focus on 20% of your key activities

As a senior manager, you may well be facing growing demands on your time. Perhaps you are facing some of the following challenges:-

• Long working hours
• Tight deadlines
• Time management pressures
• No balance between personal life and work commitments
• Lack of optimum health and fitness
• Lack of hobbies
• Stress and burnout

You may be faced with the challenge of staying on top of things both at work and at home. No matter how good things are in other parts of your life such as family, social life and relationships, work is a major part of your life, and not to be neglected.

On the one hand, you want to be involved in rewarding, enjoyable and fulfilling work, get recognition and promotion for your efforts, win more clients, become a partner and build a more profitable practice.

On the other hand, you want a balanced life with time for the things you really want to do with a full and interesting social life and also be in a fulfilling relationship. Of course you want to have clarity about your career path and continue to be healthy, fit and stress free.

The key to resolve these seemingly conflicting challenges is to get clear just what you want to get out of your work? Is work the end all and be all for you?

Focus on the bigger picture and reflect on what you want from your work. Explore what is actually under your control and learn to let go of what is beyond your grasp. To help you do so, here are my tips for staying on top of things:-

1. Plan your time – at the end of each day, plan the next day. Prioritise your to-do list – do the most important things first. Sounds really obvious but do the most important things first. It is amazing how we let less important but easier tasks come in the way of that vital action.

When performing any task, ask yourself – is this the best use of my time? Schedule in enough time for resting, quality time with family etc.

Review your master to-do list on an on-going basis and question yourself if a task is even important to you anymore. Perhaps you can simply drop it.

Also remember to apply the 80 / 20 rule in all areas of your life.

2. On the way to the office, get yourself motivated to face the day. Think of how the work you have allows you to have your life outside of it, such as a great social life with your other university friends. A positive attitude will make your day more pleasant and productive.

3. If you find yourself procrastinating, be accountable for completing your tasks to a colleague. Choose someone who will not be critical if you fail. Such a support structure alone will help you greatly to eliminate procrastination. Tackle the toughest task first. Start this at the beginning of the day or when your energy is the highest.

4. Be selfish for a while and demand what you need in order to create some breathing space in your life. You will then have that initial reserve of time to eliminate those things you have been procrastinating.

5. Keep your deck clear, once you have cleared all outstanding tasks. Be ruthless and take care of a task before it gets on a possible procrastination list. For example, sort your morning post immediately in one go – open it, file it, act on it or trash it there and then.

Delegate as much possible. Decide if there is anything that can be delegated, or that more fairly belongs to someone else’s workload. Always remember the “3D” rule – do it, dump it or delegate it – never handle a piece of paper twice.

6. Keep your work in perspective and remember that you are more than your work. Do not have your identity too strongly tied to the job you do. You can only do the best you can in each situation. Look beyond yourself and your work, and consider the bigger picture. If work ever gets too much for you to cope with, remember what attracted you to your career in the first place. Connect again with the difference you make in the lives of your clients and customers.

7. Concentrate on the task at hand. Do not let yourself be distracted by worrying about all the other things to be done or losing energy over the undesirable situation you find yourself in. Stay in the moment.

Be ruthless and take care of a task before it gets on a possible procrastination list. For example, sort your morning post immediately in one go – open it, file it, act on it or bin it there and then.

8. Learn to handle emails and phone calls effectively. Only answer emails in 2 or 3 bursts a day or as little as your work allows. Limit the number of newsletters you subscribe to and resist the temptation to respond to emails instantly. The fewer you send out the less emails you will receive.

9. Have regular breaks. Get away from your normal workplace even if only for five minutes. Try taking a break from the laptop, emails and do leave the mobile behind. Make sure that you do have that lunch break – it is not just for food but also for fresh air and a mental break.

10. Learn to relax no matter how much work you seem to have piled up. At the end of the day, it is only a job, and you are much more than that. In years to come, you will look back and wonder what the fuss was.

Learn to stay on top of things at work – and soon you will be feeling like you are on the top of the world.

People around you will wonder what has happened to you 🙂