While facilitating a client’s recent executive leadership retreat, one of the attendees asked me: “So how do you stay on top of your priorities and get things done?” Many in the room expressed a similar interest in this topic, and they agreed to start 30 minutes early the next morning to create some extra time for me to share these techniques:
Make a list and check it often – Each Sunday night or first thing Monday morning I rewrite a one-page tracking sheet of everything that’s a major ‘Rock’ priority. This paper sits on the left-hand corner of my desk for the rest of the week, and it’s my way to keep focused on the big picture items that otherwise might be forgotten during the hours of a crowded day. This means the ‘not urgent and important’ quadrant that Covey identified never strays too far out of my mind.
Don’t let e-mail control your life – Once you open your In Box in the morning, you’re no longer in control of your day. So, I spend an hour working on other things before checking e-mail and diving into the fires that come with being a leader. (Note: read my post titled “Setting Priorities” on July 15th for more on this including my “Dr Pepper Approach.”)
Prioritize your piles – My goal is to start and end each day with a clean desk, and I’m probably successful 75 percent of the time. This means staying organized and being efficient. I have two types of current files: ‘clients’ that exist in the desk drawer to my right and ‘events’ that rest on the credenza to my left. I pull out client files the morning of their coaching sessions and place them in order by appointment time. The event files are clear project folders that I implement for all the other things we’re working on in our business. Each day I prioritize these from top to bottom, so I’m always focusing on the most important project first.
In addition to these, I utilize my calendar to block Genius Time for such things as writing this blog or reaching out to prospects. I also prioritize my workday by sequencing ‘these are the things I absolutely have to get done before I go home.’ One mental approach that works for me is to treat every day like it’s the day before I leave on vacation. I find it’s much easier to complete tasks and hit deadlines that way.