It is Monday. You just sat in front of your computer with your first cup of coffee. Without further ado, you are about to clear your mailbox.
But wait a second, I wouldn’t start my day like this, if I were you. What if instead, we come up with a plan and begin a good habit today? Are you in?
One of the things that used to make me lose track of time was actually clearing my mailbox. One email would lead to another, one question to a search on Google, one project to brainstorming for an event, etc. Very soon, I would be overwhelmed and my to-do list would seem never-ending. And before I knew it my team would be coming out to me with questions, feedback, and pretty much everything else.
As important as it is to be the person people come to when in doubt, it is important to involve them as well and to come up with a plan.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.
Let’s give it a try!
1-Your most important assignment
On Monday mornings it is often difficult to get back on track after the weekend and clearing emails naturally comes to mind first.
Let’s think about it. Which project do you believe is your most important one? A deadline, the presentation for a meeting, editing a contract for a client—whatever it may be, do it now and do not start anything else before you are done. Yes, nothing!
Start with the most important thing on your list and leave the emails for later in the day. Scan your inbox quickly to make sure there are no emergencies (10 minutes maximum), and close your mail to make sure you are not distracted by the sound of the notifications. Involve them in the process and tell them that you have to organize the week before starting anything else.
Set up a rule with your team that you should not be interrupted from 10AM to 12PM, for example. Extend this time if you feel like you need a larger window to accomplish the task.
Switch off your phone ringer, even the vibrate mode. We often get distracted by many little things and distraction is the enemy of productivity. There is really nothing that is so urgent if you think about it and if people need you urgently they will call you.
Switching off all devices is key because all of us feel the urge to check right away when we hear that little sound announcing a new message. Again, no sound, no distraction.
Being connected all the time has made us so accessible, and we are expected to answer emails/messages the moment someone sends us one. You are working, you are busy and more often than not, things can wait for an hour or so, believe me.
2- To-do list(s)
Maybe it’s just me, but I love lists. And I love colorful and inspiring notebooks.
Things have changed since I first started working and today it is all about paper vs. digital. While everyone has a lot of advice regarding the best app, if you are still into paper, then stick with it. You need to do what works best for you. And if paper it is, then remember, write on one and one only. One notebook, or one app.
We often have hundreds of ideas crossing our minds and we often write them down on the first thing we see in front of us. Make sure that your ‘idea support’ is right in front of you on your desk or in your bag when you are on the go. If not, you will end up making lists of lists and soon enough, things will get all mixed up. It will be almost like starting over and over again. Time to organize!
Once you’ve made your list, look at it and start organizing it. Break down any big task into specific actions. Add color if you feel like it or split your page in ‘to do now’ and ‘to do later’. But mostly, cross when things are completed. It’s the best traditional method and I feel some accomplishment when I cross things from my to-do list.
Again, too many options is the enemy of action.
A clear and concise to-do list will definitely help you organize the week.
3- Shorten the meeting time
For the benefit of your team and yourself, ask everyone to come to the meeting with a notebook listing the things they want to discuss. Follow each point without losing track and being distracted.
Set a fixed time and discuss the priority points (those should be on top of the list). The rest will be discussed tomorrow. Anyway, there is so much you can do in one day and talking about everything will not serve any purpose. I promise you, you will feel better and the pressure will ease.
It is better to be realistic when it comes to a work agenda. Keep it short but straight to the point.
4- Spend time with your team
It is important to check on your team, to feel if the energy is up and running. If otherwise, it is important to take time to sit down. People are more efficient and productive if they can talk their problem through instead of thinking about it.
I always have a coffee or a break to talk about anything and everything.
A team should be connected at all times. Motivation brings out inspiration.
5- Schedule a meeting with yourself
This is my favorite so far.
It took me some time to understand the importance of ‘making time for myself’.
Being productive does not mean spending x hours at work sitting in front of the computer. After a while, the brain does not process anymore and you lose concentration. So schedule a meeting with yourself: A yoga class, that painting workshop you have wanted to attend, a coffee with a friend, a trip to the library to find a new book.
Rather than losing that time, an hour in a day can help you do more in your time. Time invested in yourself is always a positive thing. You can never go wrong by doing so.
So go ahead, block a meeting with yourself on your calendar and do not cancel! Treat it as if it were with your most important client.
All of these have worked for me and changed my energy level in the office. I would love to hear from you if you want to share any tips on how to organize the week.
This is the first in my series of hummingbird lessons…straight from the heart. Stay tuned for more!
Need help to identify your priorities? Share your challenges with me.