As we roll into the final quarter of another year it’s crazy to think 75% of the year is gone. How do we get the most out of the remaining 25%?
Even if you use some sort of project management software, sometimes to regain focus it’s easiest to just make a list. I personally use Asana for project management which helps me understand what is needed for each
project and who is doing what. There are several services you can use if you aren’t using one already. While Asana is the one I most use, others are Jira, Monday.com, Freedcamp, and Trello to name just a few. I’ll have to review my favorites or write a comparison of them.
Having a visualization of a focus list helps me; plus, it just feels good to scribble or erase a to-do item off the list.
It’s important to know this is an action list and not a process list where you write down every step of what is needed to accomplish a task. You probably already have those details in
your project management software. For this action list just go to your whiteboard, tablet, or even just a piece of paper. Make two vertical lines down the paper so you have three columns. Title the three columns Doing, Need to Do, Like to Do.
In the first column write down everything you are currently working on. Don’t worry about priority at this moment. Don’t even think a lot about it. You’re probably pretty aware of what tasks you have going on at the very moment.
In the second column you will spend a little more time thinking about the things you MUST HAVE done before the end of the year. Again, don’t worry about order just yet. Just write.
For the third list, write down some things you would like to get done before the end of the year, but they are not critical. This list might even grow as you review the first two columns.
Now as you go back to the first column, quickly prioritize by importance of the project and where you are on the project. If you’re about 75% done leave it here but assign it a number of priority so you can knock it off the list the quickest and achieve the success of getting things done. Personally, I like to scribble down a number and circle the number just so it’s more visible than the text already written there.
If that item is less than 75% done, move it to one of the other two columns if it fits. Many times, you think, “I just need to finish this since I’ve already started it.” That’s not always the case. If it’s not a critical task, moving it to the back burner will allow you to get to the things you really need to get done in the remaining weeks you have left in the year. It might even be something you probably shouldn’t be working on yourself. We’ll come back to that in a moment. For now, let’s move on to the second list. This is the “must have done” list. Mark a number next to them from most important to least important.
Then go back through the list and add an “M” for me if it’s something only you can do. If it’s something someone else can do, mark it with an “S” for someone else. If it helps, put a shape around it. If I used a circle earlier, I’ll use a square for this designation of who’s doing it. While it’s not necessary, it just helps me to quickly visualize my tasks. We’re just thinking on the fly here so your board might be a little messy at this point.
Time To Delegate
Now that you’ve been through your columns a few times, let’s look at the columns and check out the “S” squares. Either on the back of your paper or another section of your white board list the items you’ve marked for someone else to do in the order you had prioritized them. Be sure to cross these off your list as you move them to your delegation list.
If you have an assistant, hand those off to have that person to either do those tasks or hire someone to get them done. If you don’t have an assistant, then figure out where you can outsource these jobs to. There are several places that you can get these tasks taken care of pretty inexpensively. Some of these places are Fiverr, Upwork, OnlineJobs.ph, as well as others.
You have to stop and think what our own monetary value is worth. Think about what you charge for your services on an hourly basis. Sometimes, you can spend as little as a few dollars to have someone else do it. Then you can use the time you would’ve spent on those projects as billable hours.
While it may take a moment or two to post those jobs elsewhere if you’ve never done it, once you’ve done it, it becomes faster and easier the next time. You could even find help for these other tasks that you may want to use on a regular basis. Not only is it a relief to have other people doing these tasks, but you get to focus on what you like doing best.
Distractions happen, and it’s easy to stray from our tasks we have in front of us. We all do it. Honestly you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it, but we can figure out how to best minimize these distractions. Also, you should determine WHEN you work best. We push ourselves too hard which makes us less productive. We think if we just stay up later, we can get more done. In actuality, we’re dozing off, distracted, and not performing at a good level.
Working late is also not healthy. Your body requires a set amount of sleep. Everyone is different but listening to your body is important to get the most production out of it safely. When we push through and stay up later, we tend to snack as our body is demanding fuel. Then we go to bed with those extra calories in our system which isn’t good either.
While I tend to be a bit of a night owl, I’ve found that once I start feeling it, I force myself to stop for the night and start fresh. By doing this, you make less mistakes, and you don’t wake up in the morning having to fix the mistakes made the night before because you were too tired. Fortunately, I don’t require as much sleep and when I go to bed earlier, I find myself waking up early and being more productive with a higher quality of work.
Accountability Is Also Important
Once you have a plan in place, you must hold yourself to that plan or you will end up scrambling for time at the last moment. The level of quality you would normally deliver will suffer or you may not even deliver it at all. This is where an accountability partner or a business coach can come into play.
I know you’re thinking that this is another expense. Yes and no. Sure, it may be money out of your pocket, but isn’t not delivering on your deadline costing you? Isn’t losing sleep not delivering the quality you normally would, costing you? Actually, if you find the right person to hold you accountable, you could make more money than you were previously.
It’s also possible that you find an accountability partner that can handle some of the tasks you need to outsource, and you work out a barter for services you do that they don’t. Or they’re in the same boat and you hold each other accountable and it’s a win, win.
It’s possible you meet with a partner or coach once a week for an hour that helps you focus. Maybe it starts off weekly to get on track and if you find it’s going well, then you can move to bi-weekly or monthly to see if that works as you get more productive.
Having someone to be accountable to forces you to get more done because you don’t want to let that person you’ve hired down. Not to mention, you don’t want to get to on a call to say, “I didn’t get finished with what I said I would.”
The key thing when working with an accountability coach is make sure it’s someone you connect with. It has to be someone who’s opinion you value. Give it time to make it work. You didn’t get disorganized overnight. It may take a few sessions to get back on track.
The Remaining 25%
How you use the remaining portion of this year can set you up for even bigger success for the next year. Putting key strategies in place that I’ve discussed in this article could change your mindset, your productivity, and even improve your health. One suggestion that I would add to your “must have done” list is to outline things you’d like to get done next year or even in the first quarter. That would put you ahead of the game and set you up for a successful year.