Unlike old time organization solutions that were based on devoted tasks, these days you’re likely to be doing ten things at once while your boss stands over you with more! What’s the solution?
Today, scientific studies about metaphor, cognition and attention contribute to our understanding about how we categorize, retrieve and act quickly on information. How quickly? Fast enough to hold a spontaneous, real-time conversation, or in today’s social networking and computer world, fast enough to type a conversation and elicit a click. Here’s a low-tech solution that works!
- Everything has a deadline. What you’re about to do will either have an immediate, within 48-hours effect on things in front of you, or it won’t. If it won’t, take care of the 48-hour deadlines before you move on. Bundle the deadline projects up, and put them in a box labeled Box #4. Box #4 is the priority box, and you need to spend 50% of your available time solving the problems there. The object is to get everything from Box #1 to Box #4 and out!
- The second thing you need is a communications list. That’s a list of contacts you know you can reach within 48 hours. If you don’t have a way of getting in touch within 48 hours, put the “project” in a Box labeled Box #1. Only 5% of your available time gets spent moving or promoting items in Box #1. No matter how stimulating or attractive, you can’t afford to move onto new things until the important and active things are done. Things stay in Box #1 until they have a communications list and a plan for contacting them.
- You’ll spend about 20% of your time in Box #2. Box #2 has all the projects that you have had some “real-person” communication or contact with in the process. Chances are, if you have, you now have some more things to do. Basically, if you haven’t spoken to anyone or been invited to a meeting or appointment, it doesn’t belong in Box #2.
- Box #3 contains all the bits and pieces of projects that are actively in working order. You’re going to meetings, you’re moving things forward, and there is measurable progress happening. Maybe you’re working toward your financial goal (one at a time, please!), or trying to get a job? These efforts take up about 25% of your available time. Your goal is to get these items into a 48-hour closing deadline or interview, and move them to Box #4.
When new things present themselves, ask yourself quickly “what Box do they belong in?” The key lies in how much time you spend solving the “problem” of getting things through the Boxes. The 4-Box System of organization focuses on things that are most likely to gain results. At 50-25-20-5% time allotments, you’ll spend the right amount of time on the right things, make progress toward your goals, and recover valuable time for more important things in the process!