Agency life is busy. Really busy. We live in a fast-paced, high-tech, instant-gratification economy, and our to-do lists are constantly getting longer. At times, these lists can be overwhelming. Where should you start? What task is most important? Is your deadline tomorrow?
Deep breath. When it feels like we’re drowning in tasks and deadlines, it’s hard for us to see what actually requires action and what can be reassigned or postponed until a later date. So, let’s get through that to-do list together.
First and foremost, keep one list in a centralized location that you can constantly refer back to. Avoid having multiple lists or sticky notes because the more you have, the more likely you are to lose one. There are different schools of thought on keeping a written list on your desk or creating a digital to-do list in Google Docs or Evernote. There’s no right or wrong here, just figure out what works best for you. Not sure? Try one version for a week, and try another the following week; you’ll quickly figure out the format you prefer.
Next step: Make an action plan. Look at your calendar and your to-do list. Figure out what items need to be done earlier in the week and the items that require additional teammates or support. If the task at hand will require your colleagues’ help or review from your manager, be sure to consider their schedules and prioritize accordingly. Try to create your action plan on the Friday or Sunday before the next work week so when you get to the office Monday morning, you’re ready to hit the ground running. Sure, priorities may change throughout the work week but at least you’ll have a solid road map for what you should attack first.
Part of that plan should include scheduling time in your calendar to actually work on all the items on your to-do list. This means blocking time off on your calendar. This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but with client calls, internal team meetings and networking events, the time you thought was available can quickly disappear. If you know you have action items that will take some time to complete, mark a few hours off on your calendar to focus on them. That way, in addition to your meetings and managing email, you’ll know you have time set aside to check things off your list.
Then, it’s time to get to work. Establish the environment you work best in. Are you a person who needs silence when writing? Do you need music on to get your creative juices flowing? Set yourself up for success, and create a comfortable and productive work setting to execute. Make sure you stick to the allotted amount of time you blocked off so your other action items don’t fall by the wayside.
Now you’re in the home stretch. Once completed, be sure to review the project or content you’ve been working on, and pass it along to any of your colleagues or managers who also need to review it. As soon as both you and your teammate feel good about what you’ve created, hit send! Cross that sucker off your to-do list and move along to the next item.
And finally, don't let past failures to stick to your to-do list keep you from continuing to make them. Part of being productive is staying flexible while keeping on-track, so it's ok if you deviate from your original plan a little bit. For instance (full disclosure), I planned to send this article to The Agency Post three business days earlier than I did, but I didn’t schedule enough time for it earlier in the week. Practice makes perfect!