I’m going to visit a topic that you’ve probably visited yourself before. Maybe you’ve listened to podcasts, gotten books, and even attended seminars. You may have worked with a coach or a mentor on this subject, and yet it’s still something that many of us, if not most of us, if not all of us struggle with… that is effective time management.
We’ve beaten this to death, haven’t we? Don’t we all know what we’re supposed to do? We’re supposed to create our goals and strategies and objectives, break them down, delegate and defer, delete and do it again. Easy, right? There are so many different ways to handle this one issue of time management, yet we still struggle.
Why is that? The simple answer is that life gets in the way and things happen. I don’t know about you, but it does not matter how much I plan out my day or my week. It doesn’t matter if I get up in the morning and say, “Here’s what my day is going to look like.” My day never ends up looking the way I thought it would. We could call it a never-ending problem, or just agree that’s just the way it is. But because life is ever changing, ever evolving, it’s what makes it wonderful, right? And so things come up, things happen unexpectedly, and we have to shift. We adjust our course, and we stop to take stock of what’s going on, and readjust accordingly.
Then, that means that we are responding and maybe even reacting on a case by case, situation by situation, task by task basis.
Planning all of those individual quarterly goals, the company’s quarterly rocks, what you’re going to achieve this quarter, and in a five-year trajectory, all while your schedule is currently booked with meetings and a report to be finished, and a list of other obligations you have to do.
Next thing you know, that big picture has been thrown out the window on that day-to-day basis. When the next day begins, the lists of tasks from the previous day remains. There are fires to put out, and again, it’s that lovely wonderfulness of life being a constant variable.
We live a very linear life. We do things, and we get one thing done, and then we move on to the next. What it means is that there are times where we have to get out of that linear existence of doing, step back, and look at the entire axis, not just the x axis, but that x, y, z axes all together.
We need to look at all sides, all dimensions. That’s where strategic planning, quarterly planning, short-term and long-term goals come into play. In the moment, we get all fired up about it while we’re planning with our team and creating these heady goals and quarterly rocks.
Then it has to drill down to how are we actually going to accomplish this and get it done?
Interestingly enough, this has been coming up quite a bit with our clients recently. As a result, we’ve been working with them, and here are some tips and strategies for managing that day-to-day linear existence, while at the same time making progress on those bigger strategic goals.
First, you need to have strategic planning days at least once a quarter (ideally with your executive team). If you’re not doing this, put a date on the calendar and do it immediately.
During those planning days, answer the following questions:
- What are our goals, short-term and long-term?
- What do we want to accomplish in the next 90 days?
- What are those bigger projects we want to accomplish?
The end result is that you’re looking at the entirety of the landscape, the X, Y, and Z axes of what you want to create, and what you want to move toward.
The second step then is to break that down into the priorities. You’re not going to accomplish everything in 90 days. So what are the two or three big projects (some organizations call them rocks)? What are the big goals and what does it look like when you achieve that and what does it look like to be working on? What are the milestones?
If it’s a 90-day goal, where are you going to be at the end of day 30?
Where are you going to be at the end of day 60? What does that trajectory look like?
From there, these get added as part of your daily to-do tasks.
Now let’s address the fact that there are those day-to-day responsibilities you need to handle on linear time in your life, but yet you’ve done the planning and got a strategy for the quarter. How do you bring those two different worlds together?
The strategy we’ve been helping our clients with is to be very aware of what those quarterly goals are, what they want to accomplish in that period of time.
If it was something you could get done in, in one task, in one setting, it wouldn’t be big enough to make it a quarterly goal. But now it’s Monday, and the week starts.
To move toward quarterly goals, there needs to be some movement since it is a bigger project. This means that there must be a series of tasks, or a series of activities to reach that goal.
So, on Monday, look at what you want to have accomplished by Friday. And that should become your weekly focus.
Your weekly focus needs to be front and center every day. If you have a daily planner, a print out of your calendar every day, or use your phone to organize what you’re supposed to do, then somewhere at the top, your weekly focus should be in clear sight. (You want no more than three to five so that it’s manageable and doable.)
Some of those weekly focus items should be moving you toward your 90-day goals. Others of those areas of weekly focus are things that have a deadline: a client project or monthly report that has to be done by the end of the week. Your weekly focus needs to be top of mind and taking actions toward that.
That is what we recommend in order to make progress on those quarterly rocks, while at the same time acknowledging that you have a day-to-day existence in your role in the organization. So do whatever you need to do to keep that vision.
Those focuses need to be in front of you (regular tasks and 90-day goals), and then make sure you’re taking action every week so that by the time you get to the end of these 90 days, you’ve made progress and have hopefully accomplished a good number of your quarterly goals.
Then you start the process over. Retreat, strategy, meeting with the executive team in order to set the goals for the next 90 days, and then funneling it down onto a daily basis of taking action to keep that forward motion going.
What are your goals for the next 90 days?