Resilience - Managing priorities and expectations
As part of The Resilience Programme, Maurice Tomkinson and Tianne Croshaw provided a Seminar on Managing Priorities and Expectations. Before the Seminar took place, Ann Webster caught up with Tianne and Maurice to find out a little more about the ways in which they manage expectations and prioritise their own busy workloads.
Tianne and Maurice share their strategies for time management, discuss the ways that they minimise distractions in their working lives, and provide some straightforward guidance for anyone currently managing a heavy workload.
Can you share any Time Management strategies that you personally find useful?
Tianne Croshaw (TC): I use a technique called ‘The Traffic Light System’. The system allows me to plan the night before the tasks that must be completed by the end of the day ahead (red), the tasks which would be good to do but which could wait till the day after (amber) and those which are nice to do but not urgent (green). I also make sure that I take care of myself and remain resilient by ensuring that I don’t take client calls after 6pm, and I take the time at the end of each week to ‘close the week down’. This means finalising tasks and preparing for the week ahead, and ensures that I leave the weekend free for myself and my family. Of course there is some flexibility within that, if an urgent project requires attention I will allocate time to it, but as a rule I try not to work once my week is closed.
Maurice Tomkinson (MT): For me it is important to be able to focus, and minimise distractions so that I can get into the ‘zone’. I don’t use a specific system, but instead try and consolidate the work I do into blocks of time. For example I aim to see clients on specific days each week, which means that I can then free up whole days to focus on in depth project work. After longer periods of focus, I can then spend time catching up on administration and emails, or any other background work which needs doing. Like Tianne, I have an element of flexibility, as sometimes an urgent piece of work requires attention.
How do you prioritise your workload?
MT: I have a short and a long term plan, and can use these to identify the work that needs attention and the work that can wait. It is important for me not to try and focus on too many things at once, but to spend quality time concentrating on what is important in that moment.
TC: As well as using the system described above, I’ve learned to take a fresh look at my workload in terms of what I value as productive and what I don’t. When I first set up my business I didn’t value the time in my office spent on administration – but now I have learned to take a different view on this and embrace these periods of time… they are still productive, but in a different way.
How do you remain focused with so much going on?
MT: I try to ensure that I create situations where there isn’t too much going on. I will ensure that I choose the most productive place to work – as for me environment is very important. This might involve working from home on certain days, or moving to a different room. I also find that a regular meditative practice helps – I regularly set aside time to clear my thoughts and relax. This helps me to switch off when necessary.
TC: I like to check in with myself and remind myself of where I am in relation to what I want to achieve. I might grab five minutes between meetings to look back at my dairy and consider what I achieved over the last week. It is a good way of reviewing and measuring the success of my business. I’m a big fan of the saying ‘less is more’ – which keeps me focused on quality and not quantity.
What is the biggest distraction in your working life?
MT: That’s easy – without a doubt it is the amount of emails I receive! As I mentioned before, for me the key is to dedicate specific time to manage distractions and catch up with things like emails, so that it does not distract me from my goals for that day or week.
TC: For me, and this is a good thing, the greatest distraction is my children. There is always something to do and I often describe myself as their PA! I’m happy to say that they do contribute to tasks such as cooking, and are an incredible grounding force. Life isn’t all about work, and my children are a fantastic reminder of this.
What guidance would you give to anyone currently managing a heavy workload?
MT: This is a complex question, and so I’d probably advise the person to firstly take a step back and consider why they have such a busy workload, and then question if they really need to work that hard. It is important to work smart: to get your goals clear in your mind – and then to consider what takes you closer to them. I’d also suggest taking a look at getting the most out of your time – for instance are there ways in which you are duplicating your efforts? Can you re-use previous work and efforts to inform what you are currently working on?
TC: I think the danger is that we develop a habit of busyness and that sometimes this can lead us to being ‘busy fools’. If you’re currently managing a heavy workload, take a step back and think about how you would treat an employee of yours in that situation – what would you expect from them? Then try and treat yourself in the same way – we’re often harder on ourselves than we are on others and so value yourself and are fair. In addition, manage expectations – of yourself and your workload. Being realistic, and knowing what is ‘good enough’ is vital. I would advise to focus on doing 3 things well rather than 6 things averagely, and consider using the Traffic Light system described earlier. Lastly, but very importantly – make sure that you take regular breaks, drink plenty of water and eat the right foods to keep your energy levels up.