Avoiding the Sun(Mon)day Night Blues
Like so many Minnesotans, I spent the long Memorial Day weekend with my entire family (all eighteen of us across three generations), slapping mosquitoes, making s’mores and splashing in a lake at a cabin a few hours from home. It was a wonderful weekend, and gave all of us some time to unplug, unwind, forget about the Monday-Friday stress and responsibility, and be present with each other.
There is always a small price to pay for that time, however. Much of Friday was spent wrapping up a few loose ends for work before prepping for the trip in an effort to beat the cabin traffic (a fruitless effort on a Friday), and Tuesday morning I woke up bleary-eyed, sunburned, and a little unprepared to conquer the week the way I would have liked. My discombobulated Tuesday morning reminded me, again, of the importance of having not just long-term strategies and goals in place, but of also planning out your daily and weekly schedule in order to achieve those goals. Brilliant strategy is nothing without well-executed tactics. The good news is that there are three very simple steps you can take to keep on track and avoid those long-weekend work hangovers.
Make your list— Take five-ten minutes at the end of your day as you are wrapping up (or the beginning of each day during that first sip of coffee) to make a list of what you need to get done the next day. Don’t worry about order, just put things down on paper. Work through that list and categorize each task A-E, with A meaning it absolutely must get done today and E meaning it should be eliminated altogether (I rarely have anything on my list lower than a C). From there, go through each A and rank them; A1, A2, A3…. Do the same for the B’s, the C’s, etc. Then, simply follow your list. Start with A1, complete the task, move to A2, and so on. Every minute you spend planning your list will save you ten minutes that day; that ten-minute activity just organized your day, and gave you an hour-and-a-half of time in the process. You rarely will get through everything on your list, and that’s OK. On most days, you will finish all your A’s, which means you'll get the most important things done, which makes it a productive day!
Schedule EVERYTHING—I’m a big fan of the block schedule. Build your schedule into blocks of time; meetings, sales calls, prospecting, training/education, administrative, etc., even personal categories like the working out. Then plug actual activities and tasks into those blocks. I know a fellow coach who even blocks out time on her daily schedule to walk the dogs; an Outlook reminder pops up twice a day with a 15-minute reminder that simply says “Doggies.” Time-blocking allocates time for your most important and impactful activities, and keeps you on schedule—if you know that your most important activity is sales calls, block out the most time each week for those calls and fill those blocks of time with client meetings.
Bunch your tasks—We’ve come to believe that the ability to “multitask” is the height of efficiency. The truth is, multitasking actually makes us LESS efficient. Our brains are meant to process one thing at a time. We can’t have two different thoughts at the same time, at least not without distracting ourselves, and constantly jumping back and forth between unrelated tasks slows us down. Our brains are good at processing similar tasks over and over, however, so bunching similar tasks, like emails and phone calls, together is extremely efficient. It also allows you to put a time limit on those similar tasks, which increases efficiency—if you schedule 10am-11am for sending and responding to emails, you are going to be much more focused and get through more email than if you allow yourself to work through a pile of emails with no time constraint.
You don’t have to come back from long (or short) weekends and vacations scattered and out of sorts. A little bit of planning—along with repetition in order to build a habit—can ease that transition and keep you focused, efficient and productive when the work week begins.
If these tips resonated with you and you want to learn more, let me know. I’ll happily share a “cheat sheet” that I use in my time management trainings and workshops that illustrates the ideas above. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or message me on Facebook (@FPCoachingMN) and I will get it out to you.