Being consistently productive is often related to good personal and time management. This is a difficult thing to accomplish and the feeling of overwhelm continuously re-occurs for many executives, so we are often called upon to help get control of a diary out of control.
A Doing Nothing Space
First things first – Create a space for Nothing! Yes, I do mean that – and this is the most important thing that busy executives least like to do, but it’s the most important thing to do in order to accomplish everything else. Create a space – a vacuum if you like – where you can do nothing – if possible to not even think – 10 or 15 minutes will do. In that space, stop your mind running around trying to fix everything, plan everything, remember everything and get it to stop. Then take three deep breaths and focus your mind on just being where you are, in the space and moment that you are and let yourself slow down. Focus your attention on yourself (nothing around you) and just being you in that moment and time. This exercise if done every day, will stop the feeling of overwhelm and bring back that sense of personal control. Go slow to go fast is the motto that belongs here.
Large Blocks – For Achieving Big Goals
Once you have done that, you will be able to move to traditional time management techniques for increased productivity. Our recommendation is to begin by putting in the larger blocks of time needed to focus on difficult, complex issues when you require not to be interrupted. For this, always ensure that unless you’re expecting a specific call or email, put your phone on silent and switch off your email alerts and if possible – switch off your computer if it’s not needed for the task.
Do this for around two hours each day, and you’ll be surprised how much you accomplish. If you can’t find that much time, you can get a significant amount of work done in an hour, or even 45 minutes of uninterrupted time. But plan it, enter this space into your diary and keep yourself to your self-determined agenda. Your big goals will more quickly be accomplished by devoting big blocks of time for thinking and doing what is needed for them.
Medium Blocks (Grouping Blocks)
Block out medium size time in your diary – say half an hour to three quarters of an hour to accomplish daily tasks such as planning, writing letters, returning phone calls, going through email, and do each group of tasks together. So you assign a block for each type of activity. The blocks can vary in size (or length), but the key is to stick to them. You can have two or even three blocks for the same activity e.g. email review and response – e.g. at 9.00 am, 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm. If you still have unread messages after your half-hour email block, don’t worry – you’ve got another email session later in the day.
Don’t try and multi-task. According to many experts, multi-tasking slows you down as energy is diverted from the task at hand and mentally your mind becomes dispersed rather than focused. Trying to do too many things at once leaves you with less time, energy, and brain power to deal with each of your tasks. Focus always on the task at hand.
Small Blocks – Newer Items and Lower Priority Tasks To Be Handled
Lower priority items or even new important items that will take a small amount of time can be fitted into the smaller blocks. These are fitted into the gaps between larger blocks and include requests for help from a colleague, quick answers to questions, filling out forms, and other project components. It’s also important to factor in some of the interpersonal catch-up chats with colleagues, meetings at the coffee machine and other little breaks you take during the day to stretch, take a deep breath, call home to speak with your kids, and simply remind yourself that the day isn’t all about work. Since they’re pretty small, you can sprinkle them throughout the day without being forced to move other blocks.
Complete the day by taking some time out to review what you’ve accomplished, what still needs doing tomorrow and what will need to be planned for in the coming days.
Good time management should prevent overwhelm, increase the sense of control and bring a sense of balance and good wellbeing to your day!
2 June 2014