Yesterday I shared part two on Running a Business in College and in one of my points, I explained the necessity of keeping a calendar. Since my college days, the way that I stay organized with my calendar has changed and I have noticed a huge change in efficiency and drive for the task at hand. I currently use the Simplified Planner from Emily Ley in addition to iCal on my phone and computer to keep track of to-do lists, events, dinner plans and more.
Using Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrant model, I characterize each of my tasks as important-urgent, important-not urgent, not important-urgent and not important-not urgent. The important-urgent and not important-not urgent tasks are pretty easy to identify. If I schedule a meeting, book a wedding or commit to something, it goes in my Simplified Planner and in the iCal app (with an alert to remind me) because it is important. If I think of something I need or want to do, it goes in the iCal app so I can characterize it later. The first thing to get written down in my Simplified Planner is always a task that could be defined as important-urgent.
(1) WRITE YOUR VERY LONG LIST – If you are a business owner, student, employee or person alive today, you probably have a lot of things going on in your mind. If you are an Entrepreneur, then you are constantly thinking of even more things to do. Whatever the case, start by writing everything down. I keep my long list in iCal so I can just transfer from day to day. If you think of a blog post idea, something to add to the grocery list or a new dessert your want to make, write it down.
I have noticed a huge change in my productivity when I am not stressed and I think that writing things down is becoming a key factor in minimizing daily stress. This list should encompass your entire to-do list as well as anything else you are brainstorming.
(2) ORDER THAT LIST BY IMPORTANCE – Once you have your very long list of everything going on in your mind, you can order the list by importance. If it’s important-urgent, give it an A. Important-not urgent gets a B. Not Important-urgent gets a C and I cross off anything that is Not Important-Not Urgent if it somehow found its way onto the list.
(3) IDENTIFY AND DELEGATE THE UNIMPORTANT AND URGENT – One of my biggest challenges is identifying the unimportant-urgent task. You may feel like everything is pressing and important, but a good test of importance is by asking yourself if someone else could do the task in your place. It’s not about whether you would feel comfortable giving up control of that task, but if it possible for someone else to do the task. You can probably categorize more things as unimportant-urgent than you initially thought.
(4) DO NOT DO THE UNIMPORTANT AND NOT URGENT – This is a simple one. Don’t do things that aren’t important and aren’t urgent.
(5) SCHEDULE THE IMPORTANT (URGENT AND NOT URGENT) TASKS FIRST – Once you have your list sorted by importance, start scheduling your tasks in your calendar. I do this in my Simplified Planner because it’s easy for me to glance at throughout the day and it’s one less thing that I have to do on my phone. Say goodbye to unimportant tasks (because you are going to let someone else do them) and hello to important things that you didn’t think you had time to do.
Goodbye post office runs. Goodbye burning DVDs. Hello to seeing my sisters play softball during the summer, reading books and serving others.
(6) SCHEDULE 2 PERSONAL BREAKS – There is a reason that employers give a work-break every 4 hours. Do this for yourself every 3-4 hours and you will be able to work much more diligently, resulting in a more productive work day.
(7) DO NOT OVER SCHEDULE YOURSELF – Be ambitious, but not overly ambitious. Putting too many tasks on your list for the day isn’t going to make sure that they get done. I used to work 60+ hours a week (easily) and while I still love my job, time with my husband is way more important than getting a list of things done. I understand when you have deadlines and you have to get things done or when you want to take an extra day off so you put in extra hours. Just make sure that you are doing what you are doing on purpose for a purpose. Work hard and do what matters.
(8) USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN CHUNKS (AND FOR BUSINESS) – I try to interact with people on social media, but I try to do it in chunks: once in the morning, once in the afternoon (unless it’s a busy day) and once at the end of the work day. I try to set a time limit of 10 minutes for myself so that I don’t get caught wasting my time. I don’t think that social media is bad, but I think that I can easily give so much more time to it than I really want to give. These boundaries that I have set up for myself make me excited to interact with people on social media and I know that I am still getting work done!
(9) IF YOU ROUTINELY WORK WITH CLIENTS, BLOT OUT AN EXTRA HOUR OF TIME FOR THEM – If you have been working with clients for any length of time, you know that they have questions and need guidance. As a wedding photographer, my clients typically need more attention leading up to the engagement session and wedding day than any other time. Leave yourself some time in your calendar for the unexpected to happen. Because then you can devote your attention to your client and serve them better!
(10) STICK TO YOUR CALENDAR – This is a simple one. If you are good at characterizing tasks, scheduling tasks and breaks then all you have to do is stick to your calendar!!
(11) BONUS: SCHEDULE A LUNCH BREAK – I don’t know if other people are like this, but I can get so wrapped up in work that I forget to eat (or drink water!!). Schedule time for yourself to eat something, fill up your glass of water and breathe.