspect each message; only to find more requests and questions from people across your business spectrum, family, and friends.
A quick run-in at the company’s place of banking, has now turned into much more. “Give me a call around lunch hour today!”, from your wife. “Can you look in the bottom drawer of my desk for my expense log?”, from a co-worker traveling to an out of state meeting. “What was the check and invoice number from our recent transaction?”, from a paying customer. “I’ll be in around 3:00pm to have our monthly meeting.”, from a local vendor. You haven’t even hit the front doors yet, and you’re suddenly smothered with a plethora of information overload.
Finally, after the early morning whirl-wind, you pull into your parking spot with actually a few extra minutes to spare. You arrive at your boss’s office with the documents from the bank that he needed. Hoping for an in and out, so that you can start your own work items and daily agenda, you’re asked to have a seat to go over a few things. The conversation is fairly swift, but Boss A played “telephone” for Bosses B, C, and D in the department as well.
In short, Boss B needed tasks X, Y, and Z accomplished by week’s end. Boss C wanted to know what other staff members would be assisting you on task X and task Z. Boss D was curious what equipment will be needed to finalize all of the steps that make up Task Y.
You end with a simple “Yes sir, I’ll get on it!” Walking down the hallway to your office, reality starts setting in. So many tasks, so many people to report to, so many loose ends that need addressed, so many questions to provide answers to; and only so little time. So what do you do now? Where do you start? As soon as you begin to ponder these questions, your office phone starts ringing off the hook. Before you can even process all of the communication-aspects that have just come to light in the front part of your day, you’re hit with more of it on the office phone. Sounds like an abominable situation, yet it happens to people in various businesses, industries, and corporations across the world every single day.
What would I do? It’s so simple, easy, and elementary; that it’s almost embarrassing. I would grab a handy-dandy 3”x5” blank note card. I would take a minute to re-hash in my mind everything that had just got verbally thrown at me or electronically dished my way. I would jot down all of the items exactly as they came off the top of my head.
From there, I’d grab a second 3”x5” blank note card, and re-align all of the items from the first note card. This time, with specific order in mind based off of importance and time constraint. The top of my note card to-do lists always contain the items that eat up the most time, and are generally of biggest nuisance and annoyance. The bottom of the list usually consists of personal tasks, “for fun” items, and things that you can cross-off with little time and effort. That way, the bottom of the to-do list becomes more like a reward; because those items are generally simple and easier to attain.
Finally your official to-do list is finalized and comes to life. Once you pick up on this process of using a three-by-five, you’ll start seeing how effortless it becomes to stream-line all of your day’s tasks, curveballs, and ideas. Such a simple tool saves you from a daunting balancing act of the ups and downs of work life and personal life. Even if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, just give it a try. It’s quick, effective, easy to maintain, and able to be tucked away in between tasks. A three-by-five fits perfect in a front dress-shirt pocket or back pant pocket. “X’ing” things off a list hasn’t felt so good until you master this helpful trick of the trade!
Brady O’Malia is the Director of Operations at Radius Media Agency