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Productivity Tip: The 8 Most Powerful Letters in the Productivity Toolkit

How many words do you think it takes to describe the most important productivity tool of all?

A few paragraphs … a few sentences … maybe just a few words?

Actually, it’s only two words … and 8 letters … and if you follow them religiously, you’ll accomplish more than you thought possible.

Here’s an extract from what I said about it in my newspaper column last year, If you do nothing else, follow up:

Follow up is continually seeking progress on established initiatives.

If you’re watching timelines … the period during which a project or task is being done … rather than the deadlines by when they’re due … follow up might be seen as nothing more than shepherding a project to a successful conclusion.

There are some ancillary, yet powerful benefits to a good follow up system. First, it reinforces the expectation that a response is needed and increases the probability that it will actually get done, an important tenet in a responsible organization.

It also reveals situations where resources are over-committed, giving both parties a chance to renegotiate the commitment so that it works for everyone.

Follow Up is a Critical Component of Personal Productivity

Aren’t there days when you feel like you spend all of your time chasing down things so they actually get done?

These days, almost everyone is working on one project team or another … and one of the results of that collaboration is that it takes a lot more time and energy to follow up to make sure people are getting their part done when it’s needed.

Project management tools abound, with Gantt charts galore, to track the progress of projects and task dependencies to identify the bottlenecks when projects are stalled.

You mean the stuff I’m always “Waiting For”?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean … but most people don’t have a reliable, structured method to track all of the tasks and assignments that require some form of follow up.

Some of you may recognize the term “waiting for”, popularized as part of the David Allen’s GTD methodology, Getting Things Done.

This simple term is the “kissing cousin” of FOLLOW UP. It’s an invaluable technique for tracking what you’re “waiting for” from others.

It’s your rigorous use of the WAITING FOR technique that gives you the information to regularly FOLLOW UP to make sure things are getting done.

Keep track of everything you’re WAITING FOR

Not a single day goes by when I don’t consult my WAITING FOR list … and not a single day passes when there isn’t something on it I had completely forgotten about and offered a silent “thank you” that I had written it down. (The good news is that if you have a trusted productivity system, you don’t need to remember. Your trusted system will remind you.)

I track all of the tasks and projects that require something from someone else, no matter how trivial.

Sometimes as many as 50 of them pop up on any given day, telling me that I’m still “waiting for” something from someone to get something else done.

It could be a draft of a report someone promised to send, a confirmation that what someone received is what they were looking for … or it may a book I ordered that still hasn’t arrived.

FOLLOW UP on everything you’re WAITING FOR

It could be anything that I have a reasonable expectation to receive and am “waiting for” it to arrive … phone call, email, document, package, Publisher’s Clearinghouse victory parade ….

With that information, I know what’s missing and can follow up on it to make sure it gets done.

90% of getting things done is FOLLOW UP!

I’ve said before that 90% of Leadership is just showing up.

Likewise, it’s not much of a stretch to say that FOLLOW UP is 90% of getting things done.

Yes, it would be a wonderful world if this process wasn’t needed … everyone did everything they promised exactly when they promised it, advised you accordingly, and no FOLLOW UP was needed. That may occur in another dimension … but not the one we’re living in.

Don’t cop out by saying “It’s not my fault, Sharon was supposed to get that to me but ….” That’s just poor FOLLOW UP on your part.

Track what you’re “WAITING FOR” and FOLLOW UP when you don’t get it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get accomplished.

Question: Do you use a system like this? Have you found any particular tools or techniques that really make it work for you?

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