Stop Firefighting and Start Planning
There are many philosophies on how to organize yourself: HOW TO plan your week out, HOW TO manage emails, HOW TO prep for meetings, HOW TO make phone calls efficient, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, when you are busy, trying to develop a whole new method or system of organization is a daunting task. Personally, the simplest methods work best for me. Things that I can do in a short period of time and have the largest amount of impact. So, I have taken the tools that other project managers and efficiency experts rave about and combined them with my unwillingness to spend two full weeks planning to plan. So I came up with a method that takes me 1 hour a week and if you manage a team, another 30 minutes a day.
For me, the weekly and daily review processes are similar, but one is more scaled-down than the other. These processes are very simple and can be tweaked to fit into your own schedule as needed (I do this in 1 hour a week).
A weekly review consists of three parts:
- What’s Open
- I review my schedule in Outlook last week to refresh my memory of what was open from my meetings that I need to do.
- What kept me awake last night? These are the things you forgot or ideas you may have and can pop in your head suddenly. Usually, these are in the form of post-it notes strewn around my desk or nightstand.
- What’s Coming
- I review my schedule in Outlook for next week. Do I have any planning or prep work that I have not accounted for? Has my team prepared as necessary and are they ready? If you do this properly, you will have already reviewed this week and as you prepare for next week, you are always two weeks ahead.
- Document and Schedule
- As I work through the above, I will either document them on my to-do list or add them to my calendar in a working session. It may be a communication to my team to ensure that they are prepared or have followed up for something.
Now for the daily review…I have a team huddle each morning. Since there are 9 of us and we have only 30 minutes – it can be a bit tight. So, each morning before the daily huddle, I have a 30-minute session, but take a narrower approach. It consists of the same three parts but is focused on what our clients, myself, or the team need to accomplish today. So, to prepare for the meeting, I walk through each of the above and write a shortlist of items that need to be covered. I try to keep this list short:
- Is there a priority that will impact the schedule?
- Is a team member waiting for the completion of work from another person before they can continue their own work?
- Do we need to schedule a time to discuss or review in more depth?
I start the meeting with these critical items and each team member has a couple of minutes where they cover their action items for the day, roadblocks, or assistance they need from other members of the team.
Our team has been doing this so long, that it is second nature and they come prepared (well, Mondays can be a bit foggy!). I hope that this super easy approach can help you stop the regular firefighting so that when true emergencies arise, you don’t feel overwhelmed!