Setting up a Daily System
Now that we have a clear, functional working area, let’s set up a daily system. We need something that will:
The first element to this system is the priority tray. This should be a shallow tray in a corner of your work area. It will contain whatever you are currently working on at the moment, plus any emergency items.
Typically, you will work on one item at a time. If someone rushes in with something that must be done right away, you can place your current project in the priority box, switch to the emergency task, and then go back to your project right away.
The priority tray must be empty at the beginning and end of every day. Don’t let it become a black hole!
Also known as a pending file system or a tickler file, the incubator will keep all documents that require follow-up in one place. This file should be placed within easy reach but out of sight. A good place might be the top of a filing cabinet, or, if space is short, on a windowsill.
Here is what you will need:
First, label the hanging folders with each month in the year. Arrange them chronologically with the current month in front. Then, label the manila folders from 1 to 31. Put the folders for today until the end of the month in this month’s folder. Put the remainder of the folders in next month’s folder.
So, if today is March 12, my incubator will look like this:
Now, file any items according to when you need to access it in order to complete it on time. So:
At the beginning of each day, take the folder for that day. Review its contents. Handle anything that you can right away, and place remaining items in your priority tray. Place the date folder in the next month. At the end of the day, if there is anything left in your priority tray, re-file it in the incubator. When the month ends, check the main folder for the next month and file any stray items by date.
If you don’t have a lot of follow-up tasks, one hanging file folder might do the trick. However, we strongly recommend the incubator system. Try it for 30 days!
One day a doctor realized she kept having a long line of patients waiting to see her—a line extending far out of her office and into the street. She already knew what was wrong with each patient. Each patient had a sprained ankle from stepping into the deep hole in the sidewalk out in front of the office. The doctor knew the source of her own dilemma. She was just too busy seeing patients in pain with sprained ankles. She never could take time to get someone in to repair the sidewalk.
Ultimately, of course, the doctor’s real problem was her lack of planning. We can’t just keep reacting. We have to be proactive.
If we don’t plan, nothing is likely to change for the better, and we are likely to be stressed out. Then we just keep making the same mistakes over and over, without looking for solutions and planning our strategy.
What are some guidelines to keep in mind when we think about planning?
We plan, we put plans in place, we check to see if they worked, and if they don’t work, we adjust or take further action. Tasks need to be done, and planning alone won’t do it. Acting without planning will be less productive. Taking time to check to see whether we have done the right things will prevent us from having to learn from our mistakes.