Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

Bad EmailI read a brief article last weekend by Jeremiah Owyang that led me to try something new at work this past week.  The article was called “Pay Yourself First” and it dealt with being more intentional about getting your to-do list items done early in the day instead of allowing others to impose their to-do list on you.  Specifically, it suggested not opening your email at the start of the work day.  As someone has noted, email is a to-do list created for you by someone else.  It is a reactive medium that has the unintended consequence of producing more email for you the more you respond to others.

Instead, Owyang suggests doing something of significance to start your day where you can focus and get it done without the distraction of emails tapping on your shoulder for attention.  So that’s what I did Monday through Thursday this week.  (Friday was an all-day team meeting that demanded a different schedule.)  I didn’t open my email until mid-morning for four days except to find a conference call number for one call on Thursday.

How did it work out?  I got more backlogged things marked off of my to-do list this week than I have in the past month.  I also worked more hours than normal putting in some evening time to finally knock off those accumulating emails.  Still, the bottom line is that I got more done this week and I feel good about it.

For several months I have blocked out my mornings at work on my calendar to discourage people from scheduling morning meetings, thus allowing me to focus on getting my to-do list items done instead of theirs.  Now I think I’ve found an additional thing I can do in the first half of those morning hours to help me accomplish even more.  I plan to continue keeping my work email closed until about 10:00 a.m., concentrating on my important daily tasks and on tackling some backlogged but significant need that has been delayed far too long.

You might think about giving it a try for a week.  I promise the world won’t end.

Leap year lesson #343 is Pay yourself first.

I had no intentions of getting up at 2:00 a.m. today, but the thunderstorm and my scared dog had other plans.  Once the storm passed and my dog was sound asleep, I was still wide awake with my mind racing over several subjects.  In that situation, I’ve found that it’s just best to go ahead and get up and get things done instead of lay there frustrated that I’m not asleep.

So that’s what I did.

With social media sites checked, two blog posts written and several emails read or sent, I’m glad I got up and got things done.  I’ll have to go to bed a little earlier than normal tonight, of course, to make up for it, but that’s OK.  It’s best to strike when the iron is hot, and it was definitely hot in the wee hours this morning.

Most of us like some semblance of routine in our lives – when we get up, when we eat, where we go, what we do, when we go to bed.  Sometimes, however, those routines are disrupted through no fault of our own.  How do we handle them?  Do we get frustrated or do we make the best of it?

The word redeem can mean to recover, to liberate, rescue or save.  So rather than fret over the disruptions that come with interrupted plans and schedules, why not follow the advice of leap year lesson #270 – Redeem the time.

While looking over my calendar today at work, I bemoaned the fact that I had more time scheduled in meetings than I really felt like I could afford to give if I was to get more pressing things done.  Fortunately, one long meeting was cancelled and another went for only half the time scheduled.

Still, I wasn’t too keen on that final meeting of the day.  Upon closer look, I was stunned to see that the meeting had 198 people invited to it.  Huh?  Are you serious?  Anything with 198 people invited is no meeting.  It may be a presentation, but it’s no meeting.  The subject of the meeting was in the “might be nice to know about, but not critical for my work” category.

I cancelled out of it and went about my work.   The beauty of it is that nobody will ever care that I wasn’t there.  I bet most of the 198 did the same.

Leap year lesson #225 is Be selective about how you fill your day.

I had a perfect opportunity today to focus on one important thing that has a deadline of today.  With no meetings at all on my calendar, I could focus on getting together a draft of a presentation that I was asked to draft by today.  No problem, I thought.  There is nothing else on my calendar to stop me, so all should be well.

It’s now about 5:00 p.m. and I have yet to start putting the slides and screen shots together that need to fill out the outline I drafted last week.  I had to package up what I need, bring it home, and I will work on it into the night as long as it takes to get it done and emailed to the person expecting it.

There is no doubt I can do it tonight, but the issue is that I shouldn’t have to give my evening to it.  I should have done a much better job managing my time, putting other little things like emails, messages, and conversations aside in favor of crossing off the main thing I needed to do.  But I didn’t, so now I’ll pay the consequences.

I’ve done this sort of thing a million times in my life, so I know how it’s going to turn out – just fine.  But you’d think I would learn after, oh, half a million times to avoid putting myself in this situation.  Not so.  Either I really don’t mind it so much (because I love the work I do, which is true), or I just don’t learn very well from my mistakes (which I don’t think is very true or this blog wouldn’t exist).

If you know your capabilities and limits well, you can play the procrastination game and win most of the time.  That isn’t the best course of action, though.  It’s better to manage your time wisely, get things done with plenty of time to spare, and give yourself time to rest instead of time to stress.

Leap year lesson #204 is It’s nice when you can do well in a crunch, but it’s better when you don’t have to.

Thanks to a holiday week with far fewer interruptions and meetings than normal, I got completely caught up in my email inbox at work and home today.  What a wonderful, rare moment when I realized that I had no emails waiting on me in either place!  Aaaahhhhhhh………  the bliss!

Of course, that just meant that I was then free to actually get some other things done on my to-do list, but that’s OK.  That’s what I was hired to do in the first place.  Over time, it’s interesting how little tasks and responsibilities continue to add up until you hardly even recognize your real day-to-day compared to what you think it should be.

For example, as the community manager for our internal social network, I want to help plow new ground in how our communication platform is used and in the amount of use by senior leaders (who definitely are not leading in this regard).  I want additional mobile versions of the platform approved and available.  The masses need some basic education about how to use it.  There are new capabilities in the software that people need to know about and shown how to use in order to help them do their work more effectively, efficiently and collaboratively.

However, regardless of the number of big-picture initiatives I would prefer to spend time on, there is always an endless supply of little requests coming from here and there via email, phone calls, instant messages, hallway conversations, and via the platform itself.  So what do I do?  How do I balance making progress in big, long-term advancements while keeping up with the routine daily maintenance activities that will always be there?

For the past five weeks, my answer has been to carve out my mornings for the larger initiatives and then spend the rest of the day on the miscellaneous.  So far, that has worked well.  I can honestly say I’ve accomplished more in the past five weeks towards major initiatives than in the previous several months combined.  So the mornings will continue to be protected on my calendar for the foreseeable future.

Leap year lesson #186 is Find what works for you and run with it.