We all seem to be as busy as bees these days. We are most certainly busier than previous generations; I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing but none-the-less, that’s the world in which we all live. We are pushed to fit more and more into our days, our to-do lists are growing like Jack’s Bean Stalk! As a result, we are all faced with the same issue – the daily struggle to get to the end of those to-do lists and get all of the stuff done that we have to do. While this is a common story for all of us, it is even more of an issue for business owners. Over the years, as the owner of e-BAS Accounts, I too have experienced the frustration and stress caused by this daily struggle. This year however, I decided to do something about it………
By the end of 2011, I had become thoroughly sick of the continual feelings of frustration I experienced due to, what seemed to be, a complete inability to reach the end of my in box and clear those to-do lists. I had come to the end of the road so to speak! I thought, “Enough is enough; there must be a better way!” I decided to find a better way and to that end, spent much of my Summer break researching, reading, writing and thinking. I eventually realised that the answer to the problem was to better manage productivity by using processes/systems that would give rise to this productivity. By the beginning of the 2012 working year, I had created my own productivity systems which so far, seem to be working! Today I share those systems with you……….
My Productivity Systems
To be done before the working year begins:
- Yearly To-Do List: Create a general yearly to-do list (you can do this on a yearly planner found in any good diary or you can purchase a wall planner). Put the following items on this planner: important tax due dates, holidays (public and personal), birthdays (family and clients), network meetings, conferences and any other important general dates/events.
- Monthly To-Do Lists: On a monthly planner, the yearly to-do list is further broken down. Firstly transfer all of the dates on the yearly planner to the monthly planner. Then proceed to add more detail as required. I add the following items: specific client work i.e. who, what and when, BAS due dates, team meetings, courses I’m doing, webinars I want to attend, blogs I’m going to write etc. Also add important personal dates/events and/or reminders to the monthly planner.
- Google Calendar & TeamworkPM: Next transfer all of this data onto Google calendar (or your calendar of choice) and TeamworkPM (or other task management tool). This enables online and mobile access to your yearly planner and to your task management system allowing you to stay organised and focused no matter where you are. I further break down client tasks in TeamworkPM and create due dates for completion etc. Also enable reminders in both of these online tools for all tasks – really helps to keep you organised – never forget anything again!
To be done every Sunday night:
- Referring to the monthly planner, proceed to plan the up-coming week’s tasks/events. Allow up to 4 tasks per day only (this number allows for interruptions like phone calls, unexpected small job requests, emails that require immediate attention, family emergencies etc.)
- Write them in a diary and also transfer them to Google calendar and also the TeamworkPM account.
- Clear your email in box to zero – do this at the start of every week!
To be done each day:
- Start the day by checking email, messages etc. Make a note of any new tasks that require your action as a result.
- Looking at your daily to-do list, decide which items can be done quickly and do them straight away e.g. phone calls, return email messages, make appointments, pay bills etc. Then begin to tackle the larger tasks on your list (see 3).
- The 90 minute task rule: Work on tasks in 90 minute intervals. You need a timing device to do this. Before you start work, turn off your mobile phone and your email client, turn on the answering machine, shut the office door and put up a “do not disturb” sign on the door; turn off things like social media, Skype etc. When you’re ready, turn on your timing device and then go, go, go! Work steadily for the whole 90 minutes without stopping. This really works – it’s amazing how much you will get done during that time! Do this for all 4 daily tasks (this equates to 6 hours of uninterrupted work leaving 2 hours for unplanned interruptions, checking email, returning phone calls etc.)
- At the end of each day, review the status of each task. Mark off those that are completed both in the diary and in TeamworkPM. Those that require further attention must be added to a new list called “To be completed”. If you can fit these unfinished tasks into the next day, then add them to your diary. If this is not possible, try to complete them that night or on the weekend. Always try to complete all scheduled weekly tasks within that week and start the next week with a new set of tasks.
I have been using this system for 2 months now and it is really working for me! I am now actually getting to the bottom of my to-do lists. Sometimes this doesn’t happen but that’s okay because it’s only “sometimes” and not all of the time as in the past. I am a realist and know that sometimes life gets in the way and that all best-laid plans can just go out the window! However, in business you must try to be as organised as possible and this means lots of planning. As a business owner, if a planning framework exists in the background, then it doesn’t matter when life throws you a curve ball – you can catch it, return to your plan, pick up the pieces and get on with it. Without a robust plan in place, life’s curve balls may just see the umpire yelling “out” and ordering you off the business playing field.
Do you have a productivity system/plan that you use in your business that is working for you and/or any productivity tips you would like to share? If so, please share here – I’d love to hear your ideas