Fourth quarter is a CRAY time for every communications pro. No matter what your industry, niche, role, or business model….it’s crazy, crazy, crazy.
Which means it’s a time when I always re-evaluate how I spend my time and how I can be most productive. Effective scheduling something I constantly strive to improve upon.
I want to be able to do ALLLLL the things. And while, sadly, I can’t do ALLLL the things, the more effective I am with my schedule the more things I CAN do.
Here are some rules I have to create the most effective and productive schedule possible.
What Keeps You Happy and Healthy?
All of us have certain things which help us feel content.
When we sacrifice these things we instantly start to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and out of control.
I know for me, everything in my life can be complete chaos, but if I keep a few things consistent I can handle whatever comes at me. But as soon as they get knocked out, I collapse.
I like to call these work/life boundaries.
(I HATE the word balance because balance tends to be a judgment based on what is traditionally seen as acceptable, whereas actual “balance” is contextual, subjective, and individual.)
Effective scheduling preserves boundaries.
When something crosses these boundaries it puts us in a bad, and non-effective place. We might work more, but we get less done for the time we put in.
I have a few main boundaries during the week:
- Early morning concentrated work time.
- Daily workout.
- Evening dog walk.
- A block of no work/no screens time in the evening with the fiance.
These are important to me. So I make sure I keep them in my daily schedule. Sure sometimes I need to adjust (we will discuss that a bit later), but I try to keep those times as few as possible and reserve them for special situations.
Communications Pros Are Boundary Breakers
Communications pros across the board are VERY bad at boundaries. VERY bad.
Some of it is because that’s the nature of our jobs. To respond.
But some of it is because we become addicted to responding—beyond what’s required to do an exceptional job and provide phenomenal client service.
This behavior is bad for our productivity, creativity, mental health, and success. Set your boundaries and keep them.
What Are Your Most Productive Times?
We all have times of days where we are most productive.
Effective scheduling requires us to acknowledge these and craft our schedule to maximize them.
For me, it’s the first thing in the early morning.
Between 5 am and 8 am I accomplish more than I do the rest of the day. My brain is focused and I’m most strategic and creative.
Mid-day is my next most productive time. And then the afternoon the least. By five o’clock my ability to do deep work is very low. This is the time for me to respond to emails or follow-up on simple tasks.
Because I know this I try to concentrate my meeting time for my afternoon slots when my productivity for silent, focused work is low.
I keep my morning time sacred by blocking it off in my calendar. People simply can’t schedule me during it.
It’s mine. All mine.
Do the same for your time. Treat it like you would any other meeting and keep it sacred.
What Are Your Priorities?
A couple of weeks ago we started a Monday morning accountability thread in the PR Dream Team. I start a thread and whoever is interested chimes in with their priorities for the week.
In our internal Spin Sucks team we each check-in every morning with our goals for the day (as well as the next day). When you post the same goals each day, other people notice. It’s a good flag to yourself and others that something is up.
And you kind of feel ashamed. Ok, you feel very ashamed.
Now setting priorities isn’t about shaming. It’s about writing down publically what you need to get done to keep it at the forefront of your mind.
Let’s face it, our jobs are full of a gazillion mini-distractions and fire alarms. And a gazillion might be shooting low. It’s sooooo easy to fall into constant response mode and never get the big, important things done.
You need to get the big things done to be successful. If you keep pushing them off because you don’t have time then you’ll just stay stagnant, or worse….lose ground.
So set your priorities every day or every week, whichever works better for your schedule and workflow (weekly works best for me). And then get those things done.
If you find you can’t get them done, then you need to re-examine your schedule and start to block time.
Yes Also Means No
This was a super hard one for me, but extremely important for effective scheduling.
Here’s the thing. There are only 24 hours in the day.
You have 24 hours,
I have 24 hours.
(I feel like Oprah now, 24 hours for everyone!!!)
And no matter how much we try to believe otherwise (trust me, I’ve tried), that’s all we have. We can make those hours as efficient as possible, but we cannot just manufacture more.
This stinks, I know.
It’s a cruel universal truth. I feel it in my soul on the daily.
I used to run myself into the ground constantly because I pretended the 24 hour day rule didn’t apply to me. Which means I just kept saying ‘yes.”
“Yes, I can do this.”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“You bet, I’d love to do that.”
I didn’t feel imposed on. I wanted to do ALL the things and be ALL the things for ALL the people. And I feel frustrated and antsy when I come to the crashing conclusion that I can’t be.
What I’ve now come to learn is the only way I can bring my best to everything I do and accomplish what I really want in life is accept that every “yes” to something HAS to also mean “no” to something else.
The Yes/No equation must balance.
There are no exceptions. You aren’t an exception.
If you want to do meaningful stuff…
If you want to make a difference…
Choose your “yes” and “no” carefully.
You have to accept that you can, in fact, do it all and accomplish everything you want in life. You just can’t do it all and accomplish everything you want in life RIGHT NOW.
Every yes also means a no. You get to choose which.
If This, Then That
The best-laid plans….well, they will sometimes come crashing down around you like a dinosaur in a meteor shower.
Effective scheduling is being prepared when life throws you curve balls.
Once you set the boundaries, priorities, and systems we’ve spent this article reviewing you need to create “if this, then that” statements so you are prepared to deal when the poop hits the fan and your best-laid plan goes flying out the window.
If this happens, then I’ll do that……
If X, then Y….
But it’s important these are exceptions, not rules. This means if you find use your “if this, than that” statements more than about twice a month, it’s a flag something is wrong in your system and needs to be adjusted.
What Are Your Effective Scheduling Rules?
Those are my rules. What are yours?
Add yours in the comments below or add it to our discussion in the Spin Sucks Community.