At the end of the day when you schedule your next day, plan a powerful morning. The average person starts the day by spending one to three hours taking care of e-mail, voice mail, and phone calls and checking in with the boss and others—“relationship building.” Reduce this to 15 to 30 minutes so you can get to your first “veggie” sooner.
Check your e-mail and voice mail for “veggies” only. Add them to your list. Then, close your e-mail and turn off the notification, put your phone on voice mail, and jump into your list.
Devote an hour to your biggest “veggie.” Defer any interruptions so you can focus. Then, close your “veggie time” and check your e-mail and voice mail and allow interruptions. Take care of the major matters as quickly as possible. Allow 60 minutes to complete as many requests as possible.
Then, shut out e-mail, phone, and interruptions again and take care of your next-biggest “veggie” for 60 minutes. After you finish it, attend to lower-priority e-mails and phone calls. Get back under control before you go to lunch.
Eat lunch after the people who interrupt you the most; that reduces by an hour or two the time in which they can interrupt you. Also, don’t work and eat at the same time; in fact, don’t eat lunch at your desk.
By scheduling around your “veggies,” batching little tasks (such as phone calls and e-mails), and not letting interruptions and fires control you, you’ll be working smarter, not harder. Spend the last 10–15 minutes planning for the following day.
Use your energy cycles to your advantage: We have at least three energy cycles in a day. For 75 percent of us, the strongest is the morning, the next strongest is in the afternoon, and the weakest is in the evening. Work on your difficult tasks in the morning, take the pressure off the afternoon, and reduce the chances you’ll have to stay late.
Monday morning is critical: A strong Monday (by working on what matters most because you’re fresh from the weekend) makes it more likely that the week will be easier and flow better. Don’t schedule meetings or conference calls first thing Monday morning.
Don’t overplan daily: We tend to overestimate by 20 percent, on average, the amount of time a task will take. Leave room in your schedule for interruptions, last-minute meetings, and unforeseen problems, so your plan is more realistic and you don’t go home frustrated every night.
Finish strong and don’t work at night: Don’t forget to update your Master List before you go home and try not to sneak in more work after the kids go to bed. If you do, when you get to work the next day, it will feel like you never left and you may pick an easy task, not a “veggie.”
Start earlier and leave on time: You can accomplish more before others arrive—and you can spend more time with your family in the evening. Families notice those who come home late more than those who leave early.
Batch like tasks: Set up times each day to return e-mails and phone calls. Turn off your audible email notification.
Make your morning easier: Is your morning (before you get to work) stressful? What could you do the night before that would make your morning a little easier and less stressful?
“I used to look on my list at the end of the day to see what I had left, only to discover that all my work was still left.”