We all seem busier than ever and accomplishing a whole lot more than we did say 20 years ago. However, even in these seemingly busier and more productive days, we often feel frustrated by the lack of control over our days. Lately, I’ve been having more conversations with team members about their own frustrations and how best to gain control over their week, workload and meeting deadlines. Here are a few simple tips we often use to kick off a well-planned week.
Weekly Time-Blocking – At least one week out, look at the week ahead and block specific times on your calendar for certain activities. The nice thing about time blocking is it allows you to concentrate on one particular item at a time whether it is checking email or working on a project. It also helps eliminate distractions such as email pop-ups or alert reminders diverting your attention off the task you had just started. That loss of focus impacts any flow state you were in or close to being in.
As best you can, plan each week out exactly the same and fill in the specifics later. This will help manage your time better in knowing certain time slots are for certain activities. Here are a few examples of the types of activities you can calendar.
- Email is a real time killer but a necessity in keeping lines of communication open with fellow team members, getting status updates and closing the loop on tasks and projects. Blocking time on your calendar to check it three times a day works generally well for most of us. We want to be prompt in responding to email but we do not have to be a slave to it by staring at our inbox every minute of the day. For project related emails, you can cut down significantly on your inbox blowing up by engaging in a project management programs such as Basecamp, Slack or Asna. Even using Google Docs for collaboration can really help cut down on email.
- Working ON vs. Working IN – Start by distinguishing the difference between “Working On” a project (project planning, creating timelines and study time) vs. “Working In” a project (sending/responding to project related emails, hands-on work and handling tasks assigned by others). Once you are clear how these land on your desk, you can break up your day (or certain days of the week) according to each. Fridays can also be a good designated day for project work if you have the flexibility to do this in your office.
- Meetings – We all have them and need them, but they should have their time and place on your calendar. As you add them, select “recurring” to put them on your calendar throughout the year. Want to make your meetings more productive AND shorter? Yes, it is possible. Check out Jennifer Price’s blogs on How to Conduct Successful, Productive Meetings and How to Conduct Successful, Productive Meetings – Part 2.
- Here’s an example of what a day could look like.
- 8 – 8:30am: Check/respond to email
- 8:30 – 10:30am: Meetings/calls
- 10:30 – 11:30am: Project Planning (Working ON)
- 11:30 – 12:30pm: Lunch
- 12:30 – 1pm: Check/respond to email
- 1 – 4pm: Project Work (Working IN)
- 4 – 4:30pm: Check/respond to email
- Setting Reminders is necessary to keep many moving parts and deadlines in front of us, but be sure to set them to go off during appropriate days and times of the day. For example, if you have a reminder related to a project that you know you are going to be working on Wednesday afternoon, set the reminder to pop up during that time or the day before during your specified project work time slot.
- Alarms and Pop-Ups – These can completely destroy any chance for being productive. We’ve all been there… you’re focused, working through some great ideas and making progress on a project and “DING” an alarm goes off or someone Skypes you. In that split second, your productivity has just been hijacked. If you’re using time blocking, you need to add in the extra step of shutting off notifications or simply turn down the volume on your speakers to eliminate that distraction.
By implementing a few of these time management tips into your calendar each week, you will gain more control and know in advance how your days will play out on your terms not by others’ demands of your time. Which tips are you most inspired to implement first?
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555