Systems, Strategies and Tools for Time, Tasks and Information Management

Matthew Moran shares thoughts on adopting and building an effective time and information management system for IT executives.

executive desk
my son leaving for Ft. Hood after basic

My younger son leaving for Ft. Hood after basic.

I apologize for my absence. My son graduated from basic training and I was out of town to attend that ceremony and then playing catch up on my return.

This is officially part one of an unofficial four-part series I am doing on Time, Tasks and Information Management Strategies and Tools for IT Executives. If you are a business executive, marketing executive or freelance/independent consultant, you can also come along for the ride.

My unofficial series plan:

Part 1: Systems, Strategies and Tools for Time, Tasks and Information Management

Part 2: Using Google Drive for Your Team Collaboration

Part 3: Using Evernote and Google Calendar for Time and Task Management

Part 4: Evernote and Google for Information Management

About Systems, Strategies and Tools

Throughout these blog entries I will hope to impart information you can use to put a system (or systems) in place for team collaboration, your personal tasks management, and information management — both personal and shared.

My oft-repeated admonishment to clients:

There is no such thing as “The System”
but “a system and your diligence” is critical!

People frequently spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the perfect system (aka: The System) and never implement a system that works. They’re looking for the silver bullet of time, tasks and information management.

In the end, such a system does not exist until a system (almost any system) is put into place, worked with some diligence and adjusted over time. Diligence, as much as anything, is the critical component to the success of what becomes “your system.”

Your System

I’ll talk about this more later. My system is an amalgamation of systems, strategies and tools I've been exposed to, my own ideas, and an understanding of how I work. I’ll teach you aspects of the systems I use but in the end, you must make the systems work for you. In doing that, you will likely create a unique system — your system.

As you hear about or ponder new systems, strategies and tools, don’t be afraid to try something out and see how it fits. And don’t be afraid to drop what seems outdated or simply does not work.

Develop Baseline Requirements for Successful Systems

Don’t over think this, because, as indicated above, your requirements will change as you begin using, adopting or creating your system.

One of the critical lessons I teach in project development and entrepreneurship is that “action beats analysis” every time!  I’m not suggesting that no forethought or planning occur, but as with agile development (that works), analysis, with rapid action and adjustment during the process, creates better analysis, i.e., you learn more in the first four weeks implementing your new endeavor (business or project) than you did in the six months of planning prior to that implementation.

Still, here are a couple baseline requirements I have for my system. You may use these as starting points or create your own list.

Accessible

Mobility and Cloud: That’s important to me. I love my laptop but it isn't with me all the time. I don’t particularly like working on my phone but I want access to the necessary information.

I also want to know I can get to it from a borrowed computer.

Secure

This is a constant evaluation and consideration. As with anything tech and information based, you should have a policy for your own passwords. (Yeah, IT people suck at this too.) Also, understand and consider how you are accessing your data — and your true risks factors. Does anyone really care about the information?

We can banter security for days, but that's not my goal. Just make sure you are comfortable with yours.

Easy to Maintain

One of the main knocks I have about CRM systems, for instance, is that they are often time and step intensive. Sales people don’t use them for that reason.

A highly integrated but complicated task or project system is rarely conducive to diligent use. And remember, your diligence is the most critical aspect of your system’s success.

Beware feature-itis, and don't believe in silver bullets. Simpler taxonomy/categorization equals information that is easier to find and maintain. Rarely do more complicated systems result in greater clarity. We avoid what is complex and time-consuming.

Done properly, your system should require less than 15 dedicated minutes per day!

Easily Shared/Collaborative

A must for me! If I cannot turn over and provide access to my system for my manager and key team members, too much burden is placed on me. It makes delegation a hassle and creates unnecessary and inefficient roadblocks to your system's effectiveness.

No System Is a Bad System

You know the adage, “failure to plan is to plan to fail.”

This is very true for your time, task and information management strategy...or lack thereof.

One barrier to putting a system in place is the time necessary to do so. There is no avoiding it, you must front-load some work to put a system into place. However, by doing so, you reap long-term rewards.

I’ll make this easier for you. Choose a tool or technology (some ideas below) to list your primary to-do list for the week…but you only get 10 minutes per day to add to and look at this list. Ten minutes is doable for anyone!

I give you permission to use a spreadsheet. You can use Excel or better yet, a Google Sheet (mobility/accessibility) if you are familiar with it. I’ll even allow you to use paper and a pen for the next week. (I’m being facetious, of course. It’s your system. If you want to use a paper and pen and nothing else, that’s your call!)

I’ll have my Google Drive for Team Collaboration piece ready to go next week.

Also, feel free to share the requirements for your system or any related ideas in the comments.

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