Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions
The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.
As a futurist, my job is to anticipate change and stay on top of current trends. There’s a new generation entering the workforce – Generation Z. Following Millennials, this generation includes those born between 1995 and 2010. While being defined as the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history, Gen Z also grew up surrounded by technology, also making them the most tech-savvy generation.
I’ve previously provided some thoughts on thinking like a futurist and today, we’re diving deeper into the role Gen Z plays in the future. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with Gen Z:
1. Put yourself in their shoes
It’s important to acknowledge the obvious differences that divide each generation. For example, Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with new technology and completely different childhood experiences than those of previous generations. With technology constantly at their fingertips, this generation of “digital natives” have had nearly lifelong access to boundless amounts of information at the drop of a hat. In fact, 97% of Gen Z have smart phones and spend more than 4 hours a day online.
And because they’ve never spent a day offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and challenges happening in the world around them. As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. Also noteworthy is their attitude towards work and employers; almost half consider what the company does to make the world a better place as important as the salary.
By becoming familiar with Gen Z, and by understanding the different era and experiences they’ve grown up with, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to effectively collaborate with them. Whether it’s through asking questions, doing research, or understanding current trends, you won’t fully see eye-to-eye with this generation until you put yourself in their shoes.
2. Pay attention to what’s important
In the next decade, Gen Z is expected to cause an influx of roughly 60 million job seekers, effectively transforming the workplace. Concerning their careers, Gen Z-ers are very driven and competitive. Nothing motivates them more than achieving success and being rewarded for their good efforts. They value skill development and appreciate feedback, as they are always hoping to improve their performance. A controversial topic amongst Gen Z is the debate over work-life balance. It can be argued that this generation struggles the most with this – 24% say they feel guilty for taking time off work. On the other hand, 39% view work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer. Knowing these statistics as an employer can help foster a healthy work environment for future employees.
When choosing where to work, Gen Z will base their decision on the company’s values. This generation’s passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion reflects in their expectations for their future employers. Studies show that 77% of Gen Z believes a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.
3. Stay up to date on trends
As any futurist knows, one of the most important ways to prepare for the future is to stay up to date with the latest trends. This applies to Gen Z trends as well. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be to work with this generation.
Here are some resources for futurists to better understand Gen Z:
We can all benefit from learning from one another. As this new generation enters the workforce, preparing through a lens like this will allow us to better understand and support them in their journey as they embark on this new chapter.
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. It’s the number 1 topic I’m asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at customer or partner events, or when I speak at conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their company.
When you picture an effective leader, what comes to mind?
A deep understanding of their industry, self-awareness, decision-making skills, integrity, transparency, and being empathetic are some of the things that come to my mind. Leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence earn the trust of and inspire their team to reach their full potential.
While innovation is happening at an astonishing rate, we’re still nowhere near a Westworld-esque future where robots and automation rule. Robots have come a long way, but still need human expertise and skills to function. Therefore, the outcome is less likely a replacement of humans, but rather a reskilling.
There is a valid concern over the possibility of increasing inequality in our automated future. Once robots enter the workforce fully, most highly-skilled, educated workers are likely to experience a smaller shift in responsibilities than their less-skilled, educated counterparts. In order to adapt, those with fewer skills and education will likely have to expand their abilities to either empower them to work with robots or fall within the realm of abilities that robots currently lack, such as emotional intelligence and creativity.
For those that adapt to work alongside robots and automation, most will experience an increase in job quality, or even safety. For example, customer service professionals have been using AI chatbots for a few years now, and chatbots like bold360 allow the AI to answer the simpler questions, giving the humans more time to focus on complex customer issues. For example, HP’s virtual agent helps its support team sort through nearly 600 million technical support requests each year. There are also bomb disposal robots that use VR to allow soldiers to pilot them while disarming bombs from a safe distance.
It’s predicted that, despite disruption, there is still a net positive outlook for jobs. In other words, though 75 million current roles may be displaced by technology, 133 million entirely new roles may emerge simultaneously. These roles will likely be of two categories, one that deals predominantly with emerging technologies, like IT Services or AI Specialists, and one that provides the exclusively human touch, such as Designers or Human Resources.
Other reports, like this one from Brookings Institute, find that approximately 25% of US jobs are likely to be affected by automation. At face value, this number can seem concerning, but it’s important to remember that the process of implementation will still take time.
In the time it takes for the world to fully implement robots and automation in the majority of work systems, humans will be able to adapt and learn new skills, especially if they are empowered by their employers. Some are calling this the “Skills Revolution,” which refers to the fact that the skills required in the workforce are changing at a rapid pace. In the face of this, workers must embrace continuous learning opportunities, and employers must provide ongoing training to future-proof their employees.
To do just that for your employees, consider the following steps:
Pay attention to trends
As a futurist, I am constantly on the lookout for new Megatrends and patterns that may affect our future. This skill has served me and many others well over the years and has helped HP prepare itself for the years to come.
When it comes to future-proofing yourself in the face of automation, pay attention to new careers and job opportunities. It’s predicted that 65% of the jobs that Gen Z will perform don’t even exist yet. If you are able to spot a job trend and properly prepare for it, you could help usher in an entirely new career field.
Embrace lifelong learning
Gone are the days where you could learn a set of skills, perform them for the rest of your life, and earn a living. Nearly all careers require the occasional training or upskilling, but soon it will be necessary to dedicate time to learning on an ongoing basis. For some, this could mean improving their existing abilities and adding complementary skillsets, but for others it could mean learning an entirely new skill. It’s predicted that 42% of required skills will change by 2022, requiring the average worker to adapt to new tasks such as analytical thinking and negotiation. To adjust to these new skills by 2022, employees will need 101 days of training on average.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources that will help, like Coursera and Lynda, as well as an emergence of recognized online higher education.
Maintain a growth mindset
How do you cope with challenge and difficulty? Do you give up when you feel that something is out of your range of abilities, or do you accept it as a learning opportunity? To maintain a growth mindset, you must learn to embrace challenges and failure as opportunities for growth, rather than letting them stop you in your tracks.
When you develop a growth mindset, you’re able to have the confidence to push through challenges, and this persistence will help you prepare for our automated future. Whether this is a small shift in your career or a larger transition to an entirely new field, a growth mindset will help you see things through a positive lens.
In honor of World
Mental Health Day on October 10th, I want to discuss the
importance of taking care of yourself as an entrepreneur.
Oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, taking care of your own
mental health can feel like the last thing on your list. In an environment
where you’re focused on creating a successful business, it’s easy to put your
well-being on the backburner. Some may even see this as a badge of honor.
The numbers are concerning. A
report found that 72% of entrepreneurs experience some type of mental
health issue and are “significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of
depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance-abuse conditions (12%), and bipolar
diagnosis (11%).” Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs feel the need to hide these
issues, for fear that it will affect their business and their personal lives.
If you’re an entrepreneur or startup founder (or just want
to concentrate more on your well-being), here are my top tips for balancing
your mental health with your growing business and working through the “founder’s
1. Leave space to reflect.
Throughout your week, schedule time
to simply hit the pause button. Take this time to breathe and reflect on your
week. What have you accomplished? Where can you improve? Ask yourself these
questions, but be sure to speak to yourself in a kind way. We are often our own
worst critic, and it’s important to recognize that harsh self-talk is linked
to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
This time for self-reflection is essential for everyone, but especially if your schedule is jam-packed. In a start-up world that’s focused on external factors like funding, hiring, and planning, it’s easy to ignore internal factors. When the internal is ignored, recognizing and managing emotions can be difficult. It’s important to prioritize time and stick to your schedule.
2. Pay attention to burnout.
In the world of entrepreneurship,
burnout is a real issue. The World Health
Organization has recognized burnout as an official
disorder. Oftentimes the symptoms are ignored or minimized, which can lead
to more worrisome issues down the line.
If you notice symptoms
such as feeling cynical about your job or emotionally drained by your work, don’t
ignore them. They are an important sign that you need a break, and you should
honor that by taking some time off to recalibrate, even if it’s just for a day
or two. You will come back to your work refreshed.
3. Manage and delegate.
Entrepreneurs wear several hats,
especially when they’re near the starting line. Over time, you may feel like
your life is a constant juggling act, so it’s imperative to find balance.
Manage your time and stick to a schedule to alleviate any stress, and delegate
If you find that certain tasks
cause you more stress than others, find ways to change the tasks to be less
demanding, or find someone on your team you can delegate them to. If that is
not an option, consider outsourcing to an agency or contractor.
4. Be mindful of your physical health.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete
to be an entrepreneur, but it’s important to treat your body well. Is your diet
giving you the energy and nutrients you need throughout the day? Are you making
time for moderate exercise? Unfortunately, running from meeting to meeting
doesn’t count. Physical exercise is crucial to mental health. Any type of exercise
will help promote improved mental health, however the social aspects of team
sports have the
Don’t focus on perfection. Instead,
do what you can to eat nutritious foods and stay active. If you’re able to hire
a personal trainer and nutritionist, do so. If that isn’t possible for you at
this time, there are a plethora of resources online that can help you get where
you need to be, such as Lifesum
for nutrition and Fitocracy for
5. Find support.
You may feel alone in this, but
that is far from the truth. As mentioned before, 72% of entrepreneurs have
reported dealing with some mental health issue. Many of them have created
communities and groups that deal with these problems together and support each
other. If you feel comfortable, join one of these communities and learn from
others who are dealing with similar issues. Search online or ask your network
for these communities or use an online service like 7 Cups of Tea to find anonymous support.
On a related note, consider finding
a therapist who works for you, online or
in-person. There are mental health professionals who specialize in executive
leadership, and they can help you through all the ups and downs that you may
Mental health does not discriminate; in fact, it affects one in four people
globally. It isn’t always easy to talk about, but that’s rapidly changing
due to increasing awareness and leaders who are open about their journey. By
prioritizing your own health, you can inspire and encourage others on your team
and in your community to do the same.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate, one thing is certain. The future will look very different than it does today. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it
will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years
ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal
This change is inevitable, and those that anticipate and
embrace it will be the revolutionaries of the experience age. In fact,
adapting to the changes is the difference between leading change and
being led by it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. No silver
bullet. It takes dedication and thought. So, how can you lead the way
and future-proof yourself?
When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room. Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices.
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible. Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.
with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your
team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is
about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the
better you will be able to innovate.
down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can
bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in
Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.
your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do
things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question
the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How
can we make it better?
2.Keep learning or unlearning
times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find
themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer
exists.” –Eric Hoffer
you have a fixed mindset, your qualities are carved in stone. If you
lack a skill, you will continue to lack it. However, when you adopt a
growth mindset, you can grow and change through persistence and
experience. With a fixed mindset, you can be easily overwhelmed with the
future’s uncertainty, but the future belongs to those who can adopt a
growth mindset and keep learning.
very interested in how the line between science and philosophy is
blurring. It seems where science doesn’t have all the answers (e.g.
quantum mechanics and the true nature of reality), philosophy comes back
to the fore to help us imagine the possibilities that we hope science
might one day prove out. Consider Einstein’s original thought experiment
about sitting on the end of a light beam (philosophy) and how that led
him to the special theory of relativity (science). Both are equally
important for charting the human future in a world of accelerating
change and technology.
A Nielsen study
examined the impact of collaboration in the development stage of
innovation. It showed ideas developed by teams of three or more people
have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one
or two people who played a hands-on role.
developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal
with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played
a hands-on role.
with people in your field (current or desired) by discovering how they
think and their vision of the future. When you get to know one another,
you feel more comfortable sharing ideas and voicing your opinions,
creating healthy collaboration.
Stay current on trends by reading, watching, and listening to sources you trust. As a futurist, my job requires a keen understanding of how the world around us is evolving, the global forces that are dramatically changing the landscape of markets and industries, and trends that are reshaping customer expectation.
At HP, we’ve formalized our analysis and forecasting process into a body of work we call Megatrends, a systematic effort to identify the global technological, economic, and social currents that are influencing how people will live and work around the world in the future. Take a look at this year’s report that looks at how innovation and disruptions in economics, data, automation, and energy impact megatrends.
I stay on top of trends by reading the latest technology news, speaking
with customers and industry pundits, paying attention to university and
academic research areas, monitoring venture investing trends and
start-up activity. I also draw from my personal experiences, media
coverage, and public data sources.
important to have a vision and desired outcomes in mind. Then explore
how trends and technologies can help you realize those outcomes. Ongoing
problems the world is facing, like poverty and climate change, cannot
be solved with short-term thinking. If we want to move forward and
create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.
you’ve identified the trends, come up with proactive statements about
where you think the future is going. This is something that true disrupters do. So … ask outlandish questions, free your mind, and push yourself outside of your box. The future is yours to create.
5. Give yourself a break
all that, are you feeling a bit frazzled? We spend hours pondering how
we can stay ahead of this change instead of being led by it. Even if we
could predict the future perfectly (which, of course, we can’t), we need
to be willing to reinvent ourselves continuously as all of this change
in our world occurs.
It’s okay to take a break from
future-proofing yourself. Read a book. Take a walk outside. Listen to
your favorite music. Give your brain a chance to breath and recharge.
future will be transformed by people like you, who are strategic
thinkers, quick to innovate, and passionate. What do you think? What
skills or mindsets will we need to adopt today for the future? Sound off
I recently completed the Kokoda Track with a group of my oldest and best friends. For those of you who don’t know, the Track is a historical trail in Papua New Guinea. When I was preparing for my trip to Kokoda, I knew that I was in for a long journey full of challenges. An eight-day trek on difficult terrain was bound to test me. It was also bound to teach me important lessons that I could take back to everyday life. So, without further ado, here are the most important lessons I learned while powering through the Kokoda Track:
1. Be prepared.
As I previously talked about, I committed to preparing for this trip. I knew it was going to test me physically and mentally, and I wanted to give myself the best possible tools and training to get me through it successfully. I hiked long miles on weekends and did hours of research on the best gear to take and what to expect on the Track. By doing this, I made sure that I was well-prepared for the different obstacles that I might face. Training ahead of time was key to my success on the Track and researching what I was in for made sure I didn’t underestimate the difficult roads ahead.
This is a lesson easily applicable to business and entrepreneurship. When you’re vying for success, prepare for success. This isn’t always the same as making detailed plans ahead of time, plans always change, but being prepared is also key to being able to adapt to unexpected changes or roadblocks to achieve your objective. When walking into an important meeting or launching a new start-up, make sure that you’ve put in the work to be successful.
2. Choose your team well.
I was very lucky to be surrounded by some of my oldest and closest friends on this trek, so when any one of us was struggling, we knew we could turn to each other for support and motivation. To have that support is an essential part of success in any aspect of life, so when times get tough, make sure you’re doing it with the right team.
People often say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you surrounding yourself with the right people? Whether it’s in business or your personal life, you want to make sure that you have a support system that is empowering.
3. Don’t be afraid of hard times.
It’s natural to want to avoid difficult times, but it’s in those moments that you experience the most growth. Embrace those moments and use them to build a stronger, better team. Throughout the trek, each of us went through struggles and doubts, but as the trek went on, we became closer because we were able to rely on one another.
Hard times can always teach you something. When you’re going through something rough, take a moment to think about what you’re learning. How can you apply this to future situations? How can this make you a better version of yourself? Embrace that learning and use it to improve.
Though our journey was extremely physically challenging, it was also very mentally challenging. It was crucial to spend time getting centered before setting off on each day’s trek. Achieving and maintaining that level of balance was a constant battle, and it’s important to pace yourself.
Do you take time each day to check in with yourself? Would you consider yourself in balance? If not, try starting your morning with a brief morning meditation or just find some quiet time during the day to center yourself. There a number of resources that can help you with this, like Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier. A strong, healthy mindset is important to taking on any new challenge.
5. Celebrate success.
When we walked through the end of the Kokoda arches, it was very emotional. We looked back on what we’d accomplished and truly took a moment to reflect on what we’d just been through. It was a huge achievement that we’d managed together, and we congratulated each other on our success. Then, we got beers.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate your successes, big or small. Every day is full of challenges, and with the right mindset you can crush them all. So be sure to treat yourself and your team when you reach new milestones, and then get excited for the next one!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Did you know the 4D printing industry is expected to be worth upwards of $537 million by 2025 and grow by a CAGR of 42.95% between 2019 and 2025? This is being driven by the need to reduce the costs of manufacturing and processing in the face of an increasing focus to ensure a sustainable environment. Today, I’m diving into the top 4 questions about 4D printing:
What is the difference between 3D and 4D printing?
4D printing is similar to 3D printing since it uses the same techniques of computer-programmed “printing” of layered materials to create a three-dimensional object. However, during the fabrication process of 4D printing, the printed produce reacts to external stimuli — heat, water, chemical, pressure, etc. — to self-assemble or change
It’s a further evolution of 3D printing and is set to completely alter how we create and produce materials by adding the dimension of transformation over time into the creation process.
How does 4D printing work?
4D printing involves 3D printing objects that can self-assemble and transform based on some external stimuli. For example, a table that assembles itself when you touch a part, or an airplane wing that transforms with wind speed, or a temperature-activated cardio stent.
In order to make something “4D” — assemble itself or change precisely under certain conditions — a precise geometric code is used based on the object’s angles and dimensions, as well as measurements that dictate how it should change shape when interacting with outside forces.
It’s all about self-assembly. The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what I believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.
What is 4D printing used for?
4D printing technology is not merely a novelty, but a necessity due to increasing urbanization caused by world population growth that is expected to reach 8 billion people over the next 30 years. This will cause an increase in “megacities — or cities with populations over 10 million people — from 10 in 1990 to 41 over the next ten years. This rapid urbanization will put an incredible demand on manufacturing and the distribution of materials.
Numerous organizations are pouring money in 4D printing research and development, including Airbus SAS who is using 4D-related “smart” material that reacts to temperature to cool jet engines and a wing that morphs according to aerodynamic conditions to decrease air resistance. Briggs Automotive Company is developing a morphable wing for its supercar that can adjust to external weather conditions and automatically adjust itself to provide maximum downforce to the car.
As many of you know, I am a drone aficionado. When I saw this research, I was excited. Engineers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick are fabricating smart materials in 4D that will transform according to their environment. This leads to shock-absorbing materials that will change as needed for use in aircraft or drone design for parts like wings that need to self-alter for varying performance.
4D printing will also have a profound impact on healthcare of the future. It could be used for tissue engineering, self-assembling human-scale biomaterials, design of nanoparticles, and nanorobots for chemotherapy.
It doesn’t stop there. You’ll see 4D printing transform and disrupt a variety of industries including consumer products, healthcare, automotive, construction, and aerospace
Overall, how 4D printing evolves in the future is up to the innovators and makers of the world. We must remain open to fresh ideas, new tools, and collaboration from all industries
You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
You have a way to process your inbox.
You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.
In this post I want to outline how to manage and track all of your next actions so you never have to worry about dropping the ball again.
As mentioned previously, efficiently processing your inbox involves doing one of four things with each email:
Read and delete. No action needed.
Do. If I think it will take me less than 2 mins to respond to an email, I will do it then and there and then delete.
Delegate. Forward and ask someone to do something based on the email, and then delete. As per my previous post on this topic, remember to copy yourself when you delegate over email so you have a list of everything you’re waiting on someone for in your Pending folder!
Queue up for next action needed. These are the emails I need to spend more time on, and that I haven’t been able to delete, delegate or do within the 2 mins rule.
The focus of this post is on that last point, how to queue up things for next action needed.
One of the core tenants of “Getting Things Done” is to group all your next actions by context. For example, there might be some things you can only do when you are at home. When you’re not at home you don’t need to see those next actions because there’s nothing you can do about them. However, when you are at home you do want to see them, because in that context (“I’m at home”) all of those next actions are fair game for follow-up. Grouping all your next actions by context helps you focus on only the things you can do in that moment, without distracting yourself with all the things you can’t do in that moment.
Everyone will have a different set of contexts they want to work across (see below for mine). The trick here is to define those contexts in a way that makes sense for you and are as simple as possible. It is also important to define them in such a way that each next action only goes into one context. This keeps the overhead of managing next actions by context to a minimum. Here are mine:
Calls I need to make when I have the time and am with my phone (typically when I’m driving)
Things I can only do when I’m physically at the office
Things I can only do when I’m physically at home
Things I can only do when I’m out and about, typically near where I live
Things I need to do when I’m at my laptop (or on my phone)
Things I need to read
Things I need to talk to someone about in person or at an upcoming meeting
Things not important to me now, but worth considering ‘someday’ when I have the time
The way that I implement this for my email is by creating an email folder for each ‘context’ and then moving each ‘next action’ from my inbox to that folder.
Here are a few examples:
A friend emails me and wants to catch up. I simply drag the email from my inbox into my Call folder.
My wife emails me and asks if I can pick up paper towels. Into the Errands folder.
My colleague emails me and requests I review a presentation. Into the Laptop folder.
Someone sends me an interesting article on Vegemite. Into the Read folder it goes.
My boss emails me and says he wants to talk about an upcoming site visit. Into the Agenda folder for when I meet with him next.
Someone emails me to recommend walking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea but I don’t have time to think about it now. Into the Someday folder. (More to come on that, later!)
Hopefully you get the idea.
Later, when I find myself out and about driving to the grocery store, I check my Errands folder and go buy paper towels.
When I meet with my boss I go to my Agendas folder to remind myself of all the things I need to speak with him about.
When I have a spare moment, I hit my Read folder for all the catch up reading I need to do, including how to make Vegemite at home.
Then, when I’m done with all my projects and have time to breathe, I check my Someday folder for new things to do.
Never drop the ball again.
Creating a Code
Now, the above works great when you are receiving emails and taking action on them, but what if you want to create and manage next actions for things not associated with an email you have received? For example, you think of something you need to do at home, or you think of something you want to read. How do you get those next actions into your email system? Here’s what I do.
Let’s take a ‘work’ next action as an example. If I want to remind myself to print a presentation the next time I’m in the office, I simply send myself an email with a Subject of “Print out presentation $w”. I have a rule that looks for emails from myself with a “$w” in the subject line, and which then automatically moves that email into my Work folder. Voila! Next time I’m in the office I check my Work folder and there’s my next action to print out the presentation.
To break this down further, for each context:
Come up with a code you can put in the Subject for any next action you want to automatically move to the folder for that context.
Create a rule for the context that will look for that code as part of the Subject and then do the move.
For the example above the rule would look like this:
See below for the codes I use for all the contexts mentioned above. All you need to do now is to create a rule for each code that is exactly the same as for the work example above, but with the corresponding code for each context.
With the above in place you can also handle the following scenarios:
Someone sends you an email to ask you for something, and when you respond to say, “I’m on it!” you tag the subject with “$l” so your ‘next action’ is automatically put in your Laptop folder for follow-up. This saves you from having to respond AND manually moving the original email to Laptop yourself. Yes, it’s only a few extra steps, but over the course of a day or a week or a year it all adds up. And these posts are all about being an email ninja, not an email grasshopper. 🙂
Now, just two more things and we’re done, but these are very important to remember.
First, the ordering of your rules in your email system matters. It’s important that the first rule is the rule to move all received emails to your Received folder. This ensures you will continue to archive all received emails as explained in my first post. Then come the rules to manage context based next actions as explained above. Finally, the last rule should be the rule to manage Pending emails; those emails you copy yourself on when you want to track or monitor that something gets done. Ordering your rules in this way ensures they are applied in the right order so that the system works.
Second, you will need to update your Pending rule so that it doesn’t also move all these next action emails to your Pending folder. To do this, simply exclude all these emails from the rule as shown below.
That’s it! You now have a way to track next actions by context. Whenever you complete a next action you can simply delete it out of the context folder and move on to the next one!
At this point:
You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
You have a way to process your inbox.
You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.
You have a way to track next actions by context.
Stay tuned for part 3 on how to use this system to manage projects and deliverables that require lots of ‘next actions’ to complete, with maybe a few additional advanced techniques to move you into black belt territory.