I’ve written about information systems and information overload before. However, I feel I ought to give more insight into how we actually stay sane here at ProvenCFO. We spend a lot of time moving information around, and individually complete thousands of unique tasks on a daily/weekly basis. Managing the emotional side of information overload is only part of the equation — the other is having good systems and processes in place to manage the work.
Although we use Google Business Apps to manage our email servers, calendars, forms, files, & folders, we do use a front-end email solution that integrates into our project management software. We utilize everything we can from our tech solutions. Integrations between email and task management make it possible to quickly create tasks from an email and link all the necessary information to those tasks.
We also utilize the idea of a ticket system, from systems such as Zendesk, Groove, or Front to ensure that each email can be properly responded to. Emails are accessible to the team and can be shared internally to ensure that lengthy strings aren’t created back to the client. We’re able to quickly identify who the best recipient is of conversation and create a task if needed.
Picking the right software to use for managing your daily / weekly / monthly / etc. tasks can be a huge undertaking. We found software that we liked looking at and enjoyed working through. Picking a visually appealing system can be a huge boost to you and your team when having to stare at a computer all day long. Secondarily, the system needs to be robust enough to handle your existing workflows. Reworking your entire business to fit into a Kanban or Scrum model might seem like a good idea — but rarely is. Change needs to be made in steps which produces long-term results. An overnight change to completely new ways of thinking and processes often results in turning back to the “old school” workflows.
Over 20 years ago MasterCard ran an advertising campaign which gained massive traction and spawned an internet meme sensation.
Using the idea that “for everything else, there’s MasterCard” we need to remember that something software can’t accomplish. In other words:
There are some things that software can’t solve. For everything else, there’s good processes.
I know. Lame. However, there are some things that simply can’t be automated or solved using software which will require significant manual involvement. At ProvenCFO we work diligently to identify recurring tasks which can be applied across a variety of companies or projects. We then implement these recurring processes into our task management solution to ensure we are always aware of what needs to be done and when.
Every one of our client engagements results in an ocean of paperwork. We organize all of this information into our Google Drive storage space. We like Google. They do things well. Each client has an identical file structure — something like this:
Additionally, we try to adhere to very strict naming conventions of files and folders. We use YYYYMM and YYYYMMDD for dates instead of any other date format. We don’t use periods in the middle of file names. We try ensure that every file name is a sufficient description of utility so we know what we’re looking at without needing to open the document. Additionally, we try to use cloud based apps for all documents (Google Docs vs Word, Google Sheets vs Excel) so that multiple users on different platforms can access the information easily.
There is always work involved in knowing what you’re doing. Before you paint your bedroom walls you need to tape the baseboards and ceiling. Before you start your day — have you done the preparation necessary to know what to focus on next?