4 tips on getting it all done
The other day I was having lunch with a friend and fellow lady boss entrepreneur. She asked me something that really got me thinking:
“Laura, how do you do it all? Please share your tips!”
For a moment, I was stunned and thought: “how do I get it all done? Can I really answer this question?”
I realized that actually unconsciously I have been leveraging skills which I’ve learned over my career
Most of my planning skills have been acquired through experience and have become habits that I don’t even think about it anymore. Of course, there are also things which are still a work in progress or things that I am now learning because my life has changed since having a baby.
As I was sharing my approach with my friend, I realized that some of the tips come from a class I took in Grad school
I don’t remember what class it was (I’m guessing group dynamics) but our teacher came in one day and put us into groups and gave us a task: we were to fit all the contents on our table into a small jar within a specified period of time (I think like 20 min).
Some students were quick to refute this task, stating that it was simply not possible and they decided to sit back and watch others attempt the mission.
Then there were the students who just started tossing everything into the jar without any particular rhyme or reason and doing that over and over until they were close enough.
And finally, there was one group in which a student took the lead and suggested that they take a few minutes before jumping into the exercise to come up with a game plan. This student initiated a type of brainstorm for the group to identify different approaches to the exercise. They identified a method which seemed the most effective and went to work. And guess what, this was the only group that actually got all the contents into the jar.
So how did they do it? Why was this approach to solving the problem effective? How can this solution be applied to “getting it all done?” Why am I telling you this story and why should you care?
How did they solve the challenge?
They determined that in order to fit everything in the jar, they would need to start with the largest items first and work their way down to the smallest.
Why was this approach to solving the problem effective?
The student, who initiated the brainstorm, knew that getting clear on the goals and the different methods to solving the problem would have the largest benefit. Not just in order to solve the puzzle but also to get the most out of the group. By spending time in the beginning to come up with a strategy you gain time in the end. And by getting the whole group involved (using all your resources) even if you don’t solve the problem effectively, everyone will feel ownership of the approach and / or idea and you are not solving the challenge alone!
How can this approach be applied to getting it all done?
Basically the approach of fitting all the contents in the jar is the same for organizing and planning. Here are my 4 tips:
1. Take time to plan your day and write it down
I make my list first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh. In order to make sure my plan is realistic, I have put a few guidelines around daily planning.
First, my list cannot include more than three big items, the ones which are highest priority and need to be done first. I do this, because generally they will take more time than you think and you don’t want to over promise and under deliver.
In order to choose the top three priorities, I ask myself a few key questions
- Why is this important
- Do I have to do it
- If not, who can help me? Will they have time? How much time will it take to hand over? How often will I need to check in to make sure they are on time?
- If yes, have I done something similar before? If not, then how much time will it take?
- According to the above, what is the timeline and is this negotiable
- If it doesn’t get done what are the consequences
Next on my list are are a few “nice to have” but not "must have” items (max five). You know, like doing the dishes, starting laundry, taking new photos for social media content, etc. If you don’t get these done, there aren’t any real consequences except for perhaps you feeling anxious about how much you have to do, but that can be another blog post!
Finally, I like to keep track of my longer term goals. I spend no more than 5 minutes on my Pinterest or vision boards. I will see what can be updated, removed or included. I do this because then I am really clearing the clutter from my mind. Otherwise, thoughts will keep popping up during the day if I don’t acknowledge them.
For example, I would love to evolve my website but my clients come first. By keeping a board of things that inspire me, I will feel better about it even though I am not actually accomplishing the task. Make sense?
Now that you have planned and removed clutter from your mind. What’s next?
2. Get to work
You are ready to start with those BIG hairy priorities! I usually spend time on the ones I’m dreading the most because I have more energy in the beginning of the day than later in the afternoon.
For me, it is important to turn off any distractions. This means closing all windows on my computer which are not important (e.g. social media) and turning silencing my phone.
I also like to ensure my workspace is conducive to what I need to accomplish. For example, I need a clean work space and can only have music on when I am doing something creative. When my brain needs to do calculations or something more analytical, I prefer silence.
3. Enforce mandatory down time
I used to work all day long and night without taking any real breaks. This might work for a short period of time but then I would crash or become completely burnt out. I realized that in order to be effective, not only to feel accomplished but also creative and fresh, I require down time.
For me, I need at least 3 breaks during the day to feel at my best. My day can typically look like this:
- 6:30 a.m. Wake up and spend time on myself (breakfast, coffee, breathe...)
- 7:00 a.m. Aiden time (feed, dress, play, walk around the block, etc.)
- 8:00-8:30 Get ready
- 8:30 a.m. Nanny arrives so I start to plan my day
- 9:00 a.m. get to work
- Take a lunch which isn’t in front of the computer (this is the most challenging)
- Afternoon break (usually involves a cup of tea and going outside for some fresh air)
- Around 6:00 p.m. Relieve nanny and spend time with family
- 7:30 p.m. Aiden in bed (hopefully) and eat dinner
- 8:00 p.m. Either work a bit more or go to a gym class
- 10:00 pm Unwind or house chores
- 12:00 pm. Bedtime for me
So how is it going? To be honest, it is still a work in progress! But I can say that, funny enough, having a baby has really helped a lot. Not only does my son take priority but I want to be present for him as much as possible.
This means that I am trying to stop myself from jumping into work first thing in the morning. Of course it is so tempting to wake up, grab your phone and get to work (attention lifestyle bloggers or branding/marketing professionals – this also includes browsing social media). However, this does not give you the time you need to get in touch with yourself and the things in your life that should be taking higher priority over work and social media.
So what can you do to get a little down time? What would you need in order to feel more creative, fresh and effective? How can you start today? Even waking up 30 minutes earlier can make such a difference!
4. Celebrate accomplishments or lessons learned
The last part of getting it all done is actually having time to celebrate everything you have accomplished or learned along the way.
It seems so simple and logical, but it is often something we forget to do for ourselves. No matter how big or small, good or bad, it is important that you reflect/debrief and celebrate or let go!
I might not have time to do this every day, but I generally like to look back on my week or month and ask things like: “what happened? What am I proud of? What did l learn? What should I let go of because it won’t serve me well to dwell on it? How can I celebrate any wins or lessons learned?”
Why am I telling you all this and why should you care?
When I talk to people about their day, a common topic comes up which people feel anxious about – TIME. There never seems to be enough of it and yet we seem to be taking on more and allowing ourselves to be busy with many things. But are we busy on the right things and how can we do everything while still caring for ourselves and the people we love?
Because of this, I felt compelled to write about techniques I have learned in hopes to inspire people to consider how they manage their time. I believe we can all benefit from sharing our time management approaches, so if there are tools you use that work, please share in the comments!
The ultimate goal is inspire my readers to remember what is truly important and how to find balance in such a crazy, busy world!