Most of us are heading into the holiday slowdown and if you’re like me, your head is already spinning with wildly optimistic visions of what you can accomplish during the break…
I’ll finally get my inbox down to zero…I’ll knock out that big project that’s been hanging over my head…I’ll write the first chapter of my book…And while I’m at it, I’ll work out every day and catch up on my sleep.
Every year come January 1st I am woefully disappointed in my success rate at tackling these big projects. Somehow the allure of bad holiday movies and a warm fireplace saps all my productivity. So this year, instead of trying to catch up, I am going to try something new – take four simple actions this week to set myself up for success in 2017:
1. Slim Down My Inbox
While I may be starting the new year a little heavier than usual (thanks, pumpkin pie), my inbox doesn’t need to follow suit. Here’s my email fitness plan:
Using the built-in functions within Outlook, I will route emails into folders and help focus my attention on the ones that really matter. For example, if I am the only recipient on an email, I have Outlook give it the red “!” so that it grabs my eye immediately. On the other hand, emails which are sent to a distribution list are routed to a folder that I only check periodically.
Speaking of distribution lists: I will also use this quieter week to finally unsubscribe from all the ones I no longer read. If you notice that you delete the same emails without even opening them, you’re likely to benefit from doing the same.
2. Spend Less Time In Weekly Staff Meetings And One-On-Ones And Invest More In Long-Term Priorities
Standing weekly meetings often consume as much as half of an executive’s calendar. While staying connected to what’s happening across a team is vital, staff meetings often devolve into a series of one-on-one conversations between the leader and each participant sharing updates that could have been done in much less time over email or other collaborative technology. Many leaders spend as much time moving around one-on-ones as they do actually having them. The ROI on these meetings is abysmal!
Free up some much needed time on your (and your team’s) calendar in 2017 by restructuring your weekly meetings. Evaluate each one’s effectiveness then take one of the following actions: temporarily remove it and see what happens, shorten the duration or change the frequency. If your environment is fast-moving and complex, it’s likely that people and projects are no longer served with weekly one-hour meetings. Consider hosting shorter, daily office hours so your team can seek out your counsel regularly or keep you in the loop without consuming an entire hour. Consider whether you can send more frequent updates and have an optional status meeting for Q&A. Once you have freed up some space on your calendar, reclaim it by scheduling working time with yourself to work on some of those longer-term projects that never seem to advance.
3. Make A Commitment To A Good Night’s Sleep
Paradoxically, sleep is typically the first thing we forfeit when we’re in search of extra time, but it’s the last thing we should let go of. As Ariana Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time points out, “The irony is that a lot of people forego sleep in the name of productivity, but in fact our productivity is reduced substantially when we’re sleep deprived.” Just as we need to set a bedtime for adolescent children, we need to do the same thing for ourselves. Going to bed at a standard time each night increases the quality and depth of your sleep and sets you up for a supercharged day. Download a sleep app to track your sleep patterns and figure out what bed time and wake up time works best for you. Grab some cozy pajamas while you’re doing your gift shopping and get ready to start 2017 with some high quality snoozing.
4. Schedule Your 2017 Vacations
Findings from Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 report reveal that more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused last year. The reason? Primarily it was anticipation of the volume of catch up work which made it less appealing to be out of the office. People who planned their vacation in advance were significantly more likely to use their time off than those who didn’t. While you’re doing your final online shopping this week, bookmark a few travel sites and dream locations. I can realistically see myself browsing travel sites while lazing on the couch and doing so will help me build in recovery to my 2017 schedule.
Setting yourself up for new heights of productivity in 2017 doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Try these simple strategies and see if you can elevate your game in the New Year.