The weekend is almost here
For many of us the Monday to Friday working week sometimes feels like a thing of the past. Still, we get a bit of pep in our step come Friday morning. Relaxing with a buddy and a beverage Friday night. Plus, we can look forward to two days and three nights away from the office.
Fridays also present us with an opportunity to set ourselves up. They give us an opportunity to prepare for a more productive and enjoyable week next week. I encourage all my clients, and you, to invest some time today in preparing for a great week next week.
Dig out your goals for the year
Create mini-goals for next week
We start the year with a decent handle on what our employer expects from us in the next 12 months. And what we expect of ourselves. As the year progresses, sometimes our day-to-day workload takes us in different directions. Take a few minutes on Friday to review your annual goals.
Compare the work you’ve been doing lately with the activities that will help you achieve your long-term goals. If there’s a gap between the two, create an activity list for the week ahead that brings the focus back onto the big issues, the outcomes that will help drive you and your organisation towards what’s important, not just what’s immediate.
Protect your attention
We are all facing an ever-increasing series of demands on our attention. Using our attention in an intentional, focussed way helps us apply maximum mental energy to the task that’s in front of us. This means we can get through more, more quickly and with fewer mistakes. Also, when our attention is dedicated to a single activity, our intuition and creativity levels rise.
So, once you have decided on some major goals for the week ahead, block out some time to dedicate to them. Think about ways to do these tasks at a time and in a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Find a quiet space, or grab your headphones and play some background music to cover the noise of the office around you. Let your team know you have something big you want to crack through, so you’re going into your ‘cone of silence’ for a few hours. You will be amazed how much more productive you can be with uninterrupted time. I will talk more about email in a later section of this post, but from an interruption standpoint, TURN OFF THE INCOMING EMAIL ALERTS – ALL OF THEM. Having your emails ping or pop up every time they land in your inbox is creating a huge distraction for yourself. Get it sorted. Read emails when you are ready, not when they land and take your attention away from what you’re working on.
Get the ugly done early
There is a whole book on time management that’s been written around a quote from Mark Twain. In his book “Eat that frog”, Brian Tracy uses the quote “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” More than 60% of us have a natural tendency to push back the tasks we don’t enjoy, and bring forward the tasks we like. The problem with this is the tasks we don’t enjoy are often the ones that create additional work when not completed on time.
One way to make a less enjoyable task more appealing is to turn it into a game. Think about whether you can time yourself, or measure your accuracy, or both, and keep a score. Next time you go to do that task, you have a ‘personal best’ to beat. Competition, even with ourselves, is a great way to make something boring or unappealing into a bit of fun.
Organise your workspace(s)
A clean desk is not a sign of a sick mind. Quite the opposite. It’s far easier to bring your focus to a particular task when your desk is not cluttered with half a hundred other things. Get your space tidy. Not only will you be able to bring a calm focus to your work, people around you, including your boss, will notice how organised and in-control you are looking. Changing the way others perceive us is a great way to change how organised we actually feel.
Also, invest a few minutes in making sure your filing on your computer is up to speed. A huge amount of time is wasted when we can’t quickly and easily lay our hands on the latest or most recent version of a document. Hunting through hundreds of email attachments for the one that has the latest ‘file saved’ date is an inherently unreliable and time-wasting approach.
Get email working FOR you
Cyborgs are yet to take over the world, so right now, it’s still supposed to be us humans who are the masters of the technology, not the other way around. Dealing with an overflowing and out-of-control email inbox is one of the most common and significant issues my clients are dealing with.
Every email system I ever met allowed for the creation of rules. If you don’t know how it’s done, Google it. I promise you that someone somewhere has written up how to do it or even made a step-by-step YouTube clip about it. Learn how to do it, and then do it. Automate the filing of your newsletter emails into a “Reading” folder that you can get to if/when you have a spare 5 minutes. If you get a lot of CC’s from a particular person and they rarely require input or action on your part, automate the filing of these into a dedicated folder.
Ruthlessly review your attendance at upcoming meetings
Some recurring meetings become a habit. If you’re especially busy for the week ahead, consider politely excusing yourself from a meeting or two. Send a team member along as your representative. Make sure the meeting is not one where your absence will be an issue. Just consider whether it would be good to be there, or essential.
I hope you have come away from this piece with an idea or two for how to set yourself up for a great week next week. If you have any tips or techniques you use to improve they way the week ahead shapes up, it would be great to hear them. Have a great Friday and an even better weekend.