Throughout life, maintaining productivity has been a problem for me—hey look a squirrel. From daydreaming in math class to effectively running my business, I find that distractions are king and I need to slap myself and get re-focused. Recently, I was at a Rotary meeting and our speaker was talking about time management, so I perked up and listened for a change. After the meeting I met with a few other attendees and Monday morning quarterbacked it. And here are our key takeaways.
Conduct a Time Audit
Figure out where you spend your time. Keep a pad on your desk (or use an app) and really track your time for a week—bathroom breaks, lunch, invoicing, marketing, sales, problems, meetings, training, etc.
Look for the time sucks and try to re-prioritize what you do and when you do it.
Pro tip: do the fun or easy things earlier in the day if you can. You will actually want to do them, and you will feel accomplished when you do complete them. Start with making your bed!
Prepare Meetings Agendas
Not all of us have meetings, but for those that do, prepare an agenda in advance and stick to it and check off each item as you go. This will eliminate the off topic asides that tend to take over most meetings.
You need to keep on track and on schedule. Imagine if airlines never had a schedule. Set your time limits for every task. Does it take you an hour each week to pay the bills? Plan an hour each week. When that week rolls around when it takes 90 minutes, then schedule and additional 30 minutes the following day.
The exception might be for creative endeavors where if you are on a roll, you are on a roll, and in that case, block out the entire day. Or do like I do and take it on about 9pm on a Friday night and break something necessitating a weekend emergency call to your tech guy to fix what you thought would be easy!
Look at Your Week
On Sunday, look ahead. In general terms, look at what you need to accomplish in the next 5 days. Make a list (paper or app) and check them off as you go along throughout the week. This will complement your daily checklist.
And Speaking of That Daily Checklist
Yeah, before you start your day, create a checklist of what you want to accomplish that day. Trust me, it will rarely get completed, but that is okay too. Simply move the uncompleted to tomorrow’s list and start over. I use a mini note pad (like 5” x 7”) and the yellow one is for my daily lists and the white one for my weekly. I am a dinosaur, so I like paper—but I am getting better.
Do Not Disturb
DND…it is not just a label on the phone anymore. DND or Do Not Disturb is a valuable feature that you can use all over the place and I encourage you to do so. Landline, smart phone, computer, and with a sign on your office door (or absent an office door, tape it to your back). When my kids were home I had an old radio station light that said ON AIR that I lit up for the times I could not be disturbed. And honestly, you really don’t need to know that it is your turn on Words With Friends immediately.
When you download a new app for your phone, it will invariably ask for you to enable notifications—think long and hard on this. It’s important!
This is on my New Year’s resolutions. Organize your electronic life. It may take day or two (put it on the checklists and turn on the DND), but let’s do this together. Organize your online files and folders. Client info, client bookings, client payments, etc. All programs and apps have folders—use them. I use Evernote extensively (writing this on it right now) but my organization is horrible. Not in 2020!
And this also applies to your email. All email programs have the ability to create folders and most have the ability to create rules. So when a client email comes in, it is shuffled to the IMPORTANT CLIENT email folder. When the latest promotion from a supplier comes in, send it off to the SPECIALS AND DEALS folder.
Use Your Calendar
Aside from the humorous and politically incorrect calendar on my desk, I religiously use the calendar built into my Mac and iPhone. But I also take it several steps further with several calendars—work, TRO, personal, keeping the kids straight (I’m divorced and it is shared with my ex), another one with a conference room scheduling in my shared office space, and potential fun things I may want to do.
They are all color-coded and I can display one, more or all of them at a time. And of course with synching, I can enter something on the fly on my phone and know that it will be on my desktop when I get home!
Chill. As Jack Torrance famously typed at the Stanley Hotel, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Schedule some fun and down time for you. Hooked on Downton Abbey? Watch it. Like to see films in the theater, schedule it.
Keeping relaxed and focused on something other than work will do wonders for you.
Remember, life is a balancing game. And as Ferris Bueller said, “If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it.”