Use Quick Notes

Don’t let random ideas interrupt your productivity

Good ideas can happen at any time – which is good and bad.  While creativity is key to competitive advantage, you still have to maintain productivity if you want to get anything done.  David Allen goes into great detail describing how the mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

So, how to clear your head without losing these great ideas?  I recommend the use of Quick Notes.  Windows is able to call up Quick Notes from any application.  You just have to use the keyboard shortcut ÿ+n (Windows key and the letter n). This will pop up a stickie-note window.  Now, simply jot down the thought or idea on this note, with just enough information that you can make sense of it later – do NOT try to capture and clarify.  Just capture the idea.

After capturing the idea, go back to whatever you were working on, giving it your full attention.

Later, such as your next break or at the end of the day, review your Quick Notes. At this time you can make an initial attempt at clarifying the idea, expanding and filling in details such you can identify any actions that you need to take.

Creating Quick Notes

  1. From whatever application you are using, use ÿ+n.
  2. Type your thought, idea or reminder on the new note.
  3. Return to whatever you were doing.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Usar Quick Notes (notas rápidas)

No dejes que las ideas aleatorias interrumpan tu productividad

Las buenas ideas pueden ocurrir en cualquier momento, lo cual es bueno y malo.  Mientras que la creatividad es la clave para la ventaja competitiva, todavía tienes que mantener la productividad si quieres hacer algo.  David Allen explica con gran detalle describiendo cómo la mente es para tener ideas, no para mantenerlas.

Entonces, ¿cómo despejar la cabeza sin perder estas grandes ideas?  Recomiendo el uso de Notas Rápidas (Quick Notes).  Windows es capaz de llamar a Quick Notes desde cualquier aplicación.  Sólo tienes que usar el atajo de teclado ÿ+n. Esto hará que aparezca una ventana de notas.  Ahora, simplemente anota el pensamiento o la idea en esta nota, con la suficiente información para que puedas darle sentido más tarde – NO intentes guardar y aclarar.  Sólo guarda la idea.

Después de guardar la idea, vuelve a lo que estabas trabajando, dándole toda tu atención.

Más tarde, como en su próximo descanso o al final del día, revise sus Notas Rápidas. En este momento puedes hacer un intento inicial de aclarar la idea, ampliando y completando los detalles, de manera que puedas identificar cualquier acción que necesites hacer.

Creación de Quick Notes

  1. Desde cualquier aplicación que estés usando, usa ÿ+n.
  2. Escriba su pensamiento, idea o recordatorio en la nueva nota.
  3. Vuelva a lo que estaba haciendo.

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Usar las notas de reunión

Antes, durante y después de las reuniones

La función de notas de reuniones de office 365 conecta el Calendario de Outlook con Microsoft OneNote. Sirve como una gran herramienta para prepararse antes de una reunión, guardar elementos de acción durante la reunión y luego revisar las notas después de la reunión.

Dentro de Microsoft Outlook, el Calendario guarda las reuniones y citas.  Al seleccionar una reunión, aparece el icono de Meeting Notes en la cinta de la barra de herramientas. Si usted es el organizador de la reunión, tiene la opción de tomar notas para todos. De lo contrario, puede optar por tomar notas sólo para usted.

Una vez que elija si desea compartir sus notas, Microsoft Office crea una nueva página en OneNote.  La página incluirá los detalles de la reunión como una sección de encabezado.  Debajo del encabezado, se proporciona un espacio para tomar notas.  Si tiene una tableta con lápiz, puede utilizar este espacio para tomar notas escritas a mano.

Si alguna de las notas requiere una acción, puede marcar ese elemento para su seguimiento mediante la función Tareas de Outlook.  Los elementos marcados aparecerán en la lista de tareas de Outlook y en Microsoft To Do.

La función Notas de la reunión facilita la búsqueda de las notas guardadas de varias maneras.  Si tiene una estructura de OneNote bastante organizada, puede, por supuesto, navegar por las carpetas de OneNote para localizar la nota.  Si recuerda el tema de la reunión, los asistentes o las palabras clave, puede utilizar esta información en el campo de búsqueda de OneNote.  Si sabe cuándo se celebró la reunión, probablemente la forma más fácil de encontrar las Meeting Notes sea abrir el elemento del Calendario de Outlook y hacer clic en Notas de la reunión.  Office localizará y abrirá la Nota de reunión asociada a ese elemento del Calendario. De este modo, las Notas de reunión le permiten prepararse antes de la reunión guardando sus propios elementos de debate y recordatorios.  Durante la reunión, puede anotar respuestas y otros elementos de interés. Después de la reunión, puede revisar sus notas para identificar y luego marcar cualquier elemento de acción.

Creación de notas de reunión

  1. En el Calendario de Outlook, cree o seleccione un elemento.
  2. En la ficha Reunión, haga clic en Meeting Notes.
  3. En la ventana emergente, elija si desea crear notas compartidas o tomar notas por su cuenta.

Office creará una Meeting Note en OneNote.

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Use Meeting Notes

Before, during and after meetings

The meeting notes feature of Office 365 connects Outlook Calendar with Microsoft OneNote. It serves as a great tool for preparing prior to a meeting, capturing action items during the meeting and then reviewing notes after the meeting.

Within Microsoft Outlook, Calendar captures meetings and appointments.  When you select a meeting, the Meeting Notes icon displays in the toolbar ribbon. If you are the meeting organizer, you have the option of taking notes for everyone. Otherwise, you can choose to take notes just for yourself.

Once you choose whether to share your notes, Microsoft Office creates a new page in OneNote.  The page will include the meeting details as a header section.  Below the header, a space is provided for taking notes.  If you have a tablet with pen capabilities, you can use this space to capture handwritten notes.

If any of the notes represents an action, you can flag that item for follow-up using the Outlook Tasks feature.  Flag items will show up in the Outlook Task list and in Microsoft To Do.

The Meeting Notes feature makes it easy to find your captured notes in multiple ways.  If you have a fairly organized OneNote structure, you can of course browse through your OneNote folders to locate the note.  If you recall the meeting subject, attendees or key words, you can use this information in the OneNote Search field.  If you know when the meeting occurred, probably the easiest way to find the Meeting Notes is to open the Outlook Calendar item and click Meeting Notes.  Office will then locate and open the Meeting Note associated with that Calendar item.

Thus, Meeting Notes allows you to prepare before the meeting by capturing your own discussion items and reminders.  During the meeting, you can capture responses and other items of interest. After the meeting, you can review your notes to identify and then flag any action items.

Creating Meeting Notes

  1. In Outlook Calendar, create or select an item.
  2. In the Meeting tab, click on Meeting Notes.
  3. In the pop-up window, choose whether to create shared notes or to take notes on your own.

Office creates a Meeting Note in OneNote.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Correos electrónicos de bandera

Da un paso hacia la ‘bandeja de entrada a cero’

Casi todos los sistemas de productividad recomiendan mantener una bandeja de entrada de correo electrónico vacía, o casi vacía.  La sola idea de mover los correos electrónicos de la bandeja de entrada aterroriza a algunas personas.  Temen que nunca serán capaces de encontrar lo que necesitan, cuando lo necesitan.

No voy a entrar en la filosofía de la Bandeja de Entrada a Cero, ya que hay muchos sitios web que pueden cubrir el concepto en profundidad.

Para lograr una bandeja de entrada de tamaño manejable, recomiendo el uso de banderas de seguimiento dentro de Microsoft Outlook.  Estas banderas permiten marcar aquellos correos electrónicos que requieren algún tipo de acción por su parte.  Veamos un ejemplo.

Considera un correo electrónico que recibes que tiene algunas acciones específicas que debes realizar. Como se muestra en el vídeo, Alice tiene dos acciones que deben realizarse.  Rápidamente escanea las acciones y determina que no se pueden realizar en menos de dos minutos. Por lo tanto, decide abordarlas más tarde.

Para asegurarse de no dejar que estas acciones queden olvidadas, utiliza la función de seguimiento del panel de Outlook Home. Los valores por defecto le permiten marcarlo para Hoy, Mañana, o alguna fecha personalizada. Como necesita aclarar cuáles son exactamente las acciones, selecciona Hoy. Esto no significa que vaya a realizar las acciones hoy, pero al menos va a planear cómo va a completar estas tareas.

Una vez que seleccione Hoy, aparecerá una bandera roja en la lista de correo electrónico junto al panel de vista previa.  Ahora puede arrastrar el correo electrónico a su carpeta de archivos, confiando en que podrá encontrar ese correo electrónico más tarde.

Exactamente, ¿cómo lo encontrará más tarde?  Utiliza las carpetas de búsqueda.  La ventana de  Nueva carpeta de búsqueda le permite buscar en todas las carpetas de su cuenta de correo electrónico.  Cuando haga clic en esa carpeta, cualquier correo electrónico que haya sido marcado para su seguimiento aparecerá en esta carpeta de búsqueda. (Sin embargo, mejor no empezar con el debate de Etiquetas vs. Carpetas. Esa es una discusión para otro día).

Creación de carpetas de búsqueda

  1. En el panel de navegación, haga clic con el botón derecho del ratón en Carpetas de búsqueda y elija Nueva carpeta de búsqueda…
  2. En la ventana que se abre, Seleccionar una carpeta de búsqueda, en Leer correo, seleccione Correo marcado para el seguimiento.
  3. Haz clic en Aceptar para cerrar la ventana que se ha abierto.
  4. En el panel de navegación, expanda Carpetas de búsqueda para mostrar la carpeta de búsqueda Para seguimiento.

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Flag Emails

Take a step towards ‘inbox zero’

Just about every productivity system recommends maintaining an empty, or nearly empty, email inbox.  The very idea of moving emails out of the inbox terrifies some people.  They fear they will never be able to find what they need, when they need it.

I am not going to go into the philosophy of Inbox Zero, as there are plenty of websites that can cover the concept in-depth.

To achieve an inbox of manageable size, I recommend the use of follow-up flags within Microsoft Outlook.  These flags allow you to mark those emails that require some sort of action on your part.  Let’s look at an example.

Consider an email that you receive that has some specific actions that you need to take. As shown in the video, Alice has two actions that need to be taken.  She quickly scans the actions and determines that they cannot be done in under two minutes. As such, she decides to address these later.

To ensure she does not let these actions get buried, she uses the Follow Up feature on the Outlook Home ribbon. The defaults allow you to mark it for Today, Tomorrow, or some custom date. Since she needs to clarify what exactly the actions are, she selects Today. This does not mean that she is going to perform the actions today, but she is at least going to plan how she is going to complete these tasks.

Once she selects Today, a red flag appears on the email listing next to the Preview pane.  She can now drag the email to her Archive folder, confident she will be able to find that email later today.

Exactly how does she find it later?  She uses Search Folders.  The New Search Folder dialog allows her to search all of the folders within her email account.  When she clicks on that folder, any email that has been flagged for follow-up will appear in this search folder. (Don’t get me started on Tags vs Folders, though. That’s a discussion for another day.)

Creating Search Folders

  1. In the Navigation pane, right-click on Search Folders and choose New Search Folder…
  2. In the Select a Search Folder dialog, under Reading Mail, select Mail flagged for follow up.
  3. Click OK to close the dialog box.
  4. In the Navigation pane, expand Search Folders to display the For Follow Up search folder.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Checklists

When it has to be done right

We often perform task analysis for clients – identifying those tasks performed frequently, as well as complex or important tasks.  When we identify task that meet these criteria, we typically recommend the use of a checklist to help ensure correct performance.

Besides consistent performance, a checklist has the benefit of capturing improvements to performance.  Any additional steps, or modifications to a step, can be easily incorporated into the process by editing the checklist.  Every time you do the job, you perform it at least as smart, if not smarter, than the last time.

As well, checklists make knowledge sharing easier.  Should someone else need to perform a job, such as when your responsibilities change or you need to be away from the office, providing them a copy of the checklists increases the likelihood that the job will still get done properly.

First thing, I recommend that you make two groups within Microsoft To Do: one group called Checklists, for all of your new checklists that you are going to create. I also recommend that you create a second group called Used Checklists. Microsoft does not allow you to just ‘archive’ a checklist after usage. So, if every time you use a checklist, you just keep duplicating the ‘master,’ your Checklist group will fill up pretty fast.  This will make it difficult to find the masters checklists in the future. Thus, you have two options.  You can delete the checklist once it is completed;  or, if you create a Used Checklist group, you can put the completed lists there.  I prefer the latter, as I like to keep past checklist for future reference. Should I something go wrong, I can go back and confirm I performed all the required steps or consider if I need to edit the list for future use.

With the folders created, now we can create our new lists. Let’s consider a scenario where we need to create a relatively complex report on a monthly basis.  Our first task involves getting data from all the regions, so we make each region a step in the task.  After the new data is loaded, we need to refresh the pivot tables within the workbook.

Oh, yes, last month one of the managers noticed that the graphs did not reflect the data shown in the pivot tables.  So, let’s add a step to also verify that the charts are correct.

Now that we have our ‘master’ list, we add it to the Checklist group.  For April, we duplicate the report checklist and move it outside the group folder.  We then check off the steps as they are performed.  Once the checklist is done, we have confidence the reports are accurate and complete. We now simply drag the checklist down to Used Checklists for future reference.

Another checklist could be reviewing presentations prior to a sales call. Some things we want to check before getting in front of the client: spelling and grammar (always!); fact check (are the quoted prices correct?); graphics and company branding (no ‘your name here’ entries).

The third example is prepping for a meeting.  Does the meeting actually have an agenda?  Do you have ready access to all of the relevant support materials?  Have the attendees confirmed?

As per David Allen’s GTD strategy, we now spend less brain power remembering all the necessary steps and more brain power on the quality of the work.

In brief:

To Do Setup

Create two new groups:

  1. Checklists
  2. Used Checklists

Create Checklists

  1. Click New List.
  2. Name the checklist.
  3. Optional: Add an icon.
  4. Add tasks to the list.
  5. Optional: Add steps to tasks.
  6. Drag the list to the Checklists group.

Use a Checklist

  1. Make a copy of the ‘master’ version of the checklist.
  2. Rename the copied checklist.
  3. Move the copy out of the Checklist folder.
  4. Mark off tasks as you complete them.
  5. After completing all tasks within the list, either:
    1. Drag the list to Used Checklists group for future reference.
    1. Or, delete the checklist completely.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Use Weekly Reminders

Keep up with less frequent tasks

Besides the daily routines, you probably have tasks that you perform on a regular basis – just not every day.  To keep on top of these, add them to a list along with an appropriate frequency.

To create the list, perform the following:

  1. With MS To Do open, in the left-side pane, click on +New List.
  2. Rename the list to as appropriate (Other Recurring, Weekly Tasks, Monthly Tasks, etc.), and optionally add an icon.
  3. Use the new item list at the bottom to add the tasks you want to perform on a regular basis.
  4. Click on each item to open the edit pane on the right.
  5. Set a Repeat frequency.
  6. Set the first date that the task should be performed.

These tasks will now appear in the Today tasks (the lightbulb in the top left corner in the My Day view), based on their due date.

A twist on this concept: Recall that Pavlov’s dog demonstrated that the best way to encourage a desired behavior is with irregular reinforcement.  We can put this to practice using our weekly reminders.  However, in this case we change the day around every week. 

For example, consider that your company may require staff to lock their screens before leaving their desks.  To help maintain this, you may perform a weekly walkthrough to verify compliance.  Thus, you set a reminder with a frequency of Weekly.  In this case, after completing the walkthrough change the day of the week for the next walkthrough.  Most importantly, be sure that you report the results of your walkthroughs to the team in a positive way in order to encourage continued compliance.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Get a Routine

Create a ‘Daily Routine’ to start each day off right

The second tip takes the ‘top goals’ one step further. Besides the issues that change from day-to-day, there are tasks that you need to perform at the beginning of every day.  Capturing these tasks serves at least two purposes.

For one thing, it has you start your day off proactively rather than reactively.  As an example, your first routine task may be to review your calendar – take a look at any meetings you have for the day.  This way, you will not be surprised when you get a reminder in the middle of lunch for a meeting your forgot about that starts in fifteen minutes.

A routine also allows you do get all of those little tasks of the day out of the way right from the start.  For instance, you may put your phone on silent at the beginning of the workday to keep from disturbing others.  Or, maybe you put your phone on silent when home to keep from waking the whole house up when it rings at two in the morning.  Either way, you can add ‘check phone volume’ as a task you do first thing every morning.

To create your Daily Routine, perform the following:

  1. With MS To Do open, in the left-side pane, click on +New List.
  2. Rename the list to Daily Routine, and optionally add an icon.
  3. Use the new item list at the bottom to add the tasks you want to perform every day.
  4. Click on each item to open the edit pane on the right.
  5. Set a Repeat frequency.  For ‘daily’ items, you can choose either ‘Daily’ or ‘Weekdays’.

To use the list, perform the following each morning:

  1. Select all items.
  2. Right-click and choose Add to My Day.
  3. Check each item off as you work through your daily routine.

As you use this tip regularly, you will likely start finding a lot of items that will help get your day off to a strong start.  When that happens, simply add it to your daily routine.  Personally, I have noticed a big difference in my satisfaction with the day when I was able to start off with my routine.  Those days that I come in fighting fires right off the bat feel like they go on forever all the while making me feel like I am neglecting the ‘important but not urgent’ items.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Capture the important stuff right from the start

Use MS To Do “My Day” to capture top goals for every day.

Productivity can start before you arrive at your work space. Many people begin contemplating their day within a few minutes of the alarm going off in the morning. We often have moments of clarity before we get engulfed in the ‘fog of war.’ It is not uncommon for me to see clearly what it is I want to accomplish today before I get my first cup of coffee, only to lose that vision during the morning commute.

The first tip is to use Microsoft ‘My Day’ to capture your top goal at the start of every day.  This is basically what Stephen Covey refers to as a ‘first generation’ time management tool.  All we are doing at this stage is writing down one to three things you are going to accomplish by the end of the day, using the Microsoft To Do application to capture those actions.  Although these tasks are probably ‘tactical’ (or else you could not finish them by the end of the day), they should be strategic in nature – maybe a small step towards a much larger, long-term goal you want to accomplish.

By using To Do, your list is available to you at your desk, your tablet and even your phone. So, while making your morning cup of coffee, you can use your phone to easily capture those things you are definitely going to do once you get to your office.  Because once you actually arrive at your desk, there is no telling what fires are going to distract you from being truly effective today.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.