OK. Yesterday, I finally got to the main concept of building mental strength. That was figuring out where to set the bar. The bar is placed at the place on your checklist that you didn't get to on the previous day. Your goal each day is to get to the bar and to strive for some improvement each day by doing at least one additional task or more.
Building your checklist into a complete and accurate measurement of your mental strength means that you have to spend some time each day working through the exact steps you take to do all of your tasks. I've started with email here since it's a core component of just about everybody's day.
I want to delve a little deeper into that subject today and show you how to raise the bar to increase your mental strength using your daily review checklist.
When I worked through my checklist yesterday, you might recall that I got my inbox empty but couldn't get any further. My goal today is to at least get to my Calendar folder and open it. Based on the fact that I feel my mental strength is strong enough, I don't think getting to that point will be a problem today.
First, though, I need to get out my checklist. I'm not where I can print it out today, but I strongly suggest printing out your checklist so you can see the tasks at hand. As you do the tasks on it, you'll want to check them off. This "checking off" action gives you a mental boost that your brain loves because it can actively see action and it starts feeding the brain. As you work through your checklist you will want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the next step on my checklist really the very next thing I do or is there a step left out that I need to add?
- Is there an item on my checklist that's out of order that would be better moved to another place in my checklist?
- Is there a better way I can word the items on my checklist?
- Have I really cleared my head of all the steps?
- Is there anything I can do to get rid of that step or automate it?
The reason I'm doing this is because I am looking to achieve the following things:
- Get absolutely everything out of my head.
- Optimize the order of the list for maximum efficiency.
- Get the list to a point where I could if I want hand the task to someone else and they could complete it with my checklist.
Let's pick up where I left off by using my email account as the basis for the checklist I've been working on.
Here's the checklist so far:
- Turn on computer
- Log into email account
- Open email inbox
- Open the first email
Since my inbox was emptied last night, twenty seven emails have landed in my inbox. I do the above steps and open the first email. I notice that the very next thing on my list from yesterday was "process each email in the inbox until it is empty". I notice though that step is pretty open. It doesn't summarize the very next thing I do which is:
- Determine if I need to continue to get this email.
I review the email. It's an email alert from a penny stock investing site that I followed while I was working on a project a while back. It's not something I need to continue to get. Getting rid of this email I never look at is one less thing I would have to process. The very next actions are to:
- If not, can I unsubscribe to it?
- If yes, is the unsubscribe link one I can trust?
- If yes, unsubscribe from email.
- If no, set up a filter to filter it out of my inbox.
- Archive or delete email.
In this case, I trusted the email's sender, unsubscribed and archived the email.
The next email was from a company I bought my printer from. I usually don't read these but don't mind getting offers from companies I buy things from. But I notice that the next action on my checklist doesn't account for this. Here are the next steps that actually came to my mind after I decided it was an email I wanted to continue to get along with the actual steps I took once I did that. Notice I wrote them down as well.
- Is this an email I will read or review right when I get it or can I read or review it at a later point.
- If it's an email I will read right away, read it.
- If it's actionable, do it right away if it can be done quickly.
- If it's actionable but requires more time, put in action folder.
- If it requires no action, archive or delete it.
- If it's an email that I can read at a later time, set up a filter to send it to my Read/Review folder.
- To set up a filter, copy sender's email address.
- Open mail settings
- Click filters
- Click create a new filter.
- Put sender's email in the from field.
- Click next step button.
- Check skip the inbox
- Check apply the label.
- Check the drop down box and select Read/Review
- Decide whether to filter the conversations on the bottom of that page
- If so click that box to filter all emails in the list below
- If not click the create filter button
- Go back to inbox
- Open the email I just set up the filter for
- If it requires action, move to action folder
- If not, archive or delete it.
Now, the next time I get an email from that company, since it's not urgent it will go right into my read/review folder for later review and completely bypass my inbox since it's not urgent. Then when I am in read/review mode, I can do those things all at one time.
The next email was spam. I added that item onto my checklist:
- Is it spam?
- If so, click the spam button.
The next few emails were ones that I set up filters for to read/review later. The next email was from a social networking site that I never use. I considered that a subscription and unsubscribed. The next was a comment from this site. And another was from a client. This added a few more steps.
- Is it actionable?
- Can I do it in under two minutes? If so do it.
- If not move to action folder.
The next email was a utility bill. I have all my utility bills in my calendar set up as recurring events. When they come in, I update the amount due and put it on my calendar. So I added a couple of other steps to my checklist:
- Review utility bill amount
- Open calendar
- Edit calendar event by adding the amount due and the date it is due.
- Archive or delete email.
The next email was a fax I received.
- Review fax for action
- If it requires action, do it or put in the action folder
- Otherwise, file in the Fax folder
The next email was an email alert from my bank.
- Review alert from bank
- If it requires action and can be done quickly, do it now, then archive or delete it
- If it requires action that can't be done quickly, then move it to the action folder
You'll notice that there is some overlap in some of the actions above. For now, my goal was to get all the steps out of my head. As I put them in my checklist and start to work through the checklist, I'll start to refine the order and duplicate any overlap.
After going through the steps of processing, I got to the point that my email inbox was empty. Once you get into the habit of recognizing that you can indeed get your email inbox to zero, you will start to see how it's really the easiest place to start in your email. The real problem for a lot of us is that we spend so much time in the inbox trying to do or just scanning instead of moving the emails into our action folder for when we get into "ACTION" mode. The first step in your email is just organizing it into the rest of the system.
Now, I've reached goal number one which was to get my inbox to empty. That's where the bar was the previous day. So now, my second objective was to open my calendar folder, which already has email reminders from my calendar filtered into it. These are items that are specific to a certain day and therefore go on my calendar. When the day arrives, I get an email letting me know. Then it's up to me to review the items on the list and see if I need to do anything.
Many of these emails are informational. For example, some are birthdays and anniversaries. Some are for bills that are automatically drafted out of my checking account. Some are for things that I need to complete. But the very next action is for me to:
- Open first email in the calendar folder
I've been a little behind in my calendar reminders. I've got around 134 calendar reminders in that folder. To clean that up, my first very next step is to:
- Delete reminders that are taken care of
That left me with 21 email reminders in my calendar folder. And that's where I will set the bar for today. As you can see below, I've now raised the bar and effectively increased my mental strength a little bit more. I set the bar now and try and do a little bit more the next time I hit the gym (office).
- .....Previous stuff on checklist
- Open email calendar folder
- Delete all email calendar reminders that are taken care of
- ---------- THE BAR ---------------
- Decide the steps to take for the rest of the calendar reminders.
- ...the rest of my of the stuff on my checklist
So now, as far as my checklist is concerned, I'll put the above items I went through into my daily review checklist. And then print it out and review it.
Start making your checklist and start figuring out where your mental strength is. If you want to see my actual checklist and are a member, then click the link to my checklist in my forum signature. If you are not a member, you can join here.