Taking Care of Business: Part 1 – Finding Your Trusted System

Even us creative types need to remember that when all is said and done, we are running a business. And businesses live or die on information. Oodles of information, that may or may not be useful, come our way — all day, every day. Without a reliable method to parse all of that data, valuable connections and opportunities may get lost in the noise. To handle this, we need a trusted system.

Getting Things Done GTD
GTD Workflow – Click to enlarge

If you’ve heard of David Allen or read his book Getting Things Done (GTD), you already know what I am talking about.

Basically, you need a simple, reliable place to put your stuff so it (a) won’t get lost, and (b) won’t get ignored. Both A and B are equally important!

The best system is one that you will actually use. You could spend a lot of time learning a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) but if it doesn’t fit easily into your daily workflow, you’ll never even open it.

So, let’s start with a system that you already have. No really, you already do have one. It’s your email program and its connected address book.

It’s time to start thinking of your Inbox and an inbox.

inboxMany of your tasks already start as email. The simplest way to get the rest of your tasks in there as well is to send them to yourself as emails too. After a while, jotting quick emails to yourself becomes second nature. Once it does, you can finally relax and trust that important things won’t get forgotten. They are all in your inbox awaiting your attention.

Now that all of your tasks are in one place, let’s turn our attention to resources. I’m talking about your address book (or contact list).

addressbookMost modern email programs have an option that automatically adds people with whom you correspond to the address book. Add to that the fact that every mobile app in creation wants to sync its data with the address book on your phone and you already have access to an incredible amount of information at your fingertips.

Cleaning up this data can seem like an impossible task, especially if you have never done it before. But, going through it all can help you better understand your own communications and your business in general. It’s well worth the time.

In addition to the basic contact information, try adding some of this information to each entry:

  • Source (Where did you connect? Facebook? LinkedIn? a conference?)
  • Category (Prospect, Client, Agent, Engineer, Talent, etc.)
  • Other Personal Info (Birthday, Hobbies, etc)

Once the data has been cleaned and organized, you’re ready to get started. It’s time to triage your inbox with a process that might look like this:

Is it actionable?


  • If it’s junk, throw it away.
  • If it’s good information, file it.


  • If it will take less than 5 minutes, do it now.
  • If someone else needs to take action, email it to the right resource found in your address book.
  • Otherwise, schedule when you will get it done.

At its core, that’s it. Of course, over time, you will start to see where other tools that enhance things might be useful. Things like:

  • Tracking whether emails have been viewed
  • Sending emails automatically on a schedule
  • Saving templates for commonly used emails
  • Snoozing tasks to be reviewed later
  • Automatically adding tasks to your calendar
  • Showing a contact’s current social activity alongside their email
  • Enhancing contact information with new data from their online profiles
  • Visualizing how far along negotiations are with a certain prospect

There are lots of tools online that can add these features, some free, some paid. Now that you have a good idea about how you work, you’ll be able to find the ones that work best for you. And, now that you’ve developed a trusted system, those tools will be ones that actually get used.

The goal of this article was to talk about concepts and systems that could be applied with any software. In my next post, I will talk about my own experience with some specific tools that help make this work with either GMail or Google’s new Inbox by GMail.

What’s your trusted system? Any experience with GTD? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A Cup of Coffee

A ridiculous amount of caffeine was consumed while researching all of this stuff.
Add some fuel if you would like to help keep me going!

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