1 average week in my life equals:
- 61 work hours
- 20 hours of working out
- 36 meetings
- and over 2000 emails received.
1 week i my life also equals:
- zero inbox
- three breakfasts with my wife
- being home for dinner each night
- and a relaxed state-of-mind.
When I first decided I was going to compete in a full Ironman, I knew I was going to have to step up my time-management skills. Balancing the needs and expectations of my family, employees, and clients was definitely going to be a challenge. So I took the challenge head-on. The following paragraphs are some of the things I have done (and with which I have been mostly successful) to make my week fit together like a tightly woven basket.
- Weekly planning time
- Zero Inbox
- Scheduled workouts for 9 months
- Weekly recurring meetings on calendar- indefinitely
- 3 Week out planning
- Calendar invites for everything (even with my wife)
- Scheduled “project time”
- Discouragement of voicemail
- Empowerment of Employee ownership
- Expectation discussions
Weekly planning time: Each week, I sit down for 1 hour on a Sunday to review my upcoming week. I check to see what meetings I have, what projects I am working on, which people I need to get in touch with, and what else needs to be moved around or confirmed. I then book the holes in my calendar with project work and phone calls. I email confirmations of meetings, and move or reschedule appointments as necessary. This has drastically cut down on last-minute scheduling errors or emergencies (such as too little drive time scheduled to or from meetings).
Zero Inbox: This is a huge one. I see email as a challenge I have to tackle each day. Every spare moment in a day, I respond to the small urgent questions of those I am communicating with. I immediately read and delete updates/information emails, and I read and leave to-do tasks in my inbox. Then, I sit down and plow through the to-do’s: sending out emails, building proposals, and responding to client needs. I always have a small set of 50-60 emails that I plow through on Saturday and Sunday.
Scheduled workouts: I booked out my specific workouts for 1 year. Each week, if I have a networking meeting or other conflict, I adjust the scheduled workout on my calendar to ensure that it happens. Moving the workout on my calendar has proved immensely more effective than just mentally planning to get it done.
Recurring meeting times for everything that happens weekly/monthly: All meetings that happen internally are booked on weekly recurring meeting times so that future meetings can be scheduled around them. Every organization or group I am a part of or lead is put on a recurring calendar time, so that future meetings can be scheduled appropriately.
3 week out planning: My weeks have gotten to the point where my calendar is fully booked 3 weeks out. This forces me to change the way I think about future planning and meeting with people. First, it’s very easy to book meetings with people 3 weeks out because they rarely have conflicts, and can fit into whatever time/location is best for “me.” Second, it allows me to schedule time to prepare for the meeting and make sure the meeting is productive.
Calendar invites for everything: I use Google Calendar for everything and send calendar invites for every meeting I attend. If I check and see that someone hasn’t accepted the invite, I email or call to confirm it is on. If I don’t get a response or confirmation, I don’t show. This has helped to prevent hundreds of useless hours wasted waiting for someone only to find out someone had the time or location wrong. It has also allowed me to ensure time with my wife and to make sure that both of us are on the same page (priceless).
Scheduled “project time”: Scheduling time to build proposals, work on projects, and generally “get stuff done” has helped me stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes I book time late at night, but the act of having something on a calendar ensures I see it and get it done in time, instead of scrambling last minute to complete a task or project.
Discouragement of voicemail: I am in back-to-back meetings all day, so it is impossible for me to return phone calls before 9pm unless I can make the call from the road while I am driving to my next appointment. In the past, this led to a black hole of voicemails. So I changed my voicemail to say, “Hey there you’ve reached Brandon Dempsey, if this is a marketing emergency please call the office at 314-74-8712 or text me at this number. The best way to get a hold of me is to email me at bdempsey (at) goBRANDgo… and if by now you have listened to this long message and still want to leave a voicemail- please go ahead and I will return it as soon as I can.”
This ridiculously long message has taken my average voicemail count from 6-or-7 a day to 6-or-7 a week, and has drastically reduced my number of upset clients, employees, and family members.
Empowerment of Employee ownership: I like to make decisions. I like to be involved, but I had to learn to let go and allow others to make decisions and take ownership of clients, projects, and scheduling. I have worked hard to empower my employees with decision-making authority and with the ability to execute those decisions. There are times that the wrong decision is made, but for the most part, this has allowed them to grow and has improved my relationships with them and our clients.
Expectation discussions: During a lot of my conversations with people I now clearly say, “So my expectation is that you have xyz under control and no longer need my involvement…” or, “my expectation is that you are going to contact them and take care of x.”
This has improved the often gray areas of communication where in the past, both parties expected someone else to do something. Clear expectation communication has improved information flow drastically reduced errors, hurt feelings, and dropped balls.
While the methodologies above are all continuous works of improvement, these 10 best practices have allowed me to be tremendously more productive, communicative, and have prevented countless hours of lost productivity or inefficient time handling.
What best practices have you employed to help make your life more productive and get it all done?