Have you set yourself up for success?
Hands up if your work involves doing just one thing. One project at a time. One client at a time. Anyone? No-one?
I thought not. That’s just not how things work in the real world. We don’t start a project and see it through to completion before we start the next one. Instead, we’re all working on lots of different projects simultaneously. We have lots of clients to look after. Lots of different demands on our time.
Let’s use me as an example: As a VA I need to hold each client’s business in my head and to successfully juggle their needs day-to-day and week-to-week. To make good decisions on where to focus , I need a clear bird’s-eye view of what’s going on for everyone. But I also need to keep a close eye on the details that need dealing with on a daily basis.
I’m a naturally organised person, so none of this fazes me. But I know that this doesn’t come as easily to everyone.
Last week I shared some tips to help you manage your time when you’re working with multiple clients or have lots of projects on the go. This week I have three suggestions that will help you stay organised and focused when things could easily start to feel out-of-control.
(I refer to ‘clients’ in some of the examples below, but you can replace that with the word ‘projects’ if that’s more relevant to you – the principles are the same either way.)
1) Have a decent filing system
I know, I know: Booooriiiiiing! Filing is not the most glamorous of subjects, but keeping your notes organised as you work will save you lots of time in the long-run, so please bear with me!
Try to keep your notes about each client or project in one place, whether that’s a file, folder or a dedicated page in your notebook. Each of my clients has their own plastic wallet in which I pop all the notes I make during our conversations (I use an A4 notebook with pages that are easy to rip out). Keeping client or project notes separate in this way means I’m less likely to get distracted as I don’t need to leaf through pages of notes about other priorities to find what I’m looking for. My mind stays in the zone of that client. If you use a bullet journal, remember to number your pages and use an index so you can easily find what you need.
There are some things I need to remember for each of my clients, and I really don’t want to be rooting around in my emails or rummaging through my notes every time. Instead I write a couple of notes for each client on the front of their file. For me, that’s the date and time on which they want their blog posts and newsletters to be published, and the hex and RGB codes for their brand colours.
2) Set up your physical environment so it supports your intention to do one thing at a time
Once you’ve got your notes and scribbles organised, it’ll be easier to make changes to your environment that support the focus and calm that you’re looking for.
To make sure your head is where it needs to be, get rid of anything that might pull your attention elsewhere. Tidy everything away, other than the thing you’re working on. If your desk is covered in piles of paper and post-it notes, it’s easy to lose focus. Having all that stuff in your eye-line is a visual reminder of all the things you’re not getting done, adding to your feelings of overwhelm.
To do your best work you need to concentrate on one thing at a time. Have somewhere out-of-sight to plonk all your project notes and client files, and just take out the one thing you’re working on. My gorgeous old-fashioned desk has drawers which are perfect for the job, but box files are another good option for getting things out of your way.
3) Set up your tech environment so it supports your intention to do one thing at a time
Now that your desk is organised, let’s address your computer. Close every programme, file and browser tab that doesn’t relate to the thing you’re working on right now. Turn your computer into an oasis of calm that helps you to focus solely on the client or project at hand. So simple, but not always easy when we’re used to flitting between tasks and projects. I challenge you to give it a go, even if just for a day, and see what a difference it can make!
So, there you have it. None of this is earth-shattering, ground-breaking rocket science. It’s obvious when you think about it: if you want to feel calm, your space needs to feel calm. Trying to focus and remain in control of your conflicting priorities will be far more difficult if you’re surrounded by chaos.
For maximum impact, couple these suggestions with last weeks’ tips around using your calendar effectively and see what happens to your state of mind as well as your productivity!
How about you? Is your work space a haven of zen-like calm or do you sit down each morning and feel overwhelmed before you’ve even started? Let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to hear from you if you decide to give these tips a try!
Do you need help with your productivity? Take a look at how I can help you to get stuff done with less stress and more ease.