I want to write something really concise for you today, because you have a lot to do and because I think I can improve your life if you’ll give me just a few minutes of your time.
I see people waste so much time trying to be more efficient at things they shouldn’t be doing in the first place, and concentrating on things that can easily be delegated while putting off the things that can’t.
I learned something from an instructor 15 years ago that I’m forever grateful for. The idea is to divide your week into three kinds of days.
Three or Four Days: Get Things Off Your Plate
The first kind, which will comprise three or four days of each week, are the days when you get things off your plate. I call these days “preparation” days because they are designed to enable you to do something else. These are full of all the little things that won’t change your life but have to get done anyway. You’ll do twenty of these in a day and it’ll feel good to check them off, but all together they don’t amount to much real impact. Think of these as the things you do so that you can concentrate without distractions during the second type.
One or Two Days: Get Real Work Done
This second kind, which will only be one or two days per week, is when you get real work done. I call these the “contribution” days, where you are changing your world. You write your marketing plan or you invent a new service offering or you shape some original research for a talk you’re going to give. It’s uninterrupted time because you’ve cleared your plate in order to do some “deep work” that isn’t otherwise possible. Maybe it’s in the office or off-site.
Two Days: Get Perspective
This is the weekend, for most people. It’s when you become a normal human again, reconnect with people, pursue hobbies, do physical labor, read, and largely forget about work. They are “perspective” days because they keep you grounded and you soak things up like a sponge, often learning things that have nothing to do with your professional expertise.
Here are some ideas on how to make this work:
- If you mix all three of these types of activities together (preparation, contribution, perspective), it won’t be as satisfying and you won’t feel like you are accomplishing something.
- On the “contribution” days, consider starting early and finishing by early afternoon. Then take the day off and supplement your “perspective” days.
- Be realistic in your to do list management. Don’t put things on there that you won’t actually accomplish. Be ruthless.
- From time to time, ditch your to do list entirely. If it’s important, you’ll remember. Or someone else will remind you!
- It’s very important to manage your “not to do” list. Maybe even more important.
- One of the more destructive influence on your mental health is notifications. Turn them all off…and then maybe turn a few back on again. Notifications for email and Slack and facebook posts are undermining the civilized world. Well, maybe that’s just my twisted perspective, but please turn off your notifications and try living again.
Your firm needs you to contribute. If you don’t prepare in advance, it’ll not happen. And if you don’t contribute within a healthy perspective, it will be skewed.