Recently a client asked me how I keep organised when there are a lot of plates being juggled in the air at once.
It made me reflect on what I have to try manage: – work full time, mum, foster mum, Army Cadet instructor, keeping fit, spending time with dogs, family and friends. Involving; meetings, reports, emails, school run, dog walks, house cleaning, business building, training etc.
My answer was to say that using technology and combing several techniques ensures that I manage my busy lifestyle!
So here are my 8 top tips that I hope may help other busy people: –
My calendar is synced to both my computer and my phone – so that I can see it anywhere and ensure it is always up to date.
Those calendar appointments are then colour coded. For example, bright yellow for personal time, red for accounts, blue for client meetings, green for sales. It means that at glance I can see what is coming up next and whether I need to prepare for it.
Alarm set for ½ hour before a client appointment, ensures the time does not run away from me and that I have time to prepare. Yes, I have alarms of lots of activities even ‘feeding the dogs’ – not that they would let me forget!
When I receive an email, I leave it in my in-box until it is dealt with. The aim is to deal with it immediately. Once dealt it is then filed into a folder on the side of the inbox.
If I have sent an email to someone that I need to make sure I get a response to be able further action something else, I will Bcc myself so that I have that reminder back in my inbox – I can then flag it with a reminder to pop up at the time I want to deal with it.
My calendar may be separated into Core Headings e.g. Client Meetings or Admin – so from that, my To Do List is those individual tasks within each area that I need to focus on. I write them all down, then number them so that I can ensure they are dealt with in the right priority.
We are all guilty of doing the jobs we enjoy doing, so if a particular task stays on the to do list for too long – remember the phrase ‘Eat the Frog’ (do the task you don’t want to do first, get it out of the way).
I don’t have a lot of paperwork now – most communication is via electronic form – but if I do, I will place it in a coloured pocket (so that different tasks don’t get muddled together) and then keep them in either an in-tray or pending-tray depending on the stage of the task. I check my in-tray weekly to ensure that paperwork is still current.
I am sure we are all guilty of thinking a task will be quicker than it actually is. For me this is often meetings (probably because I like to chat!), so I have to ensure that I have time to dedicate to that meeting and it’s really important not to be late for anyone – each person you meet should be your focus, your priority – each client is as important as another, so respect them with the time they have booked with you.
For example, my coaching sessions are 1.5hrs long. I have allocated in my diary ½ hour before to prep and ½ hour afterwards to prepare the paperwork that clients get from Session Report, Training Notes to tools and tips to help them achieve the Action Plan we have agreed during our meeting.
Learning the art of delegation also helps with time structure, getting others to do what you can’t – allowing you to do what you do best is not only cost effective, but time saving.
Ensure you reduce your workspace from clutter. Once it’s dealt with file or bin it, but don’t just leave it floating about. Some people think if they have lots of paperwork on their desk, they look busy – but that is not really the case, it’s more often than not people would look at you as being disorganised.
I love working in an open plan office as it encourages a team-like collaborative atmosphere, but (especially as the boss) you end up listening in to every conversation (just in case you need to be aware of something) and this is not productive.
So, when you need some ‘time out’ put a red flag on your desk – a visual representation of Do Not Disturb – close your emails, set Skype/Teams to DND and pop on some headphones. Make sure your team know how long you plan to work in this DND position – and ensure that after a period of time you check in with them (so they know you are there for them) and check emails, to be able to respond in a prompt timescale.
Your personal life and your business world are interlinked, nothing you can do about that which is why I ensure my calendar has both personal and business appointments on it. One thing I find helps with home life is to create a menu at the beginning of the week of meals. Who is in which evening, what evening may need to be a slow cooker meal, or do you have time to prepare that day? It ensures that you have one less thing to worry about each day in your busy schedule. Plus, ordering on-line exactly what you need each week means you save money as you are not walking around the store, buying stuff you don’t really need and wasting your precious time that could be spent with family.