Bill Gates at work provides an interesting insight into the Microsoft founder’s typical working day. He said we’re approaching the digital workstyle. Among the highlights:

  • minimise use of paper
  • Dell desktop PCs and tablet PC
  • 3 huge LCD screens, synced to form 1 single desktop. Screen on left has list of emails. Screen on middle is the currently open email. Screen on right is web browser.

  • At MS, e-mail is the medium of choice, more than phone calls, documents, blogs, bulletin boards, or even meetings (voicemails and faxes are actually integrated into our e-mail in-boxes).
  • Use filtering to keep emails around 100 a day. An email comes straight thru if it’s from anyone Bill’s ever corresponded with.
  • Assistant/PA always does write-ups of any other e-mail, from companies that aren’t on the permission list or unknown individuals. This is to enable scanning thru what people are praising, complaining about, and what they are asking.
  • Biggest challenge now is ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. Use tools like “in-box rules” and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.
  • Less emphasis on todo lists. Instead, use e-mail, desktop folders and online calendar. This is to enable focus on the e-mails you’ve flagged and check the folders that are monitoring particular projects and particular blogs.
  • Be very disciplined about ignoring Outlook/email client’s new email arrival notification, unless it’s a high-priority topic.
  • To stay focused is one issue (dealing with information overload/underload), use 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.
  • Set a “Think Week” once a year, where you go off for a week and read papers from colleagues that examine issues related to the organisation and the future of technology. Bill has been doing this for over 12 years. Using Sharepoint, the whole process is digital and open to the entire company. This enables you to pick the right papers to read, and you can add electronic comments that everyone sees in real time.
  • Use desktop search. It enables one to access information quickly (eliminating guesswork) on local PC, servers, and on the Internet.
  • Get as much news as possible online (if possible dont bring newspaper)
  • When go to a meeting and want to jot things down, bring Tablet PC. Fully synchronize it with the office desktop to ensure you have all the files needed.
  • Keep the whiteboard in the room. It’s great for brainstorming.
  • Go thru work emails that you didnt have time to go thru after the kids have gone to bed. If the entire week is very busy, use the weekend to send the long, thoughtful pieces of e-mail.

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