Zero Inbox Solution

One of the most effective forms of communication, has for many become a frusrating distraction. Their inboxes are filled with hundreds or thousands of earlier emails.

Several years ago Merlin Mann introduced the “Inbox Zero” concept to create greater efficiency and productivity around email. Here are a few simple steps to implement and maintain your inbox. 

Step One: Think Process not Storage

Your email inbox is not an archive, it is a temporary holding area for email to be processed, and not a file cabinet to store hundreds or thousands of emails. This is the first step and requires a change in our thinking. Our inbox is where we change information into actions. We are not just checking to take orders like a clerk behind a counter, but to transform through action.

To set up your Zero Inbox Solution create three new folders: Archive, Delegate, Defer.

Step Two: Delete (or archive)

When you look at an email ask does this require action or not? If it does not require action, then delete by moving it to the trash, unless it is something you need to reference in the future, then move it to archive. The search capabilities built into your email program will allow you to find the email quickly in the future if needed.

Step Three: Delegate

If the email requires action, but someone else it better able to handle this, then forward the email to the other person and replace “Fwd” in the subject line to the Name of the person you are forwarding to and add “due xx/xx” with a month and day in the future when you expect to hear from them. Example, "Bill 11/02: Proposal for Account”. Now cc yourself and trash the original message and place the copy in the Delegate folder. 

Step Four: Do

If the email is something you need to do and can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now, as David Allen teaching is Getting Things Done. Then trash or archive the message.

Step Five: Defer

If the email is something you need to do and can not be done in the next two minutes then move to the Defer folder. If there is a specific due date forward a copy of the email to yourself and replace “Fwd” in the subject line with the due date, so you can prioritize in the future. 

Every email will fit into one of these simple action buckets. Throughout the day let you emails collect in your inbox. Turn off your notifications, sounds and alarms. Set aside two or more specific times each day when you will process your email, and deal with each email message once. Either Delete, Archive, Delegate, Do, or Defer. Your goal is to delete a lot and defer only a few. Most emails should be deleted or archived immediately. Some will require delegation or action, and the least number should be deferred. 

Implementation From Where You Are Today

Whether you have a hundred or thousands of emails in your inbox at present you can find the freedom of a Zero Inbox Solution in a very short period of time by doing the following. 

Set aside an hour and take all the emails that are over six months old and move to Archive. They are still searchable and because they are so old, they are not being looked at anyway.

Starting with the oldest remaining emails. quickly scan the subject and content of the emails moving most to Trash and many to Archive. The remaining ones requiring action will either be done in two minutes or go into Delegate, or Defer as necessary. After only a few focused hours doing this, thousands of emails can be processed. Continue until your inbox is empty. 

Daily Maintenance

Every day process all of your email during the several specific times you have scheduled and move each email out of the inbox into its proper place, i.e. Trash, Archive, Delegate, or Defer, if they are not something your Do in two minutes. By the end of the day you should have a Zero Inbox.

Based upon the volume of email you receive daily, you will review the Delegate and Defer folders at least weekly and maybe more often. Your goal is to continue processing items as action requires, moving them eventually to either Trash or Archive.

Congratulations, everything for the day was processed, not necessarily completed, but processed. By continuing these simple steps daily, you will have a Zero Inbox at the end of each day.

Don't Break The Chain

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This is a simple tool to help you incorporate a new habit into your life or practice. Decide on some activity you want to do daily and check of each day it is done. See how many consecutive days you can do. It will not be long before the activity is a habit.

Link to download it here.

Happy New Year to all.

Best Way to Take Notes

I have mentioned this in the past, but have recently been writing and confirmed again how powerful CopyTalk is for capturing notes. In my practice we used digital recorders and paid someone to transcribe our notes. CopyTalk allows to you have unlimited 4-minutes dictations transcribed and emailed to a team member. The notes are then easily cut and pasted into the clients notes. I believe you will find this a valuable tool in your practice and life. I highly recommend you test the trial.
Click on the link below for a free trail:

The Pocket RoadMap™

Get Organized with One Sheet of Paper

The Pocket RoadMap™ is a single sheet of paper folded into six small panels that puts you in control of your life and time. Download the PDF file and print the two pages back to back on one sheet of paper.

Whether you are using GTD or ZTD or any other productivity system the Pocket RoadMap will keep you focused on the most important items each week. Download it for free and give it to your friends. This is a tool your entire team can use.

Video showing how to use the Pocket RoadMap coming soon.

Resistance: Overcoming the Enemy

warofart Occasionally a book comes along that helps us understand our own behavior in a meaningful way. Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art defines for us the nature of our greatest enemy and how to combat what holds us back from the results we desire. Whether you are an artist, writer, entrepreneur, or professional this short book clearly identifies the source of procrastination and internal obstacles to our success in part one. The cure is clearly defined in part two. Like Robert McKee, who wrote the foreword, I too see in part three the effect of inspiration the same and the cause of inspiration differently.

This is a quick read and can immediately be applied to your current practice. Great books can change your life. This in one of them. For more information on The War of Art.

Simplified GTD

Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen revolutionized productivity, though many find it overly complicated. For those of us less inclined to be engineers or lacking follow through, we need a simpler solution. Thank you Leo Babauta for writing Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System.

ad-ztd1 This short book simplifies the entire GTD system down to very specific actions that are easily implemented into your current routine. No longer are you burdened with maintaining a large organization system. You can apply the concepts at you own pace and decide what is most important for your needs.

Leo writes a great blog at ZenHabits.net which is a valuable resource. Take a moment and read this short book, then apply one habit this week and add another when you master the first.

Mastery Level Habits: In Good Time Focus on Clients, In Bad Times Focus on Prospects

The economy will always go up and down. The important habit to master is knowing what to do during the bad times. When things are good focus on your clients because during these times clients are difficult to replace. Everyone is happy with their current relationships. Therefore strengthen your client relationships by helping them fulfill their dreams. This will be easier during the good times. During difficult times, first prepare yourself, see earlier Mastery Habit: Crisis Management. Then settle your clients worries quickly. Remind them that times like these have occurred in the past and will occur in the future. Help them establish a long view of the economy. They have no need to worry. Reconfirm the disciplined process that you have taken them through to determine their needs and the unique solution that they have working for them currently. Do not try to call or contact each client personally, use mass communication tools like email, broadcast fax, letter, podcast, or conference call. The exception to this would be your Top 20 Clients who you should call after you have sent the mass communication information.

Your mass communication email or letter should include the following:

1. A clear, positive, reasonable response to what is happening currently 2. A statement to calm their worries about the future 3. An opportunity to reassess their risk or comfort level 4. An offer to others they know who are scared or worried and do not have someone like you in their life to help them assess their situation. This offer should be a “no cost, no obligation” offer to assess where they are today, where they want to be in the future, and an action plan to get there.

The last part of your mass communication is most important. This is one of the rare opportunities when you can ask your clients to introduce you to others without any risk. Your clients know others who are scared in times like these and they may not have someone who is returning their calls. You will be surprised at the number of introductions that are only available during difficult times.

Your last action is to renew contact with every prospect you have. They are more open to change during difficult times than any other time.

One important point. This opportunity to focus on prospects is for a limited time only. Once the economy strengthens and the good times return prospects are difficult to move because they are once again happy with their current relationship. Do not miss this opportunity when it comes around. The greatest new growth for a business occurs in difficult times and is exponentially leveraged when things improve.

To review: 1. Prepare yourself 2. Settle clients' worries through a rational argument using mass communication 3. Ask if they feel a need to reassess there risk and comfort level 4. Offer an opportunity to help others they know who are not being communicated with properly 5. Focus on prospects

Mastery Level Habits: Establish a Cruise Speed

Extraordinary teams know their capacity for work. They respect team members’ energy levels and avoid burnout by establishing a cruise speed for the team. When necessary, they increase capacity during crisis, then quickly return to cruise speed. Most businesses run at 100 percent of capacity all the time and have no ability to deal with crisis. The team shuts down as everyone becomes exhausted and demotivated. The best practices value all members of the team and understand that the ability to deliver a consistent solution to clients depends upon the team’s energy and motivation.

Mastery Level Habit: Time Blocks

An outstanding business knows the value of being prepared and defining where to focus its time and effort. It also knows which meetings are most important. A typical business drops everything when the biggest client calls. But this client controls only 5, 10, maybe 20 percent of the business. A great business knows when it meets as a team, or when the business leader thinks alone about the business, it is in control of 100 percent of the business. Team members know that a meeting with themselves is the most important meeting of the week because without the team prepared and focused, everyone loses. The best make team meetings free of interruptions and distractions. They also understand the need for the team leader to have time alone to think, rest, and prepare. These times are blocked on the calendar and protected. The best teams use the calendar to guarantee distraction-free time to plan, think, and prepare. Blocking time allows teams to use the rest of the time to execute and deliver.

Mastery Level Habits: The Art of Dissection

Your ability to handle stress inducing circumstances is directly proportional to your preparation. Those who master the art of business know the art of dissection. They follow a few simple steps to avoid repeating the same stress in the future.

1. Examine the root cause. We normally are dealing with the end result of a situation. Example: the tax crunch of April. What is the cause? The stress of incoming calls and rushing around is the effect. The cause is a transaction that occurred the previous year.

2. Identify a strategy that can change our response and be proactive. Back to our example. Instead of waiting for the crush of work during April we could collect the needed data when the transaction occurs and log it in the client file. Then at the first of the year we could proactively send the client the tax information.

3. Make a habit, procedure, or process so your response is different in the future. From our example: create a logging sheet and post as the transactions occur throughout the year, rather than compiling a years worth of transactions in a few weeks.

The right decision is made before the crisis. It is in the clear light of day that we make a decision and then we execute in the midst of the crisis.

Mastery Level Habits: 15-Minute Feedback Meeting

Your business is your baby and like any parent you want and need feedback from the team about how the baby is doing. Too often the advisor delegates to team members and then worries about whether or not the actions have been executed. This lack of communication is a major cause of team dysfunction.

To increase team productivity meet with each team member weekly for 15-minutes with the following agenda:

1. Feedback - 5-minutes the team member gives feedback on previous delegations
2. Delegation - 5-minutes the boss delegates any new tasks or projects
3. Acceptance - 5-minutes both agree and reprioitize the team member's tasks

This simple 15-minutes weekly meeting will eliminate the excessive workload many team members face and will also remove the anxiety of many managers concerning delegations.

15-minutes a week can transform your team.

Mastery Level Habits: Life Planning

Set aside a day to do Life Planning, not just business planning. Look at your entire life-to-date. By answering the following four quesitons you will have a better idea about what is most valuable to you going forward.

Four Questions to Ask and Answer

1. What have I accomplished in my life? List all the accomplishments in your life that make you proud. these are the raw material for your knowledge and experience and will be the foundation upon which you will meet and exceed your future dreams.
2. What have I not accomplished, but intended to? List now the dreams that were important in the past and have not yet been accomplished. Some of these will still be valid and desireable.
3. What are the challenges and problems I face today? Looking at your life now, what challenges do you face today? Because of your past experiences you are more capable in some areas of your life and less capable in others. I am wiser than I was when I was 20, but I can not physically do the same things I once could.
4. What are the opportunities that are available to me right now? List the opportunities, both personal and business, that are available to you.

You can now look at your Roadmap for Change and jump start your new year. For a blank Roadmap for Change form go to the Downloads page.

Lloyd Recommends

Dedicating yourself to being a lifetime learner is the greatest gift you can give yourself and those around you. The following are twelve books I recommend unconditionally.

Reading a book a month will impact your personal and business life.

Peter Drucker influenced much of my thought and practice over the years. This book is a compilation of essential ideas from twenty five of his best business writing. Pine and Gilmore redefined marketing.

David Allen helps us to understand that actions always take place with a specific context. Without having a system to handle the daily stuff of our life, we are held back by the thoughts and messes in our lives.

These three writers help us look at the world differently and with purpose. They give us new tools to re-imagine our future.

These three books are life companions of mine. I read each, every year, and will continue to do the same forever. These book are life transformers.

Click on these titles and look inside each for the value they contain.

Do you have a special book you would recommend we read? Please comment below.

Annual Refresh

One of the powerful features of technology is the ability to refresh or restart whenever needed. It cleans up the mess and starts everything over fresh. It would be nice to have a refresh button on our lives sometimes. For many years, I have used the first week of December to be my Annual Refresh time. Let us look at three specific areas and see how an Annual Refresh can energize our year.

Files

I go through all my files and trash all the unnecessary or unneeded files or papers. This alone keeps the files drawers weeded to a manageable size. Try it. Set aside a day and with a large trash can in hand, open up the file cabinet and start with the first file folder. Ask yourself is this a file I need to keep? If not trash. Can I get this information elsewhere if needed in the future? If so trash. If you need to keep the file then look through the contents and see if any of the contents can be trashed. Continue from A to Z. You will feel great when it is done. If you are scared you might be trashing something you really do need. Then place all the removed files in a bankers box. Store them for a year. And next year when you do the Annual Refresh throw out the previous year’s file. If you have not needed the information you should be comfortable in trashing them permanently.

Planning

The first week in December is also a great time to take a long term look at your life. As David Allen says you need to occasionally look at your life from 50,000 feet. If you are using the RoadMap for Change™, this is a good time to look beyond your three year vision and consider your legacy and relationships. Set aside a morning away from the office, a library or coffee shop works well. Then ask yourself what are the long term things you want to accomplish? What is going on in your life and relationships? What do you want your life to look like in twenty years? Start to storyboard the movie of your life. If you are visual draw a picture or close your eyes and see your future. If you are more analytical, write out the summary of your desires. Later in the week you can connect this to your current projects and set next actions.

Family Time

This month is family time, make emotional deposits into the live of the ones you love. Remember your team extends beyond the ones you work with every day. Look at the section on Ten-Month Planning in my book Attract Clients. This is a great time to commit yourself and your team to accomplishing twelve months of projects in ten months. It works.

Four Box Clean-Up

Personal Productivity - Part 2

Before attempting to think about the future of your business, it is often necessary to clean up all the clutter collected from the past. In this podcast we discuss a simple method to eliminate all the mess.

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Planning: A Three Act Play

Personal Productivity - Part 1

Too often we sit with a pen and paper and just start planning our life from the top-down. Months later, we wonder why we are unable to maintain all the grand plans we made earlier. The enthusiasm and energy, that sustained us during our planning time, see

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Unlocked Treo 650

palm-treo-650.jpgIf you would like a replacement for your planner, cell phone, pager, palm pilot, blackberry, note pad, digital voice recorder, pocket camera, local cyber cafe, and maybe even your computer, look no further. Palm's Treo 650 for Palm OS may just be your answer.

This handheld PDA has replaced almost all the above for me. I can send and recieve email, surf the web, record voice memos, sync with my computer, and generally get things done faster and more effeciently. Leaving me more time to enjoy a good book, a walk in the woods, or just to stand by the shore and watch the waves.

I bought an unlocked Treo 650 rather than buying it from a phone company. I then signed up for the free phone contract with my local provider (must use SIM cards - Cingluar in the States and Rogers in Canada). I then placed the SIM in my Treo and set up my voice mail and email. When I travel to Europe I can purchase or rent a SIM and eliminate the high roaming charges. If you travel alot your Treo phone and multiple SIM cards will keep you in contact, when you want to be contacted. If you are using David Allen's Getting Things Done concepts to manage the stuff in your life you will find the Treo 650 an outstanding productivity tool. For more information go to Unlocked Treo 650.

Every Appointment Creates the Next

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Scheduling appointments is a business necessity. It is the energy by which a business moves forward, yet this laborious activity is often avoided. Whether you do the scheduling yourself, or delegate it to an assistant, the activity is not enjoyable. Therefore the task is often delayed and business productivity suffers. Would you like a process that guarantees every appointment is set without effort and no calls need to be made to set appointments?

This podcast gives you a process to make scheduling effortless.