First Come, First Served

Over the years, in your endless search for work day bliss, I imagine you’ve established your routines at work for getting things done. You may have followed the advice of the hottest gurus or just created your own way to balance all the demands made upon you from moment to moment.

So how’s your routine working?

Are you stuck in a few work day ruts? Do you recognize when you’re stuck? Have you been buried by an avalanche of information, succumbed to multi-tasking and gotten sucked into the greatest source of an unproductive work day – reactivity?

Let me share with you 3 common road-side ruts you may find yourself in these days. Are you ready to steer your way out of them and get back on the road to peak productivity?

Rut #1: Treating everything on a “first come, first served” basis
I have clients who have told me they “live from their Inbox” or they complete things as they show up, making it a priority. Do you do that too? Do you drop what you’re doing now so you can do something else just because it’s quick and you’d rather not put one more thing on your to-do list?

If you’re bouncing through your day from task to task as people, phones, and e-mails make more demands on you, you’re treating everyone and everything on a “first come, first served” basis. Then, because everything is a priority, nothing is a priority and your time can easily disappear. Before you know it, you’ve taken care of all those tasks and requests at the expense of your priorities.

Easy solution: You’ll feel good about accomplishing a really big, important task or a few little important ones regularly once you learn how to set boundaries, protect your time and keep your focus. Your work day is not a short-order deli. It’s your work day, with an emphasis on your. You never want to lose too much time focusing on what others deem important, when it’s not one of your priorities… unless it’s your boss making the demands. Then you’ll have to weigh the priorities.

Don’t always have an open-door policy. Don’t pick up the phone every time it rings. Don’t check your e-mail or succumb to the e-mail alerts you have enabled. At other times you will do all of these, but please…. allow yourself at least two hours each day that are all yours, quiet and uninterrupted, to get… things… done!

Rut #2: Your task list is on a cocktail napkin

When it comes to getting to-dos out of your head, it’s true: anything to write on will do. But it shouldn’t stop there.

I’ve seen clients use napkins – both the lunch and cocktail varieties – and even a barf bag from an airplane for writing down to-dos. My client said, “That’s all I had to write on!” Hey, that’s ok with me. It’s is a good first step, but it is not the end of managing those tasks, nor is it even possible to prioritize those tasks with everything else on your plate.

Easy solution: Create a “Mission Control” for yourself, electronically. There should be one place in your computer, hopefully within your e-mail system, that you feed all your tasks, reminders, and to-dos so that no matter where or how you collect these, you bring them back to the mother ship. Then you can reduce the reminders around you and you won’t lose tasks and priorities among the mass of information on your desk.

Rut #3: Following the “Touch it once” advice

You’ve heard that ago-old advice “touch it once” for your papers, files, e-mails, etc. so you can be most efficient and save time later by not touching it again?

Hogwash! Forget it! If you’re failing at doing this and you feel bad about it, let it go. I hereby free you from the guilt! It’s the most ridiculous bit of advice I’ve ever heard. Well, almost, but that’s for another article. This one is near the top of the charts though.

Easy solution: Every time you’re touching something, make a decision on it. That’s the most important point here. You may touch something 10 times in its lifecycle as a task because you’re not always going to resolve it immediately. Not for tasks that require e-mails, calls, research or getting consensus from others. So every time you touch something, anything, make a decision on it and get everything one step closer to done.

Trackbacks