The Diary Debate: Electronic or Paper

I have spent a bit of time over my break considering how to improve my performance at work in 2014 and, by extension, how to more effectively use my time.  One of the things I really struggled with in 2013 was management of my diary. The root of said problem seems to have arisen for two reasons: my own focus at times and the fact that my electronic diary is accessible across five devices (MacBook, Work laptop, iPhone, 2 x iPad) means that I often have multiple appointments that I have accepted or declined or otherwise without even really thinking about it.

The first problem is one that I can only fix myself mentally: focus is a funny thing I find.  Sometimes I am too focused on one particular task which means the other tasks fall by the wayside and then other times I am not focused enough and trying to do too much.  The only strategy that I can think of that will really assist is to maintain a full list of all tasks I have and methodically work through them.

The other problem, the diary issue, is also a difficult one.  Sometimes I accept and decline the same appointment on different devices.  Sometimes I mark appointments as tentative but then do not confirm them later so I do not know whether I have accepted or otherwise.  Sometimes I agree to meet with someone talking to them on the phone whilst out of the office and do not put the appointment in straight away and then forget.  As I wandered around Officeworks this morning (because I drove past and I can not resist) it struck me that maybe the answer was to be found in running a paper diary: so I have purchased one.

The more I thought about it though just running a paper diary is never going to work in the current environment in which we work because all appointments are made electronically.  That has led me to the view that for 2014 I am going to trial a dual approach to diary management.  It is obvious that I am going to have to run an electronic diary: everyone does.  I am also going to run a hard copy paper diary.  The way I think it might work is this:

  • Every appointment that comes to me electronically I will consider and either accept or decline.  I will not mark any appointments as tentative.
  • Every appointment that I make via phone or by talking face to face with someone I will put into the paper diary.
  • At the end of each day I will do a reconciliation between the two diaries to make sure they are both up to date.
  • Then at the start of each day I will print out the electronic diary which will stay on my desk during the day and I will carry with me the paper diary.

It strikes me immediately that this is double handling however I am hopeful that an extra 10 mins at the start and end of each day and more vigilance in what goes into my diary will help me be better utilised and better use my time.

Managing Stress: Everyone has a different method!

It is a problem that everyone in every walk of life goes through to differing degrees from time to time: stress. The management of stress is a topic that takes up multiple tomes in libraries and multiple gigabytes on the internet and yet no one has the perfect answer or strategy to how to deal with it.

The fact is that everyone reacts differently to stress and everyone finds a different way to deal with said stress: it is only the effectiveness of the stress management strategies used that changes.

There are obviously some stress management strategies that are more destructive than useful. I know that I used to abuse alcohol as a method to seek to manage my stress. That approach was obviously self destructive and unhelpful. I also used to be a wanton spender when I was under times of significant stress: I own more blue business shirts than any man should ever reasonably need in one lifetime as a result.

The obvious corollary that comes from these destructive forms of stress management is that often they provide a very short term release of stress whilst leading to deeper long term problems. I know they certainly did for me.

I mentioned in my blog of last week when I wrote about the things that I wished I had known as an eighteen year old ( ) that one of the things that I wish I had known earlier was that there is no shame in asking for help. Asking for help, metaphorically “sticking up ones hand” is a principal means by which I now seek to reduce my stress. The reason is simple: I find talking about a problem relaxing even if talking about the problem does not solve it.

The other principal methodology that I use for dealing with stress now is one that my psychologist taught me. It is a pretty simple visualisation technique that involves working through a series of questions about whatever is causing me stress. Simply I ask myself what it is that is stressing me and answer the question honestly. Then I ask myself whether there is something immediate that I can do about the “problem”. If there is then I have to stop whatever it is that I am doing and take that step. If there is something that I can do about it but I can not do it immediately then I have to do that think whenever I am able to do say. Here is the most important part: if there is nothing I can do about the thing that is stressing me then I have to “let the stressful thing go”.

The last, and most important part, of this method of relieving stress is the act of allowing yourself to give up that which is stressing yourself. Being able to do that is sometimes the most difficult thing one can do.

As I said in the title to this post: everyone has a different method of dealing with stress. I hope your particular method, whatever it is, is as successful as you need it to be.