It is not unusual when I meet with a prospective or new client to hear, “I just can’t seem to get anything done”, or “I work nearly 60-70 hours a week, but I just seem to move from one thing to the next and don’t ever feel like I accomplish anything.” Or, “I tend to just wing stuff a lot and go with the flow”.
Many entrepreneurs and business people have the ability to handle a lot of different tasks, assignments and projects at the same time. However, as the old saying goes, “what got you here isn’t going to get you there”. In other words, while one of your strengths may be to “wing it”, that’s probably not going to continue to make you successful in your business or career. Or while you have been successful at multi-tasking or moving from one thing to the next, at some point, that’s not going to continue to work for you as you move up the ladder in your career or become more successful in your business.
Getting in control of your own schedule is crucial. And with good intentions, discipline and consistent practice, it can be accomplished. Here are five “tried and true” tips that have worked for me and my clients:
1-Keep a Time Log for 2 weeks-Keep a piece of paper near your desk or computer and keep a time log-by hour of how you spend your time. At the top of each page put the day with each hourly increment starting from when you wake to when you go to sleep. Be sure to be as detailed as possible noting what you’re working on (i.e. e-mail, project, meeting etc) what time you started and when you finished. It’s important to keep this for 2 weeks to be sure you cover a portion of time when things may only happen once, or things that routinely happen. At the end of two weeks, take the time to really analyze where there are time sucks. Where are you spending too much time, perhaps with e-mails, looking for things in your office, or on your desk? Are you moving from one thing to the next without completing the first project? While this task can in itself feel overwhelming, all of my clients who have completed this exercise have found it INVALUABLE to help them get more organized and dramatically improve their productivity.
2-Organize Your Work Area-If your work area is a disaster, or there are piles and piles on your desk, (oh, I know, you know where everything is, or you’re afraid if you file it away, you will forget to do it) there is no way you will ever feel or get in control of your own schedule. Schedule a time this week to spend the time getting your work area organized. Buy some cheap boxes or baskets, label them and put like papers and info into each of them. Throw away what you don’t need and create a “projects for the future” basket which you schedule to look at once a month for new ideas.
3-Don’t Leave Your Office For The Evening Without Planning For The Next Day-I never leave my office without making a list of the things I have to do the next day. That way, I don’t waste any time when I get into my office the next morning, trying to figure out what I need to do that day. I already know from my planning the previous night. I also prioritize my list by the most important. Research shows that most people are most productive in the morning hours and it’s the best time to do the “hardest stuff” first.
4-Finish One Priority Before You Move To The Next-When working your prioritized list (that you made the night before!), go as far as you can with the first priority, until it’s either completed or you can’t go any further, before you move on to the next one, and so on and so forth. This way you start to complete projects, rather than just getting a little done here and there without really completing any of them.
5-Respect Your Time-This means to value your time. If you’ve scheduled some personal time to work out, or take a walk, or take time off-stick to it. Don’t let other people, or other “time sucks” pull you off your schedule. It’s important to schedule free or personal time into your calendar and stick to it-just as you would if it were a client appointment. This will greatly begin to reduce your feeling of overwhelm because you are able to make some space in the day for yourself.
I strongly encourage you to take these five tips and implement them today. Give it two weeks, being as disciplined as you can in following these five things and see if it doesn’t make a difference in lowering your stress level and helping you feel more in control of your time and schedule!