How often do you feel completely overwhelmed by all the things that are on your plate both at work and in your personal life? Wouldn’t it be great to have a system that would help you organize your projects in such a way that you knew what to do and could get through your tasks with ease and confidence?
Here is a simple 5+step process that can get you out of overwhelm and make you more productive and effective.
The first step is to make a sweep of everything that you are currently responsible for both at work and in your personal life. Start with work. Write down all of the projects. Next, take a look at your extra-curricular activities like board service, music lessons or clubs that you belong to. What is on that list that you have committed to doing? Then look around home and see what needs to be done. Broken appliances? Car repairs? How about the family reunion that you are organizing? Write them all down!
A lot of people are afraid of this step. Often, just by writing down the various things that are floating through your mind, it relieves a lot of stress because your list is not as long as you think. On the other hand, if you have too much on your list, you can see what you can get rid of and learn how to say no the next time.
Now that you have everything in front of you, it’s time to funnel the information through the following process:
• Break down each project into tasks;
• Delegate it or do it;
• Decide how long each task will take.
What are you working on now? What are the different tasks involved in that project? Write down the tasks in chronological order. Look at each task and ask yourself: do I do it or delegate it? Delegate anything that someone else can do. Finally, figure out how long each step will take and assign due dates for every task. Once you accept a project, it is a commitment so honor it!
Look at the tasks that are on your list. Sort them by due date. Then look at which ones are the most important. By sorting them into these two categories, it will be much easier to zero in on which tasks need to be done first.
Sit down with your calendar and block in each task by due date and by order of priority. Some people say that they do not have time to plan. In my experience, the most productive people take time out to plan every day, every week and every month.
Which activities are on your to-do list for the week? Schedule them into the appropriate time slot.
Some people like to write each task down on the calendar. Other people prefer to log in the big things only. It’s up to you. If there is something that you might overlook, book an appointment with yourself on your calendar.
Now consider your energy cycle. One of the big advantages of breaking down your tasks is that you can clearly see the different aspects of a project. What tasks require your heavy thinking? Do these when you are feeling energetic and inspired. What about administrative tasks that you have not delegated? How about collecting sources for your project? What about paying bills? Do these when you feel less energized.
In this way, you can manage your tasks and always have something to do.
Now is the time to sit down and do your work as planned, with tasks nicely broken down and assigned according to priority and your energy cycle.
Honor your deadlines and the corresponding intermediate goals to avoid the deadline adrenaline rush.
Enjoy getting through your list in a productive way. Your resulting work product will be that much better since you will be feeling so much more in charge of your time.
One last thing: plan for the unknown or the + Factor.
By following the 5 Step process, you can avoid a lot of emergencies. Nevertheless, things invariably arise in the last minute that you could not have foreseen. In that case, shift your schedule to deal with the urgent matter and then attend to things with a less urgent time deadline. Reschedule your other tasks. If the urgent matter is going to make it difficult for you to do other work, be sure to consult with your team members and make sure that the other task is attended to!
By following this 5+ Step Process, you will know what projects to take on and you can devote yourself to doing what you do best. Enjoy how great that feels!
(C) Astrid Baumgardner 2010
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.