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How to Get Brutal With Your Time Management and Prioritisation: Guest Post by Paul Goldston

How to Get Brutal With Your Time Management and Prioritisation

 

Paul Image

 I’m so thrilled to bring you this guest post by Paul Goldston today on how to improve your time management and prioritisation. I’ve known Paul for over 5 years and to say he has had a positive impact on my career would be the understatement of the century. Paul was my manager when I got my start in Digital Marketing at Reload Media. To this day, he is at Reload passing along his wealth of knowledge and experience and nurturing an extra special breed of “Digital Marketer” as a result. 

One of the many things Paul taught me was to manage my time better. Those who know me know that I have to diligently stay on top of my day-to-day organisation methods or it just all falls apart – so it shouldn’t come as a shock that I  love an extra hand in the “organisation” department. 

Among other things, Paul has always been pretty incredible at managing his time and the time of his apprentices.  So Paul (because he’s a legend) has put down his best tips on paper especially for SPT readers. 

If you enjoy this post, be sure to “Tweet” him a word of thanks. Here’s something I prepared earlier: 

 


 

I wouldn’t consider myself an organised guy. In fact, there are a number of super talented, young digital marketing superstars at our agency who would probably ‘out organise’ me every day of the week.

And I’m ok with that.

This article isn’t for those people. Those people have already found a system that works for them.

This article is for the people out there who are struggling.

You’ve got a thousand things that you want to do in your head but no (effective) method for organising them.

You are doing dribs and drabs here and there but, for some reason, nothing is ever delivered to the level that you originally envisioned in your head.

And, you know what? You might even be getting stressed out.

You might feel like you are working your tail off pulling long hours and late nights, but, at the end of each day, you are still feeling like you didn’t achieve anything worthwhile.

In fact, when you try to go back and recount what you did, you can’t remember too much at all.

And that really sucks.

Buried Businesswoman

But you were so busy! What happened?

The first thing to note is this – you are not alone.

In fact, I’d wager this is not only common, it’s an epidemic!

I’ve mentored countless staff on organisation and prioritisation techniques over my 7 years at Reload Media and you know what? We almost expect this kind of time management mentoring to be required for new staff.

And I certainly don’t judge them either. I was once in their shoes and I had to find my own ‘work rhythm’ when I first started out as well. Let’s just call it a rite of passage into agency land.

What I can say is this – experiencing a team member that I’ve mentored rush up to me full of energy at 5pm and, through a beaming grin exclaim:

“Guess what! Guess what! I used those tools we talked about and I can’t believe it! I actually got everything done that I needed to get done and now I’m going home on time!!”

…is, by far, one of the most satisfying (and proudest) rewards I get to receive in my role at Reload Media.

And that is precisely what this article is about.

If I can give you just one week where you are genuinely proud of what you have achieved every single day of that week (within normal work hours), then this post will all be totally worth both of our time.  

I’m going to take you through a couple of books and tools that helped me build my own time management and prioritisation framework along the way.

And hey, I don’t claim to be perfect. I don’t subscribe to these tools every single minute of every single day.

But what I can say is this – these tools and methods have absolutely, more than once, helped me keep my head well above water in the crazy world that is digital marketing.  

So let’s get into it.

Image 2 - Eat that Frog

Eat That Frog

Mark Twain once said “Eat a live frog in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”.

This is a simple yet powerful thought that Brian Tracey expanded into a fully blown time management and prioritisation philosophy through his best-selling book, “Eat That Frog”.

Tracey’s key premise is this:

A normal work day is like a dinner plate. The dinner plate has a bunch of lovely, delectable little sweets peppered all over it with a large, live frog in the middle of the plate!

If you just pick away at the sweets all day, you’ll still be left with that big ugly frog on your plate at the end of the day (and it will still be there tomorrow, with more sweets and probably another frog!)

But…

If you eat that frog first up, then no matter what you do after that, you’ll still feel full at the end of the day. Anything extra that you eat is a bonus!

What does this translate to?

Do the task that has the most impact and that will take the most energy first up in the day.

If you do this, then you’ll feel like you achieved something impactful by the end of the day and you’ll avoid having a plate full of frogs by the end of the week!

Practical take outs

While the book has an absolute wealth of information in it (I’d highly recommend you find, borrow, buy or steal a copy for yourself!), my two key take outs are:

  1. Use lists. For some people, the feeling of ticking off tasks in a lists can be just the motivation they need to move onto the next task.  I’ve always really liked written lists but I’ve grown fond of tools like Wunderlist and Todoist as well. In Todoist, you can even earn points for ‘eating your frogs’ as well!
  2. Prioritise your lists. Tracey recommends the ‘ABCDE’ method of prioristisation in Eat That Frog. This is the practice of labelling every single task in your list with a specific level of impact and priority:
    1. A =  Tasks you absolutely must complete. It has critical impact and importance and negative consequences if you don’t complete. These tasks can also have an extremely positive impact if you complete to a high standard. These are your frogs! You might have a couple of them but there always needs to be a pecking order. Here’s where you need to get brutal! List your frogs in order of importance. E.g.
      1. A1 = Most important
      2. A2 = 2nd most important
      3. A3 = 3rd most important etc etc
    2. B = Tasks you should complete and have mild consequences if you don’t. Again, organise your B tasks in order of priority.
    3. C = Tasks that you would like to do but don’t really have any major consequences if you don’t complete them. Now, these tasks can be lethal to your output and productivity as they are often the fun or easy tasks that you genuinely enjoy doing. This method does not call for you to forget your C tasks, but rather, to ensure you have completed your A and B tasks before you get to you C tasks. Still with me?
    4. D = These tasks can be delegated! I love these tasks. It’s important to know where your value lies and to not be a hero. For some people (like myself) the natural tendency is to not want to burden other people and to take on everything yourself. Stop it! You are not helping them and you are not helping yourself. Learn to delegate. You are important and you need to clear some space for those critical A and B tasks! Don’t waste your time on this small stuff or on things that others could (and should) be doing for you.
    5. E = Tasks that can be eliminated without any real impact at all. Yes! These are great as well. Get the red pen out and burn these suckers. You don’t need them in your life.

Image 3 - ABCDE

(Image courtesy of http://www.toodledo.com/info/frog.php)

Ok, now try writing a list like this every day.

You might want to start by looking at what you need to complete in the month, and then each week, and then each day.

If you have lots of things swimming around in your head, let’s get them onto paper and see what is humanly possible to achieve over the next week.

Remember, eat that bloody frog in the morning!

(Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post as to how you felt at the end of the day you ate your first frog – I’d love to hear how you went!)

Important note: If your frogs are ginormous, try breaking them down into what I like to call tadpoles.

I.e. Break the big task into smaller, more manageable tasks and finish that frog off one small bite at a time. But don’t move onto any other tasks until the whole frog is completed!

Buy Eat That Frog Online

Time Blocking

I really love using my calendar to book out time to complete tasks in my ABCDE to-do lists.

This might just be how I work, but when I assign time to a specific task and I can see it represented and labelled as an actual length of time, it makes me more likely to get it done.

It might not work for everyone but, when a new staff member come to me and they are freaking out about not being able to keep up with the work load, the first thing I ask is to look at their time management system.

They usually don’t have one so I then ask to look at their calendar.

Low and behold, it’s usually completely bare (barring a few minor meetings spread throughout).

It’s generally at this point that I recommend blocking out time for critical tasks in their calendar.

They’ll usually respond with something like “Really, I can do that?!”

Of course you can! Calendars aren’t just for meetings. They are a fantastic organisation tool.

After this, I’ll also recommend they be realistic about how long each task actually is going to take them.

In fact, we’ll usually do a bit of an ABCDE analysis of their upcoming work-week on a whiteboard and plan out their week together.

It’s super important to note that, if you are not realistic about the time it will take to get things done, time blocking can quickly become overwhelming (and can even reduce productivity).

Build yourself some buffer into your time blocks and account for the unaccountable!

You are only human. You can only complete so much work in a day.

Time blocking helps you take back ownership of time.

And, using a combination of the ABCDE method AND time blocking, you will start using your time on the most impactful and consequential tasks for your business or your career.

 

Image 4 - Calendar

 

 

Introducing our custom ‘Prioritisation Matrix’

Often times in our line of work, people are throwing ideas around left right and centre.

Brainstorm sessions can be a truly exciting thing to be part of, but they can also be exceptionally unproductive if there is no one steering the ship at the end of the session.

Ideas within brainstorm sessions are not generally created equal.

Some might require a huge amount of resources, but, the potential business impact might also be huge.

Others might be extremely quick and cost effect, but, might not really move the needle in terms of your key objectives.

That’s where this prioritisation matrix comes in.

Check out the video below on how to use the matrix at the end of your next brainstorm session and start prioritising your ideas in no time at all!

 

 

Psst: Want to download a free, dynamic prioritisation matrix template? No problems! Get your free brainstorming tool here.

 Image 5 - Rework

REWORK

If you are starting your own business or blog, Rework is in my opinion an absolute must read.

Filled to the brim with easily digestible, bite sized business advice nuggets from the team over at 37Signals,  this book breaks down barriers and common conceptions about how to start and grow a successful business in today’s day and age.

It is a demolisher of procrastination and and an abolisher of ‘the way it’s always been done’.

It is such a simple, entertaining and insightful read, I’d recommend it to absolutely anyone who is either starting a business or looking to make changes within the business they work in.

And if my word isn’t enough, here is acclaimed author, Seth Godin’s, Amazon review on the masterpiece:

“This book will make you uncomfortable.

Depending on what you do all day, it might make you extremely uncomfortable.

That’s a very good thing, because you deserve it. We all do.

Jason and David have broken all the rules and won. Again and again they’ve demonstrated that the regular way isn’t necessarily the right way. They just don’t say it, they do it. And they do it better than just about anyone has any right to expect.

This book is short, fast, sharp and ready to make a difference. It takes no prisoners, spares no quarter, and gives you no place to hide, all at the same time.

There, my review is almost as long as the first chapter of the book. I can’t imagine what possible excuse you can dream up for not buying this book for every single person you work with, right now.

Stop reading the review. Buy the book.–Seth Godin”

Buy Rework Online

Don’t like my methods?

Ok ok, so those were some of the tools, methods and books I’ve used to build my own personal time management and prioritisation framework.

However, working in an agency with over 75+ staff, I can completely respect that different people will be attracted to completely different styles and methods for managing their time.

And that is absolutely fine!

So here’s the ace I’ve had up my sleeve all along ;)

If you don’t feel like my methods would work for you, do yourself a life changing favour and check out this brilliant article by the team over at Todoist (one of the project management tools I was talking about earlier).

The article is one of the most actionable and comprehensive guides to productivity methods that I have ever come across. We use this article (and the Todoist tool itself) in our training here at Reload Media as well.

Check it out now!  

Wrapping up

I genuinely hope that you’ve found at least one thing useful in this article.

As mentioned, my goal is to give you at least one week where you feel like you’ve absolutely achieved everything you needed to (within normal work hours!).

If you do happen to try some or all of these methods and find them helpful, please leave a ‘tip’ by either sharing this article for Kate and/or leaving a comment on your experience below!

Thanks for reading!

 

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Keelie Reason
    April 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Great post. :) I think you have some really valuable tips here.

    • Reply
      Paul Goldston
      April 5, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks very much for the feedback Keelie. Much appreciated!

      Are there any tips that you think you might try in the next week or so?

  • Reply
    Kyah
    April 5, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I am now obsessed with the eat the frog tip! It’s actually the second time I’ve heard it today but up until today, I had never heard it. The tip suits me so much as I am the person who leaves the best part of dinner until last usually so I need to implement this way of thinking into my time management and productivity as it is definitely my worst quality.
    This post is unbelievably helpful and so thorough!
    Kyah / http://www.weekendtempo.com

    • Reply
      Paul Goldston
      April 5, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Hey Kyah,

      I’m absolutely obsessed with it as well. It was such a revelation reading that book. Anyone at our agency will tell you that I tend to spruik it quite a bit haha!

      Do let us know how you get on with it!

  • Reply
    Courtney
    April 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I agree with time blocking! I can make a list but have been working on adding time slots to it so I can hold myself more accountable.

    • Reply
      Paul Goldston
      April 5, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Hey Courtney,
      Absolutely agree. Blocking out time is super effective. It also helps you prioristise and turn your email/distractions off for a sustained period of time.
      Good luck with your future time management and prioritisation endevours!

  • Reply
    chloe | boxwood avenue
    April 5, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    This is really a great post – it covers so much! You could write a whole series! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Paul Goldston
      April 5, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Hey Chloe,

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

      Very much appreciated.

      Let us know how you get on if you do try any of the tips or tools in the post ;)

  • Reply
    Anna
    April 5, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for these tips. Making a list is a No.1 thing for me to get things done. I’m using Asana now… I’m not good with calendars… I don’t know why, I just don’t stick with them.

    • Reply
      Paul Goldston
      April 5, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      I personally haven’t used Asana but I know A LOT of people that do and swear by it.

      We are really loving Todoist here at our agency. It just integrates with so many different tools (including Outlook, Gmail, Android, iOS, Saasu, Toggl and IFTTT as well!)

      Great to hear you’ve found a system that works for you. That’s the most important thing IMHO.

      The article by the team at Todoist (towards the bottom of the article – I promise I’m not on commission!) is an absolute cracker and shows how there are just SO many different frameworks that work for different people.

      Again, so long as you have a system that works for you, that’s the main thing. Just don’t have NO system in place or else you’ll find yourself flailing very quickly.

      My wife is actually a high school teacher and she’s looking at ways of trying to integrate some of these tools into her own lessons.

      It would be amazing if more future employees had a few of these tips and tricks ingrained at a younger age. It’s just so, SO important and makes such a difference to work/life balance and ultimately, their mental health.

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