Last post, I mentioned in passing that creating an "Agendas" notebook on Evernote on or a folder on your desktop can be very valuable when clearing a lot of email out.
Today, I'd like to simply break that out and say -- If you dont have a running Agenda list, start one today and try it for a week.
It's rare to find a productivity technique that is easy to maintain, with almost no cost, no downside, and that produces huge gains. And the running list of Agendas is one of those.
It's easy to start. If you forget to do it for a while, it's easy to restart with no real cost, cleanup time, or setup time required. Ty it out for a week and report back; I think you'll be utterly amazed at how much more you done in your conversations and meetings.
When I was first building out my new company with my business partner, we'd just hop on Skype and cover whatever. Now, before I call, I think about what the most important things are and make a list. If it's a very short chat, I send him the agenda in advance so he can fill in anything he needs to cover too.
Man, the difference between how much ground you can cover with an agenda, and how much you do talking about random topics is lightyears apart. So, so much more ground can be covered with an agenda.
You're not bound or shackled to it. Sometimes other things come up, and you roll with it. But having a general roadmap in front of you means if you start the call by swapping stories and realize 30 minutes have passed and you only have 30 minute, you burn fast to cover everything on the list.
When you get off an a tangent, it's very easy to come back around and say, "Okay, cool, so about the brochures..."
I've started doing it for my casual, social calls too. It might sound like it'd be stifling, but it's just the opposite. It's liberating. You know everything you could really enjoy and get a lot out of covering, and you also know when the call is over. Once you've covered everything on the agenda, you say, "Okay, cool, anything else interesting going on on your end?" If yes, you chat through that. If no, then it's goodbye.
Hard work produces near magical results, but we all have an absolute ceiling on how hard we work.
People usually start thinking about working smarter once they're near that limit and getting burned out. Once the realization sets in that you can't work any harder, you've got to get smarter.
To work smart, the first thing you need to do is figure out what you're already doing.