For years, I have found that managing time and tasks is a key skill people quickly learn and just as quickly forget. Ironically, when they get busy. If you're like most young professionals, you're juggling tasks, interactions, deadlines and all the day-to-day minutiae that comes your way. Without a process in place, you can struggle to get it all done. I’m a big fan of the ABCDE method of prioritizing by author Brian Tracy, but I tweak it like I do most things. Here's how Your Office Mom suggests you focus on your ABC's.
Focus on your A's and B's
The basic idea is to tackle your most critical "A" tasks first and then your important "B" tasks, so you’re not running around like a crazy ass person at the end of the day. Sounds easy enough, right? The problem is you may be distracted by 'nice to do' "C" tasks that nice, helpful people, especially over eager ones on the team tend to do. And, these tasks take up a lot of time. Think about how you handle all the non-urgent, unimportant tasks, interruptions and requests for help during your day.
Watch your C's
If you like to help others, you probably stop whatever you’re doing and happily assist. Am I right, or am I right? The problem is you’re the one that ends up working through lunch or staying late trying to finish up YOUR important work while everyone else is walking out the door. By becoming more aware of what you're doing, you can still help others, be a team player and get out the damn door too. To do that you need to cop the attitude that your work is important. From there realize that all emails don't require an immediate response. After that, here are two other common "C" dilemmas Your Office Mom sees all too often that can tank your productivity.
Do certain people always come to you for help even though it's really not your job? Chances are they figured out it's a hell of a lot easier to ask you for help all the time instead of figuring out how to do things themselves. And they know you'll do it. Rather than taking the time to explain it or do it for them, tell them where to find answers or the information they need. I mean isn't that how you frickin' learned everything you know? Of course it is. Or, if you have a lot of info in your brain that others need or want, create FAQs, instructions or email templates with links to online resources. Or do a training class. This can save you beaucoup hours.
If people like to stop by and chit chat all the time because you're such a good listener, how’s that little dynamic working for you? Guess what? You don’t have time for last night's he-said-she-said-drama-bullshit. So stand up and let people know you have a deadline and can’t talk until later. And, when a legitimate interruption happens, if you’re working your A's & B's, smile and ask straight up if they need help right then or if it can wait until you finish up. Most people get it, so try it. Just remember to follow-up.
Value your time
The goal is to stay focused on your A's & B's throughout the day. If your boss is in the habit of throwing urgent tasks at you while you're in the middle of other urgent tasks, speak up and ask the boss for what YOM calls "priority clarity". Lay it out there and let the boss help you figure out what is A-1, A-2, A-3 so your head doesn't explode. You'll find out some tasks aren't A's at all, but are B's instead. Same thing applies if you support a team.
As a young professional you need every edge you can get. Realize that sometimes what you’re doing is more urgent and important than what others want you to do. Your ability to execute is important. Learn that now if you want to get ahead and stay ahead in your career.
If you have some suggestions to stay focused, please add your comments. What works for you?