Imagine you had to swim across a reasonably large body of water and in order to protect your livelihood and fast track your “success” you only had to reach the other side before your competitor did. Now you are a very decent swimmer, you have the work ethic and the talents to confidently make it to the other side. All is well until you realize your competitor is none other than the most decorated Olympian swimmer of all times, Michael Phelps! How do you win? How do you get to the other side first? Simple, you start swimming first (like days earlier)!
Achieving your goals at work and in life can resemble the scenario above. You are talented, you can do it, but if you are not looking out for the roadblocks and planning around them then it’s likely you won’t reach the goal, or you may reach it but you will need to endure more pain and self-doubt than necessary.
So let’s get ahead of the Q2 hurdles by simply starting early and creating an overall plan. Yes the plan may change and we cannot foresee everything, but here is what we do have power over:
- Knowing what we want to accomplish and what is important
- Planning out time to get the work we need to do done
- Establishing our workspace for productivity
- Addressing outstanding to-do list items
- Attending to the small but necessary tasks so we can clear our minds and calendar for the big, gnarly challenges and opportunities.
In this post I will share six simple ways you can start preparing for the upcoming three months. If you would like to go deeper and learn how to take your goal from a nice idea to completion, then I invite you to join me for one of the quarterly Prep, Plan, & Prosper events or join our 5S Friday workshops where each week we realign our work to the goals and important tasks we are trying to accomplish.
Clean up your space!
Simply take time to clean up your workspace especially if you have an office where anyone other than you and your family members can see into it. This will take less than an hour to throw away any papers you don’t need, update your screen savers, take down holiday decor, replace the dying plant, and remove the dust bunnies. Not only will your space be cleaner and more inviting, but you will also feel like the professional you are. The lack of visual clutter may also help you focus deeper on your work. Take this time to catch up on trainings or other audio-learning materials like podcasts. Restock any supplies as necessary.
- PRO TIP: If you like to spread out when you work, have a visitor area that is kept clear. I usually search the dark corners for a long lost table that will serve just this purpose. If you have the traditional L-shaped desk, consider turning the desk so visitors can sit at the wider side and use the shorter side for your computer. Find a side cabinet, table, or even a shelf that can be kept for your papers, file folders, printer, etc. If you need to quickly clear your space, consider purchasing a 3 shelf bookcase and some baskets or boxes that can hold papers. This way you have the items visually available to you, but they look tidy to visitors and you can clean the desk in under a minute.
Set up your calendar
Take time to set-up your calendar system for the next three months. I recommend you use a virtual calendar for your meetings and hour-by-hour planning, and a paper planner to keep track of important deadlines, events, and milestones.
Here are some items to schedule:
- All major holidays, events, and significant deadlines
- Include prep and decompression time for meetings, vacations, or events
- Check-ins with your team, customers, or leaders
- Standing meeting times
- Be sure to include end of month or repeating tasks/meetings that occur randomly
PRO TIP: Try to find the “free days” and if you have a single meeting on that day, see if you can get the the time moved up or moved to another date so you have a day free for being out of the office (vacation, errands, travel to customers) or for deep project work.
Update Anything With a Number
You know what, most of us hate numbers. So take time at the end of the quarter to address all things number related. This will look different for each person and role but think about things like budgets, goal metrics, taxes, net worth, investments, inventory, social media responses, forecasting, auditing previous numbers, etc.
The thing with this type of work is that it weighs heavily on our minds because it’s unpleasant but important and it’s also a fear of the unknown. By doing it in a scheduled time, you will put yourself in the right mental space making it easier to get moving, address all the issues, and you will know you are caught up so the next time it won’t feel so overwhelming.
Say Adios to the To Do List
To-Do lists are amazing, but likely you have a list with way too many items that go unchecked week after week or even year after year. I find it interesting when I am decluttering client work or looking back over my goals in my memory box how the same items can show up for years without being done. Why do we do this to ourselves?
There are times when we don’t have a to-do list. Usually this is when we change jobs, move, or have other life events. Now I’m not suggesting you go this drastic, but what if you rounded up all your Q1 to do list items and you said if by the end of next week (just like if you were to quit your job) these need to be done or they are good enough as is and I will not work on them in Q2. You would have to prioritize what is really important and cut out the nice-to-haves. You also would be motivated to get it done because it’s now or never; you would focus more on taking action than micro-planning because you already cleared the work time and can really deep dive into the tasks–there’s no more pushing them off; and you may even look for creative shortcuts or ask for help. If you can spare some time in the next few weeks, give yourself this challenge. You will likely feel lighter and see progress on the list.
Recognize a Quarter is Not That Many Days
A quarter seems like such a long time, but if you work a standard Monday-Friday schedule, you have at most 65 work days between April 1 and June 30th.
65 days isn’t too bad, but how about this very reasonable scenario that in this quarter:
- You have two holidays (Easter & Memorial Day)
- You take two days of vacation time (maybe for a graduation, wedding, or just because)
- Your boss adds on an unexpected project that will only take a day or two to complete
- Your position requires you to be on training calls, meetings, and other presentations for a cumulative 8 hours a week (which is not unreasonable)
- You also are in a week-long improvement event or trade show
Guess what? You now have 41 days. A new meaning to time flying! Keep this in mind when you are looking at what you can accomplish, and what you need to cut because realistically you have over a third of your quarter taken up before any of the work even begins.
Consider the Season
Think about all the seasonal impacts you will face this quarter, and consider how they will affect your schedules, your routines, and your ability to flex your work. Here are just a few impacts you may be facing this quarter:
- Longer days making it easier to work more while still seeing daylight
- Warmer weather. You may have more call-offs, want to take vacation time yourself, possibly adjust your schedule to work later in the day so you can enjoy time outdoors and exercise before the weather becomes oppressive, change your clothing/hair/makeup to adjust to the weather
- Children are in school for most of this quarter but then will be off school and possibly returning home for the summer
- Pandemic restrictions may be changing allowing you to go back to the office at least a few days a week. Do you have the right clothes? Are there tasks you have been doing during the commute time or your breaks that will now need to be scheduled? Has your spouse taken on extra responsibilities they will not be able to continue?
- Unlike Q1, you probably won’t have to deal with winter weather this quarter. Unlike Q3 with all the summer holidays, you will probably have more time in the office and likely your clients, suppliers, and co-workers will also be available instead of on vacation or traveling. Make Q2 a great quarter to focus on collaborative work and meetings.
I hope these tips have helped you. If you are looking to increase your productivity, I highly recommend you attend a 5S Friday workshop (the first two are free) or the quarterly Prep, Plan, and Prosper workshops which are live the week of March 22nd with recordings available until May 1st.