I regularly get asked how I manage to achieve so much, so here’s some key ways I work and some may be helpful for you.
1. Loving what we do
I wake up each day and look forward to starting work, I like the subject matter and the variety. Preparing for client sessions, reviewing CVs, creating LinkedIn profiles, talking about job search, helping people manage their careers and writing – articles, new exercises and working towards a new book idea.
I’m not 100% happy all the time, there are days when I’d rather be spending the day in the garden than writing and I don’t always put point 2 into practice, but I’m getting better since my illness earlier this year.
I don’t expect you to love your job 100% but you should be reasonably happy on most days. If not then you may want to consider how you can adapt your job, could you work from home a couple of days a week, take on a new project, mentor a more junior member of the team. If your happiness with your job is just a 3/10 what could you do to make it a 4?
2. Not over filling our diary
It’s easy to start each day without a plan and set unrealistic goals, you just want to keep going and get as much done as possible. But that’s too vague and hard to be satisfied as you can never get everything done and so can be disappointed.
What works best for me is to create a manageable daily to do list and to always have something that can be moved to the next day if something urgent crops up. It’s helped by also having time during the day that’s not filled with a set task.
Look at your diary and see how full it is and make plans to improve. When you have a meeting booked, also allow time to prepare and for the follow up. Can you put a full day meeting in your diary where you can focus on the backlog of reading or another one of the tasks on your to do list? The meeting is important, it’s for you and your tasks.
3. Longer time planning
I always have a huge number of things that could be done one day, and these are listed and kept separate. I still have a big pile of things I want to do and divide those into coming days, weeks and even months, reviewing this list on a regular basis.
I have 6 files on my desk – one each for Monday – Friday and a maybe folder, this last one I’ll review again at the end of the week. I’ll then add them to my daily folders for the following week or move them to do my ‘do later’ folder.
Would this work for you, to plan a week’s work on each Friday afternoon, and to be realistic. Also, when your boss then gives you extra work that isn’t planned, consider how you can negotiate. Saying yes, to this means no to something else. Don’t just take things on or it may all tumble down.
4. Making time for the big stuff
Sometimes you need time, and lots of time. Trying to cram writing a book into short gaps in a day just doesn’t work for me. So I like to take 3-4 days when I can ignore emails, let people think I’m away and get on with the big task.
You may find it easier to work on a bigger task away from the distractions of your day to day work situation.
5. Not being a slave to email
It’s so tempting to regularly check email’s but that distracts me from writing and will distract you from tasks too. It’s too easy to stop what you are doing check and email and you are into the minutiae of emails and following links rather than something more important.
I generally work on a task as soon as I get into my office, and don’t check emails for at least 90 minutes, and then check again 2 or 3 more times. I’ll usually do this after a client session.
Monitor how often you check email, stop having mail download automatically and stop the ping or envelope icon appearing.
6. Ditch or do emails
For the majority of emails I deal with them as I read them. I keep the minimum in my inbox. Once I’ve read an email I respond or file, I know if I leave them and then come back I’ll read again, taking more time.
Could this work for you, if you don’t already do it – respond once you have read the email. This could include a holding email for something that needs more attention. Say that you will respond by … and give a date, and then schedule your time to work on it allowing enough tim to complete.
7. Congratulations on a job well done
I know the importance of positive reinforcement and will tell myself that I’ve done a good job and met my targets. That’s why I don’t overfill my daily diary and don’t set myself unrealistic goals and deadlines.
I am human, I don’t always follow these habits, but I do for most of the time, and as with my 10 ½ stone weight loss I know that consistency works, and when we go off plan, then plan to get back on track and monitor and review progress.
It’s too easy to focus on the negative, stop beating yourself up and look for small successes, and think about what’s a nice treat if you want to celebrate.
8. Dealing with setbacks
Not every set back is down to me, but I do have a tendency to blame myself, such as when my hard drive crashed, I should have backed up more regularly.
Life does consist of setbacks, tasks take longer than expected, we don’t always have all the materials we need, and personal stuff interferes.
Stop beating yourself up, stuff happens, we just need to deal with them and if that means we need to reprioritise our week then that’s what we need to do.
9. Play to our strengths/ Getting additional help
When you work in an organisation there are other people who can help, so don’t be afraid to ask for others to be involved. What you find boring others may love to do. And some tasks can take us much longer than others. So I outsource work to freelancers and make sure I focus on where I can really add value to clients.
Don’t be the martyr and take on everything yourself. Yes sometimes it can take almost as long to get someone else to do it, but they will be quicker next time.
10. Take time for us
It’s so easy to fill every waking hour with work, but we aren’t as productive. I used to have a TV in my office and work as I watched ‘rubbish’ on TV, but I wasn’t paying my full attention to my work and there was too much of a blur. So now I focus in my office when I’m working and switch off from work at other times. For me I want to be active I spend too much time at my desk so I now go to dance classes and Zumba alongside the gym and watching TV is a treat.
Do you make sure you have nice activities beyond vegging out in front of the TV? Maybe not every day, but to have some things to look forward to that are very different from the day job?