Work smarter: a lesson in activity management

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC

"I can't get any work done," one of my clients recently complained. "I'm interrupted so many times each day that nothing seems to get finished. I really need your help to manage my time."

"We can't really manage time," I told her. "But we can manage our activities."

Then, I gave her three suggestions for doing just that:

1. Block your daily activities.

Create a schedule that has you doing what you do best or what gets the most results at the time that works best for you.

If you need that first half hour of the workday to have your coffee, review the mail and answer emails, then train the people in your office to wait for you. Post a sign-up sheet on the door for the first people who you'll see after you've had the time to get started.

If you are better at meetings in the morning than in the afternoon, try to arrange them for when you are able to do your best work.

2. Do one thing at a time.

Close your door for some of your work periods and have your calls held at those times if you can. Don't review and answer emails just because you heard the "you've got mail" sound. If you're reviewing a report, the email can wait. Disable the signal (or turn down the volume) so that it doesn't distract you.

3. Schedule appointments with yourself.

Schedule time to get things done, to recharge, or even to procrastinate.

A while ago, another client complained to me that he started out his morning all charged up, but then suddenly drifted into space after a couple of hours. He didn't have two or three hours to waste and wanted to know why he drifted and what to do about it.

I asked him if he could afford to waste an hour like that every day, and he replied, "Yes, an hour but not two or three!" So we came up with the idea of blocking in an hour of time every day for him to lose focus and do nothing. After that, he stopped completely falling off his schedule.

Giving yourself permission to disengage is a great way to make sure you are working more efficiently. Take walks, get out for lunch and overall, give yourself a break.