Nearly every weekend, I perform a routine set of tasks that clear my head, clear my desk, and knock out some of the “busy” work that plague me from focusing on my real work.
I like doing it on the weekend, as it seems like a good time to reset everything, clear the decks, and set the table for the coming week.
As a minimalist, this process of mine shouldn’t surprise you, but I find it very liberating. We all get distracted by mindless tasks. We all procrastinate, and performing this weekend ritual sort of gives me permission, and a short window, to bang out a bunch of (nearly) meaningless tasks.
I say (nearly) meaningless. This is actually important stuff. I liken it to maintaining your yard work. If you tend to it regularly, your landscaping always looks nice, and is easy to maintain. If you let it fester, your yard becomes unruly, and then it is a massive project to get caught up.
Doing a little weekly maintenance keeps things in order and under control.
The following are part of my process. I keep a checklist maintained in Evernote, print it out (nearly) every Saturday morning, and work through the weekend to check of the list. Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes. Sometimes it takes me a few hours (over both Saturday and Sunday).
Some of these things will make sense to you. Some won’t. And there are things you should add to YOUR list that won’t make any sense for me. So here goes:
[In no particular order]
REVIEW HIGHRISE Highrise is my operating system, and I run my business and manage my activities through this cloud-based system. Most of my activities below ultimately lead to an action item placed in Highrise, which I’ll stipulate below. Thus, each weekend during maintenance, I review my To Dos and do three things: Remove items I took care of, adjust existing items to URGENT, or remove stuff that is no longer important or relevant. This process is where I set my priorities for the week.
CLEAR VOICE MEMOS Using my iPhone voice recorder, over the course of the week, I capture voice notes to myself, reminders, To Dos, and ideas for content. I might record a half-dozen (or more) of these things. I don’t worry about doing anything with them until I process them during maintenance. And to be honest, going several days without thinking about these ideas usually leads me to deleting them, for many aren’t very good ideas at all.
CLEAR GOOGLE VOICE All voicemails and texts cycle through my Google Voice account, and I generally process most of these during the week. But during maintenance, I quickly scan and delete everything, or move calls to return to Highrise.
INBOX ZERO I just published my INBOX ZERO MANIFESTO, which you can read here. This manifesto explains my reasoning about why I strive for INBOX ZERO. And although I do this daily, I include it in my maintenance routine anyways. There’s just something about knowing you are starting the new week with a clean slate.
CLEAR DESKTOP MACBOOK FOLDER
CLEAR SAVED CALLS SKYPE FOLDER
CLEAR MACBOOK DOWNLOADS FOLDER Over the course of a week, I download, consume, and create a lot of digital files, such as recording raw audio for podcasts, capturing screen shots, downloading PDFs, etc. During maintenance, I review all of these folders and process, move to the right place in Dropbox/Evernote, or simply delete. Monday morning, these files are empty…waiting for new stuff.
CLEAR MOLESKINE NOTEBOOK Over the course of the week, I jot down countless notes, doodles, scratches, and diagrams. Days later, half of these random notes are meaningless, and I check them off. But the other half are action items that need attention, and I move them to Highrise.
PROCESS/REVIEW IPHONE/IPAD NOTES Usually at 4AM, when I am wide awake and thinking, I jot down notes and ideas to myself on my iPhone/iPad. At this hour, my wife is sound asleep and my dogs are snoring, this is some quiet time to write down some notes on things I am thinking about in the wee hours. As part of maintenance, I translate these late night scribbles, and if worth pursuing, transfer them to actions items in Highrise.
CLEAR IPHONE/IPAD PHOTOS/VIDEOS Over the course of a week, I take a ton of pictures and videos on both my iPhone and iPad. 90% of them are deleted. Some are of my important guests in my studio or on a trade show floor. But that’s the purpose of maintenance, deleting the crap that seems relevant at the time when I snapped the photo.
CLEAR THUMB DRIVE Over the week, I record a bunch of interviews at my studio. I put all of those on my thumb drive. During maintenance, I transfer what needs saving.
REVIEW RAW SKYPE FOLDER Similar to the last one, over the week, I record a TON of conversations over Skype. I have software that automatically saves all these conversations. A majority need to be tossed. That’s what maintenance is for. Some are saved, edited, and published.
REVIEW TEXT MESSAGES Like you, I receive one thousand text messages each week. I review that roll, and delete most, moving to Highrise the things that need action.
PROCESS PHYSICAL INBOX Yeah, believe it or not, I still maintain a physical inbox. Yes, with actual paper. I cannot stand it when this thing has even one item in it. But over the course of a busy week, I get behind, and during maintenance, I process (which means shred, file, or take action on) each item in my physical inbox.
PROCESS BACKPACK Over the course of a week, especially if I am traveling on a trade show radio gig, I accumulate a lot of crap in various and sundry pockets of my backpack. As part of maintenance, I routinely clean out and discard all of the crap and junk that accumulates.
CHARGE DESKTOP SPEAKER I have a small, hand-sized Bluetooth speaker on which I listen to music when working (and traveling). As part of maintenance, I charge this device whilst focusing on other tasks.
CHARGE IPAD CHARGERS Same thing. Every weekend, I check to be sure that my auxiliary iPad charging units are fully charged. This is particularly important if I am on the road on a trade show gig.
CHECK TWITTER DIRECT MESSAGES
CHECK FACEVBOOK PRIVATE MESSAGES
CHECK LINKEDIN MESSAGES Over the course of a week, I get dozens and dozens of private messages sent to me via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I generally manage them as I get them, but oftentimes these get lost in the daily shuffle. Reviewing these during maintenance just ensures that I didn’t overlook anything. Most of these actions items get pushed into Highrise.
PROCESS BUSINESS CARDS I don’t get as many business cards as I used to, but I still use Evernote to photograph the cards, sync to LinkedIn, and take any appropriate action. I do this each week during maintenance.
DEDUPE CONTACTS I am a Google guy, and use their platform as my main contact database. But using Gmail, iPhone, iPad, and Evernote to process, each maintenance session I run through and dedupe my lists to be sure things are synced amongst all my devices.
SCAN HIGHRISE (AGAIN) As you now know, I feed a lot of content into HIGHRISE over the course of the week. And over the course of the week, I will complete tasks, add tasks, remove tasks – and sometimes I miss things. So during maintenance, I review my ENTIRE to do list, and make sure I didn’t miss anything. This usually entails multiple steps: delete things I forgot to remove, add tasks I forgot to add, remove duplicative tasks, or delete things that are no longer relevant (this happens a lot).
So that’s it for now. This process continuously evolves, and changes often. This version is as of June 2014. I promise to update this post as my process changes.
But you get the point. Half of what you see here won’t apply to you. But you get the idea. The point? Make a list of things to review EACH weekend, in a serious attempt to keep and maintain UNcreative, yet very important tasks to keep on top of your workflow.
These are the kinds of little things that lead to procrastination. But if you keep on top of it, and focus for a little bit each weekend, your BUSINESS WEEKS can remain free to focus on the IMPORTANT AND CREATIVE WORK your clients expect of you.
Learn other hacks to rock your business operations!
Photo from unsplash.