The lazy days of summer are over, Labor Day has passed, the pools are closed (up north, anyhow!), school is in session and it’s time to go back to work. Like New Year’s Eve, September is another point of time in my year when the calendar starts fresh. For others, it may be a rollover of a new fiscal year in a different month. I’m mentally ready to work hard and eager to get many things accomplished. Let’s repeat that part: Get many things accomplished.
The problem is, everyone is feeling the same way, and the load is piling up: Clients who have been quiet in recent weeks are kicking into high gear and have a dozen immediate requests to complete yesterday. Fair enough – I’m their consultant and trusted advisor, and they expect me to get it all done. I won’t say no. The problem is, I also won’t say no to my boss, my colleagues, my husband, my children,* my parents and my friends, all of whom have the same “it’s a new year, it’s September, so let’s get busy!” attitude. Therefore, my task list grows exponentially, yet I can only focus on the most immediate, most time-sensitive requests. I’m happy at the end of the day if I can delete just two items on my task list, because my days are highly interruptible with unexpected demands. The added stress of adjusting to new family schedules, client needs, committee meetings, pro bono work and more simply adds more pressure.
*In this order because this is a work-related piece, but not necessarily the order in which I hold my life’s priorities!
We all have the same 24-hour limit in our days. How to make the most of them? Whether a law firm marketer, attorney or consultant, managing the balance of work and life is an art form. One side often tips more heavily than the other. Here are a few easy ways to get on track for more equilibrium as we enter the new school year … well, you know what I mean!
Prioritize. Task and online organization software programs abound, so take advantage of a wide selection of apps on your smartphone or pad. Find a new program to motivate you if you’re bored with your current system and you’ve abandoned it. Sadly, the guru of time management and productivity, Stephen Covey, passed away this summer – but his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book still reminds us to focus on the most important, rather than the most urgent. Time for me to make that one a habit!
Delegate. Taking 15 minutes to explain what to do to someone else who can help you with a task that would take you two hours relieves that build-up of internal pressure about having to get everything done by yourself. Trust in others.
Plan ahead. This can require a whole new way of thinking and training, but take a few moments every Monday morning to look at your upcoming week’s calendar and schedule do-not-disturb meetings with yourself to just get work done. When I meet with myself, I’m always surprised at how much we accomplish!
Clear off your desk. Regularly. In our house, before school starts, I make sure to clean off and empty out each child’s desk to avoid distractions during homework. Their desks at school are also empty and hold promise of productive effort. Unfortunately, this has always been my own personal demon in my office. Some people profess to like doing this task weekly or monthly. I envy them.
Stop meeting and start doing. Ever notice that, when your day is filled with back-to-back meetings, nothing gets done except creating a longer task list? Plan ahead and limit the number of meetings you’ll take in one day.
What is your highly effective habit, best tip or personal solution for workplace time management?
For help with relieving your busy workload, contact Vivian Hood, executive vice president, Client Services, firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-220-1915.