It’s Wednesday afternoon. The week is past the halfway point. What have you gotten done and what is left to do?
As you think about what tasks still need to be done, you may get that little knot in the pit of your stomach. After all, you now have only two more days to cram everything that needs to get finished at work done. Naturally, you will need to stew on this fact for a good thirty minutes. This stewing is usually followed by a long sigh as you realize that there is no point in getting started at 4:30 p.m. on everything that needs to get done by week’s end, so you finish up a few loose ends, jump on ESPN and check out which games will be on tonight, take a look at the news headlines and check your e-mail one last time before you pack up to head home. As you walk to your car you tell yourself that tomorrow you will seize the day!
The question is whether you will do the things necessary to actually take advantage of the time you have left this week? Here is a list of things that help me focus:
- Determine your essential and/or critical tasks. Think about essential or critical tasks as things that if left undone will either get you fired, result in the potential loss of a client, cause you to lose credibility with your peers or make you look incompetent to anyone.
- Write down the critical tasks and the actions required to complete each task. For example, if you have to finish a client proposal by Friday at 4:00 p.m., outline where you are now in the process, what else needs to be done and who else you may need to bring in to help complete the task. Once that is done, determine if there are tasks you can delegate or perhaps eliminate, distribute assignments to others (if you are delegating) and set timelines to do each task through completion. I post these timelines on my calendar just as if they were appointments.
- Start working your plan immediately. Most lawyers tend to analyze, scrutinize and talk about what needs to get done. JUST DO IT.
- Shut your door, forward your phone and close your e-mail. I am not saying to do this for two full days, but I do think that distractions are at every turn. Put tape over your message light, put a sign on your door that nicely states “I’m tied up, so please come back later or shoot me an e-mail and I will get back with you after 3:00 p.m. today.” Let you assistant know that you do not want to be disturbed and tell her that her life will be much more stressful if you don’t get the critical tasks done. Use him or her as your teammate in getting things done and appreciate them for their help. Turn off the ping on your e-mail and close it so that it is out of view. Then, set a timer (I use a kitchen time) and challenge yourself to work only on the critical task for 90 minutes. If you use your process outline and push yourself you will get a lot accomplished. Repeat this exercise with 20-minute breaks until your tasks are complete.
If 90 minutes seems too long, try 45 minutes. The point is to get yourself focused and get things done. It’s Wednesday…tick tock.