“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.” – Margaret Thatcher
There is never enough time in the day to get everything you’d like done. At least that’s the case for me.
My day typically starts around 6:00am, and I always start strong. By 8:30am I’ve usually at least gone through the morning newspapers, knocked out a series of emails, and worked on some new ideas.
It’s around 8:45am that the difficulty starts. New emails come in. My schedule starts filling up with new meetings and tasks. By 11:000am, my To Do List has doubled in length. And so the day continues.
How then do you avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and how do you avoid letting important things drop off?
- Setting expectations. The most important part is understanding that you’ll never get everything done in one day that you’d ideally want to. At least not if you’re an ambitious person. Understanding that helps you avoid feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.
- Prioritization. Continuing from point one, your focus should be on getting the most important and time-sensitive tasks done first. This includes both the tasks that must be done (however mundane or time-consuming), and then those that are going to have the greatest impact. (Developing a partnership with a hotel chain that operates 150 hotels v. a single business.)
- Share Responsibilities. Wherever possible, do pass on tasks to others and avoid micromanaging (otherwise it defeats the purpose of delegating). My colleague, Apploi CEO Adam Lewis, told me that one of his most valuable management lessons came when someone told him, “wherever possible, make yourself redundant.” Believe me you’ll find more valuable ways to use your time.
- Don’t Let the Perfect Be The Enemy of the Good. This is one of my favorite phrases, and we’ve got it framed on the wall at Apploi. My friend and former colleague, and now Daily Beast editor, John Avlon, loved this quote, and I recently saw Facebook’s version, which is “Better Done Than Perfect.” The more time you spend on something, the better it will be; but on the flip side, spending too long delays that – and everything else. You need to find the right balance.
Putting these ideas together, I operate two “To Do Lists.” One, what must get done, and second, what I’d love to get done. (Technology helps: Apps like Evernote and Reminders, keep lists and tasks accessible and organized, and the likes of Join.me and GoToMeeting allow productive virtual meetings when face-to-face isn’t possible.)
My day only ends once the “must get done” list is done, and I consider it a successful day (or a “supremely satisfied” day, to borrow from The Iron Lady) when I’ve gone through as much of my “other” to do list as possible.
What works for you?