Last week I presented a keynote for Progressive Business Conferences on Time Management. The presentation was aimed at helping customer service directors and managers learn to better manage their schedules and tasks so that they experience less stress and pressure at work. My presentation was very well received and I had a ball sharing some of my own strategies for managing my schedule. Today I am sharing with you some of the highlights from my presentation. My hope is that you will walk away from this blog post feeling more empowered to take control of your schedule and as a result you will experience less stress and pressure at work.
1. Take 10-15 Minutes to Plan Your Day
The first thing I do when I get to my office (most days) is make a task-list of the most important things I want to accomplish. These are all things outside of my scheduled presentations, meetings, etc. Today’s task list includes write a blog post, register for NSA meeting, create first draft of client training objectives, map out 4-week webinar marketing plan. Identifying your top tasks for the day helps keep you focused and you’re more likely to accomplish tasks when you write them down and think through them.
2. Return Calls in Batches
Don’t procrastinate on returning calls and don’t let calls take over your entire day. Unless the mater is urgent, hold off on calls and return several calls back-to-back during a block of time that works for you. I learned this technique when I worked from home with 2 small children. I had to return calls during naptime or when my kids were watching something entertaining on television. I still maintain the habit of returning calls in batches because it makes my day flow so much smoother. I answer calls as they come in if I’m available, but missed calls that aren’t urgent are returned during my drive to pick up my son from school and while I wait in the pick up line for my son. This is a great use of my short commute and it always feels so good to return calls quickly in batches and get that task out of the way.
3. Check Emails On A Schedule
It’s easy to let emails consume your day, especially when you’re getting work emails on a smartphone. I turned off the email alert on my iPhone. I don’t need to be alerted and distracted every time I get an email. Even at my desk, I have learned to close Outlook except for times when I am intentionally checking and responding to emails. Find an email schedule that makes sense for you and stick to it. I check emails at the top of the morning on my iPhone and I don’t usually open Outlook on my computer until 11am and then again around 1:30ish. I don’t check emails again until I’m in the pick up line at my son’s school. After that, I’ll periodically check my emails on my phone.
4. Know When You Work Best
Are you hyper-productive in the morning, but lose steam in the afternoon? If that’s the case, do your most creative or most pressing tasks in the mornings. If you’re more productive in the afternoon or midmornings, schedule your most important tasks during your most productive hours.
5. Find a “To-Do” App That Works for You
Chances are, you have a smartphone. If you do, find a good app to help you be more productive. I use 2 cool apps to help me stay on top of my day: “Siri” and “Reminders.” Siri lets me use my voice to schedule or reschedule meetings, dictate emails and texts and place phone calls. It’s hard to imagine getting through my work day without my “Reminders” app. Using Reminders I can tell my phone to “Remind me to email Jeff my portfolio.” Or “Remind me to book conference room for Client Experience Meeting.” I rarely forget things these days thanks to this app. Find some great apps that work for your needs and your style. Getting things done easily is a tremendous stress reliever.
6. Try the “Straight to Voicemail” App
Straight to Voicemail is a really cool app that lets me dial right into the cellphone voicemail of my friends, customers, and family. This comes in handy when I just want to “touch base,” don’t want to get into a long conversation and when I just need to leave a quick message. I find that I’m able to keep in touch with friends and clients really well because I can knock out 3 or 4 calls in just a few minutes by going straight to voicemail. The app is free and makes returning calls a cinch. Explore Straight to Voicemail.
Thanks for taking the time to read through my ideas for better managing your workload. Our work should be enjoyable and fulfilling and we should leave work at work when we go home. I sincerely hope some of the ideas here help you relieve stress and pressure with your work. A special thank you to Progressive Business for asking me to design and present this talk.