When my to-do list is getting out of control, I visualise a field of sheep with a pen in the middle; each ‘To Do’ is represented by a sheep. Get them in the pen – that’s ok; if they are running around outside the pen – that’s ok because you know they are there; they are hiding behind trees – that’s ok too because you don’t know they are there so stop stressing!
There is a difference between being prepared/organised and being stressed about something that might go wrong, that might happen, that might… I think the motto here is: ‘Don’t worry about things until they actually go wrong, but do think ahead and make contingency plans to make sure everything happens the way you want it to, even if it does end up being “plan B”!’
Top-10 ways to save time dealing with e-mail
Here are 10 ways to impress your boss with your e-mail management skills:
Don’t be a slave to the new e-mail notification(s) such as the ping, the box that flashes across the screen telling you that you have new e-mails. Switch them off so that you are not distracted, then check for new e-mails when you are ready.
Avoid dipping in and out whenever possible. Instead set aside specific times for dealing with e-mail.
Handle each e-mail once and follow the four Ds principle deal with it, delete it, delegate it or defer action.
Deadlines are critical for management in any field. They are the best helpers in achieving both large and small objectives. They affect productivity and motivate teams.
However, it’s not a good idea just to set arbitrary deadlines for all of your projects. All deadlines must be strategic and deadline-driven management teaches how to do it professionally.
Everyone has put off a task at some point in their life. (Take, for example, this article that I had planned on posting yesterday…) But have you ever wondered why you — or others — procrastinate? While some view it (in themselves or other people) as laziness, there might be something else at play.
In psychology, it has long been believed that people who procrastinate have a faulty sense of time — that they think they will have more time to get something done than they actually do. While that may be true for some, more recent research suggests procrastination is linked to difficulty managing distress. Specifically, it seems that task aversion is to blame — that is, when people view a task in an unpleasant manner (“It will be tough, boring, painful…”), they are more likely to put it off.
Learn to manage interruptions by being assertive, using body language and so on. For example, if people come to your desk to chat when you are busy, then you have to tell them that you’d love to come and see them later but just now you have to meet a deadline and need to get on with your work – and check they are not busy when you want to see them. …
Keep your desk tidy and be able to find files, folders and information quickly and easily (a tidy desk gives you a tidy mind). Your desk should also be ergonomically tested so that it is laid out in the best way to help with your time management. For example, if you are right-handed your phone should be on your left-hand side and a pad and pen should be on your right. This enables you to be able to pick the handset up easily and quickly with your left hand, leaving your right hand free to find your pen and pad to write messages without twisting your body.
You need to identify the time thieves and take control of them, delegate them or eliminate them. One way to identify them is to keep a time log of how you actually use your time. This would be more detailed than your to-do list as it would include things like chatting to the assistant in the next department for 20 minutes or fixing the photocopier that is always breaking down. Analyse your time log, reflect on what you have discovered and think about what changes you can make to improve your time management.
Prioritising should take into account your goals and objectives. Carmen Pérez Pies, National Chairperson of European Management Assistants, Germany advises: ‘Constant communication and updates with your boss is imperative so that you can align your priorities to match theirs.’
Stress is what we feel when we cannot cope with pressure. It can cause damage to your health and your relationships both at work and at home. Having controlled pressure, in contrast, helps to raise adrenaline levels, gets your brain working and gives you energy.
To deal with conflict, think through the reaction you want to give, take time to review the situation, try to put your emotions to the side and consider the outcome you desire. If, for example, you are about to send an angry e-mail reply to someone, then you should stop and think about picking up the phone and asking for a meeting with the person concerned. You should decide on a mutually convenient time, date and location. The meeting place should be in a neutral, private place, not in your office or in the other person’s as this gives a psychological advantage.
You have to remember that you cannot fundamentally change people, though you can influence them to change their behaviours (and to do this you have to constantly communicate with them and feed back to them). You can, however, change yourself, and using affirmations is one way to do this. We use affirmations because our brains will respond to whatever we tell them. The affirmations go into our subconscious part of the brain where our deep-seated beliefs are kept.
Empathising and putting yourself in other people’s shoes is to be recommended. However, you have to be careful that you do not neglect your own needs and feelings if you empathise too much, as this can lead to your becoming passive or timid.
Difficult people are not born difficult; they create and learn how to express these attitudes and behaviours, and because they are ‘learned’ behaviours we can influence them to have better ones. Separating the behaviour from the person is the key to a successful working relationship.
Realise that the disagreement may be a good thing – a chance to clear the air, to solve a problem, to move things on and give you the opportunity to correct something that could have had dire consequences.
You should think carefully about what you want to say and how you want it to come across. You need to keep your communication simple and concise, getting to the point whether you are communicating by e-mail, telephone, or face-to-face meetings. However, you must take care not to be perceived as aggressive when being concise, especially in e-mails. As a rule you should never enter into conflict situations when using e-mail.