By Neen James, motivational speaker and attention expert.
Meetings. Events. Deadlines. Customers. How does a person get it all done—and still have room in the calendar for all the “good stuff” like family, friends and personal time? Impossible? Not at all.
The trick is structure, a little strategy and a system that works specifically for you. No two business and no two people are alike, so defining the structure that allows you to work at your highest potential without the fear of burnout is vital.
Take me, for example. As an attention expert and keynote speaker, I spend a lot of time on airplanes, walking convention floors, meeting clients, coaching, creating, sharing ideas and strategies with the people in my mentoring program—and of course, running a business and all that entails. For our team? The easiest way to accelerate productivity is to systemize the week. As with all good systems, we don’t get it right every time and it doesn’t work every time. However, it is a great guideline for us. We don’t work as many weekends with clients as some of you might. We want to protect weekends as recovery time whenever possible; we know this isn’t practical for some of you reading this.
So, this is how we like to structure our week:
Monday–meeting with mentors, networking, client appointments, writing, strategy and often this is a travel day to speak at an event.
Tuesday to Thursday–speaking and media interviews and traveling.
Friday–more speaking, meeting with mentors (mostly in the morning) writing, setting up the next week and catching up.
The schedule is simple. It’s idealistic … but hey, it’s good to have a wishful week right? And it allows us to maximize time balancing what we do with how we do it. You might even think about balancing one day if your week is a harder place to start.
Ready to get down to structuring your own success plan?
1. First things first: You.
“But Neen, there’s no time.” The truth is that if you’re not healthy, happy and looking after yourself, you’ll never be your best for your company, your clients, your family or anyone else. You know, that whole, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” thing. It’s an eye opener, or at least it should be. So step one in making a better, more productive year ahead is to schedule yourself first. Book an appointment every day that is focused on you. This might include exercise, meditation, quiet time, reading, self-development—or all of the above!
2. Get crystal-clear. (It’s hard to hit a moving target.)
When you’re unsure of your plan, your goals or your vision for the most important things you’re eager to achieve, it’s fairly hard to knock it out of the park. The good news: The reverse is true. When you’re exceptionally clear on what you want, where you’re headed, your highest vision for your future and those things that are so powerfully important to you that you’ll jump out of bed each day with a passion to make them happen—you can’t lose.
For me, I love to speak on productivity, helping people make room in their lives and their days to pay attention to those things that really matter. That’s my focus. My very simple WHY. The simplicity allows me to determine where I want to spend my time which becomes a filtering system for time choices.
3. Set time for admin.
Seriously not my favorite thing. Not most people’s favorite thing. But all organizations require administration, attention to details and dare I say … paperwork. I’m grateful to have a wonderful virtual business manager Maria Novey, who does much of the heavy lifting for me, but some of it still needs my undivided attention. So, I block time for that. (Mondays if possible.) Which makes me laugh sometimes.
It reminds me of the story where you’re given a list of tasks that you must accomplish by the end of the day, one of which is eating a frog. Yuck! But as Mark Twain once shared, “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.” Your “frog”? The biggest thing on your plate. The most daunting. Or boring. Or scary. The thing you least like to do. Knock it out of the way first, though (like on a Monday) and the rest of the day, or week, is your oyster.
4. Block your projects.
Ours is a busy world, with a lot of demands. There is always a list of projects that require our attention, but closing those circles can be intimidating from a time-constraint perspective. Let me share an example of how my team managed this, and you can decide if it works for you as well. Like many of you, I serve on some boards, including the National Speakers Association board. When I was co-chairing an event for my professional organization, it was a super time-intensive commitment and had the potential to be a full-time job—although not one that would increase my revenue directly—so managing the time was a priority. We decided, as a team, to restrict the allotted time for the project to Monday afternoons and Friday mornings. This one simple time-blocking step ensured if we needed to speak with someone, speak with my co-chair or reach out to participants, we’d do it in one of these time blocks. Time-blocking is a beautiful thing. It provides clarity. Structure. Takes away stress.
It’s just like when your workspace is orderly: a place for everything and everything in its place. When there’s a time for everything and everything is in its time, you breathe a little easier. Have time for the good stuff.
Ask yourself, “What projects are you working on that you could time block this week?” (Then DO it!)
5. Manage interruptions because stuff happens.
Wherever you work, interruptions are inevitable. For some, that one little blip in the time-table of their day throws off their groove for a week! Instead, take a proactive approach to how you handle interruptions.
Try wearing headphones while you get tasks completed, stand up when someone comes in your office to help accelerate the conversation or create a do-not-disturb sign (that the whole team understands) while you are chin-deep in a deadline, doing prospecting or an intense project.
6. Try systems on for size.
Change is AH-MAZING, but it can also be a temporary detour while you’re getting used to a new system, strategy or structure. Not everything will work and that’s alright. Be willing to give different approaches a try. Select a week, advise your team of the goal you are wanting to accomplish, block the time for training and implementation then review at the end of the week to see if it’s a keeper of an idea, if it needs tweaking, or if it’s a dud for you and yours. Keep trying new things, and you’ll find that your results will expand proportionately! I’m wishing you EVERY success in your daily productivity. Systems that work for you. Tools that make sense.
Be willing to give different approaches a try. Select a week, advise your team of the goal you are wanting to accomplish, block the time for training and implementation, then review at the end of the week to see if it’s a keeper of an idea, if it needs tweaking or if it’s a dud for you and yours. Keep trying new things, and you’ll find that your results will expand proportionately! I’m wishing you EVERY success in your daily productivity. Systems that work for you. Tools that make sense.
Keep trying new things, and you’ll find that your results will expand proportionately!
I’m wishing you every success in your daily productivity: Systems that work for you. Tools that make sense. Structure that helps eliminate stress. And TIME to PAY ATTENTION to the things that matter most in your life. I’m here to help!