It’s not easy to produce creative and valuable work in a limited amount of time, but increased productivity doesn’t have to mean working longer hours.
I learned the hard way that putting in more hours produced diminishing returns. I needed to find a solution, but the urgency was more than personal. As managing partner of Boldt Carlisle + Smith, I want firm professionals to be challenged by rewarding work, but not burned out in the process. Nearly everyone struggles with time management, I’ve found, so I studied various strategies.
When AAM asked me to share what I’ve learned – at the Summit in Portland last year and again at an AAM High webinar in January – I was happy to spread the word. You can start today to accomplish more in less time. Here’s a recap.
If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent. So says Tim Ferriss in his helpful book, The 4-Hour Work Week,” and this technique has gone farther than any other to help me meet my goals.
Email, for example, creates an artificial sense of urgency. I tell my employees that it’s OK to turn off email at night and on weekends. Block out time for email, don’t check it constantly. Email usually feels like work, but it is really just another communication tool. The thinking and research we do is where we bring value to our clients.
Every day take a few minutes to come up with your top three priorities. Make sure you are intentional about how you schedule your time and take specific actions that align with your priorities. If you are feeling overwhelmed, make a list of what you are NOT going to do today.
Start simple. Take a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day to write (by hand) your top three objectives. Keep these in front of you. Schedule a block of time to move these top things forward. Then review at the end of the day.
Celebrate even the small amount of progress you made on your priorities by looking back to see where you started. Identify simple actions that can move you forward tomorrow, and write these down to get a running start in the morning.
Focus time helps. At Boldt Carlisle + Smith, we set aside 9-11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No internal meetings, no email, no instant messages, no phone calls. The dead silence was a little disconcerting at first, but everyone appreciates the opportunity to just focus on getting work done without interruptions.
Get to know yourself better. Take the DiSC personality profile or CliftonStrengths assessment to get a fuller understanding of how to maximize your potential.
Take care of yourself by getting enough rest to face the day energized and prepared. Take a walk, eat some protein in the morning and get your day off to the right start. Make sure you are mentally and physically ready to support your team. Think long term and schedule time to begin to delegate using others’ strengths. We accomplish more together than we can on our own.
Continue your learning.
Here are some of the book I recommend. Pick one to get started. Remember, we all have 24-hour days, so it’s not the lack of time that’s the problem, it’s the lack of focus. We work to live, not the other way around.
- Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
- Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- The 4-hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
- The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done
By: Kevin Gienger, CPA and manager partner of Salem, Ore.-based Boldt Carlisle + Smith