Blog Dec 2019
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Could You Use a Little Help Optimizing Your Workday?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend NE/SAE’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Brewster, MA earlier this year.  One of the sessions that interested me was, O Captain! Wait – Who’s My Captain?  How to Navigate in Today’s Distracted, Over-Connected, Constantly Interrupted Tech Environments.  This session was presented by Productivity Specialist Linda Stacy, CEO & Founder, LivingBluPrints.  She emphasized that in association management, people are the most expensive, and most valuable, resource.  However, it’s common that most organizations don’t teach how to work optimally.

One of the great takeaways from this session was a handout entitled, “Execution Tactics to Optimize Time & Energy”, “The H.O.W.3 Advantage by LivingBluPrints.  To optimize your workday you need to Assess, Decide and Execute.  Below are Linda Stacy’s tips:

Block time to plan – we recognize the need to plan really large projects and events, but sometimes don’t schedule time to review weekly commitments, or even meal planning.

                Preview – previewing is looking at one’s calendar a week out or even ad day out.  Best laid plans are dust if we don’t actually look to the schedule regularly.

                Review – at the end of the day, look back at what was scheduled and what actually happened.  This will not only help you get more of the most important work done, but you will finish with a greater sense of accomplishment!  This is also a good time to note Next Actions (see below) on all active projects.  This is a Procrastination Buster since it allows you to jump right back in!

Next actions – When thinking of projects (and scheduling in your calendar) it can be helpful to list Next Actions (NA) instead of amorphous project titles.  For example, you might be working on a blog post.  Instead of writing “blog post” on calendar, indicate what is truly next, like:  brainstorm topics or research forums for posting.  Break projects down and focus on the NA!  Moving something forward can be as satisfying as completing it!

Right energy – recognize that some activities are more difficult to tackle depending on how much sleep you’ve had, or even the time of day.  Are you a morning person?  If so, schedule projects accordingly.

Maintenance items – you likely have items on your list that have to be done all the time.  These are essentially your chores – (invoicing clients, writing a blogpost, or cleaning the house).  Note the time and space these require and plan accordingly.  If you can do them the same time the same day every week (or month) by all means do!  Most of us have irregular schedules, so account for these when doing your planning and preview work (see below).

Contingency – just like with finance (emergency fund), time management (time buffers) offer freedom and peace of mind.  Go ahead and schedule bumpers, and do things sooner rather than later.

Pomodoro (+ other timing techniques) – it can be very powerful to work in focused timed periods.  A popular example is the Pomodoro technique which prescribes 25 minutes (set your timer – no multi-tasking).  When the timer goes off, set your timer for 5 minutes (your break), and them jump back in.  After 3 sets, take a more substantial break.  This is also great to get going when a task seems so large – anyone can candle 25 minutes, right?

“Not what I am doing right now” – if you tend to get distracted (and studies show that this is happening to us because of technology), and easily get side-tracked, it can help to focus by stopping yourself and saying, “That’s not what I’m doing right now.” (courtesy of Alan Brown)

Triggers – in weight management we try to avoid foods if we know they will trigger poor behavior (can you eat just one potato chip or Twizzler?).  With time management, for your (necessary) breaks, avoid activity that would leave you poorly equipped to get right back to work.  For example, the television or Facebook.

Marathons – when life gets really jammed (you’re writing a book or developing a new program) rest easy knowing that you are building endurance.  Whatever new habits you have to create along the way only enhance the next level of growth!

I’m currently working with several associations.  Once I assess and determine which projects take precedence, I find it particularly helpful to use a combination of the “Not what I am doing right now” and Pomodoro techniques.  I force myself to concentrate on one project for one client for a specific period of time – no checking email, Basecamp, or bouncing back and forth between projects.  It takes discipline – but it is effective!

I’m glad I attended this session.  I picked up a few helpful productivity nuggets and it was also a good refresher that brought to mind some time management tools with which I was already familiar.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic visit LivingBluPrints or their You Tube channel.

Linda Bailey brings over 20 years of experience working with associations and nonprofits to the McKenna Management team.  She has an extensive meeting planning background, which includes working as an independent meeting planner after 16+ years at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, MA.  In her role as Director of Conferences and Events she planned a wide variety of events including an international conference for over 7,000 attendees and 350 exhibitors.  Prior to NFPA Linda worked for the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA) in Wellesley, MA, the IEEE Computer Society in Washington, DC, and The Coast Guard Foundation in Stonington, CT.  Linda holds a BS and MBA from University of New Haven, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP).