Monday Morning Quarterback: Don’t Let What You Didn’t Do Kill Your Week

footballIf you’re like most of the world, you look forward to the weekends. And maybe in your desire to reach Saturday, you take a few shortcuts and make a few promises to yourself to get the leftover work done at some point before Monday.

Then, if you’re like me, you never have enough time to do it all and the weekend quickly gets away from you. Before you know it, you’re looking Monday morning right in the face and wishing you could borrow another four hours to catch up, get ahead or just have some extra time to ease yourself into the week.

But you can’t. As much as I’ve tried to change it, you get what you get when it comes to time and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can, however, make the most of the time you have. And when time gets the best of you, there’s a way to rebound, even if you’ve skipped over some stuff on Friday that is really haunting you come Monday morning.

This is what I do (in football terms, of course, in honor of the Super Bowl yesterday).

Give Yourself Stretching Time

It may be obvious but how often do you take a minute to close your eyes and take a deep breath before you start stressing out about what’s ahead? Before I get started, I breathe and do what I normally do in the morning. Eat breakfast, grab a cup of coffee, watch the news, etc. I’ve found that sticking to my routine is vital if I want to be able to maintain my pace and avoid crashing halfway through the day.

Tackle Email First

Monday morning means a lot of email for me, even if I did some work over the weekend. Before I even start looking at my to-do list, I hit email. At this first run through I do three things:

  1. Scan for high priority items and clean out the junk. If you’ve at least been peeking at messages over the weekend, this should take no more than a couple of minutes. I flag only the most important messages that require an immediate action and delete anything I don’t plan to read. Preview pane is a must-have for this step.
  2. Respond to the easy ones. You know that handful of messages that has been sitting in your inbox since last week that only needs one quick response sent and then it can get moved out of sight? Now is the time I take care of them. I take 20-30 minutes and respond to all of the quick-and-not-very-important-but-necessary emails, get them out of my inbox and clear some of the clutter.
  3. Make email actionable. During this last step, I take all of the high priority items I flagged and move them over to my master task list so they’re represented and get further consideration.

Pick the Starters and Name the Captain

Now that I have my email temporarily tamed and my to-do list updated, I pick out the most important tasks, the ones with the most immediacy. These are my starters and what I will be focusing on for the day. I move the rest out of my line of vision (for me, this means assigning the tasks to tomorrow in my project management software, but it can be as simple as mentally pushing them back).

Now from this high-priority list, I pick one, just one to be the most important, usually the one thing I should have done on Friday and meant to take care of over the weekend. This will be my first focus of the day.

Get in the Zone

Now its crunch time. I give myself a chunk of time, depending on what the task requires and I dig in. I do everything in my power to get rid of distractions and reduce interruptions and focus on that one task. The key here is focus.

Take a Time Out

At the end of my allotted time, I take a few minutes to regroup. Did I have enough time to finish the task? Are there any other spin-off tasks that get bumped to the top of the list? Can I cross it off and move on? For me, this check-in helps to maintain focus.

Have an Award Ceremony

Once I’ve determined the task is completed, I always make a point to chalk up the win and close it out in my project management software. It may seem secondary, but making this cross out step a conscious action (either physical or mental) makes me feel good about my progress, gives me a sense of control over the time I desperately need and motivates me to keep going.

Plan for Next Season

Just like in football, practice and repetition is key when it comes to time management. One task is done, then it’s time to move on to the next one on the list. The more I follow this pattern, the more efficient and productive I am. And the more I feel like I do have some control over time. Even if its just an illusion.

What helps you catch up at the start of the week and get yourself on a productive path?

Image credit: RonAlmog

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  • AndrewCooper

    This was the best article / blog you’ve posted so far! (From the previous ones I’ve read).

    Entertaining, riveting and still manages to focus on the topic of the article all at the same time without losing any integrity to the articles’ quality.

    To your question at the end – Sometimes I’m in such a productive mood that I do more than I really need to but not in an over-exhausting way. Which is great. On the other hand, when I’m not in a productive mood, I can sometimes end up in the SitePoint forums refreshing waiting for a reply from a topic and listening to music, doing nothing productive. I think the persons’ mood has a great effect on their productivity.

    Thanks for the entertaining and informative article! :)

    Andrew Cooper

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Glad you liked the post, Andrew. And I agree…some days are just so much more productive than others!

  • w1nk5

    what project management software do you use?

    • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

      @w1nk5 – I use Intervals. Highly recommend it.