I’m famous for using readily available tools. Love your Calendar. Embrace it. Do not let your calendar drive you. You drive your calendar. Start by organizing your email and office paperwork into folders. File EVERYTHING that is not an open issue or follow-up in Q1. If you need to revisit it in the future – add a calendar item in the future that says ‘review Super Client file’ and block enough time to do so. This allows you to relax and only focus on the items that need near term attention. You’ve placed a safety net in the future to remind you, so you don’t have to carry it around.
I put everything on ONE calendar. All my to-do’s (remind daughter to register for school)(hike with friend) (pay this bill)(lunch) (set aside $$/month for October vacation) are calendar items. And if they need to appear every other week – the calendar will support a recurring event. If something gets in the way of attending to a calendar item – I move it forward! If I handle it and need more time – ah – you guessed it – another calendar item. At the end of the year, I know EXACTLY what my time was spent on and how long I spent on certain projects.
Ok, you’ve cleared the email/office decks. Now what? Start by carving out your vacation time. Last year, I left half my vacation time on the table. Why? Because I didn’t carve it out. This year, my vacations are ALREADY blocked off. I’m not sure where or if I’m going anywhere – only that I will NOT be working.
Then, I look at the events I need to attend. These are immoveable, and best to accommodate now. I’ve decided to STRATEGICALLY travel every OTHER week and have blocked off these dates for Q1. Dang – almost had 6 weeks in a row!! I fixed that before I start 2015 work tomorrow.
I handle as much as possible from my office – and leverage others on my team when possible. If you don’t have a team member or strategic partner you can leverage for client face time, you might want to find one.
The next step is to review my client list. I place the highest priority travel (pending projects / new execs / new relationships) in the first available travel block – and so on. Life happens; things get moved around. I know for me – by blocking off and planning, I’m about 90% confident of my future month’s schedule.
Once you’ve organized your calendar, go back to last year. Can you tell what you did, when? If not, make a list of the months and write 2 or 3 good things that happened about each month. You can leverage your email too – check out the people you wrote the most email to – and ask, was it productive?
Now – your open action items, goals, wishes. I keep it simple by making two quick paper lists – home/work. For example, if you have a presentation to give to a client in March, place calendar items in Jan/Feb leading up to the event to give yourself MORE than enough time to prepare. Need to talk to others? Put it in a calendar item. Even if you don’t make a formal invite – it will remind you that you need 30min to prepare and pick up the phone and call that person. Don’t reach them? Move the calendar item forward.
Cheers to owning your calendar and not letting it own you!