Plan your tasks for success
Set yourself up to successfully complete tasks by planning well:
- consider the resources needed, including people
- how to overcome possible obstacles
- what support is available
- share your ideas to get more input
- build in contingency
- delegate whenever appropriate
- focus on the activity – don’t multitask
- take breaks and refreshment
- allocate tasks to appropriate times, e.g. just before lunch when everyone is hungry is not the best time for new and clear thinking
- don’t beat yourself up, if despite all your preparation the task is not completed. Instead, evaluate the activity and use the results as learning for next time
You only have so much time so managing it effectively is a priority.
- Reduce and, wherever possible, get rid of interruptions and distractions.
- Plan (or delegate) tasks so they are done before they become urgent.
- Give priority to your most important tasks.
The urgent-important matrix is one way of helping to do this, and the key quadrant to spend as much time as possible in is the planning and goal quadrant. This is your big picture quadrant, where you not only actually work on tasks to achieve your goals, but you also plan, and this planning puts you in control of your workload and helps you to stop as many tasks as possible from becoming urgent.
The crises quadrant drives what you have to do asap. It’s in this quadrant that you have to react to emergencies that you weren’t expecting and tasks which you did know about but haven’t completed in time. Before jumping in to tasks in this quadrant, take a moment to check that they are in fact crises and then act from a position of control rather than panic.
The interruptions quadrant is where you spend time being busy on activities that don’t move you forward. Emails, phone calls, meetings, producing reports and answering queries may all be in your interruptions quadrant. Identifying these activities and where possible, removing, shortening or handling them in different way will enable you to spend more time in the planning and goals quadrant
The distractions quadrant is full of procrastinations – things that distract you from doing what you should be doing. Ideally you won’t be spending any time in here! Just to reassure you that planned breaks do not live in this quadrant as they are an important part of a healthy working day.
Planning for your priorities
Planning well enables you to be proactive rather than reactive more of the time. It means that you will have less crises to deal with and more time for planning and achieving goals.
One way to do this is to have a master list, an intermediate list and today’s list.
The master list has all the tasks. Be prepared to cut this down if it is too unwieldly. To help with this you could consider the objective of each task, consider the time needed vs the benefits of each task, or divide the tasks into ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’
The first task for each day (or maybe the last task for the previous day) is to make today’s ‘to do’ list. Make a new list every day otherwise it can become an ongoing list and lose its power.
Decide what the 2 or 3 most important tasks that have to be done today are and put these on the list along with any housekeeping tasks that have to be done each day. Once you have these and their associated times you can then allocate other tasks according to the available time left in your day.
Be REALISTIC about TIME
Set yourself up for a successful day by planning your time realistically. There are only so many hours in your working day, so plan your tasks to fit into that time and not exceed it.
Think about how long each task will actually take (no wishful thinking). It may help to keep a record for future reference, especially if you do overrun. Include any setting up time, for example getting people together, gathering information or resources, setting up equipment, and factor in some contingency.
Once you have a list of tasks and times, decide on an order that will make the best use of the time, and if appropriate, people. Don’t forget to include breaks as these are a key part of a healthy work life.
Have a FOCUSED day
Set yourself up for a focused day by planning it realistically with a ‘to do’ list. Use a method that suits you, maybe pen and paper, an app, or an email calendar.
Plan in all the tasks you have to do. Include housekeeping tasks such as checking emails, and break larger tasks down into smaller ones that can be achieved in one day.
With tasks that are ongoing such as emails, allocate set times and lengths of time to do them so that you are in control of them and they can’t eat into your day.
If there is a task on the list that doesn’t inspire you then it can help to write alongside it a reason for doing it, e.g. this is one step closer to having a great presentation for my customer