As I return from a well-earned family holiday, after what has been a pretty crappy few months, it seems like a pretty good time to remind myself of the key points from a magazine cutting that is permanently above my desk at home. Entitled “Your Route to the Top: Coping with Overload”, this appeared in the December 2005 edition of Management Today magazine and looks like good advice with which to reacquaint myself (indeed, an updated version of this list appeared in the May 2009 issue of the magazine):
“Focus. Successful people are rarely frantic, and frantic people are rarely successful. Take a close look at your schedule and clear out the clutter.
Make you time your own. Is your diary driving you? Take control and be as careful with commitments as you are considerate of other people’s time.
Let go. Trying to achieve everything is admirable, but impossible. Realise that an active imagination will generate more proposals than there is time to get done.
Have a single point of reference. A master to-do list will triumpth over an abundance of sticky notes, text reminders and diary scribbles.
Prioritise. What’s critical in the next hours, days or weeks? Choose your priorities and fix a later time for less urgent things.
Ditch your dependants. Are there people in your team who rely on your time? Support them in solving their problems alone. They will feel more confident; you’ll find more time to breathe.
Lighten the load. Are there ideas where others can help? Match interests to tasks – could someone else write the first draft or attend a new client meeting?
Break down big tasks. Split a job into its components and tackle each part as needed, rather than struggle to do it all now.
Bring clarity through sharing. Engaging others at the start can reassure you that you’re on the right track. It also ensures their support and cuts the risk of having to invest time later.
Use others to estimate your time. Research has shown that other people give more accurate estimates of how long something takes than the person doing the task.
Get on with it. Once you have worked out where your focus is, stop organising and start doing.”
Also on my reading list whilst I was away were a couple of MindGym books that my wife bought for me some time ago and David Allen’s Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity. Paradoxically, getting around to reading books like Getting Things Done, is something I’ve been consistently failing to get done for the last couple of years! Let’s see if any of this reading helps me to be more effective when I return to work next week!
[Postscript: I wrote this post and set it to publish whilst I was away… I never did get around to reading the Getting Things Done or MindGym books. Nor did I finish the one about understanding my strong-willed child, or even the Harry Potter that I’m mid-way through. I did manage to read a few photography magazines though and catch up on my backlog of Sunday Times motoring supplements! Never mind… maybe applying some of the actions above will help me to make the time to catch up on my reading!]