Bill Gates and I work in a very simillar way!

I have just read this article that describes the way that Bill Gates works,  it’s very similar to my normal work style, I bet I spent a lot less on my office though!  I have added my comments to the article in blue:

On my desk I have three screens, synchronised to form a single desktop me too. I can drag items from one screen to the next yes, its great. Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity very true.
In the digital age, Microsoft chair Bill Gates uses a lot of electricity, but not as much paper I am essentially paperless.

The screen on the left has my list of e-mails mine too. On the centre screen is usually the specific e-mail I’m reading and responding to in my case it’s normally the presentation or document I am creating. And my browser is on the right-hand screen mine too. This setup gives me the ability to glance and see what new has come in while I’m working on something, and to bring up a link that’s related to an e-mail and look at it while the e-mail is still in front of me.

At Microsoft, e-mail is the medium of choice, more than phone calls, documents, blogs, bulletin boards, or even meetings (voice-mails and faxes are actually integrated into our e-mail in-boxes) hmm, email is important to me,  but now days I send and receive way more IM messages than I do emails and RSS is my main information feed.Desk and screens

I get about 100 e-mails a day I get about 50. We apply filtering to keep it to that level—e-mail comes straight to me from anyone I’ve ever corresponded with, anyone from Microsoft, Intel, HP, and all the other partner companies, and anyone I know thankfully I don’t have this problem. And I always see a write-up from my assistant of any other e-mail, from companies that aren’t on my permission list or individuals I don’t know. That way I know what people are praising us for, what they are complaining about, and what they are asking.

We’re at the point now where the challenge isn’t how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it’s ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like “in-box rules” and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance I use similar tools for RSS feeds, but for email I just use rules to colour code my email, so I can see at a glance ones that come from important people or customers and I use GTD to keep my mailbox pretty much empty.

I’m not big on to-do lists. Instead, I use e-mail and desktop folders and my online calendar. So when I walk up to my desk, I can focus on the e-mails I’ve flagged and check the folders that are monitoring particular projects and particular blogs. I have real trouble with to-do lists,  they just make me feel overwhelmed,  I like to only see my top 3 priorities to achieve each day and nothing else.

Outlook also has a little notification box that comes up in the lower right whenever a new e-mail comes in. We call it the toast. I’m very disciplined about ignoring that unless I see that it’s a high-priority topic.  I switch off all notifications and hide my email unless I am processing it.  Instead on my left screen I normally have reference material that I need to help me with the work I am doing at the time.

Staying focused is one issue; that’s the problem of information overload. The other problem is information underload. Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people.  I could easily be flooded,  I have a lot of projects on the go,  a big backlog, a lot of technology tracking to do mainly via RSS.  My strategy is:

  • I write up my top three priorities on my white board and only look at my to-do list when I am doing a review or need access to reference information.
  • I use different devices for different activities, each one is optimised for a different task
  • I process my emails in the morning before I go out for a walk in the morning, at lunch and before I stop working at night
  • I process my RSS feeds at the end of the day, but read the ones I am interested in on my Tablet

I deal with this by using SharePoint, a tool that creates websites for collaboration on specific projects. These sites contain plans, schedules, discussion boards, and other information, and they can be created by just about anyone in the company with a couple of clicks. My company uses Lotus Notes databases and quickplaces,  they are equivalent to SharePoint.

Right now, I’m getting ready for Think Week. In May, I’ll go off for a week and read 100 or more papers from Microsoft employees that examine issues related to the company and the future of technology. I’ve been doing this for over 12 years. It used to be an all-paper process in which I was the only one doing the reading and commenting. Today the whole process is digital and open to the entire company. This sounds really cool,  but I don’t take weeks off,  however I do collect up research in Maxthon groups and then spend a few hours working through it when I get chance.


Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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