In two days, I will be flying to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers for the rest of the week. My focus for the next two days is be as efficient as possible: plowing through my to-do list, answering e-mails with rapidity, turning down requests for meetings, and delaying until next week anything that doesn’t need to be done now. I plan to leave my inbox completely empty, and my desk clear of paper.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could work this efficiently all the time, and not just when we are about to take a trip?
We can make our everyday habits closer to our pre-travel habits by following some simple guidelines:
- Just say no. When a new task or meeting request comes along, ask yourself if this is truly something that is worth your valuable time. If it’s not right for you, let it pass you by. Don’t say yes just to spare somebody’s feelings or avoid conflict.
- Take care of the important stuff first. Make sure you start your day getting the most important tasks out of the way. You never know when an urgent item will come up and reshuffle your priorities, so focus on the key to-dos while you can.
- Let e-mail wait. We’ve gotten into the habit of starting our day reading all of our new e-mails, but that tends to draw us into a less productive activity right away. If you must look at your e-mail first thing in the morning, only open those items that relate to your most important priorities. Then get your key to-dos done. After those are done, you can go back to read and respond to the rest of your e-mails.
- Avoid time-wasting activities. It’s very easy to get sucked into non-productive activities. Let’s say you get an e-mail notification of a Facebook message. You log on to respond, and you end up spending half an hour in Facebook even though you hadn’t intended to. This also happens when friends or colleagues send us links to cool websites or YouTube videos. Use these fun activities as a reward for completing your important to-dos. Don’t let them derail you unexpectedly.
- Decide when to let go. Have you ever saved an e-mail – or a piece of paper – that you’d really like to pursue but you never have time? Maybe it’s something you want to read, or a survey you plan to take, or information about an item you are thinking about buying. If that e-mail or paper has been hanging around for more than a month, it’s time for you to realize that you are never going to get to it. Do yourself a favor and just hit “delete”. Your load will be lighter.
Now go forth and be productive!