In my last Blog article entitled “How Do I Find Balance” I focused on my overall strategy for what I refer to as “Making Time for What’s Important”. That article can be found at this link how do i find balance. I outlined six (6) steps / tactics that I use daily to take me through my work week. In this week’s Blog I want to go into the how, and give you guys an idea of what I do to manage my time during a work week.
I must stress again that I am no Guru at this finding balance thing, but I do my best using what I have and when it does not work, I look for other methods. The trick is to keep moving and trying new things, don’t frustrate yourself with the instances where your productivity has been low, or you didn’t accomplish what you planned to get done. Take it from me, I still have those days, but I am mature enough now to recognize that complaining and frustration accomplishes nothing besides deterring you from your goal.
Let’s start by creating some context around what I consider a week. There is a distinction between work week and a full week. I usually do not focus on this distinction primarily because whether its Saturday or Sunday, the fact is that you still need to manage your time. This is whether you are doing nothing or spending time with family. It is my belief that in order to secure that important time you need to manage all activities regardless of the day. Just my view guys…
This is how I manage my week:
- Friday – Company Activity Planning – managing BLU Networks is a significant part of my day, so I make every effort to ensure that all company activities are planned and scheduled. This scheduling is done by the Engineering Team Lead and we discuss this at 3:00 PM on a Friday once time permits. The agreed workplan is submitted to the Engineering Team by end of business Friday so that everyone is aware of what must be accomplished for the upcoming week. Believe it or not, this activity allows me to focus on other revenue generating activities, knowing fully well that the team is being productive.
- Sunday – Personal Planning – the week is planned in terms of engineering and other related activities, now it’s time to plan my week. I use Sunday to plan my week because it’s the day when I really try to get some quiet time. As mentioned in my last Blog article, I am an advocate of using tools. I primarily use two (2) tools to manage my time; Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft To-do. These apps have been working for me presently, but the idea is to find your own “Swiss Army Knife”. I use Outlook to book spaces in my day / week for meetings, Focus-Time etc. I use To-do to capture all the items that I need to get done. I would explain the integration below.
- Populating Calendar With Critical Activities – the first thing I do is block out the time in my calendar for all the activities with my family; this includes from school drop off to after school activities Once that is done, I can get a better picture of the available time in my day to schedule work related activities.
- Building My Task List – like writing down all the things that you need to get done on a piece of paper, Microsoft To-do facilitates this electronically. I build my task list during the week or anytime something comes up that I need to do. I even flag emails that come in that I need to follow up on. Flagged emails by default go to Microsoft To-do so you see them in your task list. This allows me to capture almost everything that pops up that requires addressing.
- Scheduling – Using Outlook – My task list really allows me to get the items down on a big slate, so they are all visible. The challenge is now going through this task list and allocating time to get things done. I go through the items and I batch all tasks that require focus time (dedicated time where I need to work on them), meeting time etc. and I schedule them in my calendar. This is done easily by dragging the tasks over to my calendar and making the necessary adjustments.
At the end of this planning exercise which I have been trying to bring down to an hour, my week is planned for the most part. I do not enter the new work week guessing what needs to be accomplished; this is critical for me and the company. It doesn’t stop there though; life is never predictable so there are times that I need to re-schedule an appointment and pull one from my task list and put it in place to execute. There are also the unplanned customer meetings or issues that need to be addressed. The key for me is the fact that I have already had a view of what I planned to do for the day, it’s easier for me to handle an unplanned activity because I know where I have the flexibility to address it or whether I need to delegate it because I cannot address it at the required time. There are times when I have a planned day with meetings, and all are cancelled at short notice. I then quickly pull from other tasks and place them in the cancelled timeslots and keep it moving. I revisit the cancelled items when I am planning my week again on Sunday because they will still be in my open tasks.
The above steps are basically the core of how I manage my work week and ensure that I stay focused on the important stuff. There are some important concepts that I am guided by and these are as follows:
- What is Focus Time – focus time is the time that you dedicate to getting an activity or activities done. The key is to work on the task while managing interruptions. Note that prior to using these tools I would have considered 15-minute stints on a topic or task as me focusing. I have realised that this does not work. Focus time for me is minimum an hour and for me to manage time properly I create an agenda with the tasks I want to complete and place it in the meeting invite.
- Managing Interruptions – our hyperconnected lives have created a norm where it’s so easy to pass Information and connect with people at any time required. For me this creates a huge challenge; I work hard at managing the interruptions from my phone, emails etc. Microsoft advised that it can take as much as 23 minutes for someone to re-focus on a task after being interrupted. I previously overlooked this, but I have realised that it is very necessary to manage these instances. I use some suggested tactics like building a frequency for checking emails and answering phone calls. You must know your business and make the decision that is best for your situation.
- Tasks vs Calendar When I Use Them – in the steps above, I was very deliberate in stating that I use both the Task list (now called To-do) and the Calendar. There are many different schools of thought out there on when to use which application but this is how I use them.
- Tasks (To-do) – I believe that it is important to list everything that you need to do; even if it’s to be done today or next week. The more visibility you give yourself by listing things down the better your ability to plan. I use the To-do app to list everything that I have on my plate, I even use to record stuff that I don’t have to do but I need to follow up on. To get more info on how to use Microsoft To-do you can check out this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEcswE3w5LA&t=713s
- Calendar (Outlook) – I use my calendar to plot the times for accomplishing the items listed in my task list; this can be meetings, prospecting activities, working on proposals, customer calls etc. I know that I can use the To-do app to manage the timeline and execution of my tasks, but it does not give me the overall visibility as the Outlook Calendar does. To get more information on Microsoft Outlook and the integration with To-do you can check this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN-MH9hBJ4Q
- Follow Up – at the end of the day I go back to my To-do list and I tick off what was accomplished and if for some reason I have not completed something, I push it back to my list and I run the cycle again the following day. I try to keep it moving and crushing those tasks.
That’s its guys, that’s how I strive to manage my week. As I mentioned before, it’s a work in progress but it’s better to have a plan rather than walking into the work week scrambling to find focus. Share with me in the comments how you guys manage your work week.