How would you like to finish your work week with a sense of pride, accomplishment and – most importantly – surplus energy heading into the weekend? Sounds good right? Here’s how to get started.
- Your week starts on Friday. Before you close your laptop for the weekend, create your plan for the week. This helps you get ahead of the rest of the world by having a plan of action for the following week. By doing this you will easily filter out distractions and interruptions and instead focus on what will make you more successful.
- Write down the outcomes you want to achieve by the end of the following week. I emphasize outcomes, since people often get caught up in the “activity” of doing work instead of focusing on the end goal. If your outcomes are too large to fit into one week break them up into smaller chunks making them more achievable. If it helps, you can write down the activities that need to get done to unlock the outcome – that’s healthy but sometimes unnecessary if you can juggle that detail in your head. Keep checking the size of your list. If your list starts too look unmanageable its time to start prioritizing and trimming the list. Remember, you want to feel good about achieving your outcomes – if you set unrealistic plans you won’t unlock that feeling.
- Next, we get into calendaring. If you’re like me you run your life in your calendar and work colleagues have the ability to view your availability. This can be great, but can also result in calendar “hi-jack” where you get inundated with meeting requests. In the next few steps I outline ways to groom your calendar during your weekly planning session on Friday. Grooming consists of: Shortening, consolidation and definition.
- Shortening: Try and get all your regular meetings scheduled into one day or at least in blocks across multiple days. Shorten them to 25 minutes and get super focused on agenda topics and the outcomes you want out of the meeting. The 5 minutes accounts for “travel time” for folks to get to where they need to be next.
- Consolidation: Try to batch together common topics, themes or elements into one meeting – I often forward invites to people and add agenda items to one core meeting instead of having lots of related meetings on the same theme. This will increase effectiveness of your meetings and at the same time shorten them and allow you to get back to your weekly plan.
- Definition: Never accept a meeting unless it has a well defined agenda with outcomes and the right stakeholders to make a decision or progress. If any of those things are missing then provide feedback to the team and decline until rectified.
- Book out work time that accrues to achieving your weekly outcomes. If you find it hard to find time, start blocking out half days or even a whole day if you can. This will allow you decent runway to accomplishing substantial work and avoid the tax of context switching or interrupts.
- Block 30 minutes every morning and every afternoon to do email. Don’t live in your inbox – it is a productivity killer. Remember that email is merely a means of communication and not “actual work” nor a tangible outcome.
- Because you have planned in advance for the week ahead, you’ll find your co-workers are at a disadvantage. For those unfortunate souls, set aside some “office hours” throughout the week where you make a point of making yourself available. This doesn’t have to be a large chunk of time, but is a good buffer for those meetings that crop up but are useful to help unblock progress for others.
What do you think of these steps? Are there any other things that you do to help make yourself productive?