7 Tips for Getting More Done!
Two weeks ago, I attended a lunch program hosted by the Quad Cities Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals that talked about time management led by friend and former colleague, Ed Finn, Associate Vice President for Advancement at St. Ambrose University. When Ed and I worked together, he was uber-organized so I knew he would have some great advice.
Whether you feel you already work efficiently or end your day feeling like you have not accomplished what you need, these seven tips may help you accomplish more without adding stress to your busy life.
1. Map out major initiatives for the year
Few people have or take the time to think about the big picture of their work or life. Part of this time includes identifying what Ed calls your "anchors" or those things that help ground you: family, spirituality, a hobby or anything that you enjoy. As a grant writer, I tend to look at my grant schedule at least quarterly to see what deadlines loom in the next 3-6 months.
2. Map out your week's tasks
When you wait until the last minute to complete tasks - working on the urgent instead of the important - it creates an adrenaline rush ... the fight or flight response that prevented our ancestors from becoming dinosaur food. Too much adrenaline can damage the immune system and other important bodily functions. Plan your time to work on things ahead of their due date and you can minimize the adrenaline surge. Although this works great in theory, sometimes last minute tasks become unavoidable. My grant writing colleagues know this too well! When that happens, exercise can help the body dissipate the extra adrenaline you produce. Research suggests that even walking around your office a few minutes each hour can decrease stress and improve your health.
I usually take time on Sunday or first thing Monday morning to chart my week, sometimes even making my to-do list by day. When I have completed the tasks for that day, I consider my day done, whether that occurs at 2:00 in the afternoon (ha! ha!) or 9:00 in the evening (more likely!).
3. Assess each day then plan the next
When you spend 20 minutes near the end of the day reviewing your accomplishments and what you need to complete the following day, you can leave work without continually reflecting on your day or trying to remember tasks for your next day, clearing your mind of work stress.
4. Start with your top three tasks
Knowing what you need to accomplish and starting your day with these will allow you to get your important tasks done. When I make a to-do list, I usually prioritize tasks so I can work from the top down without having to "think" about what I should work on next. This approach stops me from working on what sounds like fun rather than what I need to complete.
5. Work on one task at a time
We all claim to be great multi-taskers, but research continually finds that no matter how well we think we can multi-task, we cannot. Everything takes longer and comes out sub-par. Bring out one project at a time, leaving the rest out of sight until you complete the first. I fail at this one most of the time, but I do find that I accomplish much more when I focus on one task at a time. (Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?!)
6. Limit interruptions
Admit it; you stop to check email every time your computer dings or jump to answer the phone when it rings. Instead of allowing your technology to master you, master your technology. Turn off the email's sound, put your phone on "do not disturb," close your door, and focus on those top tasks. Imagine how good you will feel when you have everything accomplished by lunch!
7. Clear your desk each night to begin the next day free of clutter
Ed has mastered the clean desk, a lesson I could learn! If you keep your desk clean and free of distractions, it will allow you to focus on the top three tasks without distraction.
What time management tips have you found work best for you? Which of these can you integrate into your day?