Work stress due to schedule. You feel you are always running from meeting to meeting email to email, have so many queries you cannot finish one before the next, or are generally so over-whelmed with activity you feel you are getting nowhere. Too many deadlines?
Schedule is somewhat similar to last week’s article, which was about struggle. This one is slightly more specific though. You need to start in a similar way to struggle – learn and apply some productivity skills and maybe start keeping a time diary, but on this one you need to plan and manage your week, and you may need support to do that.
Meetings. These are a killer. Most organisations have far too many of them, they are not always pointless or badly run, but quite often they can be, and worst of all, they are usually back-to-back, meaning there is no time in between to do actions from the meetings. By the time you have done 8 on the trot you have probably forgotten half of them anyway. So, for any meeting you attend, whether you are chairing it or not, take notes. It always astonishes me the number of professional people who attend multiple long meetings where many issues are discussed and they take no notes. Unless you are a memory champion, don’t even try to remember it all. (Although be sensitive to the difference between a meeting and a conversation – having everything you say written down in a one-to-one can be deeply unnerving).
Emails. If possible, if you want to focus on a piece of work, turn your email off for the duration and try to batch it. You do need to deal with your email, but seeing lots of different bits of info about other things float across the screen or ping at you is very distracting. Even just knowing you have email waiting is distracting.
Make sure that in any interaction everyone who is there comes away clear about the next actions and who is doing them. Try to have focused conversations, rather than general ones. Or where is there is a general discussion, try to come to some sort of conclusion.
Plan both your week and your day and, more specifically, ensure you plan in some time to get big or important pieces of work done and stick to this, even if some lesser things then go by the wayside. In an ideal world try to fix things so you can do the most important thing of the week first thing Monday morning, and the most important thing of the day first thing in the morning. Don’t leave it to the back-end of the week – it will not get done. Start excusing yourself from meetings if necessary. Or even come in earlier just to get this one thing done (without being waylaid), then get on with the rest of the day knowing you have cracked the most needful thing.
Once you are more in control of your time, and particularly once you have a plan for the week, you can start negotiating deadlines. What deadlines are you working to? Why are they not working for you? Put your deadlines on your plan / calendar. Once you have documentation showing why you cannot meet a deadline, you put the pressure back on someone else to decide between conflicting priorities. If you are reasonable and rational in saying why something cannot be done, it puts the onus back on the other person to be the same, or come up with a very good reason why these deadlines must be met. If they still insist, you get to ask them how it can be done. Basically put yourself in the best possible position, so that when new things come along you can say no with a clear conscience or negotiate what else can be ditched, extended or delegated.
What is the biggest single barrier to your schedule running smoothly? Which of our five areas is out of control for you? Which area would you improve to have the biggest impact for you? Let me know – leave a comment below.
Till next time! Veronica x