A woman recently came into my office with a frown on her face, which prompted me to ask, “What’s up?”
“I’m not making any progress on my project. Every day I get a little further behind,” she said.
“Let’s talk. Tell me about a typical day,” I told her.
She explained that the first thing she did each morning was answer e-mail. Her problem seemed to be that even before she was done with that people started interrupting her with calls and questions about projects they were working on together.
“I can’t seem to get to my own work until it’s almost time to quit for the day.”
Whether our work takes us to a desk in a corporate office or a laptop in the living room, fitting everything we want to accomplish into a single work day can be a problem. These days it pays to have a serious strategy to own the day or it’s almost certain that we won’t have enough of it. Here are five ways to get time working for you.
1. Establish office quiet hours
Early in the morning is the best time if your business allows for it. Explain to your clients and employees that you need one or two quiet hours. Enlist their support by asking them to allow you not to schedule meetings, answer calls, or reply to e-mail during that time. My experience is that colleagues often find the idea appealing and adopt the practice for themselves.
2. Avoid anything social for at least an hour
Start with your own work for at least 60 minutes. Do your own writing, your own planning, your own website work, your own deliverables. One hour of solid work will begin the day with pure focus. Don’t go near e-mail, the telephone, or any form of social media or social networking. Keep this time for your own work sacred.
3. Work first on what you can finish most quickly and pass on to someone else
Then while you’re working on the next thing, another person can be working on what you just finished. Starting the day with that sort of an accomplishment will fuel everything that comes after it.
4. Keep things you use most often closest to you
Sounds obvious, but do you do it? Watch yourself for a day. How far and how often do you have to move to get something that you use all of the time? What’s near you that you hardly ever use? Save time by arranging your office with your most-used items closest to you. Use this same practice for deciding what you keep on your computer desktop and for how many folders deep you keep your most-used documents.
5. Start a new project at the end of the day
Whenever possible, use the last hour of the day to clean your desk and get started on something new that is important. The idea is to do a small chunk of something big (or a big chunk of something small) to have a project started, so that you can hit the ground running and get to accomplishment quickly in the morning. Sketch out ideas, build a frame, or write a first draft or an outline. When you get that bit done, note what comes next. That way when you sit down in the morning, you’ll never have to start with a blank page or new project. Motivation is a lot easier when you know exactly what you want to work on.
With a little changing and rearranging of how we manage our days, we can get more done with more focus. By simply following these five strategies, you’ll not only find that your days go more smoothly, but that you even look forward to getting started in the morning.
I bet you know other tricks for getting time to work for you. What have you discovered that I’ve left off this list? What should I be trying?