Keep Your Eggs in One Basket – Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on February 04, 2010 in: Email Efficiency, Project Management, Time Management Strategies


If you’re just starting out in business, this blog won’t apply to you… yet. But if you’ve been in business for a while, I think this will really resonate with you:

You get up in the morning to start your day. You open your email. There are 25 new emails plus a dozen from yesterday that you didn’t get to. You go to your task management system; there are a dozen tasks waiting, perhaps shaded with various colors of green (good!) and red (never good!). Then you look at your schedule. Then you look at your wall calendar. Then you check the proprietary task management systems that four of your clients have set up for you to use. Oh, and you haven’t checked voicemail yet.

After all of that is done, it’s time to get to work. But it’s not very efficient. And as you go through your day, new items pile up in each of these collection points and they need to be juggled. It’s like having a bunch of people talking to you all at once! It gets chaotic and you’re not actually very efficient by running from one place to another to keep on top of it all. You spend more of your time trying to manage your tasks than you need to.

BUT… At the same time, I’m realistic enough to recognize that you can’t always use one system. Clients may not want to work in a particular system and you can’t eliminate email and voicemail. We have lots of collection points and they don’t all automatically synch.

Here’s what you need to do:

Find one place where you can put it all. Find one collection point that acts as the ULTIMATE collection point – a dumping ground for all of your other collection points. David Allen of GTD talks about this, but I think it’s a part of his system that doesn’t get as much credit as it should. I’ve drank a little bit of the GTD Kool-aid – enough to pick out the parts that I like – and I think his idea of minimizing in-baskets is one of the key strengths of GTD.

I don’t think it matters what you use:

  • Maybe you have your own task management system.
  • Maybe you use something really simple like
  • Maybe you use Google Calendar. Maybe you use your email inbox.
  • Maybe you go old school and you write a list on a piece of paper.

Although I think some things are slightly more efficient than others, I think the very first step is to have one single collection point from which everything else is gathered. If you can synch those things together electronically, all the better, but sometimes those things don’t synch.

Find one place to dump everything and you can sort from there. This will help you feel considerably less stressed in your day because you’ll be able to look at everything all at once. When a project is done, cross it off of your task management system, remove it from whatever original source it came from (email, or a client’s project management system) and you’re done.

Now, some of you are saying to me: “But Heather, it doesn’t sound very efficient to copy things from one task management system to another.” However, I would argue that a quick copy-and-paste to put all of your work in one single place is way more efficient than clicking here and there to manage half a dozen management systems for each client. It gives you one place to see, prioritize, and work through everything, rather than having many places that each have their own priority.

In the next blog, I’m going to give you some pointers to help you do this.

Stay tuned!

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If you are a coach, freelancer, or entrepreneur who wants to succeed like a pro, I can help.