You answer all emails when they come in, you take every call and you manage all the little things someone else would miss. You check your emails on your smart phone one the way home and even when you relax on your couch. You caught yourself hammering replies in your phone while brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. In short: You couldn’t do more to be on top of it. But still it seems that you never get everything done. Although you are always busy you feel like you could do better. Something is always left over to do and hence you never really feel satisfied with your day.
Problem: Overworked and inefficient
If this sounds at least a little bit like you then keep reading. I know exactly where you are. Your day looks like the glass above. It is full and there is always this big block of work that doesn’t fit in. The question is how to solve this? The glass is full.
Solution for an efficient time management
Is it? look at the glass on the below. You can count the big and small blocks and will notice they are all in the glass now. How? Well the they are just organized differently. For your day that means by starting with all the small tasks your fill it up in a way that there is not enough space for the big tasks that take just more time.
This is a common trap we all step in so readily. By answering some emails and covering task that don’t afford a lot of time to solve we think that we are achieving a lot. We are ticking off many tasks on the list. The problem is that most of these tasks are so small that they likely never made it onto this list. We are not satisfied because we still have these pesky other big responsibilities in the back of our mind. That takes hours, I am too busy! Unfortunately the really important time intensive tasks don’t go away they won’t disappear like some of the email questions we wasted time to answer so dutifully.
Number 1 – No Emails
Do not read your emails right away. Read them in two, three or even four hours.
Emails only distract you and take you off course. Very likely they will determine the direction of your day. But you need to be in control to get things done!
Number 2 – Big Blocks First
Start working on one of these big blocks and make sure you get it completed or at least reach a point from which you can later on continue without having to get familiarized with it again.
This will you give the real feeling of achievement and energize you for the rest of the day. You can now “reward” yourself by answering your emails and ticking off a couple of smaller tasks that don’t need your full focus to “relax” from the hours of intensive work before.
By following the first two points you already made a big step towards an efficient time management and a satisfying work experience. The following should help you to make this possible.
Number 3 – Meetings
Try to schedule meetings that don’t have the highest priority more towards noon when you likely have a lower attention span. So you can cover some work before the meeting and can use it to re-energize.
Of course you would’t do that with a meeting that puts you in the hot seat, but having e.g. a regular staff meeting in the morning -at worst Monday morning – will again likely change your planned course of the day.
Number 4 – Rituals
When we don’t want to do something we do something else to make us believe we are busy, while we are not. So we clean up our desk, re-organize our pens, books, paperweights or whatever we think is more more important than to get started. This is really quite important and difficult to get used to. Get rid of these rituals. Try to have a good breakfast before you come to office, have something to drink with you and a snack. So there is no excuse for not getting started right away as soon as you enter your office. You can of course however have a ritual to reward you after completing one of the big ones.
Number 5 – Planning
Plan the next week before you go into the weekend this particularly includes Monday. So you know where to start getting things done. It sounds like a nice idea to start your Monday morning with planning the week that lies ahead of you (another ritual), but that is already too late. You may have to check your notes from last week, start to go through your stack of papers on your desk, open your emails or even worse be distracted by phone, email and other conversations before you even have a plan for the week. You may be off course even before you really started. On Friday you know what needs to be done and even if you take work home over the weekend take the time to plan the next week on Friday.
If you follow these five rules your day will look like this.
There will be no need to frantically check emails after work, because you already covered it all. You will have time to relax and be able to come to work refreshed. More efficient and happier.