Have you ever had one of those days where you make a phone call then answer an email then run to the grocery store come back home do some more email then meet a client for lunch? Whew! It may feel like you are getting a lot done however there is a mental and physical fatigue that can happen by diverting our energy into too many directions. Every time we start and stop an activity to do something else our brain has to adjust to the new or different skill set you have to use to get the new task done. You can experience delays or get out of flow when you are doing too many activities at once. By categorizing like activities together you will experience more efficiency and a greater smoothness to your daily tasks.
I recommend as soon as you are winding down your day to take a moment and do a “Mind Dump”. This is “dumping” everything you can think of from your brain that you have to do for the rest of today and tomorrow on a piece of paper. Our brain is a wonderful thing and it likes to interject the same information through our mind of the things we have to do so we won’t forget it. By getting these things on paper our brain can relax, know that you heard its promptings and see that you are doing something about it. Once you have everything on your mind on paper then start grouping like activities together into 4 categories.
- Start by circling “in person” meeting or appointments.
- Put a check mark next to any errands you need to run
- Put a star next to any phone calls you need to make and
- Underline any emails or computer work you need to do
Then access the overall amount of things to do in each of the categories. Some days will have more meetings and phone calls. Other days will be all about the errands. By knowing the type of activities you will be doing you will better be able to set the amount of time you need to devote to each of these activities. You will then be able to better structure your day.
Start with the in person meetings. Add them to your calendar if they are not in there yet. Chunk enough of your time to get there. When possible block your time to do all of the outside meetings or appointments at once such as a chunk of time like 10am-2pm. Since you are already out group your errands either before or after these meetings. This saves on the travel time to and from your house.
When doing your errands start with the errand furthest away from your home and work your way back to your house. This allows to you be closer to head home in case you are doing errands that could bump into traffic times. It would also make it easier if you cannot complete all of your errands to fit in the ones closer to home at a different time.
Then chunk your calls in 15 minute to 60 minute blocks of time depending on the number of calls you need to make, If you have a 9-10am block for calls and a 2-3pm block for calls you can leave messages for anyone you didn’t get ahold of to call you back during your afternoon block. You can have an evening block as well if you works better for you or your clients.
You can block out your computer time as well. Email in 15 minute blocks for quick responses and longer blocks for more detailed work. See my Time Blog for more details.
You can also have a separate piece of paper or note on your phone to prioritize your day based on the information from the mind dump. I have a note on my phone that says ACTION. Then I have 3 subtitles: TODAY, NEXT and PROJECTS. Under Today I have the 3 most important things I need to get done for the next day and put on my calendar when those will happen. It’s best if possible to get them done in the morning so they for sure get done in case anything else comes up during the day. Plus it’s nice to have a sense of accomplishment early on in the day knowing that everything else you get done is icing on the cake. Under Next I put the next 10-20 things I want to accomplish within the next week. Under Projects I put anything that won’t happen for a month or longer or needs a half or full day to accomplish such as cleaning out the garage or sorting through keepsakes. I recommend having a Projects block on your calendar at least quarterly. Monthly would be better to catch up on those long terms projects.
Aside from the recommended nightly “Mind Dumps” you can utilize this tool anytime during the day when you feel like you have too much on your plate and in your head. This way nothing gets forgotten because once dumped you can get it on calendar and into a time slot. A clear mind is a happy mind!
Yours from Clutter to Calm,