I’m going to propose that we officially start 2021 on February 1st. I know how busy you’ve been since the start of this new year, but I think most of us were holding our breath until our new president was fully in place. I know I have held off our book launch because there hasn’t been much extra energy to absorb anything that’s not vital. We’ve been operating in survival mode. We still have a ton of uncertainty, but I choose to believe that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel and we are going to emerge more resilient and grateful.
To officially welcome 2021, I would like to provide you with 5 Time Management Hacks from my upcoming book, Your Fairy Job Mentor’s Secrets for Success, available on Kindle early next month!
I know how hard you are all working from home! Yesterday I did a Zoom training for 157 attorneys and professionals for a large law firm. Prior to the session, I sent out a brief survey to better understand participants’ needs. Overwhelmingly, they mentioned feeling reactive, feeling unfocused and struggling with interruptions.
If you too are finding it challenging to stay focused on important projects and are feeling unsatisfied with what you are able to accomplish even after working for hours, I have some practical hacks to share with you so you can feel more in control of your day and get the most important things done, not just the urgent ones.
1. Start each day with an action plan
Identify the three most important (not just urgent) things you need to accomplish today. Write down these top priorities where you can easily see them, whether in your planner, on a must-do list on your desk, or in an app on your phone. Knowing what you must do will give you the focus and clarity you need to get the most important stuff done, no matter how many interruptions come up.
2. Create focus time
Block out time for important or long-term work projects so you get in the habit of taking proactive action on these before they become urgent. Get in the habit of blocking out one or two 30-minute periods each day to take action on long-term projects, ideally at the beginning of your day when you’re least likely to be interrupted. To keep yourself motivate on long-term projects, it’s important to keep track of your progress.
3. Do the worst things first
Do you tend to put off the more challenging tasks on your to-do list and busy yourself with the easy ones instead? Most of us do this at least some of the time. But if you don’t want to feel that vague, looming dread all day or scramble at the last minute to complete your top priority, make it your mission to do the worst things first! I recommend getting in the habit of doing one of your “worst things” by 11am. Your best clue as to which action is the “worst?” It’s the one that makes you feel uncomfortable in the pit of your stomach.
4. Stop interrupting yourself
Have you ever found that when you’re super busy and have too much to do, you’re especially susceptible to interruptions? The trouble with this is that it often takes longer to refocus on the project or assignment you were working on than it takes to deal with the actual interruption. And do you know who’s most likely to interrupt your flow of work? That’s right: You are! Self-interruptions are by far our biggest culprits. The good news is that I have a practical tool that will help you focus! It’s called a Parking Lot. Here’s how you use it: When you sit down to work on an important project, make sure to have a piece of paper nearby titled “Parking Lot.” This sheet of paper is where you’ll write down all those thoughts that pop into your mind and distract you when you’re trying to concentrate. If you can stop interrupting yourself, you will be able to focus on your priorities! This takes a lot of practice, but the Parking Lot tool helps a lot.
5. Establish a 3 o’clock check-in
You can pick a different time that works for your schedule, but the point is to have a set time each day when you stop what you’re doing to evaluate what you’ve accomplished, reassess your priorities, and determine what you must do before the end of the day. Especially if you’re working, priorities can change throughout the day and what was at #3 on your to-do list at 9 a.m. may now be replaced by something that came in at 2:30 p.m.. Setting a check-in time before 5 p.m. to re-evaluate your workday and what you must complete will also give you time to tap into existing resources. By setting a time each day to assess what you must do before your day ends, you will be able to plan and strategize how to use your time best.
There are many things we don’t have control over today, but using tools and strategies so you can really focus and get the most important things done is something you can control! Wishing you a success-filled and fulfilling 2021!