Saturday, March 16, 2013

51 Weeks of Pace: Routine Set-Backs

March holds all kinds of madness. Conference and kids’ spring breaks are on the agenda for many clients. In a recent mastermind meeting, updates were full of the impact of interruptions to routine.

This mastermind group has had great success creating routines and habits that help them get more done in less time. For the most part, we’re talking about the practice of planning ahead, checking in with the plan, and following it. Habits like spending 15 minutes at the end of a day to prepare for the next day, updating calendars throughout the day, recording activities ongoing, and setting boundaries around time-wasting activities.

But for some reason, when the work location changed, these routines fell apart. And, as we head to the end of the first quarter, with folks racing to meet their first quarter goals- the loss of momentum was what you might call “a big deal”.

Here’s what the group came up with:

  1. Be realistic. If you’re at a conference, your job is to get the content you registered for, and to network and meet people. If you stay home with a child, even if she’s old enough that she doesn’t “need” you, you won’t get as much done. There will be interruptions.

  2. Create a new routine. If you have your goals on a white board in your office, and you use them throughout the day to check priorities and keep focus, that won’t work when you aren’t in your office. You need to write them on the calendar that goes with you, or on notes that you can post in your work area at home. If you’re in a conference, you might want to have your schedule on paper, because it can be difficult to quickly check an electronic tool.

  3. Prepare clients and associates. Check in with them before your time out of the office, let them know you will be gone. Give them an emergency way to reach you, give them a specific time of day or frequency when you’ll be checking messages, but let them know you are out of the office.

  4. If you have a buffer, be sure to use it. An answering service can explain that you’re away and ask if a matter is urgent. An assistant, virtual or otherwise, can screen your email messages.

  5. Don’t schedule yourself on your first day back in the office. Catch up on messages, return calls, review your calendar and make sure you’re prepared for a gangbuster week.
As usual, not rocket science. Take the time to think about how your work life will be disrupted, and plan for it. Better to plan accurately and actually accomplish what you plan than to expect something you just can’t deliver.

The Boy Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Life is short. Struggle is optional.