To maximise any working day, you require productivity. We all know that.
Productivity requires effective prioritisation.
Effective prioritisation relies on good decision making.
And that’s where most of us run into trouble.
Why? Because good decision making requires space and time, two things that are generally in short supply when we’re feeling overwhelmed by our workloads.
So, what do we do? Throw in the towel? Soldier on until some space and time magically opens up in our calendar?
Nope. We get proactive. Whenever I find myself drowning in work I activate what I call my ‘3 x 1 system for reducing business overwhelm’.
It’s made up of three rules:
The one-minute rule
This rule is for all those tiny, crappy jobs that are easy to put off because they can be done at any time. The problem with things that can be done at any time is that they usually get done at no time. But they cause angst because you keep seeing them.
- The bills that need to be filed.
- The blown light bulb in the toilet.
- The drooping plant that needs to be watered.
Every time you see these things, it invokes the words ‘Agh, I need to take care of [that thing]’ in your head and takes up valuable space that you could be dedicating to more important things.
So, this rule is simple: if something can be done in less than one minute, do it now.
When you clear all those petty annoyances from your plate, it frees up a tonne of valuable head space that can now be channelled towards that report your boss is screaming for or the proposal you’ve been putting off for three days.
The one-hour rule
How do you spend the first hour of your working day? If you’re like most people you check emails, grab a coffee, and get ‘settled in’.
While it makes sense to ease into the day, taking this approach means other people’s urgencies (communicated via email, phone calls and messaging) become our priorities and suddenly it’s 11.30am and all we’ve done for the past three hours is react.
This is the major reason most business owners only ever have time to work in their business rather than on their business.
So, my one-hour rule is this: the first hour of each day must be spent doing something that actively generates income for your business, or is a business building activity.
It might be:
- Making five sales calls.
- Writing a proposal.
- Reaching out to five people who might be interested in collaborating with you.
- Writing up a system or process for a task that can be handed to someone else.
- Reading through the detailed financial report your bookkeeper sends you each month.
- Researching a piece of software that can improve internal efficiencies.
- Taking a staff member out for coffee to check in with them and see what ideas they might have that will make the business better.
The best thing about taking this approach is this: by the time you do get to your email, half those ‘urgencies’ will have resolved themselves or will have been taken care of by someone else. Now that’s efficient!
The one-day rule
Most of us have schedules that are booked up to the wazoo. Each day we have 10 hours of work that we’re expecting to cram into seven and we can never seem to catch up. The main reason we never catch up (other than the fact we’re hopelessly over-committed) is because there’s no room in our schedules for contingencies.
- Having to take over a job that’s gone pear-shaped.
- Personal emergencies like a sick child home from school.
- Losing the entire document you’ve been working on for the past two hours and having to start again from scratch.
This is where the one-day rule comes in: every week needs to contain a ‘buffer’ day.
It’s a day where you have no meetings or firm commitments. It’s a day you pretend you don’t have when you’re planning all your jobs for the week. It’s a day where, if you’re actually on top of your workload, you can use to breathe and take stock of what’s going on in your business. But if you need time to catch up on things that have been derailed by contingencies, then you have that time too.
This is all very nice, but …
If you’re sitting there and thinking to yourself, ‘This is all well and good but I don’t have time for the one-minute rule much less the one-hour or one-day rules’ … then you absolutely have too much on your plate and it’s time to get really serious about dialling that back.
We all have the ability to run at full pace for a period of time. Without built-in pauses, however, you are absolutely sure to hit the wall, and on reflection you’ll wish so badly you’d prioritised that space in the first place!
What do you do to ease your mental load when you find yourself drowning in business overwhelm?