A Few Things I’ve Done To Manage My Workload
by Nancy Rathbun Scott

Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill cites an Accenture study that found middle managers spending two hours a day searching for information, half of which turns out to be of no value. I don’t know a single direct marketer who isn’t overwhelmed. Not only is there too much to do, there’s too much to learn. (A “new markets” chart shared by Kevin Trye in New Zealand illustrates enough direct marketing channels to make your heart stop.)

The following eight tactics have helped me cope over the last few months:

1. File incoming email to folders. As an editor in the DM field, I need to read every notable industry publication and blog. BUT, I can’t afford the constant distraction as messages invade my email inbox. To cope, I set up filters to hide my mail before I see it. Especially useful has been my “ electronic newsletters folder, which contains every e-newsletter, press release, blog or announcement related to direct marketing. About once a week I spend an hour inside that folder. Estimated time savings: ½-hour per day.

2. Tell laytr.com everything. Laytr.com is a free service from Oslo, Norway, that reminds me of every forgettable detail, large or small, personal or professional. I keep my inbox clean by forwarding emails I need to deal with laytr. This service says it’s in beta, but I’ve never had any reminder system – human or otherwise -- that is easier or more reliable. Savings: I can’t even estimate because peace of mind is priceless.

3. Hit delete. No matter how much I filter my email, the SPAM comes. I used to suppress my instinct to delete. No more. Delete, delete, delete. It’s fun. Savings: 20 minutes/day.

4. Screen all phone calls. Vonage sends me an email that plays every phone message I get. This tells me more than simply who called; it tells me about urgency and topic. Savings: 15 minutes/day.

5. Listen later. Online educational meetings and webinars are great, but they take an hour or two. Most of us can pick up the meat by registering ahead and downloading when a) we’re less busy; b) we’re in the mood to focus; c) we’re ready to take notes.

6. Relegate news consumption to one online newspaper. The news summary allows me to scan the planetary zeitgeist first thing in the morning and/or go back later for details. Important headlines arrive as the news occurs. Savings: ½ hour per day (and YES, I miss reading the full paper).

7. Respect the 5x8. I have a 5x8 notebook beside my computer where I record everything … to-do, to-call, to-think-about, to-remember, to-follow-up-on, to-be-or-not-to-be. There is no question – ever. When I complete tasks, I check them off the list (very satisfying). I write down phone numbers, names, snippets of phone calls, ideas, concepts, working titles for articles, shopping lists, etc. When I have filled one page, I copy all the incompleted items to a new page and begin again.

8. Be less social. I’m not tweeting as much and I’m blogging fewer times per month. I haven’t been able to follow the LinkedIn groups as often and my Facebook friends number 20 (and shrinking). I did get active in Quora because the information there is selective and intelligent. Apparently, my own behavior mirrors a trend that Forrester reports: social behaviors have reached a plateau.

I sit in front of a computer most of the day. Your work life may be different. For example, if you’re on the road, I’m sure your smart phone is the essence of your work plan. If you’re moving around your office or plant, you have a different set of challenges. What are
your favorite time savers?