“How my marketing job nearly killed me..
and Time Management saved me.”
At one point in time, I was managing a very large marketing project. It involved 5 entities with their own budgets, contributing to one master budget. Each entity had to have advertising in its own sector. Due to the complexities, I could only book campaigns one month at a time. I found that I was booking 30 different media outlets each month. It was a time management
nightmare challenge. I learnt very quickly that if you want to stay on course, you must be able to do the right thing at the right time. The key came down to the ability to categorize and prioritize. There were times when, yes, I felt I was going to suffer a heart attack from the stress. It really impacted on my health. The biggest challenge was that I was often coming in too late into the process and rushing my projects. To overcome this challenge, I quickly sharpened my organizational skills.
While time management is about doing the highest priority thing in a timely manner, it also comes down to finding the right place and the right time for the things that come into your world.
I quickly discovered that if I applied some of the organisational principles of David Allen, that I would make it through! These were the principles I applied.
Stuff, comes at us from all areas. Work, home, clubs, school etc. We think about tasks we’ve committed to doing, think about tasks we should be doing. Unfortunately just thinking about something is not the best way to capture that information, it’s not the most reliable place for storage or for recollection. Okay, yes, it’s true, you will remember it at some point, the brain is good at recalling, just not very good at the timing, like right before you need to go to sleep! The brain tries to remember these tasks in the short-term memory, as they are short-term tasks. As short-term memory is not designed to store large chunks of information, this starts to steal your energy and cause you stress.
I soon realised that the best method for my success was to remember or recall the task at a time when I was best in a position to complete it. So the best methodology is to capture each and every commitment, thought, task etc, that you make at the time that it reaches you. When you stop relying on your brain for storing things and place these commitments in a system that you can actually trust, you will see a drastic improvement in your productivity and reduced levels of stress.
This doesn’t mean you decide right there and then what to do with it, that comes later, the first step is just collecting the information.
When you are able to collect ALL of your responsibilities or things you want to remember in one location, it becomes easier to manage. I thought all I needed to survive, to manage this mountain was to have a very good “To Do list”. A big one. The problem was, I soon realized that there was a lot of items on my task list that shouldn’t be there. For example, things that were clearly projects and not tasks. Buy a laptop sounds like a task, doesn’t it? Well, there’s actually a whole heap of action steps towards that outcome. I need to research where I can buy them, work out what my budget is, talk to an IT expert about what is going to meet my needs, research what products are out there etc. When you add a project to your task list, you put it off because the steps towards are not clear.
I found that I put things on my list that someone else should be doing that I want to remember and track or stuff that really didn’t need to be addressed until a much later date.
My over packed task list became overwhelming and difficult to prioritize. Where do I start and what do I do next? I got bogged down and stressed. I overworked myself and exhausted myself.
Instead, I worked on a system of focusing on the highest priorities and scheduling the less important ones. I focused on what I needed to achieve in the short term.
Organisation. Ahhhhh! Sweet organisation. The result of decisions that result in prioritizing, categorizing and sorting. As a result, each item should end up in just a few select places
- Filed or Archived if it is only for reference
- In my calendar, if it is time or date specific
- On a someday/maybe list (but not forgetting to schedule time to review it )
- On a project list if it is a project. (Don’t forget that the next task to be completed would be added to the right task list)
- And of course: the Urgent/Immediate Tasks for the To Do List (they can stay there! )
Easy to find, easy to process; Simple!
Reviewing is an important part of the process. Setting aside the time to re-evaluate, to sort through the collections and to ponder the “Someday/Maybe” list. This gave me the opportunity to determine the most important task that I needed to complete with the time and resources available to me. The better I organised the items, the quicker it was for me to review. The secret was to contextualize where I would be at the time I needed to completed certain tasks. For example, would I be on the phone making the call (a call task), out and about performing errands (and errand task) at home, at work or online?
Yep, I’m afraid that comes down to you. Unless you actually do the stuff on your list, you’ll never get organised. The key to staying motivated is to eat that elephant one bite at a time. What that means is, get in the habit of creating shorter too do lists and setting short-term goals. It’s better to be in a position of “wow, I’ve finished everything on my list, what next”? Than a constant feeling of “Blah, I didn’t get everything done today, now my list just got bigger”. The brain works better when it’s satisfied. Achieving lots of small short-term goals rather than failing a few big ones is better.
The key to getting stuff done is to be able to trust that you are doing the right thing at that time. At one stage I felt like I had a million things to do but because I had implemented a very simple and manageable organisational structure, I had greater confidence in my choices. I did not hesitate or falter, to focus solely on the task at hand. This meant I was able to complete it quicker and to a higher standard.
Like building a house, the foundations must be in place. You can only improve your productivity because of core organisational skills and implementing them consistently. If you would like to learn the simple streamline methods I implemented to prevent my near death, then why not try a complimentary time management review.