We’re quickly approaching that wonderful time of the year where you have a packed schedule literally every day for the next 7 weeks. It’s a joyous time filled with food, family, and an overwhelming sense that you don’t have time to breathe let alone attend yet another tacky sweater party. Given all that’s going on, even the best of us can use a few quick reminders of the easiest ways to stay on top of everything without losing our minds.
1) Keep Only One Calendar
While we all strive to maintain an equitable work-life balance, sometimes the secret to remaining organized and on top of everything you need to do is to merge it all in one place. For me, this means putting EVERYTHING on one Google calendar. Client calls, doctor appointments, tacky sweater parties, work deadlines, everything goes in one place. Having an easy spot to check and see what your time commitments are for the entire week, both inside work and out, helps me better manage my time and resources to ensure that nothing falls off due to forgetting one commitment or another.
If you’re worried about your coworkers seeing all of your glamorous outside of work activities, just set your personal events to private and no one else will be able to see them when they check your calendar.
2) Write It Down
I know we work in digital and people are obsessed with Trello, Evernote, Slack, and various other digital note-takers, but the fact is, from a psychological perspective, our brains are wired to better remember things that we physically write down. By going through the motion of hand-writing tasks, projects, due dates, etc. you’ll have a much better recall of what those tasks are which makes it easier for you to remember what you have to do and when it’s due.
One day, evolution will catch up with human technological advancement and our brains will begin to look at the process of typing in a similar fashion to how they currently understand the act of writing, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon so in the meantime do yourself a favor and take old-school notes. Plus, nothing beats the satisfaction of watching things get crossed off your to-do list.
3) Don’t Let Emails Pile Up
This tip is somewhat dependent on your individual ability to quickly switch between tasks while remaining productive and not losing your place, but I find it immensely helpful to at least open (if not respond) to all emails immediately, and then file them away in the appropriate folder.
I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to go through all my emails.” First of all, that’s not true. If you’re not good at keeping your inbox cleared it will be a struggle to sift through everything the first time but it is incredibly easy to manage once you have a clean base. You see an email pop up, as soon as possible you click over open the email determine if it requires a response and immediately sort it under the appropriate label. This reduces my stress level by reducing my inbox to no more than ~20 emails at a time and allows me to quickly monitor which clients/projects have emails that still require a response so things are much less likely to get lost in the shuffle.
4) Build in Time for the Unexpected
It is the nature of digital that stuff (crises) pop up at the last minute. In order to ensure you don’t fall behind on your project plan and also don’t become a raging lunatic, build time into your schedule for things to pop up. Your workload going into the week shouldn’t represent enough tasks to fill every minute of your week. This only guarantees that something either won’t get done or you’ll work way more hours than should have been necessary and leaves you feeling stressed and overworked.
Personally, I like to look at my project list for the week and determine whether or not I could get everything on the list completed by Thursday morning if I had nothing else make its way to my list. If it seems doable, great(!), if not, I try to work with my managers to determine various priorities including what to push to the end of the week, and then reevaluate those priorities every time a new task comes across my desk.
5) Take the Right Kind of Breaks
Everyone knows that productivity actually increases if you take short breaks throughout the day, but the truth is that the kind of break one takes matters. Taking a break to walk over to a co-worker and chit chat about a problem you’re having is not nearly as helpful as taking a break that gets you completely outside of the work mindset.
Instead of standing around the Keurig talking about how abysmal your Fantasy team is, have that same discussion while walking around the block, take five minutes and read an article about something completely unrelated to your job, use your lunch break to head to the gym instead of sitting at your desk. There are so many little things you can do that take no more time from work than you already take that will infinitely improve your ability to come back to your desk and focus on the task at hand.