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Make Every List Count – Don’t Note Everything

Make Every List Count – Don’t Note Everything

Make every piece of information you record count. Dumping all the information and notes you find and organizing them later means that you’ve sifted through the information twice. This is a waste of your time and doubles the amount of effort required to get to the information that you really want to keep and tremendously hard to sift through when you need to find that nugget of information that makes sense.

Here’s a typical scenario. When listening to a lecture, talk or class; it’s not uncommon to see someone with a dictaphone recording the whole talk. You may think this is a great idea because then they will have all the information stored and can go back and listen to the entire talk again. Not so, most likely they will listen back to the recording and make notes or lists from the talk. They are effectively summarizing it and editing out the information. But they could have done this the first time round. They are repeating an exercise they could have performed initially when they first heard the talk.

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What Happens if You Record Everything

Dumping notes are a bad habit. You get the false idea that you can easily get all the information that you need, whereas what It actually leads to is a mountain of unprocessed notes and you will eventually reach a point where your ‘inbox’ is full of recordings, clips and papers that become a major procrastination point. A few days or weeks later, you look back at your pile of unprocessed notes and get into a panic about, not only finding the correct note, but also processing it.

Process As You Go

When you create a list, everything you write or record has to count. It’s a great way to summarize and organize your notes into digestible pieces. When you are at a talk, making list notes is a more effective way of capturing all the information because it requires you to process what is presented whilst it’s ongoing. This gives the added benefit of you analyzing what is said so that if you do have any relevant questions, you can ask them. Having the points in list form makes it easier to go through your notes to raise the right questions. Dumping all the information and processing it later ensures that you fail to collect more relevant answers to the questions you may have. You discover the questions too late.

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Processed lists are easier to organize. That big pile that you have is likely, unorganized and in a generic pile. Now that you process them as you go, you can file them into the right place so that you know where it is when it’s time to use that list. No more relying on search functions. A few days later, someone asks for your opinion on the talk… well you’ve already processed it all and can retrieve it easily in a form that you can easily understand.

Why It Works

You’ll be prepared.

Because you’ve already processed your list is now full of all the data that counts, you’ve effectively created a cheat sheet in advance. There’s no need to sift through the mountain of papers (or virtual notes) and then have to filter out the unimportant things because it’s already been done. This means you can apply laser focus to your objective.

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Reduced Procrastination.

A big factor that effects your ability to get things done is how much preparation you need to do before you get down to it. If you’re planning a meal having to sift through a big pile of unorganized recipes that are bundled together in video clips, writing and notes that you previously stored becomes a massive hurdle to get over before you even start on any recipe. It becomes easier to order a delivery or go out. But if you have already processed your list and instructions, it becomes much simpler to pick out the recipe and follow the list that you created that shows you how to cook that meal.

It’s Always Ready.

You’re updating your website and there’s a widget that you wanted to add. You’ve already processed your list so that it contains the code that you want. It’s just a case of grabbing the code and adding the code for the widget. There isn’t the need to search for it again on the web, read through the documents again and find the widget amongst all the documentation. You’ve already prepared it.

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It Removes Duplicate Work

“I’ll deal with it later.” Then you dump all that information into a note. Before you did that, you already read it once. That means, if and when you get round to “dealing with it” you’ll be reading it again to process and then summarizing. That’s work you could have completed the first time round and made you more productive.

Common Uses

I’ve already shown how this method can be used for lectures or talks. Here are some other methods it can be used for.

  • Movie Lists – You store a bunch of reviews that you go through later to decide what type of movie it is. By processing this when you come across the review, your list will contain short concise descriptions to about the movie. There’s no need to go through a big pile of reviews that you’ve collected just to find something to watch.
  • Job Applications – You’re job hunting and you’ve collected up a pile of job descriptions. Pre-processing each job description requires you to evaluate the opportunity and helps you to list down the relevant information about each job. When you decide which jobs to apply for, there’s no need to filter through all the descriptions again because that’s already been completed.
  • Apartment Hunting – A big bunch of online descriptions for a variety of houses or apartments that you may be interested in. Dumping them all into one note makes it harder to sift through. Instead, read through each description and separate them out into different lists – bedrooms? location? By preprocessing, it becomes much easier to compare each property before evaluating which place to make an offer on (whether you are buying or renting).

More by this author

Hoi Wan

Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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