I started by identifying the main roles she had in her life. In her most demanding job I broke down the main activities she performed within the role. I helped her first with her time management skills – by keeping a weekly log of what she did by the hour each day of the week.
This log highlighted how she was spending most of her time. Email and a monthly meeting were overtaking her time and energy. I taught my client the ‘funnel down’ approach for setting goals and objectives. We started by setting a vision for the year, which then fed the monthly goals, which then influenced the weekly activities and eventually the top three priorities for each day of the week.
Once her vision became clear, she learned how to prioritise her time and plan her days and weeks accordingly. I then helped her develop a system to manage her current projects and actions (to-do-list) by implementing a clear desk policy. We cleared out and decluttered all items no longer required on the surface of her desk. Each item was given a “zone”within the desk or a space in the corresponding drawer.
Only current projects were allowed to sit on the desk, on a vertical paper holder. The vertical system made it easy to see and access the projects she was working on. Each project was given a folder, and each project was stored in order of priority – the most pressing at the front and the least pressing at the back.
I explained to my client that emails are “other’s people agenda” and this had a great effect on my client’s approach to email. We set specific times of the day to look at and respond to email and we developed a system that worked for her as to how to flag emails that required a response, action or delegation. This meant that emails no longer took up a lot of time and with this she became more efficient.
Paper was last on the list. My client had inherited a huge amount of paperwork from her predecessor and wasn’t sure how best to file it. A decision was made to completely move to an electronic filing system. As a result a scanner was purchased and I helped my client identify and set up a simple electronic filing system.
My working on this project meant that my client now had more structure – with specific days of the week to work on each role. She knew now how to set expectations for herself, her boss and her family. Planning her time and energy became easier and natural, given that she had a clear vision. Prioritising and knowing what needed her attention was easier now that she had a system to deal with current projects, emails and information (files). She realised it was important to have time for herself and her interests, because she could experience how much more motivated she was to work.
Boundaries between working hours and family time were set. My client could now tell if she could take more work or if she should be letting go of roles that didn’t fit with her vision. She felt relieved and ready to take on the new responsibilities that were coming her way. Her working environment and attitude towards dealing with work became more confident.
My time spent assessing my client on time management, information management and email management meant that my client could grow as a professional and enjoy her personal time without feeling frazzled and stressed.