When it comes to organizing and managing our lives, most of us function on a purely reactive basis: we wish we had a plan in place when we actually need to use that plan.
- We wished we'd organized our financial information, AFTER our wallet is stolen. Now we’re trying to locate customer service numbers to cancel credit cards.
- We forgot a friend's party because we didn't add it to our calendar (or we don't use our calendar at all). Now we’re worried about what other commitments we’ve dropped the ball on.
So how do you switch to proactive living and get to a place where you're prepared to handle anything that life throws your way (good or bad)?
Introducing The Scouting Method
Scouting is a concept I borrowed from television. Every show has a Location Manager, a person (or team) responsible for finding/scouting locations whenever a scene is to be filmed outside the studio.
They scout locations that meet the requirements of that scene before filming begins. You, as the Location Manager of your life, should “scout locations” before you need them. And by “locations”, I mean the place(s) you store specific types of information.
And by information I mean everything: contacts, photos, music, calendar appointments, videos, receipts, to-do-lists, passwords, shopping lists…
The #1 killer of productivity is not knowing where things are.
If you don’t know where things are, it’s safe to assume that you haven’t scouted and decided where things should go.
This uncertainty cripples you, causing you to delay making decisions and putting things off to “later.” And later either never comes (if you're lucky), or later becomes now because you have a need for information but said information is not where you are.
And if you have multiple locations for the same type of information (e.g., photos), it's more challenging and time-consuming to find things because you have to look in multiple places.
The Scouting Method and You
Scouting is about preparation. It’s about knowing what you need then deciding how to store it logically AND digitally. Once you sync your info across all your devices, no matter where you are, you can access it (including on your smartphone).
Scouting helps you create systems for organizing and managing your life:
- How do you handle new business cards?
- If you schedule a meeting with someone, do you add it to your calendar and send an invitation to the other person?
- Once you read an email, what happens next?
- Do you have a dedicated place where all your passwords are stored securely?
- When you travel, how do you keep track of all reservations and important travel information?
- Where do you keep your tax-related receipts?
How I Use The Scouting Method
Here's what I do when I receives business cards.
First of all, Scouting-wise, I store all contacts in my Google account, which automatically syncs to my smartphone.
Whenever I receive a new business card, I add the information to Google, including an image of the person and any interesting details I wrote down or remember about the person (e.g., where we met, interesting conversation items, mutual friends, etc. Anything that will help me remember the person in the future).
Because I have “scouted” and decided how I want to handle business cards, I know exactly what I need to do with any new card and where the information should go.
I also schedule time at least once per week to go through business cards. Processing 10 business cards is a lot easier than 50.
There are a few ways that The Scouting Method can help you on a daily basis.
- It lowers the number of minor decisions you have to make each day, giving you more energy and brain power to focus on the things that matter.
- You’re prepared. You don’t wait until the need arises before you decide where things should go. Can you imagine a Location Manager waiting until the day of filming to scout locations? They would be fired!
- Even if a new type of information needs to be handled, it’s easy to determine how to handle it because you have systems set up for all your other things.
Remember, Scouting is about having a plan in place for how you always handle a certain type of information (for storage or retrieval).