Time management and getting everything done has always been difficult if we had the secret sauce we probably wouldn’t share it.
Working agency side and looking after larger teams really did help to shape my priortisation, you often learn from mistakes but when you try and juggle numerous demands from mundane tasks, challenging people issues and delivering important large projects, you often need to list and order by priority.
When I started out in my career in a mature business, I was a Project Manager and learned from other PM’s, forums, and working with a very impressive more experienced PM that documenting your time and being extremely detailed in your way of winning. As I evolved with my role and the jobs to be done, I got into lean and six sigma, these teachings also helped prioritise my time and understand time is critical at tasks level, time-based actions taken can be a revolution to businesses.
I am often asked how do I prioritise my workload and how do I manage this. I do not have a perfect formula nor do I pretend to have it completely right, however, I have found there are two methods that help me and have helped my team members over the years.
Daily Prioritisation Framework
I am organised, I like to have structure, I like to start early, in my case the early bird has got the worm more often than not and has allowed me to structure and to organise my time and prioritise my day or week ahead.
I often jump between written schedules (the dopamine kick for crossing off and completing tasks by hand still outperforms the ticking of a to-do on the Mac or notes app for me) and to do via Apple Notes or Notion.
I like to breakdown by: (link to table in google docs)
If you work agency side or have multiple ongoing projects I typically would add the client (or large project name) into the table and identity if its repeatable work or unique work.
Every day I go in and reprioritise, often you can re-review your to-do list and add the Einshower Matrix framework, do (urgent & important), decide (important but not urgent), delegate (urgent but not important to you), delete (not urgent or important).
You can take two approaches, look at your task list separate from your calendar or you can then incorporate the tasks into a calendar outlook. I have found that Outlook beats Google calendar but with tasks incorporated into both and in calendar mode both are becoming equal with tasks by calendar view, this doesn’t suggest how important or what needs to get done first.
We all have a certain number of hours per day and time is always of the essence, so incorporating in your calendar will help block out time for important tasks or projects or understand how possible your tasks are.
Be ruthless with your calendar, remember your time is your time, therefore truly understand what meetings are essential or are ones you can read the follow-up notes and catch up with when you have finished your tasks or projects.
Block out time for your tasks, if you are a morning person try and block out time to deep work and concentrate on your tasks, or if you know meetings tend to start at 9.30 and finish in and around lunch block out time slots where you can concentrate. It’s more than ok to review your calendar and understand patterns and plan accordingly, we are more predictable than we would ever think.
If you are an afternoon or early evening person, typically meetings finish mid-afternoon so you can block out time a week or days ahead and block out time to complete.
I repeat the process daily, often each night and then fresh every morning, why?
Depending on your schedule, business, or company culture, you can receive emails and instant messengers overnight and re-prioritising is often really important. The process of re-analysing is important and by delegating or deleting you will get more dopamine kicks and feel like you are making process and give you a natural high.
If you are just adding tasks and not deleting or completing you have to go back to your tasks or calendar and be more ruthless.
Weekly Prioritisation Framework
Weekly prioritisation might sound overkill, on Monday it could feel like you are planning for planning sake however knowing important deadlines and projects are coming up or your team is away or doing x or y is essential.
Personally, I look at time slots as energy sources and if you are low on energy and need to get into the zone of delivering mundane tasks or low priority tasks can be completed in low energy or if like me you are at low energy levels after 15.00 plan in low important meetings or get into completion mode or plan a stroll or walk if you can to refresh and readdress your energy.
Managing your weekly view is important, I personally use the same framework as above but add in the one to ones, recurring meetings and add important points I would like to discuss or actions we promised we would pick up. I personally like the GROW framework (Goals – how are we doing, what are we moving towards? Reality – where are we really at, Options and Obstacles – challenges we are facing, and what are we doing about them? Way forward).
I also offer internal (informal and formal) mentoring and champions (developing internal champions to own a specific theme or channel and coach their peers) so when these are being utilised I include in my weekly plan and document these and prioritise around this accordingly.
There is something that many people do not plan for and I have learned this is important, personal development or “reflections and actions”, personal development is something we rarely plan for or block out time for, however, it is important we create the time and space for this, obviously, prioritise these accordingly but you need time to learn and develop and very rarely will someone put in the time to prioritise this if you do not.
Reflections and actions are something I have been working with for around a year and has helped me clear my mind and often tasks that always seem to be harder than they should, reflections are a time we should look through our notes, review what actions we had and reflect on these and consider potentially a smarter way to act or take action or even plan out the tactics we are going to use. Often we become so bogged down by these requests we do not plan or put yourselves into places to win.
If you prefer to type (or centralise your thoughts online) and use a time or calendar view, many smart people I have worked with actually do print out their day ahead or schedule in a calendar view and cross off throughout the day.