This is a difficult post for me to write. I've always thought of myself as a pretty organized person every since I got my first Franklin Day Planner in 1990. I used to make prioritized list and set all of my appointments on my calender. I was so obsessed with my planner that while I was working on my Master's degree in 1997 that I went to work for Franklin Covey in a new retail store. I got to go to all of the time management classes multiple times so I knew the product and process inside and out. In 1998 I went to the national managers conference in Salt Lake City and was rubbing shoulders with Hyrum Smith and Stephen Covey. I was in heaven, actually Utah, but you get the point. However, 1999 something happened that changed the game...I got a Palm Pilot. From that point forward there has been a constant struggle between technology and paper to organize my affairs.
For the past 13 years I have battled to be organized. I guess I did OK for the most part but while my calender was pretty crazy at least it was up to date. To the outside world I was organized because I was on time to meetings. Internally there was always a fight between the "Urgent" and the "Important". Not just the important at work but the important for me.
This came to a head a week ago Monday. I woke up and didn't feel well. I knew I had a lot of things to do the remainder of the week and if I didn't get some rest I would potentially get worse so I called in sick. I was laying there and I picked up my phone, mistake. I had a voice mail and two emails that "had" to be addressed that day. Maybe I could delegate my way through them. By 10:30 I got another "must be done today" email and decided to drag my ass into the office.
I know I approve sick leave request for other people so how was it possible that I couldn't even take a day off when I felt like crap? Trust me, I'm not that important. So while I was waiting for my computer to turn on I decided to check twitter and I saw a post by Gini Dietrich titled "Caught in the Buzy Trap: Is It Making Us Less Productive". After I read the post two things occurred to me. First, how was it that Gini posted this on the exact day when I needed it most it? Second, I am out of control and I need to fix it.
So what to do? I need to get back to my roots of organization and time management and come up with a solution or at least a plan to try to get some order into my days. I also called the great teachers of our time, Google and YouTube, to give me some advice. Here is what I came up with and what I am trying to do.
Separate "important from "urgent". This is tough because often times Urgent comes disguised as Important especially when it comes from someone else. I need to know what is mission critical and focus on that. Sure there are things that will come up last minute but at least I will not have contributed to the urgent pile by missing something.
Have a list. I kind of look at the list like having a map. Without a map you might eventually get to your destination but it will involve a lot of wrong turns and you'll probably be late. List out what I need to do today and what I can get done today. I can have a bigger list of everything I need to do but for today's list only put what I can actually get done. An 80 item list of things to do today will only create stress.
Delegate / Hold accountable. Although I like to think I am superhuman I actually can't do it all (I know that will come as a shock to some people). I need to build expertise in my team and trust them to handle items that are delegated to them. Once I delegate place a reminder on my calender so I know when the task is to be completed and I hold the person accountable to getting the tasks completed.
Block Time. As I was looking into ways to get better organized I watched a video by Chris Brogan called Time Blocking. I liked this because it allows me to focus on value added areas of work while not confining me to one specific task.
Avoid distractions. These are the killers of productivity. Everything from checking Twitter to the office pop-in. Carrie Wilkerson discusses the concept the Power Hour. Take one hour a day that is total focus on getting important thing completed. Remove all distraction. No email, no social media, no phone, no visitors...total focus.
Don't over-schedule. If I work an eight hour day I can't schedule every minute with appointments if I want to make progress on important tasks.
Hold myself accountable. This is the most important item. After I make the plan I need to work the plan. We all have choices. The difference between successful time management and failure is not the tools or the plan it is what will you do when faced with the decision of will I do what I had planned or will I do something else. The decision in that moment makes all the difference.
So I am trying these things. For the first week things have been better. I'm still over scheduled but at least I am keeping on top of things. What's important to remember is that we are in control of what we do and how we react to things, not the other way around.