We are just a few weeks into the new year—and if you’re like me, you’re wondering how you’re going to accomplish everything you want to get done this year. Let’s face it, we all would like to be more satisfied and in control of our schedules…our home and workspaces…our work/life balance…and our energy level.
I know a pro who can help us get all of these things done—Julie Morgenstern, a time-management expert and author of the best-seller Time Management from the Inside Out (Holt). She says that most of us lose about 30% to 40% of our time because we are disorganized, distracted and dismayed by how out of control we feel. To the rescue, a three-step, three-day solution from Ms. Morgenstern that will make all the difference in how you get things done and how you feel. Her promise: Use this strategy in the next few weeks, and you will indeed be on your way to a happier, more organized and energized 2013…
Look three days ahead. This little step can help even the most organized among us. Many people start their day by making or reviewing a detailed to-do list. But doing either is not very effective because—guess what?—it’s too late. Once the day is under way, so are the interruptions and pressures—and so you have less chance to face what is ahead of you calmly and objectively. Simply put, you might not have the time or brain space to think smart.
Solution: End every day by creating a to-do list for the next day plus two more days. Review what you need to do for the next three days the evening before. The three-day planning arc enables you to focus on both the big picture and the details—and so you truly have all the bases covered. You have time to mentally prepare for what’s ahead and make practical adjustments, as needed. For example, whether you are preparing a presentation at work or leading a book group, planning three days ahead gives you time to get ready for the event without forgetting anything. You have time to see the goal ahead of you and to do what’s needed to meet that goal.
Put similar items together. Some people have different to-do lists for different parts of their lives, such as one for work and one for home. That’s a bad idea. It’s much better to write down everything you need to do and everywhere you need to be in one central list. That way it’s easier to see what needs to get done—and to plan accordingly. When you do this with an eye toward a three-day period, you can do something called “batching,” which means putting similar tasks together. You can cluster together all your errands, for instance. The same is true for specific tasks. For example, a salesperson makes all of his/her cold calls during one block of time. When you concentrate on a single type of task, you spend less time going back and forth—literally and mentally—and get things done more efficiently.
Be realistic about how long tasks take. Realistically, there are only so many hours in a day and only so much you can get done in a day. People “run out of time ” all the time—because they aren’t realistic about how long it takes to get something done. When you write down your to-do list, estimate how much time you need for each task. When you have added up the minutes and hours, you will have a more realistic idea of what you can accomplish—and what you can’t. An item on a to-do list without the “how long it will take to get done” piece isn’t nearly as likely to get done.