Ever sigh to yourself, "There just aren't enough hours in the day!"? You're not alone. Most marketers are overloaded and under-resourced. But it doesn't have to be that way.
And managing your time more efficiently isn't the answer.
You may remember my article about outsourcing your life, which features an interview with Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book The Four-Hour Workweek. The article revealed how you can hire a virtual assistant (VA) for as little as five dollars per hour and delegate many of the items on your to-do list to that VA in order to save you time and boost your productivity.
Delegating isn't the only key to reducing your workload and your stress level, however. You also need to be discerning about what you take on: Not everything deserves to go on your to-do list.
Even more importantly, some things deserve to be on your list that aren't there now. I'm talking about career goals, or life goals.
When was the last time you prioritized your "to-do" list based on what will help further your marketing career instead of merely what will get you through your week? Do you have things on that list that you'd like to have accomplished one year from now? Or in five years?
I sat down for a podcast interview with best-selling author David Allen, the guru of the productivity methodology known as "GTD" (which stands for Getting Things Done and is also the name of his New York Times Best-Seller). We discussed life and time management, and the psychology behind why so many of us struggle with accomplishing what we want in our careers and in our personal lives.
I have already written about GTD for MarketingProfs—an article titled "Clearing the Clutter: How Busy Marketers Can Get Things Done." In it, I wrote:
Once you stop using your brain as the holding tank for all the important things that you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, or even further into the future, the sooner you become clear and your mind will be open to wander, unfettered. Only then can your creativity truly be unleashed, and you reach a state of flow that David Allen refers to as "Mind like water."
"Mind like water" is a pretty foreign concept to many marketers and professionals because of the way we've trained ourselves to think about our day. Daily to-do lists, constant phone and email interruptions, and other minutiae bog us down and distract us. The "mind like water" simile originated from the martial arts but can be applied to business because it describes a state of mind where the little things don't get to you.
When you over- (or under-) react to the world around you, by not doing what you need to do in a timely fashion, your procrastination creates a state of chaos that affects your ability to succeed. So instead of your controlling yourself in your environment in order to get to where you want to be, your world controls you, limiting your chances for personal and professional success.
In the interview David suggested that when you avoid tasks you're actually allowing yourself to be distracted because the task is something daunting that is outside your comfort zone—even though that one thing could become the most successful thing you've ever done.
By over-thinking and embedding decisions in every task, you create barriers to your productivity, adding another layer of procrastination—which, as I'm sure we all know, leads to stress.
One of the biggest barriers to "getting things done" is not understanding what time management really means.
David said in the interview, "You can't manage time, you actually only manage what you do during time." Translation? To get more done, we have to look at how we manage our focus, our actions, and our activities, because "time" doesn't change. So "time management" is actually a misnomer.
Here are a few tips from David that I'd like to share with you to help better manage your focus and achieve your goals:
- Manage your tasks by taking the right action: Instead of prioritizing your to-do list, decide what tasks you will commit yourself through to completion. Then, figure out where and when you need to accomplish your goal, so you can better manage your tasks. For example, if you have a project management list, you might want to determine what pieces you want to be involved with, what you want to delegate, and what tools you'll need to complete the project. From there, you can better fit the project into your schedule, because you know what you need to do and when you need to do it.
- Minimize your time stealers: Anything that distracts you turns into a time stealer, because it's literally robbing you of precious time. Television is a big "time stealer" in our personal lives, but there are other things we do at work that affect us daily. Constantly checking your email or voicemail, or obsessing about smaller details on projects, can have an impact on our productivity. Many time stealers are essential to our work day, so the trick is to learn when these tasks are appropriate and determine whether or not you're doing them too much or too often.
- Review your tasks weekly, not daily: One of the most common pitfalls in task management is to obsess about the unimportant details of your day. From up-to-the-minute schedules for lunch to clearing out your "in box," daily to-do lists are difficult to maintain in the longer term because of the "people" factor. In a perfect world, robots would do everything on your list in the order you've prioritized them, but life doesn't work that way. By looking at your to-do list on a higher level—in a weekly appointment with yourself—you can block out time to fit in your goals when it is appropriate during the week. And (here's the best part) you'll get more done.
Whether you work as a marketing intern or as vice-president, David Allen's Getting Things Done has something for everyone. His concept is not just about managing your tasks; it's about clearing out the clutter in your head to achieve "mind like water."
With such a frame of mind you will not only "get things done" in your career but but also build a successful framework that will reach further than just "today."
I invite you to listen to my interview with David Allen to learn more time- and sanity-saving tips that can help you in both your personal and your professional life.