By now you have your In-box down to zero e-mails. It feels good doesn’t it? The last part is dealing with what we forwarded to Evernote. A long list of unscheduled To-do’s is worthless. My default notebook in Evernote is called “Action Pending.” That’s where the e-mails I just forwarded show up. Now I need to schedule these follow ups, and give them context. Some follow ups are just general to-do’s for me. Others are client specific. I use tags in Evernote to organize these.
The basic rule is that everything in my Action Pending notebook MUST have at least one tag. At this point I may have many notes in there, but only the one’s I’ve just forwarded, and any I may have added directly in Evernote, are untagged. As you’ll see in the video, Evernote makes it easy to sort by tag, so all of the untagged notes fall to the top of the list. Now I go through each untagged note in the Action Pending notebook, and I tag them, as well as set reminders. The reminder is where we establish the exact day and time where we will follow up.
You will need to have your calendar open for this part. Let’s say you get to a note that represents a client specific follow up. If you already have time set aside on your calendar for that client, then you simply set the reminder for that day and time. Tag it with the client name and tag it “follow up.” That way on that day you simply filter your notes for the client and the tag follow up. In seconds you will have everything you need to complete the work you need to for that client, on that day. I also leave the e-mail headers in the note. This way if I need to find the original e-mail I can search the subject, and find it in seconds. This comes in handy when I want to reply to the e-mail with some information or a request for information, if needed.
I can’t express to you how much peace of mind this gives me. When I am finished tagging the new notes, I have everything organized, and scheduled, so I know exactly when it is getting done.
Some follow ups are more important than others. As you’ll see in the video, I have notes marked with reminder dates that I don’t always get to. Each week, once this process is complete, I update the reminder dates on those notes to “tomorrow,” whenever that might be. If I have time I will complete some of them that day (Sunday for me, remember?). Otherwise they stay in there, and any time during the week where I may have an hour to kill between appointments, I can access that list and see what I can knock out. If at any time one of these notes becomes a priority, then I will go on my calendar and schedule the time. The note’s reminder is of course updated accordingly as well.
It’s mostly the “knowing” that I have a system in place for getting things done that gives me peace of mind. Then of course, I have to stick to that system. I live by my calendar, and each day when I arrive at my computer, the first things I open are Evernote, and Google Calendar. I start most days by reviewing what I have scheduled and marked for completion today. If at any time I am feeling overwhelmed, like there’s no way I can do all of this today, then I prioritize, and whatever doesn’t get finished, gets re-scheduled.
If I get really stressed out (and I do some times) I clear the decks and spend a day just getting this stuff done. Usually I come out of it feeling a deep sense of accomplishment.
I hope this series gives you a design for managing your e-mails and to do’s that helps you find some peace of mind. It helps me tremendously to know I am going to be able to complete what I’ve committed to. If I can see that I am very busy or overwhelmed, then when I am talking to people, I know I need to tell them that I can’t get them on my calendar for a week or two. This can also be a sign that it’s time to hire someone.
Here’s a final tip I will leave you with. Once you are using this system, filter your notes in Evernote just for “follow up.” This will give you a list of all of the tasks you have for all clients. See what you can delegate, and see what you’re spending your time on. This alone can offer valuable insights!
See you on the other side of your inbox!
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