Last week I wrote about time management. This is the second post in the Leadership Tuesday series. I am still focusing on managing yourself, this time on how to get things done.
After we covered last week the crucial need to manage your time, and plan what to do with your time, this week it is time to talk about how to achieve the things you blocked your time for.
Identify your priorities
As mentioned last week, you need to define what are your priorities. My preference is grouping them into buckets of urgent, short, medium, long terms. If you find yourself only dealing with urgent, you will get very little done in the long run, as you will be busy putting out fires all day, and won’t have any time to focus on important things that are more of a long-term in their nature.
Each week and day, try to refine your buckets. The ultimate goal is spend as much of your time on medium term, while leaving some room for short and long term. You should delegate or defer urgent as much as possible, since this bucket will be your main time sink.
Important vs. Urgent
We all know how hard it is to avoid that notification, or that non-zero inbox. I am not even talking about social media (I suggest you avoid that in your personal life as well, another post, one day). That slack message you got? I don’t think you should have read it now. Look at your calendar, does it say respond to queries in this time slot? I guess it doesn’t. Put slack on Do not disturb mode. Frequent responding to notifications, burning issues that others can handle, and reading email are your enemy in getting things done.
If for example your goal for the week would be “Build a quarterly plan” you wouldn’t get very far with it. Planning is hard, and takes discipline to focus on it. But it is much more important than following an incident someone else is handling and doesn’t need your help. Yes, watching firefighters is really interesting, but doesn’t help you handle your priorities.
Basically, your day looks like a queue of incoming requests that you need to process. One of the queues is your priority queue, that should have your priorities in it. Try to make sure items going into that queue are processed with care. Each incoming task should be routed to the relevant queue. Each queue is part of one of the four buckets. For instance, the bucket urgent has 2 queues: “Handle now!”, “delegate to X”. If a task came in and filed under Handle now, and after processing it turns out not to be urgent, it moves to the relevant bucket, to a different queue, like into short term bucket under a queue named “in two weeks” and the item name would be “revisit performance”. You get the idea. Of course there are software tools to handle getting things done methodology, but I find mine to be working fairly well with a calendar and some slack reminders.
Your mileage may vary, but it works for me. The important thing to note is you have to have a system. You must. If you just float around and hope to remember everything, and respond to everyone and do everything you will fail. Maybe later than sooner, but you will. You will forget something, something won’t happen, are you won’t have time for the important, long term things. Build a system that works for you! But build one.
Having a good system and putting enough time for your top priorities on the calendar will for sure help you achieve your priorities. However, it is not enough, things change over time. Things we thought were long term might become short term, things we deemed urgent might become obvious they are not. In order to keep in line with reality you need to look back from time to and find out what you spent your time on. This way you can make sure you learn from the past, and can get better at estimating your priorities. In addition, it helps you plan better into the future based on what you have learned. I tend to evaluate once in a quarter, and that usually is a good cadence for me, but you might find a better one for yourself.
- Plan your priorities
- Devote enough time for them
- Have a system to manage your daily flood of tasks and requests
- Evaluate from time to time, in order to learn and improve
Next week I plan on talking about self caring.