The foundation of efficient time management is realistic prioritization, thoughtful planning, and other habits conducive to completing high-value tasks first. When we have clear priorities attached to due dates and protect the time assigned to them in our calendars, positive outcomes will follow.
At the end of a recent presentation to a group of realtors, one of the attendees shared her struggle to prioritize tedious administrative tasks while being continually bombarded by emails and text messages from clients and vendors demanding immediate attention. Pre-COVID-19, she would go to her office and deal with clients, vendors, and paperwork there. She had a routine in place that worked for her. Now that she's working from home, she finds it challenging to prioritize administrative tasks. Everything else, from her clients to her family, takes precedence while the paperwork keeps rolling from one day to the next in her planner.
She wanted to manage her less-appealing administrative work accurately and on time, but didn't know where to start. This is a ubiquitous dilemma. Tasks that are less enjoyable get pushed back to the end of the list, even though they’re unavoidable. We convince ourselves that we'll get to them tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes, and our approach is the same until the task becomes urgent, and we must face the music under pressure.
My advice to her was to map her week. In other words, to assign a specific day of the week to all non-negotiable tasks. I suggested she designated one morning per week to administrative work and focused her full attention on completing her paperwork during that time. Personally, Wednesdays are my administrative days. In that way, I know that any administrative work I have pending will be tackled on Wednesdays. Some of my colleagues, for instance, book only morning appointments allowing them to give their clients their undivided attention every morning.
In my calendar, every day of the week is earmarked for non-negotiables. I have days for writing, focused work, appointments, and business and personal errands. Saturdays are family days, and Sundays are self-care days. By mapping my week, I know exactly when I'll take care of a particular task, which gives me peace of mind knowing that every item on my to-do list has its assigned completion day. A simple strategy that anyone can implement. There's a catch, though: discipline. It's futile to designate a day for a task if you don't follow through. If I say that Wednesdays are my administrative days and I fail to protect that time, I lose trust on my system.
Since life happens, and I know that not every Wednesday will be a perfect workday, it's a good idea to have a plan B -for emergencies only! I've already established that if something inevitable comes up on a Wednesday, I'll take care of my admin work the previous Tuesday or the following Thursday.
The realtor saw value in this suggestion mainly because it was easy to incorporate into her daily routine and vowed to turn it into a habit. I look forward to following up with her to hear about the impact on her productivity.
I know that for some, this strategy seems too much structure and planning, and may feel restrictive, maybe even a burden. However, the exact opposite is true. Once you have a system in place, having specific days earmarked for particular tasks allows you to not worry about something today because you know exactly when you'll take care of it. You'll even find pockets of free time you didn't realize you had.
Do you assign specific days to specific tasks? Or do you see this idea as limiting? Let me know! I would love to hear about your experience on this topic and what works -or not- for you. If you find this information useful, please like this post, share it, and leave a comment below. Until next week and have a productive week!