Time is a tricky beast. It's the only resource that you have a limited amount of. You can make more money. You can find new partners. But you can never recover a second after it has passed. If you want to be successful, you must learn to control time.
I've learned a few things about time. Because I've got so many plates spinning, I have to be very efficient. Plus, I prefer playing and don't want to work all the time. I like to get my work done, then move on to other interest.
One of the biggest things I've done amidst all the other projects is write a book (it's for sales professionals--titled Accidental Selling--Download it here). It took about 5 months (not very fast) to write front to back. But what's cool is I was able to do it while still actively working in sales, developing my new contact management system, consulting with several clients, losing my laptop (stolen actually), moving, and evening helping Carolina recover from the chicken pox!
Here's the methods I use daily to help me stay on track. Maybe something here can help you...
I'm not gong to fo into detailed goal planning. You need goals. Everything you do should be centered around your major purpose. And any project should move you closer to your goals. That said, after I know my goals and have a rough plan, I get into figuring out how to get it done. I start with Projects...
First thing I do is figure out what I need to do. I use the project planning sheet to summarize the project and timeline. Then I list out all the tasks that make upo the project. If I have more than 15 tasks, the project should probably be broken up. Each task needs to be small and limited to 1-2 hours. Be specific. Anything longer and it's tough to stay focused. I list any resources and costs associated with the project.
I give each project a code like this: VISION-113. This code helps me track all related tasks, activities, emails, and documents.
Here's the project planning sheet I use: Project Planning Worksheet PDF
You'll need the latest version of Adobe Reader to open and print it.
Every lost a document on your computer? Or wrote down an idea and the paper vanished? I hate that! So, the way I get around it is making universal project folders. I make one folder on my hard drive with the project code. I make another "offline" with a simple and cheap two-pocket folder. On the pocket folder, I write the project code and the project name on top. EVERYTHING I do related to the project goes in these two folders. If you are ultra-detailed you can create folders in your email program to categorize all related correspondence.
Master Task List
Usually, I end up with 3-4 projects after each planning session. I don't want to lose all thos important items so it's important to "store" them somewhere long-term. I LOVE the free online system Remember the Milk. I put all my tasks for each project into RTM and "tag" each task with the project name (ie. VISION-113)
Best online task planning system (it's free!): Remember the Milk
Weekly Task Planning
It's easy to get overwhelmed looking at a massive list of tasks so I don't like to use RTM on a daily basis. Plus, there is something more final about scratching off with a pencil versus click a mouse. I feel better when a piece of paper is all checked off at the end of the day. So, on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, I layout the week's tasks according to the amount of time each will take. I usually book 6-8 hours of tasks and activity per day.
Here's the weekly task planner I use: Weekly Task Planner PDF
You'll need the latest version of Adobe Reader to open and print it.
Daily Tasks and Activity
1 minute of planning saves 5 minutes of execution. This is never more true than in daily activities. Want to get a lot done? Know what you need to do each day BEFORE the day begins! Then focus on those priorities before anything else. I could talk for hours on this one subject; but not now.
Each evening, I review my task list for the next day. I pick the single most important one and star it. This one task MUST be completed tomorrow even if there's a nuclear strike in my backyard. Nothing else matters. This should be an Important but Not Urgent task as often as possible. Completing it gives me the highest level of satisfaction.
After finishing, I feel invincible and usually end up getting more done the rest of the day.
Working in Time Blocks
When I get up in the morning, I get to work. I nail the starred task (sometimes two). I try to work in time blocks as much as possible. Instead of doing fifteen 5 minute tasks, I set aside 60-120 minutes to focus on one project--possibly multiple tasks. For example, instead of a bunch of "Call so-and-so" tasks, I have one 2 hour block of time for "Pipeline Work." During that time block, I open my contact management system (click here to see the system I use) and work. When that time is up, I take a breather, and then move to the next time block.
I refer to my task list and look for the related project code. I open my offline folder and my online folder and prepare all related documents. Then I get to work. If I've planned right, then everything I need for that task is close by and I don't have to go looking and waste valuable time.
Time blocks give my mind bookends for the work at hand. There's a distinct beginning and end. It's much easier to stay focused when I know I get to stop at precisely 3:30. I find myself easily distracted and unproductive when I say "I'll work on this until it's done." That usually means an unending project!
I used to spread projects out over a few days or weeks, trying to work a little each day on several different projects. I found that actually slows things down. I write a lot and for creative type work, much of the inspiration comes in spurts. If I spread that out, I find that my train of thought gets a bit lost. For most related projects (and tasks), it's better to complete them as close together as possible. Plus the felling of accomplishment is a great motivator.
As I complete each task, I check it off my paper list and then complete it in RTM. Note: when I complete an entire project, I archive the online and offline folders so I'll always have any related documents. I then transfer the finished results (reports, advertisements, content, etc) to another folder on my computer with a more sensible name (like "Accidental Selling Ebook").
I don't let anything distract me during most focused activities. I don't have new email notification on my computer. My phone has a silent button--and I use it. I get a drink and go potty before I start. During my time blocks, I work on one thing. Many times, I'll set an egg timer (now my iPhone timer) for a certain period. Nothing like working against the clock! I've trained myself to write a full complete, 800 word article in 28-30 minutes. I do it almost every morning. I wasn't always that quick. But working to a strict time limit forced my brain to think and produce within that constraint. Thus, more efficiency.
Well, that's it. That's what I do to get stuff done. I don't do it every day. Probably about 80% of the time I get pretty close. It's easy to get derailed by outside circumstances. But what's important is the ability to quickly get back on track. And at least HAVING a method in place gives you something get back to. Now, back to work!
I'd love to hear your feedback on the training or if you have any issues with the download! Just send me a message here: email@example.com
Also, if you're frustrated with the lack of a good contact management system, click here to discover Vision Pipeline Assistant. It's the system I built to help me achieve the huge growth I've had. You should check out the 30 Day FREE Trial.