Start 2015 off with a Yearly Review

2015This is the time of year we all do self-reflection and resolve to improve ourselves in the new year.  As most everyone knows making resolutions like “I’m going to lose weight” rarely are successful.  The main reason for this is these goals are not put in a context that will allow for long-term success.  Once the initial “eat better and get to the gym” wears off and we are stuck in the daily grind of our lives we revert to our old habits.

If you really want to resolve to accomplish something and truly make a commitment with yourself, then you need to create an environment for long-term success.  This means adopting GTD and incorporating your desired outcomes into your trusted system.

I recommend you do a “Yearly Review” to reflect on last year and project into next year.  Then if something comes out of that self-reflection that you really are willing to commit to, you need to incorporate it into your system and work your system every week via the Weekly Review.  By using this approach (as opposed to a new year’s resolution) you will have a much better chance of long-term success.

The year-end review is similar to a weekly review but at a much higher level.  Here are the questions I ask myself:

Looking back on 2014:

  • What were your wins for the year?
  • What were the risks you took?
  • What is your unfinished business from this year that will carry forward to 2014?
  • What are you most happy about completing?
  • Who were the people who had the greatest impact on your life this year?
  • What was your biggest surprise?
  • What did you give back to your community?

Looking forward to 2015:

  • What would you like to be your biggest win to be this year?
  • What are you planning to do to improve yourself?
  • What would you be most happy about completing in the coming year?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself?
  • What are you looking forward to learning?
  • What do you think your biggest risk will be?
  • What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving?

Then, I do a thorough review of my Someday/Maybes to see if there is anything on there that I want to commit to accomplishing in the new year. Perform a review of your higher-level horizons like your Areas of Focus to see if they still reflect your commitments and responsibilities accurately.

Next, it is critical to assess how you have allocated your time over the course of the last year. This is critical because time is your most valuable asset. There are only 24 hours in a day and therefore you need to make the most of each one of those hours.  To complete my Year-End Review I schedule my calendar for the new year. I schedule all of my recurring meetings to stop recurring at the end of the year so I will have a blank calendar in the new year. This way I get to reassess the value of those meetings.

Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment.  Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week or monthly.

The next thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. This is absolutely critical! If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have.

Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple hour task.

Schedule multiple 30 minute appointments to process you “inboxes.” For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your stuff to zero.

Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.

Do a Year-end Review and I guarantee you will feel better and start 2015 off on the track to success!

Advertisements

How to Leverage an Assistant to Manage Your Calendar

CalendarMy previous post was dedicated to effective calendar management and in this post I want to focus on leveraging an assistant or executive admin to manage your calendar. If you are a CIO or a senior executive who is fortunate enough to have an assistant, then you know how they can improve your effectiveness. I’ve am blessed to have an incredibly great assistant who makes me significantly more productive and frees me up to focus on higher-level tasks.

If you have an assistant, I strongly suggest you encourage them to take ownership of your calendar. Make sure he or she understands your priorities and who can — and should — be allowed to override your planned day. Then, let your assistant begin managing your appointments for you. He or she should have 100% control of your calendar and your staff should know they must go thru them to get time on your calendar.

This can be challenging as people will try to circumvent the assistant and go directly to you by popping their heads in your office, calling or texting your mobile phone directly, sending you an email or IM, etc. You must support your assistant by not allowing this to happen. Politely, remind the person who want to get on your calendar that they must go thru your assistant. Otherwise, you circumvent their authority as the arbiters of your calendar and will create confusion and have a sub-optimal situation.

Schedule time to meet with your assistant every morning to do a short “Daily Review” of the upcoming day and the rest of the week to see what is ahead. Look a few weeks out so you can both be on the same page as to what the immediate future holds. Review your current priorities and help them understand the relative importance of potential meetings, lunches, dinners or other requests for your time. Some are truly ASAP while others can be in the next couple of weeks or even in the next month or so.

Make sure your assistant gets enough information for you to make an informed decision as to wither a particular appointment is worth your time or not. What is the agenda? Does is have to be a meeting or can it be handled via email or a phone call? Is there travel involved? If so, how much travel time should be allocated to ensure you will be there on time? What preparation should you do prior to the meeting?

Finally, work together to determine when to say “no.”  There will never be enough time in the day for all the people who want time on your calendar and ultimately that means your assistant will have to figure out what appointments NOT to schedule.

How do you leverage you assistant to manage your calendar?

Effective Calendar Management

CalendarWe all know that in the big picture of things time is our most valuable asset and because your calendar is your trusted system for managing your time, it makes sense to optimize your calendar. Here are some strategies for effective calendar management.

Only use your calendar for date-specific appointments

David Allen explains in Getting Things Done, that the only things that should appear on your calendar are date-specific appointments. That means things like doctor appointments, meetings, and anything that can only be attended to during that time. I’ve actually started to refer to these more as “agreements” than “appointments” because agreements mean that much more to me. Rescheduling an appointment is something that can be done, but rescheduling an agreement seems more daunting and less viable. By using the term “agreement” (which acts as a trigger), I’m less likely to even think about altering what I’ve committed to with someone else…or even myself.

Schedule your personal time

During your weekly review it is important you make appointments in your calendar for things in your life that don’t relate to work. Is your partner out of town so you have to cover him/her on something? When do you need to drop the kids off at school? Do you have a doctor’s appointment? Does your daughter have a  recital? Are you traveling? All of these things are the “big rocks” that should be added to your calendar before anything else. You also need to make time for your own well-being, whether it is going to the gym, going for a run or simply reading a book. If you don’t block out time in your calendar for personal activities work will “eat up” all your time and you will end up with failed relationships, poor health and increased stress.

Align your schedule with your priorities

Most business professionals are extremely busy, but all too many spend their time doing the wrong things. We all have the same amount of time on our hands. What sets successful people apart is the way they prioritize what to do during that limited time. So, the most important thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have. You will never be able to do everything you set out to, so you need to make sure you don’t leave the high-impact things undone.

Schedule your priorities early in the day

Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple-hour task.

Schedule multiple 30-minute appointments to process your “inboxes”

For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your stuff to zero. Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.

Be ruthless in assessing the value of recurring meetings

Another thing you need to do is to assess how you have allocated your time. Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment.  Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week.

How do you manager your calendar to ensure you are doing the most important things?

 

CIO Time Management Sucks

time suck In today’s always-on lifestyle there’s never enough time in a day for busy CIOs – or any manager – to get everything accomplished. So you need to “manage” your time more effectively, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Of course, we can’t really manage time. There are only 24 hours in a day and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. So, we need to be smart about how we allocate our time.

Do a “mirror check” and check your own daily schedule to see if you’re falling into one of these time management sucks.

Not investing the time necessary to train someone to delegate a task

Admit it. You have several tasks you hate doing that eat up too much of your time. The only reason you haven’t passed them on to your assistant or an employee is you can’t seem to find the time to train somebody else to do it. Make the time. Invest the time in training others to do tasks to get them off your plate. It is tough – especially initially when they are not as productive as you are at accomplishing the task but over time it will pay off in spades.

Not scheduling your priorities early in the day

You’re the boss. You get to set your schedule the way you like it, so be smart about it and schedule your priorities in the morning. Set aside time to work on your priorities first thing in the morning and that way when you get “overtaken by events” you will have time in the afternoon by bumping those lower priority items on your calendar. And, remember that not scheduling your time is the least effective scheduling of all.

Not Managing Distractions

As the person in charge, you must be available for major decisions and to help with emergencies, but it’s likely those points only take up 10 to 20 percent of the interruptions and distractions that hit you every day. Don’t be shy about establishing dedicated “do not disturb” time every day to work on your priorities. This is absolutely critical when you do your Weekly Review.

Not practicing Inbox Zero

Stop complaining about how email is taking so much of your time that you don’t have enough time left for the important stuff and do something about it. It is kind of like complaining about the number of meetings you have to attend and then not doing something about it. If email is taking up a disproportionate amount of your time, then you need to do something about it. Take charge of your situation. Don’t let the constant stream of incoming emails take control of your priorities and time. Practice Inbox Zero and only look at an email once.

Not focusing on one task at a time

You might think you’re being more productive when you multitask and look like you’re being more productive, but the research consistently proves multitasking doesn’t work. It’s actually impossible—you can’t focus on two things at once but rather “context switch” your focus rapidly between tasks. Since it takes as much as 10 minutes to find get back into a high-productivity flow with any given task, multitasking means working at lower effectiveness all day long.

Perform a Year-End Review (because New Year’s resolutions don’t work)

Year End 2013This is the time of year we all do self reflection and resolve to improve ourselves in the new year.  As most everyone knows making resolutions like “I’m going to get healthy” rarely are successful.  The main reason for this is these goals are not put in a context that will allow for long-term success.  Once the initial “eat better and get to the gym” wears off and we are stuck in the daily grind of our lives we revert to our old habits.

If you really want to resolve to accomplish something and truly make a commitment with yourself, then you need to create a environment for long-term success.  This means adopting GTD and incorporating your desired outcome into your trusted system.

I recommend you do a “Year-End Review” to reflect on last year and project into next year.  Then if something comes out of that self reflection that you really are willing to commit to, then you need to incorporate it into your system and work your system every week via the weekly review.  By using this approach (as opposed to a new year’s resolution) you will have a much better chance of long-term success.

The year-end review is similar to a weekly review but at a much higher level.  Here are the questions I ask myself:

Looking back on 2013:

  • What were your wins for the year?
  • What were the risks you took?
  • What is your unfinished business from this year that will carry forward to 2014?
  • What are you most happy about completing?
  • Who were the people that had the greatest impact on your life this year?
  • What was your biggest surprise?
  • What did you give back to your community?

Looking forward to 2014:

  • What would you like to be your biggest win to be this year?
  • What are you planning to do to improve yourself?
  • What would you be most happy about completing in the coming year?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself?
  • What are you looking forward to learning?
  • What do you think your biggest risk will be?
  • What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving?

Next, it is critical to assess how you have allocated your time over the course of the last year. This is critical because time is your most valuable asset. There are only 24 hours in a day and therefore you need to make the most of each one of those hours.  To complete my Year-End Review I schedule my calendar for the new year. I schedule all of my recurring meetings to stop recurring at the end of the year so I will have a blank calendar in the new year. This way I get to reassess the value of those meetings.

Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment.  Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their  recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week.

The next thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. This is absolutely critical! If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have.

Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple hour task.

Schedule multiple 30 minute appointments to process you “inboxes.” For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your  stuff to zero.

Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.

Do a Year-end Review and I guarantee you will feel better and start the new year off on the track to success!

Leverage your assistant to manage your calendar

calendarFor those of us fortunate enough to have an assistant, we know how significantly they can improve our effectiveness. I’ve am blessed to have an incredibly great assistant who makes me significantly more productive and frees me up to focus on higher-level tasks.

If you have an assistant, I strongly suggest you encourage them to take ownership of the effectiveness of your calendar. Make sure he or she understands your priorities and who can — and should — be allowed to override your planned day. Then, let your assistant begin managing your appointments for you. He or she should have 100% control of your calendar and your staff should know they must go thru them to get time on your calendar.

This can be challenging as people will try to circumvent the assistant and go directly to you by popping their heads in your office, calling your mobile phone, texting you directly, sending you an IM, etc. You must support your assistant by never allowing this to happen. Politely, remind the person who want to get on your calendar that they must go thru your assistant. Otherwise, you circumvent their authority as the arbiters of your calendar and you will have a sub-optimal situation.

Schedule time to meet with your assistant every morning to do a short “Daily Review” where you look at the day and then the week to see what is ahead. Review your current priorities and help them understand the relative importance of potential meetings or lunches. Some are truly ASAP while others can be in the next couple of weeks or even in the next month or so.

Make sure your assistant gets enough information for you to make an informed decision as to wither a particular appointment is worth your time or not. What is the agenda? Does is have to be a meeting or can it be handled via email or a phone call? Is there travel involved? If so, how much travel time should be allocated to ensure you will be there on time? What preparation should you do prior to the meeting?

Finally, work together to determine when to say “no.”  There will never be enough time in the day for all the people who want time on your calendar and ultimately that means your assistant will have to figure out what appointments NOT to schedule.

How do you leverage you assistant to manage your calendar?