How is Your Task Manager System Working?
How often have you felt like you might fall down from exhaustion by Friday… and you just can’t wait for the day to be over so you can kick back, put your feet up and say, “TGIF… another week is over!” You’re not alone AND there is a way to help alleviate this feeling – it’s about assessing or reassessing your Task Manager System.
I’m not referring to our computer’s Task Manager System, although that was the inspiration for this blog post. I was having difficulty with my computer one day and got fed-up after getting a continuous –“MS Word not Responding” message and e-mails that just wouldn’t send (probably a server issue), only to realize that all of the times I hit “send”, the e-mail I thought wasn’t “sending” has actually been sent 4 times! So, I pressed the notorious, Control-Alt-Delete and pulled up the Task Manager –and it was as though my computer was screaming “Hey, I’m doing my best… relax already! Oh, and by the way… you have a thousand processes running on me already. How can you possibly expect me to keep up?!”
In that moment, it suddenly donned on me that we have our own built-in Task Manager System, running at all times. The question is, do we pay any attention to it? What would it mean to call attention to our own TMS? What would the benefits be? So here’s what I have been thinking…
The Task Manager System on a computer measures or tracks how much Memory is being used, the Applications and Processes that are running at any given time, the computer’s Performance and plenty more information that I have no business explaining. That said, what I found incredibly interesting, in that moment, were the similarities I discovered between our computer’s TMS and our own internal TMS. What if we checked in with our capacity level? How many applications and processes are we running at a given time? How is my performance? What might we discover?
It got me thinking about when I am running around, trying to finish off a task, then get pulled into or distracted by another project. Or the phone rings and I answer it. It’s not just the shiny object. It’s not just the obvious inability to resume a task after being pulled away. It’s the inability to resume a task because my brain is completely full to capacity with absolutely everything which is going on – not just the task at hand! So what happens when I try to “Upload a Task” or “Start-Up an Application”? I no longer have the ability to do so… my processors are maxed out and my brain is “no longer responding!”
So what is my Task Manager System?
I have a tried-and-true way of managing tasks, the shiny objects and other distractions. It’s called – No More To-Do Lists… Block Off Time and Do It Now! I know, I know… you’re saying, well, I’ve heard that before… really Heather? This is your big secret? Yes. Often I have clients who are so busy and can’t seem to fit anything else into their day. Yet, they say they are not accomplishing much, they’re not getting done what needs to be done. They’re not making the money they want to make and they’re not finding time to follow-up on leads they have.
So what gives? In order to figure out what is happening, I have them walk me through their day with an exercise I like to call, “A Day in the Life of —-”. Often what they discover in this exploration in “A Day in the Life of —-“ is how much time they spend: on Facebook, in helping family members, having lunch or coffee with friends which is all good stuff and speaks to who you are. The $64,000.00 question is, “how is this serving you and your business?” Many of my clients are of the sandwich-generation, they’re helping out aging parents and their grown kids, by picking up or looking after grandkids. They tell me it’s hard to say “no”, to which I respond –“I understand it’s hard to say “no”. What about saying, ‘Not this time.” Because the fact is, it’s imperative that you set clear boundaries. When you say “Yes” to everyone else, you’re saying “no” to you, which isn’t serving you – you’re not getting the results you want.” I ask them, “What would happen if you were to say, I will help you out when I’m able to.”
Case in point, my husband and I have three children. My husband commutes 90 minutes each work day, both ways and is gone for 14 hours a day. I run a business, so I understand busy! It’s taken some doing, but I have had the conversation with my children, that even when I do work from home, I am working from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. That means no interrupting me while I’m in my office – set clear expectations. Having said that, do I go and watch their basketball games? Go to see them accepting an award at school? Attend a Parent-Child school activity? Go and watch them on Track & Field day? Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss these activities for the world AND I plan for it. It’s part of the freedom and flexibility of running your own business. My children and my husband also understand that I may need to make up that time later on. We all work together for the greater good and it’s working well.
What’s the lesson here? It’s not about taking time away from your business to live your core values and do what is important for you. It’s about managing life and business holistically. Yes, stay connected with your friends and family, live a healthy lifestyle AND run your business effectively – set clear expectations in your life and in business, so that you STAY in business! You want to know what the really cool thing is? Your friends and family will understand and they will respect you for setting boundaries and clear expectations. You will be happier and you will be more successful.
In summary, here are three things to remember in terms of your Task Manager System:
- Be aware of the Applications you are running. Be sure that you are not overloading your system. Have your day planned the night before, whenever possible, and highlight the 3 most important tasks. Everything else is a bonus.
- Be aware of your Processes. How are you operating? Are you chasing a shiny object or easily distracted? If so, how do you find focus? Perhaps you need to turn off all Facebook, e-mail notifications, flip your phone upside-down so you aren’t looking at it every two seconds, refrain from picking up the phone each time it rings… let that beautiful thing called voice-mail do its job – so you can do yours! In fact, I always suggest that in your voice-mail message, you set the expectation of your policy for returning phone calls. You may even give them an alternative to leaving a message – like visiting your website for more information, registering or signing up for a course, etc. Also, there is a golden rule in business, which is spend the first couple of hours in your work day, achieving money-making activities – I absolutely agree with this! Whether it is following up on leads, sending out a marketing e-mail or post, or sending out invoices to collect money. Whatever it is, do these tasks first and notice how accomplished you feel!
- Be aware of what is important. It’s a fact that those who are successful in business, take care of themselves first. They make time for exercise, they eat regularly, they eat healthy and they take time for reading, educational seminars, workshops, overall learning and fun-for-them hobbies. Get rid of your to-do lists –and get in the habit of scheduling all important, must-get-done tasks into your daily agenda. That way, you won’t book yourself so solid that your to-do’s get bumped and you get stressed. Be sure to set blocks of time aside for checking e-mails, responding to phone messages, working on projects, taking lunch and coffee breaks and STICK to those time frames, as though you were punching a clock. It will serve you well – I guarantee it!