Earlier this year, ZAG’s Vice President of Service Delivery Christie Fisher posted an article on LinkedIn about organizing a workday when the world around you is a little chaotic. It was a more than useful guide then and seems quite prescient today. If you are struggling to keep organized and focused at this time, we hope some of Christie’s tips help you organize your work to be productive.
We all have them, those days with constant interruptions and uninvited additions to the ever-growing to-do list. The question is not whether we can stop this from happening. Be honest. That’s not realistic. The real problem is whether you allow them to completely throw you off-track or whether you can stay on course and keep marching toward your goals. Here are a few tips that help me stay organized and focused.
Make a Short List
Hopefully, you have your goals mapped out on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. If not, definitely get that done first. Speak with hyper-organized people, and you’ll find they also set weekly and even daily goals. Breaking those goals down into smaller chunks will help you make continuous progress.
After you’ve grabbed that morning coffee, start by writing down a list of two or three tasks that you want to tackle as a minimum for that day. Don’t make them large, time-consuming tasks. Select pieces of larger goals—something that can be accomplished between meetings.
Start with the Task you Dread the Most
That sense of dread that hovers over you when you have a challenging, cumbersome, or even painful task to complete can be crippling. Worry and trepidation can monopolize valuable emotional and intellectual energy. It can prevent you from starting the less complicated items, let alone the complex tasks. Tackling the most daunting issues at the beginning of your day will make the rest of the day much more productive.
Leave your short list somewhere on your desk where you can review it multiple times a day. Perhaps even consider using a Post-It Note and placing in on your monitor or desk close to your keyboard. Use a bright-colored one to capture your attention and change the colors daily so it doesn’t become background noise that gets ignored. There are several electronic task lists and notes programs that can be used as well for those who prefer more tech-savvy reminders.
Block your Calendar
Schedule working time for each of the items you want to tackle for that day and be disciplined about using that time to focus on each particular task. Block time in your calendar for this work. Literally, put the time you think it will take to do the work in your calendar and dedicate it to that task. It’s your time, not someone else’s.
Ask for Assistance
If you are stuck on something and can’t seem to take even a small step forward on it, reach out to a colleague for assistance. They might be able to point you in the right direction or ask a question that leads to new ways of thinking. Sometimes, just the simple act of explaining the challenge or requirement to someone else might help you approach it from a different perspective.
Take a Walk
Whether you step outside and grab some fresh air or just take a stroll around the office, getting up out of your chair and moving can do wonders for clearing your head. If you don’t have time to take a walk or get away from your desk, at least stand, stretch and take a deep breath.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Cross out or put that checkmark next to your completed item and take a second to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment before moving onto the next task. Being able to look back at the end of the day on the things you completed can reduce stress or worry over the items that are still on your primary to-do list.
You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Each stone had to be unearthed, carved, and put into place. Break your work down into the smallest chunks possible and handle them one at a time. Before you know it, you will be able to look back and admire your own personal “Rome.”