As I sit here writing this I’ve been balancing a lot of balls in the air. I’m a mother of 3 and the CEO of Social Media Explorer | SME Digital. Summers are usually a little crazy, but this summer is on overdrive. To overcomplicate matters, 4 out of 5 members of our family are undergoing at least one medical procedure this summer.
I thought it would be relevant and helpful to talk about the battle of the schedule frenzy that naturally occurs during summer time and reveal some of the things I’m doing to make life a little easier.
Make scheduling easier by putting everything on your calendar and check it twice
This sounds so simple, but in trying to schedule a medical procedure for my son I realized that several of his wrestling camps were not in my calendar correctly. This resulted in having to reschedule three times. We use Google calendars and I have my work calendar and a separate calendar for my children’s activities. I love that I can turn on multiple calendars and see the whole picture. Plus having an electronic calendar makes scheduling on the fly a breeze.
Get all of your tasks out of your head
There is nothing worse than your brain constantly buzzing with a million things to do. This can cause sleepless nights filled with nightmares of forgetting something. I use a process called Kanban where I literally dump everything in my head onto a virtual Kanban board. Most people who use Kanban focus on it for complex project management, but I’ve found it works for any kind of task; big or small.
I love digital tools, but you could also use a series of post it notes if you like to see it in real life. For this stage, simply put every task on your plate including work, family, vacations and anything else that is running through your mind in a section called “To Do”. This should result in a complete list of everything you need to do.
If you are looking for a digital solution for this I use LeanKit because it has a desktop and mobile app. Other options are Trello or KanbanFlow. I literally put everything on my Kanban board from grocery shopping to client work. While you could use separate boards for personal tasks and work tasks, I prefer to have everything on one. The reality is that we have a lot of tasks that come outside of work and having everything in one place is extremely helpful and keeps my mind at rest because I know exactly what I need to do every day. For project management at SME we use Basecamp to manage tasks across teams. I simply add these tasks to my Kanban board with the dates they are due. It’s a bit of duplicated effort, but it’s one of the first things I do every morning. I just check for any new tasks that were added to Basecamp and add them to LeanKit while I drink my morning coffee.
Get organized when you sit down to work
Your mind is likely in a lot of places right now and when you combine that with changes in schedule and lots of things to do it can get overwhelming. So you really need to plan and schedule the time you will use to get actual work done. Then when you sit down for your productive time you need to make the most of it.
In Kanban I’ve found that using 5 boards works best for my productivity: To Do, On Deck, Doing, Done and Archive. The “To Do” section we discussed in the last section. I use the “On Deck” section to put stuff I want to complete in the time you’ve allotted. I use the “Doing” section where to put the active task I’m working on and I use the “Done” section to put all of the things I’ve completed. I move tasks from my “To Do” section into my “On Deck” section based on the amount of time I have without interruption. I pick ONE task to put into the “On Deck” section and no more. The goal here is to work on one thing until it’s complete to maximize efficiency. When it’s complete I move it to done. I keep going through this process until all tasks are complete. If I don’t finish everything in the time I had, I simply move it back to the “To Do” section until I have my next uninterrupted work time. It is important to make sure you have time scheduled that is uninterrupted to complete tasks. So many of us try to fit work in between 5 to 30 minute breaks between meetings. We start and then plan to finish later. This not only makes tasks take longer because it takes up to 20 minutes to get into the flow mindset where your best thinking happens, it simply doesn’t produce your best work.
I’ve also created an “Archive” section so I can move all the items in “Done” out of view. This helps keep my boards clean and I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I see how much I’ve completed in a work session.
Yes, breathe. It’s important to remember to breathe fully throughout the day. I’ve been working on this a lot because I realized that when I found myself stressed, overwhelmed or simply not in flow, I was holding my breath or breathing with shallow breaths. This just adds to your stress level because you aren’t properly oxygenating your blood and trying to think in this state is near impossible. For about 3 weeks I focused on taking deep breaths all of the time. This meant making sure I took in a full breath that made my belly expand showing I was using my diaphragm. I started noticing when I was holding my breath and what was causing it and would immediately take a few deep breaths. That alone dropped my stress level significantly. Now, I’m at the point where I rarely find myself holding my breath and I feel 1000% better.
This is what I’m doing now that summer schedule madness has taken over. I’ve found that I’m way more productive and my work product is better than ever. I wanted to share in case you are in the same boat and need some tips to get your house in order.
Do you have any tips on how you manage the crazy summer schedule and still manage to get quality work done? Leave a comment and let’s figure out some short cuts to bring some order to the chaos.