Getting the Right Things Done When Your World Is Crazy Busy

By Vicki Voisin, ACP 

It’s no secret that we live in a crazy busy world. No matter how much you do, your “to do” list is still a mile long and you always run out of day before you run out of list. You’re forever scrambling just trying to just keep up. It’s probably safe to say that you’ve probably given up on staying ahead.

And that’s just at work…add your personal and social obligations and it’s no wonder you’d like to just hide under the covers some mornings and skip the rat race.

So how do you get things done? And not just any old “things” but the right things?

First, clear your mental desk. Take 10-15 minutes and write down everything that you need to do. This is everything that pops into your head, from the trial brief to your friend’s baby gift to your mother-in-law’s birthday card to getting a plumber in to fix that leak. These are just examples — you get the idea.

Second, grab a blank piece of paper or spiral notebook. Pick 7 important things from your “everything” list. Write them down…and actually write them, don’t type them.

Third, do those 7 things in the order you listed. When you finish with one, move on to the next, and then the next, working through all 7 one by one.

Fourth, do the same thing tomorrow. And the day after and the day after that. If you don’t finish something today, it can be moved to tomorrow’s list if you still think it’s important. If its importance has changed, forget it. Just because it’s on the list one day doesn’t guarantee it a place on tomorrow’s list.

Fifth, use a timer. Once you get this approach down pat, add a timer to your routine. For example, this newsletter is always on my “To Do” list so that it gets done in parts and doesn’t end up being an all day project. I allow 30 minutes for each part. So when “write newsletter” shows up on my list each day, I set my timer for 30 minutes and work on it for that chunk of time. This keeps me totally focused and I often get the newsletter done in less time.

One more thing: to tame the always present email, I check it at set times each day or between tasks (from above) if I’m expecting something important.

I also ‘book’ an hour into my calendar for each day when nothing’s planned. This time is used for whatever comes up and, if nothing comes up, I choose whether to do something else from my list, take a long walk, write an article or, if I’m really ambitious, make a really nice dinner for The Don. . .whatever I’m inspired to do.

The above makes three assumptions:

  • You have written goals and objectives AND are determined to achieve them.
  • You understand that perfection and procrastination may derail your ‘To Do’ list and you avoid them as much as possible
  • You delegate anything that isn’t in your best interest.

Time Management is a hot topic. This article gives you the simplest system for managing your time: write it down and do the things you’ve written down. Everything else is just noise that clutters your brain.

Your challenge is simple: Try the 5 steps above. As written. Give it three weeks and see how much more you’re getting done every day.

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©2010 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com