1) Do the most important task or two tasks of the day immediately.
Don’t procrastinate. If you could only get one or two things done today what is most important? Complete them first. Then move on to what’s next. It’s sometimes easy to work on projects or tasks that you’d rather do but aren’t as important.
2) Batch e-mails. Don’t check your e-mail upon waking, and set a specific time of the day to respond.
Building off the first point, if you immediately check your e-mail you’ll find a few tasks that need your attention and suddenly you get sidetracked. I like to check mine a couple of hours into my day and then once more in the evening. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of constantly checking and responding to e-mails.
3) Word your e-mail responses in a way that eliminates back and forth.
A great example is this:
“Thanks very much for reaching out. I’d love to set up a call to discuss ___________. Thursday works great for me, either at 9:30, 11:00, or any time after 6:00. If that doesn’t work with your schedule let me know the best day and possible times to give you a call and we’ll make it happen! Look forward to talking to you.
This eliminates 4 further e-mails back and forth trying to nail down a time to talk or meet.
4) Win the morning.
I’m a big believer that how you do anything is how you do everything and I find this is true on a micro level over 24 hours. When I wake up, and immediately make the bed, brush my teeth, and floss I just feel better about attacking the day. If you start the day off poorly it’s easy to just kind of say screw it the rest of the day and continue to be lazy.
Master the next 24 hours.
5) Keep a To-Do List, and start your day (or the night before) by writing a ‘Today List’. Prioritize your tasks on a scale of importance.
I tend to write my To-Do List twice a week: Sunday night and then again on Thursday. Each morning I write a Today List and each task has a corresponding number on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is something that absolutely must get done. A 5 would be something I’d like to do if I feel like it and am able to get to it. Anything that doesn’t get done that day moves to the Today List tomorrow.
6) When you feel overwhelmed, do a brain dump.
Grab a notepad and pencil and just scribble down every little thing you need to do and want to get done in the next few months. Don’t take your time and think. There’s no order here (that can come later). When you feel bogged down and overwhelmed it’s a great way to de-stress by getting all those little nagging tasks you feel you need to get done out onto paper. From there, go through and make a to-do list. What’s most important and what can you reasonably get checked off in the next few days?
7) If it was tomorrow morning, would you say yes? If not, say no.
Learn to say no. We tend to push things into the future that we don’t want to do so imagining if it was tomorrow makes it easier to make a decision. If it isn’t an emphatic yes, then it’s a no. I used to meet up with so many more people for coffee etc if they wanted to discuss something. Now I save that energy, time, and outings for friends. Those conversations with random acquaintances can happen over the phone.
Hopefully after implementing some of these strategies you’ll feel like you have extra time on your hands, like Kramer when he employs Da Vinci’s sleep schedule.