Many people have said to me “I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.”
Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours and what you do with them is up to you. There are many distractions that eat away at your time, such as text messages, the internet, customers or clients who believe they are your only customer as well as “fires”. Start each day with a “to do” list. This can be written the night before, after the day is done so when you arrive the next morning you’re not bombarded with phone calls, email and other things while trying to sort out what you need to get done. Those items on your to do list that can be delegated to someone else should be. Then keep a list for that individual and follow up as necessary. Have specific times during the day that you will deal with email and voice mail. Try not to keep referring to email and voicemail during the day because it will keep your mind from focusing on the “to do” list. Fires may need to be put out, once again, put them on the “to do” list and see if someone can help you put them out. Watch out for charitable work. It feels great to be involved and to help out your favorite organizations but time is limited, so be careful on what you say you can do, and for how many organizations.
Have a systems approach when planning your activities for the day. I have found this is a trial and error activity. It is not a one size fits all approach. Some people are morning people so difficult tasks are best handled before lunch, others are better in the afternoon. Update your “to do” list during the day, don’t tell yourself “I’ll write this down later” because you may forget to and that may result in a “fire” later. Stay focused on the most important items on your list and work toward deadlines as if the deadlines are earlier than the actual dates due.
Prioritize your work. If you have a complete “to do” list assign a 1,2,3 and 4 or a A,B,C, and D rating schedule where 1s are more important than 2s or As or more important than Bs. Focus on getting all 1s done before moving on to 2s and so on. This should also help meet deadlines, while working under less pressure. More pressure, for most people results in more mistakes. This causes more stress and more fires. This is not easy to do because sometimes working on the lower priority items may be more enjoyable or easier that all the higher priority items. Please remember discipline is key here.
Becoming more efficient does have its rewards. Good habits must be worked at to make them habits. Once done you should see that your schedule does become more manageable. Then you will have time to spend outside of the office. You will be in control of your schedule, not other people or events.