I could work 24 hours a day and not get everything done. And not only is that physically impossible, but I also want dedicated time away from work – with my wife, my kids and sometimes just to veg out.
After our third child was born this summer, I dedicated myself to some new habits – some strategic and some tactical – to help me better manage my time. Here are a few things I’ve instituted that have stuck thus far.
Three Focus Areas
Everything I do is filtered based on three priorities: our clients, our team, and our sales pipeline (which generally includes both sales & marketing activities to grow our business). That’s all I spend my time on. I realize that sounds like a broad set of focus areas, but you’d be surprised how many things you can eliminate or delegate with that kind of focus & filter.
The 75% Rule
I got this from our amazing director of account services Maria Geokezas. The rule is simple – only commit yourself to work that takes up 75% of your work time. If less, great. But definitely no more. You’ll need that time for other work-related focus areas (including reflection & planning, as outlined further below). This is a hard one to execute, but if you’re intentional about managing your calendar, it can be done.
Re-dedication to GTD principals
I had gotten lazy with some of the Getting Things Done (GTD) tactics that have made me more productive pre-third baby. Things like the weekly review of key ongoing projects, active tasks lists organized by context (vvs. Deadlines), turning email and other distractions off to focus on priorities, and the two-minute rule. These are all core to my daily & weekly system, and getting back to them the past few months has helped my sanity and productivity.
Daily Do List Discipline
You can read more about my Daily Do List here, but the key breakthrough for me to more regularly complete it daily is fairly simple – I print it out. The list is embedded in a daily meeting request to myself at 7:30 am, but if that time passes and I haven’t gotten the work done, It’s out of sight and out of mind. Printing out that checklist and having it either at my desk or with my throughout the day means it’s staring at me, at least until I complete the tasks and can throw that paper away.
Scheduled time for reflection & planning
One of the reasons I like attending out-of-town events is that it gets me out of my regular environment and naturally creates time for reflection without the usual distractions. This can happen on a plane, in a keynote, in the morning with a cup of coffee without the kids (sorry, honey). So I’m trying to be far more intentional about scheduling that time into my schedule now. That means having the time but also breaking away from where I usually work to get it done effectively.
Saying No (or offering alternatives)
This is the hardest part for me. I love meeting people, hearing new ideas, sharing best practices. I have a hard time telling someone I don’t have time for them. And occasionally, someone will still get pissed that I can’t give them 30 minutes. But I try to at least offer those folks an alternative – a recommendation of someone else to speak with, a few links to content on our blog pertaining to their specific question, something that isn’t just a “no thanks”.
Days can get a little crazy. It’s easy to get swept up in the fire drills – both internally as well as with clients. And despite the fact that I keep email turned off through stretches of the day, it still backs up and stresses me out when I see it. So I find a quick walk around the office, or simply a few deep breaths, can help center myself, push the anxiety away, and get re-focused on what needs to happen right now. This has taken some practice to truly work (consistently & quickly), but it keeps me from spinning on things that don’t matter and aren’t productive.
Curious if any of these have helped you better focus and get things done, or if there are other best practices you’re using currently towards the same purpose & objective.