Happy first day of spring! Spring cleaning your house is a great way to renew your energy and lift your spirits in the short-term, but spring cleaning your time will enhance your energy, productivity and results for years to come.
So how do you clear the clutter from your calendar?
1) Write down everything that is on your plate. List every activity that you spend time doing.
2) Categorize each activity as either important or not important according to whether or not it is important for moving your personal and/or business vision forward.
3) Go through your list again and categorize each activity as to whether it is urgent or not urgent.
4) Go through your list and circle anything that you identified as both urgent and not important. This category represents your biggest area of opportunity for spring cleaning! It consists of distractions such as needless interruptions, unnecessary meetings and reports, unimportant calls and e-mails and dealing with other people’s minor issues – all things that do not add to your ability to achieve what is truly important for you in your life and work. Research shows that high-performance individuals and businesses spend only 15% of their time in this category, whereas average performers spend 50-60% of their time here.
5) Once you have done this honest accounting of all the distractions that are dragging down your energy and your performance, it is time to create some strategies to limit how much time they take from you. Here are my favorites:
- Stop answering every e-mail, text, and phone call the second it comes in! Each time you get interrupted from the task you are focusing on, it takes up to 15 minutes to get re-focused again. That’s why that report that you know should only take an hour ends up taking you all day.
- Set specific times of the day (ideally only 2 periods) where you check and respond to e-mails. Create an auto-responder that lets people know about these two times so that they can know when to expect your response to their message. Yes, I know how important you are, but will that person really die or will the company shut down if you get back to that e-mail at noon instead of at 9:15AM?
- Nix the open door policy – at least for certain times of the day. Create clear “do not disturb” focus periods and let staff, colleagues or family members know that this is time that you need to focus 100% of your energy on key projects. If yours is the kind of role where people do need to have frequent access to you, structure your closed door periods around times where they are less likely to have urgent need of you and clearly indicate to your team when you will be available to them so they can hold their questions until then.
- Make it harder for people to chat, gossip and generally waste your time. One friend of mine who was frustrated by a colleague who kept popping into her office to chat redecorated her office in a way that conveniently required her to remove the extra chair. A client placed a sign on his door that read, “Is it important? Is it really important? Is it so important that it can’t wait until our regular meeting time?” His interruptions went down by 75% immediately and his team reported an increased sense of focus and productivity in their meetings. Yet another client decided to stop inviting her brother over for dinner because he always stayed far later than she would like and she couldn’t bring herself to ask him to leave. She met him for coffee dates instead so that she could head home when she was tired.
All of the time and energy your liberate by applying these strategies can be put to far better use in important activities like planning, relationship building, creative pursuits, self-care, and other pursuits that have a significant positive impact on moving you forward in your life and work. Happy spring cleaning!
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