Time Management Part 3: The Short List

List

It was a hot Saturday afternoon and I was feeling good. One by one I was proudly checking off the long list of household to-do items on the whiteboard in the front hallway. With each checkmark, I would stand back and admire my excellent time management skills based on the progress I was making. Later that day when I came back into the house to check off yet another heroic accomplishment, I stopped in dismay. Someone had erased all of the finished tasks which had checkmarks, only leaving the unfinished ones. I suddenly only had evidence of what I had yet to do, with no proof of my accomplishment to-date

If you are like me, this is how it can feel at work most days. Somewhere between the flood of emails, instant message requests from the boss and meetings as far as the eye can see, we have “real” work to accomplish. There was a time when the multiple streams of work and distractions stressed me out as I watched my day slip by without any tangible progress against deliverables. Not anymore! The answer to time management problems at work is The Short List.

This is how it works. The minute you sit down at your desk each morning, make a list (preferably in red) of the three non-negotiable deliverables that need to get done before you leave work today.  By the way, these should not be softball tasks that would get accomplished anyway in the course of the day, these should be real deliverables. Then, every time you switch from one activity to the next (exit a meeting or finish an email, etc.), review The Short List and look for an opportunity to attack these deliverables. If you happen to miss a key deliverable on a given day, start the next day’s list with that item or eliminate it altogether if it is no longer a priority. Here is an example of what that might look like.

The Short List

  1. Plan the team offsite
  2. Finish/submit Q4 budget forecast
  3. Recognize John Doe for his outstanding contribution

This may not look like much but if you complete the shortlist each day, that is 15 completed deliverables per week. How many key deliverables are you accomplishing now with your current time management approach? We often say we need more hours in the day. The way to have more hours in the day is to have a better time management plan. It’s called The Short List!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

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P.S. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

Reducing Stress: 3 Practical Steps

Stress

We all know that stress is a silent killer, impacting our wellbeing in the present and our overall health long term. So, what are we to do? If you are like most, you are likely caught in the proverbial rate race just trying to get it all done and the thought of working to reduce stress stresses you out even more. So how can one reduce their overall stress index in the middle of a crazy schedule?

I know something about stress. There was a time in my life where for almost a full year I was under so much stress I could hardly eat, much less keep food on my stomach. The impact on my health was tangible and only getting worse. In the end, I had to make the choice to address the issue head-on. Here are three keys that helped me reduce stress and change my overall health for the better.

  • Stop worrying about things you can’t control. In her article “Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid” Amy Morin states that strong-minded people don’t waste energy worrying about things they can’t control. This is simple in form, but brilliant when applied. I have made it a personal mission to apply this principle to every area of my life. If traffic is heavy and causing me to slow down, I don’t worry. I can’t control it. If other people cut corners and lack integrity, I don’t worry. I can’t control them. Instead, I focus on what I can control, me!

Practice playing this principle out in one area of your life at a time. Before you know it, you will start to see your stress levels come down.

  • Set reasonable boundaries for work. I listened to a work coach this morning explain how to tell if you are a workaholic. He said to ask yourself the following set of questions. 1) What do you talk about most when you get home? 2) How much do you think about (or revert to) work after hours? 3) Are you able to take guilt-free vacations?

It is essential to set proper work boundaries for yourself. After all, your employer is not going to do so but instead continue to push for more efficiencies out of you. Do you have an established time you plan to leave work each day? Are you prepared to negotiate with your boss when they assign you that additional project you do not have the bandwidth to take on? What other ways can you address work scope creep? Remember, you work to live, not the other way around.     

  • Visualize what ‘stress-free’ looks like. What does a stress-free environment look like to you? Perhaps it’s a sunny day at the beach, or the sunset glowing across a calm lake. Maybe it’s that vacation you have been dreaming about. Visualize whatever it is in your mind, then go in search of a photo that accurately represents what you are picturing. Print it out and post it in the environment that is a know stress trigger for you. Whenever you feel yourself beginning to stress out, take 30 seconds to look at the photo and imagine you are actually in that place.

Now, take a look at the picture below that I have included as an example and just breathe for a minute.

Sunny ocean view
Stress free moment

The principle of reducing stress is so important to me now that I have incorporated it into my core values. It will take some practice but if you consistently incorporate these steps into your daily routine, you will begin to see a noticeable improvement to your stress index.

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

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