One of my high school teachers once told me I was disorganized. I corrected her and said “I live in organized chaos.” That was fun in high school, weird in college but now that I’m an adult, it just doesn’t work. #HumbleBrag I have a lot more responsibility than my 22-year-old self–although I’m sure a lot of us can say that.
Good habits revolve around having a set strategy for your work day and streamlining your schedule to allow for more time to focus on work. In the process of getting organized I’ve learned that there’s a few things I just needed to do to optimize my work cycle.
Make Lists: I’m sure someone has told you to do this before. It’s very important to keep your responsibilities in check. Whatever you do, make sure your “To-Dos” are kept in a centralized location (i.e. calendar, app etc). I make lists in my Moleskine. I usually start my list on Sunday. I write down everything I need to do the next day and what I’d like to get done throughout the week. I also look back on my list from Friday and see if there’s anything I need to complete or follow up on from the previous week. As I go through my day, I cross things off the list and by the end of the day I can see what’s been done. When we have team meetings, I use my lists from the previous week to update my team on what’s been going on.
TL;DR Lists RULE!
Make Your Meetings Awesome: Meetings take time. To make my meetings more valuable,I pretend that every meeting I go into is a meeting with a client, or someone important. This often means creating an agenda, sharing documents between people before heading into a meeting and sometimes–as trite as it sounds–forming a set of questions to ask your teammates during a meeting. By using your valuable time wisely, you’ll get more accomplished in individual meetings and come to a set of decisions and strategic action items to focus on once the meeting is over.
Bunch Your Meetings: This is great advice from Meghan. Bunching you meetings reduces context-switching, meaning you have more time to focus and be productive. As I mentioned before, meetings take time. Sometimes you have a 1-hour meeting and then an hour break only to be followed by another slew of meetings. If you bucket your meetings in a certain part of the day, you can set aside a few hours for focused work–giving you time to get things done.
Do 1X1s with Important People in Your Life: I really dislike meetings–if you couldn’t already tell. It’s not because I don’t love talking with people, I’ve just been scarred by a number of unproductive meetings. But the weekly 1×1 is a beautiful thing. It allows you to have focused time with one person to discuss projects, campaigns and other mutually dependent work every week.. Another added benefit of the 1×1: it helps you avoid a ton of disaster scenarios by talking through details every week.
Don’t Check Your Email: I almost always break this rule but it’s still a good one. You should definitely check your email throughout the day, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you do. My colleague once told me that the first thing you should do when you start the day is “Get the frog out of your throat,” AKA get something huge done, “before you check your email”. Next time you walk into the office, look at your to-do list and see if there’s anything you can complete before you dive into your email. This is really hard to do, especially if your email sometimes resembles a stock ticker, or if you love your job, have a lot of important things you’re waiting for, or if you’d like to stay on top of things. Regardless, it’s hard to let go of your morning emails, but it will truly save you a lot of time and help you maintain high productivity throughout the day.
Take Email off Your Phone: I used to hate my email when I had it on my phone. I checked it before I left the house and when I got off the train, and then got back on as soon as I went to the office. I was in a complete Gmail daze that was nauseating. It didn’t make me more productive, it made me frustrated. What’s more, the more email I sent out, the more email I got back. Then I read a post on Harj Taggar’s blog on why he took email from his mobile, and I realized I needed to do it. A friend made a bet that I wouldn’t last a month, but it’s been a month and a half and I’m still going without email. The first few days were weird. I felt very disconnected even though I still had internet connection and could do just about anything else I wanted. But after a few days, it felt great! I was more productive when I had my email time and I reached Zero inbox way more frequently that I had in the past–which felt incredible.