So, I have re-read Getting Things Done, and revisited Deep Work, and The Power of Full Engagement. I’m working on my own scheduling/productivity challenges. Like you, and everyone else, I have plenty to do and not enough time to do it all. Even when I am really productive, churning out the work at a pretty good pace, and feeling good about my focus on getting my work done, I always feel just a touch, or much more than a touch, behind. It is…maddening.
But, here are some current tips that I follow, which I have incorporated, from my reading.
#1 – I’ve moved back to a combination paper/notebook plus technology system. My calendar is all iCloud on my three Apple devices. But my to-do lists, and my “category” folders, are all in my notebook.
Yes, I have returned to the good-old-days of a physical planner. And, you know what? – it’s easier, clearer, faster, and more visually available. (I use what is now called Time System. I first used it years ago when it was Time Design, and I went to a training class taught by…David Allen, before his Getting Things Done era).
I don’t know why, but this return to a physical notebook has given me a more tangible sense of “I’m getting stuff done” in a way that feels more satisfying.
#2 – I’ve created two “in-boxes.” This is a tangible practice reinforced by David Allen. One in-box is physical, on my desk. The other is a section in my “DataBank,” in my planner notebook. (see the photo for my current categories. Definitely subject to change).
#3 – I’ve started printing out key e-mails that I can’t/don’t answer immediately. They get folded, and placed in the in-box area in my notebook planner. This is a short stack; I don’t let it build up.
#4 – I set my cube timer, and do timed blocks of work. (Kind of like Cal Newport’s “time blocks.” Read about his “Time Blocking” here. Mr. Newport wrote the book Deep Work).
There are other things I am doing. But, being productive, fully productive, is always a challenge and a struggle, isn’t it?
And, still, I feel like “I am so busy doing this that I don’t have time to do that.”
On Friday, I present a synopsis of Laura Vanderkam‘s best seller, “I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time” (Portfolio, 2015). The book is based upon time diaries of 1001 days, divided into 1/2-hour chunks, from 150 women who make at least $100,000 a year with at least one child under 18 who lives at home,
To register for the synopsis at the Park City Club on March 4 at 7:30 a.m., simply click here.
Look, you’re both probably a little tired, right?
You should be, you’ve been under a lot of pressure. So go home, have a nice hot bath, rest up fifteen minutes if you want before you get your asses back in gear–
–because we’re under a lot of pressure, too, and you put us there–not that I want it to worry you–nothing’s riding on you except the First Amendment of the Constitution plus the freedom of the press plus the reputation of a hundred-year-old paper plus the jobs of the two thousand people who work there–
–but none of that counts as much as this: you _____ up again, I’m gonna lose my temper.
I promise you, you don’t want me to lose my temper.
Ben Bradlee, to Woodward and Bernstein, from the movie script for All the President’s Men
(This is one of my Sunday posts. A little longer than usual, maybe a little rambling, but an important point to make — I think/I hope).
My wife is now a full-time care-giver. Her dad moved in to live with us about a year and a half ago, and he is her full-time job. Because of his needs (related to diabetes, and his advanced age), she has his daily schedule, and thus her daily schedule, down to the minute and the calorie. It is exhausting – and I know this because I watch her work, and because there are a few weekends (like this one) when she is away and I fill in. Her dad is a fine man (he taught the classics in college; read nine languages; was a decorated decades-long Naval Reservist after his initial duty in World War II), but now needs a little help, and after a weekend, I feel pretty spent.
But… one thing that makes this work different is that when I go to bed, I know that I “finished” the work I had to do. And it feels “finished.” Jeannie is a great list maker, and she has created a checklist notebook with comprehensive details about everything from blood sugar and insulin to the right mix to stir into her dad’s oatmeal. Some company should hire her to help them with their organization I promise you, she leaves no detail neglected. (But, she is not available).
When her mother was living, she would read the Sunday newspaper. Look at the phrase again – “she would read the Sunday newspaper.” She would turn to every single page in every single section (she propably skipped the classifieds). She would read at least a portion of every article. Section by section, cover to cover. Most of those Sundays were spent with the Abilene Reporter-News. A good local newspaper, but from a smaller “market.” So, when we moved to Los Angeles, and she came to visit, she took one look at our Los Angeles Times, and grimaced. And then she set to work. Quite a long time later, she would put the last section face-down in its proper place (the Johnstons had a proper place for everything, including recently read newspapers), and say with a combination of accomplishment and disgust at the size of the task, “There!” She had read the Sunday newspaper – finished!
I no longer read the Sunday newspaper. I read my web sites. News; business; sports; politics; technology; film; and so many more… This morning, before and after the morning routine with Jeannie’s dad, I have read countless articles on my iPad, downloaded sample pages of about five books on my Kindle app (three of these titles Bob Morris reviewed on this blog), read many of these sample pages. I have ordered used copies of three books, all out of print, I have come to my computer to write this blog post, and then, later today I will reopen my iPad and get back to the task of reading web pages and books.
I am never finished. I feel like I am never finished. And that feeling can be exhausting.
And now I’m nearly to the point of this blog post. There are more and more jobs that people work in which are never “finished.” So much work in the past was work that you showed up to do, you did it, you finished it, and then you left work until the next day. Yesterday, a Saturday, I had to deal with three pressing business issues – all of which came to me on Saturday. Assembly line workers, bankers, and so many others used to work Monday—Friday. They would leave work on Friday and forget about it until Monday.
Not anymore – for a lot of people.
And, I think, people need a little help here. I think they need to feel like “there is at least a part of my work that I actually get to finish, and then leave behind.” I think leaders and managers and supervisors need to find a way to say, “do this – it is a finishable task” and then when they finish it, they need to encourage and reward and acknowledge and praise and tell the stories of such successfully completed tasks.
I think we are a tired people living in a tiring era. I think a part of what tires us so is the problem that so much of our work is always unfinished. At least, mine is.
But, when I finish a new handout on a book I have read, and then present it for the first time, I feel a momentary of “accomplishment.” This is close to a “finished” feeling. But then, the next time I present the same book, I struggle with “how to present this one better.”
Just this morning, one of the web sites I check frequently, Business Insider, had this article up under its Strategy tab: 13 Facts Every Presenter Should Know About People by Susan Weinschenk. I make much of my living as a speaker (these days, I’m supposed to learn to use the word “presenter.” I’m not yet sold on that). This was a good article. And then I downloaded the sample pages of the author’s book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. I’ve already read the sample pages… And now, I know that I need to learn 13 more facts, and 100 more things, and soon, there will be another list of things to learn. In her book, Ms. Weinschenk says: “Practically before the presentation is done, I’ve already identified what I need to change” before the next time.
In other words, she is, I am, we are, never quite fully finished. And so we strive for constant improvement. As we should. But striving for constant improvement really can put us in a sort of constantly exhausted state.
So – back to the point. In our work, we need to feel like we have finished something, then we can feel a sense of accomplishment, we can be rewarded/reward ourselves, and then we can rest. (Sunday used to be called the Christian Sabbath – a day of rest). And after we rest, then we get back at it again.
So, find a way to identify a finishable task. Do it, finish it, and then rest. And if you are a leader/supervisor/manager, help your folks identify a finishable task, and then reward them, and let them rest a little.
Many of us could use a little rest right now, don’t you think?
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…
Rudyard Kipling, If
Lifetime corporate employment is dead; we’re all free agents now, managing our own careers across multiple careers across multiple jobs and companies. And because today’s primary currency is information, a wide-reaching network is one of the surest ways to become and remain thought leaders of our respective fields.
Sticking to the people we already know is a tempting behavior. But unlike some forms of dating, a networker isn’t looking to achieve only a single successful union. Creating an enriching circle of trusted relationships requires one to be out there, in the mix, all the time.
Set a goal for yourself of initiating a meeting with one new person a week. It doesn’t matter where or with whom.
Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time (The Ultimate Networker Reveals How to Build a Lifelong Community of Colleagues, Contacts, Friends, and Mentors)
Okay. Time to state the obvious. 2010 is gone. 2011 is nearly 8 days gone.
Every day, every week, every month, they all fly by. And you think about things you intend to do – will do – absolutely will do! – in 2011, and the first week is already gone. Did you do what you intended to do? This week?
This is not a blog post about time management. (although, of course, it is). It is about one thing you need to do (one thing I need to do), with time in 2011.
We’ve got to get intentional, disciplined, regimented, about networking and marketing.
It does not matter what your job is. You need to be marketing all the time. And to market effectively, it helps to know the people you try to market to. Call it what you will; customer cultivation, relational customer strategy. This much is sure – if you did not do any of that “stuff” to make that happen in the first week of 2011, then that week is already gone. And the second week starts… in the blink of an eye.
So, here’s your challenge for 2011. Schedule time, every week, for networking and marketing. (AND! Keep your schedule!). Decide now which day of the week you will set aside for a lunch meeting with a client/potential client/potential customer. Set aside some time every week (every day) to use whatever social media or other media you can find (Twitter; Facebook; your blog; old fashioned letter or notecard writing). See somebody. Write to many. Keep at it. Quickly. Every 60 seconds is racing by.
A very good, now retired Real Estate Agent in our neighborhood called all of this “farming.” She always planted seeds, and she always kept in touch with all of her “A List” clients” She never knew when one of them would be ready to buy, sell, move – or when they would have a friend in need of a good agent. But this she did know – when that moment came, they would think about her, and know how to get in touch with her. And she was ready to help.
What about your client base/customer base? Is it expanding? Are they thinking of you? Do they know how to reach you easily?
Quick, there is not a minute to lose. Market; network; this week, every week, of 2011.
The minutes, the days, the weeks, the months, they are all so unforgiving…
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…
Tim Van Houten is one of my students. He is a “second career” student, after retiring from the Air Force as an accomplished Air Traffic Controller. In one of our exercises, I have our students prepare and deliver a speech in class. His topic was: “I encourage you to manage your time well.” In the midst of his speech was this terrific, and oh so correct, line:
“Bosses like people who manage their time well.”
Life really does work better, and your bosses really are happier, when you manage your time well.
I am slowly re-watching some of my favorite episodes from The West Wing. In the episode 365 Days, Leo – after his heart attack, no longer chief of staff – is called in to “help out.” It is the day after President Bartlett’s final State of the Union address. At the end of the episode, in a very busy day, with the staff depleted (they are off trying to help the next President get elected), and a dawning realization that ”time is running out,” Leo meets with President Bartlett and his now smaller circle of key advisors, and he writes these three numbers on a White Board:
and then he says:
“…Busy day around here today…. Problem is we’re running out of them.”
Leo looks at the board and then goes and erases the ‘5’ of ‘365’ and replaces it with a ‘4’ and adds the word ‘days’ and circles it and says,
“That’s how much time we have left. We have the ability to effect more change in a day in the White House than we will have in a lifetime once we walk out these doors. What do you want to do with them?”
This is always the time management question – what will you do, what will you accomplish, with the days you have left?
And remember Alan Lakein’s timeless question:
“What is the best use of my time right now?”