Following up. Marking for follow up. How much of your day do you estimate you spend pushing things off for follow-up later? How much of your to-do list is nothing but following up with people or on projects? Even those who are “getting things done” can find themselves drowning in next actions that never get, well, acted on.
As pointed out in the 43folders article, lots of “follow-up” actions, especially those on to-do lists, have at least two problems:
Say you’ve marked something for follow-up because it’s a project you can’t move forward on without hearing back from another party. So every day or week you email, call, and email or call again, with no results. What’s an ambitious person to do when it comes to managing to-do lists?
Do what you can or let it go. If something is truly important–if another person can’t live without you or your product/service–it’ll come up again. But know that “let it go” doesn’t mean never thinking about it again. It just means getting it off your immediate follow-up/to-do list. Putting it in a longer-term projects list. Grouping it with something else that makes sense. Or doing something much harder than just “following up”: defining what the follow-up item means you really need to do.
Say your follow-up item is to find out the status of a proposal that’s been sitting in someone else’s hands for weeks. What you really need to do is not just “follow up,” but convince that person to take action. Provide a whitepaper proving your value proposition. Send a link to a video demo or case study showing why your product is irresistible. Go the extra mile to do more than just leave another voicemail or email message.
This isn’t always possible. But it’s almost always better than adding another unproductive phone call or email to the chain. So do what you can now–which is typically more than just “follow up”–or let it go. Your inbox(es), and your brain, will thank you, for proactively managing to-do lists and not just being a follow-up fanatic.