Are you ready to feel more productive and organized? There are so many books and systems out there that it’s hard to know where to start.
Let me share five top tips that my clients say have eliminated a feeling of stress and overwhelm, changed their ability to focus, and increased their ability to get things done:
1. Insert blocks of work time into your calendar.
Even the most powerful executives report stress due to a lack of time to work on major projects and initiatives. Invariably, when I review their physical calendar with them, time to work on these is not reserved.
If you are in charge of much, but you aren’t reserving the time to work on the most essential, you are setting yourself up for chronic stress and overwhelm. The problem is that most leaders assume this simply comes with the territory. It doesn’t.
Try the following experiment: Block off a two-hour timeframe each workday, preferably mornings. This is reserved for working on the most essential.
2. Schedule a maximum of two to three times daily to respond to e-mails.
Some of you are cringing right now – you know who you are!
When you aren’t responding to these e-mails, please turn off your alerts (and yes, that includes your mobile devices). You will instantly heighten your ability to focus and remain on task. This is the habit that most of my executives ignore. When they finally experiment with it, they are astounded at the difference it makes.
3. Start with the most challenging projects first.
Human beings usually have the habit of beginning with the easiest and most mundane tasks first. The challenge is that these tasks seem never-ending – and time seems to run out before you can turn to the most important priorities. Use the time blocks in #1 above wisely – tackle the big ones, first. You will develop a sense of accomplishment and avoid the stress that accompanies procrastination.
4. Schedule project timelines into your calendar.
It is likely that you have already developed a timeline with deadlines for each of your major projects so that you are working at your smartest. Once you have done this, transfer these deadlines into your calendar. It’s a quick and easy way to remind yourself so that you stay on target.
5. Show up fully organized for your day.
Develop the simple habit of taking time at the end of your day to look ahead. What do you need to accomplish tomorrow? If yours is a running list, prioritize it.
Begin by dividing it into “urgent-essential;” “urgent-non-essential;” non-urgent and essential,” and “non-urgent and non-essential” (Note: If you actually have things listed in that last category, we need to talk!).
Then select the top three items which will be your focus for the time blocks in your calendar. (Note #2: If you have a list of more than 6-8 projects or initiatives listed in your “urgent-essential” category, it’s time to reassess for potential delegation).
Most productivity challenges at the senior levels come from a lack of self-organization. These five tips, when integrated into your way of working, should yield great results. I look forward to hearing how these tips worked for you.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.