Like many of you, I’m constantly asking myself, “How do I get more done each day?” One of the common questions I pose to our guests on The COO Roundtable podcast is “Tell me about your time management tips and tricks.” Most COOs have a seemingly endless To Do List but nevertheless manage to push their organizations forward on a regular basis, so I’m always curious to learn how they do it. Between juggling client work, managing our team, business development, and creating content each week, it all adds up!
I’ve found that, for the most part, if I can stay focused and productive (and away from social media during the workday!), I can usually handle my tasks. What I have discovered recently, however, is that it isn’t necessarily the number of tasks on my To Do List that trips me up, it is the type of tasks throughout the day that causes me problems. Hammering out emails or jumping from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting talking with clients, prospects, vendors, or PFI team members, or reviewing a new software tool that could help our RIA clients, are all very task oriented. I could do this all day, for hours on end, because I truly love what I do and find these conversations enjoyable and enlightening. But switching immediately from three or four consecutive client conversations to writing a blog post for twenty minutes before jumping on another Zoom call has become more and more difficult. Bouncing from task-oriented activities to creative activities and then back to task-oriented activities would literally make my head spin. I spent quite a bit of time struggling to find a solution, and then I came across this article by Patty Kreamer titled, Stop Kvetching About Having No Time.
I had explored the concept of time blocking in the past but had always assumed it was primarily about chopping up your day into 15-, 30-, or 60-minute increments and focusing deeply on a particular task during that window of time. As I said above, my problem wasn’t so much about focusing for a specific length of time, it was more about transitioning from one type of task to another – I realized that I needed an extended period of time in order to transition between tasks, not necessarily more time allotted to each task. But Patty’s article was a bit different, in that she recommended dedicating complete days of the week to certain tasks, not just 30-minute blocks of time.
After reading Patty’s article, I decided to dedicate Fridays to content creation and the creative tasks that I work on every week – blog posts, podcast scripts, course content for The COO Society, or any other creative content we happen to be working on. I failed miserably the first few weeks, where I still booked four or five client calls on each of those first Fridays. But with Sandra’s help, we slowly began to clear my calendar, which allowed me to get into a creative mindset and stay there throughout the day. I quickly discovered that my writing not only got better, but I also was more creative in general, coming up with new article ideas and/or new ways of marketing our services to the RIA community at large.
I’ve continued to play with the layout of my Friday, and I’ve learned that to maximize my creative output, I actually let myself sleep an extra 30 minutes on Friday, and I often will take a 30-minute walk in the middle of the day. I’m not always successful at eliminating all client calls or meetings, but by allowing myself to slow down a bit on Fridays and focus primarily on right-brained activities, I’m way more successful at opening the creative gates than if I attempt to force twenty minutes of creativity between left-brain, task-oriented activities.
I want to thank Patty for her well written (and well timed!) article and for introducing me to her concept of the ideal week. As she says, “It helps you to gain control of your calendar and make better choices of what you do and when. Even better, it empowers you to say, ‘I usually do that on Thursday mornings,’ rather than dropping everything and doing the interruption-non-urgent tasks,” which is what I was struggling with. I love the feeling of knocking things off my To Do List, but that tends to focus primarily on task-oriented activities – as we’ve continued to increase our content creation, I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how or what to do. With a looser concept of time blocking, I’ve found my ideal week!