Getting It Done

Josie Leavitt - January 24, 2011

Winter Institute 6 may be over, but it’s having a lasting effect on me. After two sessions last Friday about efficiency, I’m raring to get stuff done, as are a lot of my bookselling friends. In fact some of us in New England have publicly stated their goals with dates, to help keep themselves on track.
How many times have you wanted to have two more hours in every day to get your work done? As booksellers, especially in smaller stores, we are interrupted literally by the business of retail: helping customers and selling books. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely thing, but it can make it hard to file co-op reports, plan events or do any of the myriad of tasks that small store owners or managers must do. I was in awe when one Wi6 attendee said she gets a list of books to her display manager when it’s time for a new look in the store. A display manager? Wow! I had no idea there was such a thing. I don’t have a display manager, but armed with my newly minted tools for greater efficiency, specifically fromĀ  David Allen’s great workshop at Wi6, and from reading his book, Making It All Work, I can run my store as if I have one.
I have to make good use of all the time I have in a day. This actually means taking time out to plan. Imagine. Taking a deep breath and planning and not just putting out fires. Today went well. I continued clearing out my email, I’ve pared down my store in-box from just over 3,000 emails to under 20. Of course, I got 50 emails today, so clearly this is going to beĀ  a real challenge. But there was something breathtaking about seeing an in-box that was so lean. That kind of clarity makes it easier to get other things done.
Dan Cullen from the ABA mentioned the two-minute rule in his workshop: if it will take two minutes or less to do, then just get it done. Don’t put it on a list of things to get done, get it done. I tried that today and it not only worked, it made me more productive because I was able to clean out my in-box, put out a fire and plan ahead. This felt like a win-win to me.
The key to all of this is maintaining the zeal of the newly converted in a month or two. The challenge will be resisting falling back on old habits and letting things pile up. I do think it’s easier to get things done rather than thinking about getting things done.
Has anyone made any efficiency/planning goals since Wi6? If so, would you like to share what they were and what you hope to get out of them? Mine were to start planning the store’s 15th anniversary party even though it’s not until November, and to keep working on maintaining a streamlined in-box. I know that’s not horribly exciting, but I wanted to be realistic and give myself a chance of success. And you?

3 thoughts on “Getting It Done

  1. ellen scott

    After visiting Revolution Cycles, the goal is to clean up the back room– bookstores can be incredibly dirty and unorganized– something about the detail, piles of paper and unread books!! Good luck on all our goals!!

  2. Christine Onorati

    We are feeling similarly inspired by the efficiency workshops at WI. My two managers and I have started using the online task scheduler Remember the Milk to organize our thoughts and to-do lists, and it’s pretty amazing. Sharing tasks, seeing them in our calendars and emails, all totally helpful to keep on track. Today I cleaned out my office and threw away three boxes of catalogs. I agree, the hard part will be maintaining this energy, but we’re going to try. Who knew planning ahead could save so much time?????

  3. Carol B. Chittenden

    Having no treats to bring home to my staff — who would miss a minute of Winter Institute to go shopping?? — it suddenly dawned on me what the perfect token would be: I ordered up a copy of Getting Things Done for each of them. But I wish I could deliver the zing of Allen’s presentation, along with the book.


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