Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How To Stay Productive During A Frantic Week

By Matt:

Last week was a nightmare. A major industry convention, multiple account meetings, numerous hours out of the office, and the overarching expectation to keep things rolling business-as-usual made life pretty insane for the last seven days. I write this post, not so much as a "How-To" based on experience, but as therapy to help myself manage a week like the last better in the future.

Here are three basic (though I won't say easy) steps on setting yourself up for success during a busy work-week:
  • Preparation: If a busy week is on the horizon make a preemptive strike before things start to get hairy. Look at next weeks to-do items. Can you work a little harder the week before and knock out some important activities early? Can you whittle down your overall list by tackling items you were planning to do next week? Take care of some big chunks now, and reap the benefit of a less hectic schedule in the week to come.
  • Weekly Review: GTD methodology requires a weekly review of your entire to-do list. Never is this more important than the Friday before your week-of-insanity begins. Get extremely critical. Analyze everything that has a due-date set in the midst of your busy week, and if possible move it to the following week. Clear your schedule so you can instead focus on the important activities of the week. If there is an item on your to-do list that must be done next week, place it in your Priority List (below).
  • Create A 'Priority List': This is a temporary capture bucket of the most important items that must be done during your busy week. As items come up that absolutely must get done during the busy week, place them in the priority list. This segregates them from the other normal to-do items that you have and isolates your thinking... in other words, only work out of your Priority List, not your regular to-do list. During your busy week you should only be thinking about A) Your conference, account meetings, business trip, etc and B) Items in your Priority List. This is built in filtering - leave everything else until next week.
If I'm honest, I was mediocre at following my own advice last week. My major foul ups? Lack of preparation and a poor weekly review the Friday before. I overheard someone say recently that "Productivity is 60% planning and only 40% execution". Not a bad mindset to work under, and based on previous experiences where I actually have done a thorough weekly review, the results in the week to come astonish even myself.

How do you manage those crazy weeks? Do you have any productivity tips we can all learn from on how to handle life outside the norm?

1 comment:

Blake Mitchell said...

During a frantic week, there may be instances that you'll burn out due to the stressful situation you're experiencing at that time, which is why whenever I am feeling the pressure, I always try to compose myself in my office space (Fairfax) and list down the things I need to get done with, just so I can prevent myself from getting distracted with non-priority work that can be postponed for next time.

Also, whenever there's an incoming meeting on the Washington, DC branch of our company, I always take a breather away from my office space to compose my thoughts and to prevent myself from spacing out.