In time management, project management and the like where tasks and commitments are generated there is a need for a tool or process to keep track of them. Many, myself included, write about creating and managing to do lists.
So with all this gathering, listing and prioritizing you probably end up with a pretty hefty list. Now what if you want to enlist help getting these items done? What if you are constantly mobile? And what if your team is virtual? So how do you get that list down?
These last few cold days have inspired a lot of "house cleaning". Anything that prevents me from bundling up like a zombie in order to prevent frost bite is what I've been up to. This time is not reflective time where I ponder the meaning of life or Danico for that matter, but time to clear the decks of the pet projects. Those should have been done a long time ago projects and jus' cuz stuff that goes onto a "someday" list somewhere.
We all have them. Those things we think of that don't really have an immediate application but are fun to work on. If you are like me you have your client work, your volunteer work, your family work, and your personal work. With all of that work, sometimes it is hard to find time for the fun-jus'-cuz stuff.
How timely was it that the article by Jane Porter, How To Turn Your Insomnia Into A Productivity Tool in Fast Company's Business + Innovation section appeared in my Twitter feed? Recently I've been having trouble sleeping. I'm not quite sure why but so far this week it not been unusual to find me roaming my home at some odd hour. I don't sleep much as it is, I wake up automatically after 6 hours regardless of what time I go to bed. I also tend to wake early if it is bright sunny day even with light blocking curtains covering the windows. I just sense that the sun is up and that I should be up as well.
The past week or so, I get into bed and.....nothing. Can't drift off. This is odd for me, I tend to fall asleep soon as I burrow down under the covers. On the rare occasion that automatic sleep eludes me, I play a few rounds of one of the games on my smartphone, sometimes falling the sleep in the middle of a turn. However, these last few days that has not been working.
I don’t know the exact cause, but there are some many exciting things happening all at once here at Danico. Between work on new service offerings being considered for launch soon, new website design and meeting so many new people (some of whom I'm happy to say are now clients), I’m finding it hard to sleep. I shut down all devices, do some stretches and crawl into bed. Just as my eyes close - wham! A few ideas flit through my brain, I grab my tablet or notebook, which ever happens to be next to the bed to hurriedly jot down my thoughts. With that out of the way, I try for sleep again. Nope, not coming. A couple of times recently, thoughts were so strong I was compelled to get out of bed, return to my office and work. The session was short, but only then was I able to sleep. Lucky for me my office is just down the hall. Not sure if I would have been compelled to drive to an office or just be awake all night. I don't want to find out.
In the article, Michael Perlis, associate professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, posed the the question, "What is insomnia, but the gift of more time?” For the freelancer/small business owners/dreamer, there never seems to be enough time get all the things that need to be done and all the things you want to do. So, maybe Professor Perlis has a point. The moments where I give in and work at some odd hour, which seems for me to be 4:30 am, solutions/designs/code snippets, that have eluded me, flow freely. I race to grab them all fearful that they will vanish. I won't say that they are all brilliant but they definitely move me down the path of the right answer for that client or situation.
This temporary insomnia is causing an internal war. The analyst in me wants to launch a study of the frequency, triggers and length of the episodes. The problem solver wants to just get it solved and get to sleep. The designer/developer in me wants to roll with, excited by the thoughts that spring forth, ready to harvest them and share with the world. So, who’s winning? I’ll give you a hint, is not the analyst (*wink*). Seriously though, I’ve learned to treat this temporary insomnia like “thinking out of the box” moments. Sometimes you just have to turn things on their head to find the right solution. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes that means doing the same with your sleep cycle.
Hey, isn't there a saying about finding inspiration at the oddest moments? I thought there was or maybe I was just dreaming. Maybe those oddest moments are your sleepless periods. Why not run with them and see what greatness comes of it.
I used to think that I was good at time management. Lately, I've started to rethink that, not because I'm not getting things done but it just seems to take so much longer. Now, that could be because I'm getting older, I'm not sure. To settle this conundrum I've been researching ideas and techniques to improve my throughput. Some of things I've worked on are included in the Inc.com article, 8 Things Really Efficient People Do by Kevin Daum.
On the surface all seem reasonable to accomplish. I think that for many, and myself in the beginning, delegation is/was a bit challenging. Delegating was hard, until I found the right person. I think that is that key, having the right people in the right roles. This makes delegating easier when you have confidence to empower your team. Finding the right person may take some time but once you have them, you wonder what took you so long.
One technique that I don't do often enough is to time my activities every so often. As factors change, it is good to have new benchmarks. Obvious right? The task that took you 2 hours the first time you did it, takes less than that the 100th time you do it yet you probably are still measuring from the very first time.
It's a new year and many are making resolutions, plans and priorities. Getting organized, being productive often is at the top of the list, of work priorities that is. Admittedly, I think about it too at the turn of the year. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from a clear inbox and an empty to-do list. The little sense of victory as I eagerly check the box next to each item and see that list dwindle to nothing. However, sometimes it so dang hard to get there. It seems like that list just gets longer and longer. The mixture of fun, must-do and not-so-fun tasks all screaming for attention. There are so many suggestions, processes and theories around to tackle, conquer and tame the list. I've even attempted to share/inspire you to success with a suggestion or two of my own.
Today, as I read Kathleen Davis' article "11 Expert Tips to Help You Be More Productive in 2014" on FastCompany.com, it got me to thinking about what has worked, or didn't work for me over the past year - both personally and professionally. For my best results, I have to work within my personal productivity times. I'm a morning person, that is the best time for me to write and plan. It's the time when my creative juices run strong. I need to harness it all before 11 am. That's not a problem for me as I rise early. My father used to tease me about the number of things I get done between 6 am and 11 am vs. the rest of the day. However, there is one thing that I don't seem to do well at the beginning of the day - code. I mean the totally-geeky-its-so-cool type of coding. That seems to work best after hours when there is no sun tempting me to come out and play, little-to-no chance of client calls to happily distract me and no meetings to dream/discuss the future. Coding, especially after dinner is my personal productive coding sweet spot. I don't know why, but I'm not knocking it.
At the end of the day, it is important to know yourself and what works best for you. Experts, and non-experts, can give you advice but you have to piece together what fits your world - life, work, passion, situation. There is one thing that is clear, multi-tasking doesn't cut it. Chunk up your time, assign a task to that time and run with it. You'd be surprised how much you can get done. There's a saying about not pleasing everyone all the time, well you can't do everything all the time either. That was a hard one for me to swallow and there are still some days when I try to do it all - all at the same time.
I've got to run, the "write blog" time chunk has ended.
A little more than a year ago, I wrote about Getting Out of My Own Way, and as I sat down to write the next installment of the time is money post, I realized how applicable that post is. Specifically, taking a break. Recently, I felt like I was a hamster on it wheel. I took a few moments to breath, channelling what little yoga I could remember, and walked away from my desk. I was rewarded with the lead I needed to move forward. There's a saying about, working smarter, not harder and I've thought about how to do that for, and with my clients.
So, I saw this infographic from AMA - American Marketing Association about napping and of course I had to take a look. I don't know about you, I love a good nap. Have you noticed how much quicker you get through a task after a nap than before it? Now, a nap may not always be the answer, sometimes a walk does the trick. I've got the stopwatch on my smart phone all setup and it comes in handy. If I am taking forever on a task because my brain is foggy or I am jumping around constantly, I get up and walk around the office. If that doesn't help, off to the futon. I get up, I go back to my desk and wham! All done with the task I was taking forever with earlier. Take a look at this infographic, it has some helpful info for those who have yet to nap. In particular note the amount of time. I mentioned the stopwatch on my phone. I have it set for 20 minutes, any more than that and I am ore tired than when I laid down - defeating the point of refreshing. Don't think you have time to nap? Think of it this way, the more tasks you can get through, the happier your clients and that leads to…more revenue.
Do you power nap? Have you found it helpful? Chime in.
You're starting to feel defeated and unsure. You've questioned, researched and developed possible solutions, but have not moved forward with implementing any of them. You're mind is filled with even more questions. The questions could cover strategic direction, client impact or other. For example: Is it a good opportunity? Is it the right opportunity? Is it in the right industry? Does it fit my niche market? Does it solve the right problem? Is it the right solution? and lastly.. Are the right people involved? And so on…