Clarity is the solution to many problems in a young graduate’s work life. Before a graduate starts work, he is involved mainly in academics. In a day, an undergraduate will have much free time to do as he pleases, to relax and recharge before going for the next lesson. When a young graduate transits to work, this free time would be suddenly robbed from him and there isn’t any time to sort out your thoughts. You just have to continue doing the work that you require to be done.
We get inundated with work and things pile up. Nobody taught us how to deal with these growing piles or to manage this sudden spike in intensity. We lose sight of the things we need to get done and a vicious cycle develops. Because we couldn’t clear the work on time, we end up with having more work and again less times to sort out this growing mess. Less time to prioritise means the wrong things get cleared and the important things become more urgent. And more work piles up and less focus and so on and so forth.
The solution to this entire issue is simple, but not easy. The word is “Clarity”. I’ve searched for “Clarity” throughout the 3 years that I have started working. There are much material online that teaches you various ways of achieving the required focus. Heck, I even bought a book called “Clarity” which I thought would teach me how to become focused. Yet the same book ended up confusing me as it was more of being aware of how we perceive things rather than how to actively sort things out.
I’ve managed to achieve “Clarity” on good days but on bad ones I lose sight again. It isn’t difficult to achieve clarity; it is difficult to sustain it. However, on the days that I manage to get clarity, I end up having an extremely productive day. On days which I lose clarity, I get negative, I feel overwhelmed and I end up thinking, FML.
But what is Clarity.
- Being aware of all the things you need to do
- Being in control
There are different ways that one might use to achieve clarity, and the same method might not work for all. Hence, the purpose of writing is merely to share and encourage others to try it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, well that’s one less method to do.
I manage my clarity through a combination of several mechanisms, but all of which have the same purpose: to be aware of the things I need to do. Here are the things that I do to keep my clarity; I will not go into much depth because that might be a post for another day.
- Managing my “Baskets”. These are not physical baskets but metaphorical ones. I have baskets where I store my to-do lists and the basket serves to group the task by projects. Some examples include “Things to Research”, “Safety” (because I am the Safety Officer), “Mess” (because of my role in the mess) etc. With these baskets, I know what I need to do.
- Managing my “Inbox”. The email inbox can be a daunting mountain to climb. I get an average of 50 emails a day. To fight the email inbox, I try to apply certain techniques (which coincidentally, another blogger had described here) to move through my emails. There are certain things that do not require attention, and there are some which requires more attention. I sort them out into “baskets” based on urgency and at the same time, write them in my project “baskets”. Things that require less than 2 minutes, I do them immediately and for those that require more time, it is off into the sorting hat they go. We have to make it a point to have 0 mail at the end of the day. It is do-able, we just have to believe in it. Things that are good to note for information, I scribble them into a big notebook full of interesting tidbits that help me recall what tasks were done previously but not yet closed.
- Making use of the Trusty Moleskine. I just got my first Moleskine, but previously I was using a notebook from Typo. Whatever works. My personal preference are notebooks that open fully at each page, so both Moleskine and Typo filled the job. I learnt a technique from the internet which I use for my Moleskine. I divide the notebook into segments. You must have at least 2 segments: Tasklist and Scribbles. Tasklist are to account for your baskets and scribbles are what you write in meetings, in short, notes. At the end of the day, the tasks that arise from notes must be transferred to the Tasklist. To manage the scribbles, you can paginate each page. This helps when you have scribbles of the same nature but are not running consecutively as perhaps, another meeting took up that page in between. You can then put “transferred to page 5” for example. Yes, if you read correctly, I have two notebooks (point 2 and point 3).
- Doing Reviews. Reviewing all the things you have written on a periodic basis is important. Your mind cannot remember everything; that is why you wrote them down. If you didn’t review them, you wouldn’t know what you forgot. Reviewing makes you remember what you need to do. There are 2 reviews that we should do, one on a weekly basis and one on a daily basis. The weekly basis review is to consolidate what has been done or what has to be done to give you an overview. The daily review enables you to plan your day. I use a 1-3-5 method to be discussed in another post.
Now, it does seem like a lot of work to be done for clarity. Doesn’t it contribute to more work? Yes it does, but the productivity gained from clarity would offset it. You don’t need much time for review. A 10 minute period each day to look through your task list would help. What you have to take note is to diligently fill up your baskets and review them so you can lessen the tasks listed inside.
Try it and you will see. It worked for me; it might work for you. What is the more difficult thing is to sustain these actions. Personally, I have yet to find a solution to sustaining this effort. If you know of any solutions, share it with me.