The Yellow List

I thought I would share a tip to reduce email and make good use of colleague’s time.

A former CEO taught all his direct reports this technique and it was so effective that we broadly adopted it as a team.

The Yellow List

Maintain a list of topics you need to discuss with someone else. When you think of a topic or question you need to ask, instead of quickly sending an email or a slack, put it on the yellow list.

Then in your next scheduled meeting you have a list of things to discuss. It allows you to provide context and get more nuanced answers.

If the list gets long and there isn’t a meeting scheduled, then that is a trigger to set up a meeting.

Obviously this isn’t for critical messages but 90% of what we need to ask/discuss isn’t an immediate need.

A few tips to make your Yellow List successful:

  • Capture context. Where did this item stem from? If you jot down 3 words and then don’t see it for 4 days you may not remember key details/context.
  • Maintain a yellow list for your manager and peers. I happen to use one list in Todoist and tag it “for_Person, for_Team”
  • Capture quickly but make time to edit. I review my list almost daily and I try to revise my question or idea as if it was a mini-agenda or proposal. It forces me to clarify my thoughts and present a more succinct statement to the audience.

TL;DR – Keep a list of things to discuss and don’t just default to email/slack every time.

PS: This is ostensibly a security blog but I don’t write as often as I would like. Being active in Mastodon has allowed me a quick space to share slightly longer thoughts. Some of those posts will make it to the blog. I’m fascinated by systems, efficiency, and productivity and well since I pay for this thing I’ll post what I want. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply