I have a love-hate relationship with holidays. I love spending time with my family and getting away from my desk. Yet, I hate the feeling of not being productive.
I gave up golf years ago because I couldn’t wrap my head around walking a course for four hours. I’d get irritable by the 9th hole thinking I was either forgetting or ignoring something. That’s just who I am.
For many of us, it’s hard to just “turn off” from work. Running a successful consulting business means your time is spread thin.
You’ve got projects to work on, clients to keep happy, proposals to write, and emails to respond to. And then there’s the marketing: writing case studies to keep your kit fresh, articles or blog posts for your website, social networks to update and so on.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and, there’s only so much you can do.
I’ve found a release by using my summer and winter holidays to reflect on how I work. I like to come back from time-off refreshed and recharged, feeling like I’ve got everything underfoot.
Every six months or so, I take the time to re-read time management books, review my workload and consider ways to more effective.
Notice I didn’t say “productive”. That’s because I’ve learned over the years that the goal of time management isn’t to simply do as much as possible but rather to finish things well and in a timely manner. Simply completing your consulting work, pet projects and other tasks will put you above 80% of the competition. That’s a fact.
With that said, here are some insights for you as you look to recharge and take control of your schedule:
- Time management frameworks aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Actually, it’s unlikely that you’ll use any of them in their entirety. Focus on pulling out the pieces that make sense to you. One example: Stephen Covey’s system recommends Sharpening the Saw as an approach to preserving work/life balance. That’s a great idea, but I don’t need to schedule all of my personal activities in my planner (especially the spiritual piece). Nor do I like having one bucket as a catch all. I simply schedule my fitness routine in Outlook and create tasks to reconnect with friends/business contacts. That’s enough for me.
- Improving your time management is the result of successfully adopting new habits and, old habits are hard to break. Make tweaks to your approach, and focus on being successful, not perfect. Choose two or three things to focus on (e.g. scheduling, responding to email, prioritizing your work) and just make it happen. Trying to swallow an entire new way of managing your work is the equivalent of a crash diet, you’ll just revert to old habits over time.
- It’s not all about tracking tasks and calendars, think about when you are most productive and look for guidance that meets your needs. Laura Vanderkam wrote an excellent book titled, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home. The topic matches the title. I’m a morning person, so this was a great resource for me.
- If you are the pragmatic type, check out Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. I find his approach to sorting and prioritizing things practical. Again, I don’t use his methods in their entirety, but I think that when simply “resetting”, GTD is a great kickstarter.
- Old school still works. I keep a Moleskine Extra Large Ruled Notebook notebook with me at all times, and retire them to my library when full. I’ll write down anything that pops into my head, business or personal. I review them often to follow up on old ideas and to reflect on how my perceptions may have changed. Also, they keep everything in one place.