Have you ever said to yourself, “If only I could get organized”? Well, you are not alone. Each day we are being pulled in many different directions. However, if you are not clear of your goals and what you want to accomplish by the end of the day, it's too easy to get distracted. I love this quote from Les Brown, “Most of us are more dedicated to our distractions than ourdestination.” Are you being distracted each day from what you are trying to accomplish? Well, you are not alone. As organized and disciplined as I am, I have those days where I end up at the end of the day and ask myself, “How did I end up over here?”
One of the strategies that has helped me over the years and especially now with the 24/7 mentality, is blocking out more time each week to prepare and plan. For me, this is foundational to increased productivity. I will typically set aside four to five solid hours either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and prepare and plan for the upcoming week. I do this so when Monday morning rolls around, it's game time and I am ready to go. Then, at the end of each day, I simply review what I accomplished and what I didn't and then re-prioritize for the following day. Over the years I have observed many salespeople prepare and plan at the beginning of each day. In my opinion, it's too late. The game has already begun. If you plan and prepare very early, lets say at 5:00 am. that is a different story. By being disciplined with this approach each week, it increases my confidence and my productivity. Let me ask you this. What happens to your confidence when you are not prepared for a situation? Do you lose it? People love doing business with people that are confident.
What do I prepare and plan for? About everything I can think of. Prospecting calls, follow-up calls, thank-you notes to send, proposals, presentations, workshops, coaching, appointments and emails I need to follow-up with. I call this “Self Organization Time.” During this special time I don't allow any interruptions. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. I am amazed how much I get done when I set aside time for planning. I am also amazed how little I get done when I don't. Another thing I do during “Self Organization Time” is THINK. I just sit and reflect and think. Nothing else. I think about where I have been and where I want to go. I love this quote from George Harrison, “If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.” It's so true.
I can just about hear what you are thinking, “That won't work for me. I can't be that organized. I can't live on a schedule like that.” Well, let me say this. You are already living on some type of schedule whether you like it or not. If it's not prepared and planned, it's probably a really poor one. I love this quote from one of my favorite books, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” It's your choice. No one is going to force you to prepare and plan your day in advance.
I remember years ago I was facilitating a sales workshop for a local company and I was talking about the importance of planning your activity in advance. David, one of the sales people yelled out, “I am one of the top salespeople in this company and I am too busy to plan my day in advance.” I listened to all the reasons why he couldn't plan his day in advance and then I responded with, “Let's look at this from a different perspective. You are too busy NOT to plan your plan your day in advance.” David sat there for a moment and pondered what I had said. I then challenged him and said, “Try it for 30 days and lets see what happens.” At the end of the day when David went home, it looked like he had been fired. There was only one piece of paper on his desk with his plan for the following day. A year passed and Davide called and thanked me. He told me that one idea double his income.
What's your excuse for not planning your day or week in advance? I've heard them all. The most successful people that I have met over the years are ruthless with their time. They don't allow anything or anybody to interfere with there schedule. Now, having said that, there is always an exception to everything. Each week I allow for the unexpected things which come up that were not planned. I have found that life goes a little better if I am more flexible. I don't plan each minute of every day. That is unrealistic. I do have a clear plan of what I want to accomplish each day and stick to it the best I can.
Let's talk about one of the biggest distractions of all time. I think it's email. I am not saying that email is not an important communication tool because it is if utilized properly. What happens when you are working away at your desk and your email chime goes off? You stop everything don't you? Well, of course you do. You can't resist looking can you? I can't. So this is what I have developed and it works quite well. SHUT IT OFF! All kidding aside. I open my email first thing in the morning. I check what's important, respond to what is needed and I then shut it off for at least two hours. I then focus on my tasks at hand. Couple hours goes by, the same process. Whatever was not important I either respond at the end of the day or even wait until the end of the week. Yes, I sometime wait 3-4 days to respond because it's not important. Try it sometime. It's amazing how much you can get done when you are not being interrupted every 30 seconds by email. There is always an exception. If I am corresponding back and forth with a client or someone, that is a different story.
There are many tools that will help you get organized and be more productive. Some of my favorite tools are my iPhone, iCal, Tungle.me (scheduling), GetFlow (projects and todo's) and Evernote ( notes, clippings and all the stuff) to name a few. Find something that works for you and stick to it. Life will be so much better.
Another quote from my favorite book, “He who ignore discipline come to poverty and shame.” Practice the discipline of preparing and planning in advance and watch what happens. There are three types of people the world. There are people that make things happen. People who watch things happen and people who wondered what happened.
Which one are you?