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Review - Total Workday Control

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I recently finished reading Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook: The Eight Best Practices of Task and E-Mail Management by Michael Linenberger. I am not naturally a big fan of Outlook, as its features seem rather pedestrian in comparison to other information management software I've used. But it does have a few advantages: it integrates seamlessly with my Treo Pocket PC phone, email can be searched with my current desktop search engine (Copernic Desktop Search 2), and Outlook's features are so boring that I find I am less distracted with trying to do cool things and end up just getting my work done.

Michael's system gives big nods to Getting Things Done in many places, and if you are already following GTD there are still some good tips here. TWC also serves as a standalone system, so you may benefit the most if you don't already have a personal workflow system in place - this is a very specific, hands-on explanation that would be an ideal starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed, haven't evaluated any system at all, and use Outlook by choice or necessity. The main differences from GTD are no mention of contexts and the grouping of tasks into two main sets based on whether they are dated or undated.

The best idea for me was the strategy to create a dated subset of all next actions. This seems to work much better for me than having to look at a list of 300 @computer items. Essentially the TaskPad view in Outlook becomes a task tickler file where the tasks you MUST complete today, along with the ones you plan to complete today, are in front of you in a short, manageable list. This requires a few minutes of daily planning first thing in the morning just to make sure that short list is both challenging and feasible, but the payoff is certainly worth it to me. Reviewing ten or fifteen items at a time is simply more efficient than scanning a huge list.

There are some useful tricks in the book, and although people already obsessed with productivity who read all the blogs, etc., may not find enough new material to be satisfied, I always enjoy evaluating a complete system that is explained thoroughly. It's also a system that's flexible enough to be integrated into what you are already doing with GTD and your own personal hacks.

Posted by murt at 12:34 PM


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