The Friday Fix for last week “challenged” us to record every moment of our work day and assign it a color, by doing so we could quickly break out what is a necessity (as in job-dependent) and what we can table. Red were must-do activities, blue were things that had nothing directly to do with your work but may still be necessary such as training a new person or answering a co-worker’s question and yellow was the catch-all for everything else. (If you’re a technology person and are fascinated by graphs and charts, the same thing can be done through Excel.) After you’ve “colored” your day, you can move into the analysis phase.
If most of your day is red and you’re feeling like you have little control over that, consider using blocks of time. For instance, if you categorized answering emails as a must in your job then handle these in three blocks of time that you schedule throughout your day not as soon as an email comes in. Blocking allows you to develop a rhythm and increases efficiency. If blue dominates your day, you either need to replace the staff or you need to delegate. There will always be a need, especially in small-staff organizations, for the performing of job duties that aren’t yours but if you continually table your work to put out fires for others you are setting a dangerous precedent and dependency. Look at ways to scale back. If yellow dominates your day…you must be a very laid back person or have no idea what your job responsibilities are.
Saying no/limiting your time commitments has been a very popular blog topic recently. If your stream is overwhelmed by red, you might want to schedule in a little yellow time and read this one (especially the “Stop the Following” section) and this one and this one. As more and more of us are continually connected and always online, we’ll continue to see a plethora of these sorts of posts. We’re all struggling to carve out time for ourselves while maintaining our professional edge.
Please take some blue time and share your time organization secrets below so we can all benefit.