Do you have a plan for the day, or do you constantly just react to what comes up – emails, telephone calls, or other interruptions? If you’re just reacting, you aren’t getting the most important things done, and it isn’t likely that you’ll have much focus.
Before every day, week or month begins, you should know what you plan to accomplish. When you have a plan, it’s much easier to say “no” to interruptions. If those interruptions aren’t actually urgent AND more important than what you already have planned, don’t let them distract you.
Create a Daily Plan
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed or paralyzed by the amount of work you need to accomplish. Instead, use your prioritizing skills to determine every day which actions or tasks are the most important and make sure those take center stage in your day. Don’t let smaller, “urgent but not important” activities get in the way. If you’re a perfectionist, don’t let your obsession with getting everything ‘right’ overwhelm you or prevent you from accomplishing your goals.
Next, estimate the amount of time each activity will take to accomplish. Don’t be stingy with your estimate; estimating too little time will add stress and confusion to your schedule.
Finally, decide on a specific time when you will perform that activity and physically schedule it on your calendar. Make sure you leave some empty space or ‘downtime’ on your calendar in addition to the personal and family time that you schedule. And leave room for the ‘chaos factor.’
Be flexible: recognize that the schedule is not entirely set in stone. It is likely that there will be last minute emergencies, unforeseen circumstances or client crises that must be addressed. That’s further evidence that what doesn’t get scheduled and isn’t urgent, isn’t likely to get done.
More often than not, you probably react to whatever is in front of you, rather than determining in advance what you want to accomplish. If scheduling time on your calendar for important tasks allows you to complete them even half of the time, it’s probably a lot more than you’re doing right now.
The advantage to setting specific times to accomplish important tasks is that as soon as the crisis or emergency has passed, you can return to your schedule without missing a beat. Leaving your schedule to chance is much more likely to deteriorate.
Do a weekly review
Choose a time each week to review the work you need to accomplish and create a plan for the upcoming week. Many of my clients have more success doing their weekly planning on Thursday, rather than on Friday, when they are trying to get out the door for the weekend. Mondays work for some, but waiting until the week has already begun is not the best strategy for most. It's easier to enjoy the weekend when you know you can hit the ground running on Monday morning with a pre-set plan so that you can get right to work.
Use your calendar to plan not only deadlines, but time to complete work. When unforeseen circumstances arise, revise the plan as necessary, moving your appointments to complete work the same way you would reschedule any other appointment.
As part of your weekly review, ensure that your plans cover all aspects of your practice, including marketing, management, administration, business development and client work.