For some of us, this is counterintuitive advice. But I have a challenge for you today. And it's likely good timing, as it's a holiday week and you probably already feel like a failure on the productivity front.
If you're sitting at your desk thinking about who will advance in the World Cup tomorrow, or how long you have to stay until you can call it a day, or how much you'll have to do this weekend just to catch up to your to do list ... take the last hour of your day and try this:
- In no particular order, make a bulleted list of the things you didn't get done this week (don't include tasks that are always "on the list" like organizing your desk, or cleaning out file folders). Just the important tasks with due dates.
- Now make a list of the things that must get done by mid-week next week, or that must make significant progress next week.
- Go back through both lists and:
- Star the simple tasks that will take 5-10 minutes max each.
- Rank the remaining tasks by order of importance. This is a combination of both lists, so you'll only have one of each number.
- Look at your list and do some triage. Is anything at risk, or in danger of delaying a project, angering a client, etc? If you have a few of these, quickly decide: Can I set aside some time this weekend to get caught up? Can I delegate anything? Will it be ok if I complete this first thing Monday morning? If you can delegate anything, take the time now to fully pass those projects off. Be as realistic as possible. If your list has 50 substantive projects on it, you need to make some choices.
- Take the remaining items on the numbered list and do a quick mental calculation of how long each item will take. Go to your Monday calendar and starting your second hour of work, schedule everything in. The number 1 thing will take an hour? You'll get it done from 9-10am on Monday. If you need to flow over to the evening, or Tuesday, just schedule it all. If it needs to get done, better to face reality about how much time you have in a day and when you can do it.
- Now take all the 5-10 minute tasks and do as many as you can in the remainder of this hour you set aside or until you leave for the day. Do the rest in the first hour of your workday that you left blank on Monday.
You could be thinking: "Cute! Polly thinks I don't work on the weekends." Trust me, I've been there. And I still work some portion of most weekends too. But I've found that taking a break on the weekend helps me recharge and be much more productive come Monday. Also a 1-year-old helps forces you to do this as well. In all the best ways.
Try this today and reap the benefits. You'll enter the weekend feeling more in control and less likely to panic about the nebulous pile of work you've left undone, or need to do. And you'll start Monday with a clear plan of attack to help you get the important things done, in the right order of importance.
Ok, I'm off to work on my list. Let me know how yours goes!