It’s not easy to keep all the plates spinning and increase your productivity.
Some would question if it’s even possible with our busy lives of constant connectedness, work priorities and family.
But it is possible.
While there are thousands of books, articles, etc., that tell us how to be more productive, I struggle to make sense of it. Just trying to figure out how to apply all those different techniques, affirmations and time-saving tips makes my head ache.
I need simple.
I’m always searching for a better way to be more productive but I always come back to one technique that has done more for my productivity than any other method I have learned to date.
The power of parking
I have used the power of parking extensively throughout my career to become more efficient. It has increased my productivity and allowed me to set aside the “not urgent” work, which also allows my mind to be at rest.
We have all had days where we are juggling ten different things at work. Co-workers ask me time and time again, “How do you keep all the plates spinning at once and do it, for the most part, with a sense of optimism and enthusiasm?”
My secret is a system whereby I separate my deliverables and park those that are not urgent. This easy technique allows me to organize all the plates, keep them spinning, and actually increase my capacity. I can take on more work without missing a beat.
How to park in a few easy steps
Parking is simply putting a deliverable away until it has to be dealt with. Put it in a file, electronic or paper, and set up a trigger on your calendar for when it’s due. This allows you to free up your mind to focus on what needs to be done today. The parked items will be there for you when they come up in the queue you have created for them.
This allows you to step away from a linear method of thinking in which everything has to get done right away. You move to an “assess and decide” method for what has to be completed and when.
Use this decision tree to make it easy.
When a deliverable comes up, ask yourself: Does it need to be completed immediately?
- If yes, do it. Don’t wait, don’t procrastinate.
- If no, park it. Add it to your file and set up a trigger to complete it at a future date.
At the beginning of each day, look at your triggers and complete what has to get done. If dates can be adjusted, do that. You are now managing your workload rather than your workload managing you.
In the beginning it may feel like you are just pushing things off. This is not the case—keep assessing and parking and soon the process will become second nature.
The key to parking is communication
I have been working for 25+ years and have found that most deliverables are not urgent. The key to assessing a deliverable and dismantling “crisis mode” with a co-worker or your boss is to communicate clearly and ask specifically when a deliverable is due.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I receive an email outlining very clearly what the sender needs from me and there is NO deadline. If they can outline what they require, they certainly can add a deadline.
I’ve never suggested to anyone I work with that I am a fortune teller so for someone to think that I can guess what they are thinking is only going to lead to disappointment on both sides. And this is especially true with your boss.
Therefore, you must ask for a deadline. If the sender cannot communicate when the deliverable is needed, it goes to the bottom of your parked list. Done and done.
Communication is the key to using parking. It takes but a minute to tap out an email asking when something is due. You cannot park anything unless you know the due date.
Increase your bandwidth and do more
Parking will simply allow you to do more. It provides you the ability to work more efficiently and be more confident that you’re managing your entire workload. You will absolutely know what needs to be done and when.
When you have that peace of mind, you’re able to be more productive, think more clearly and execute with laser focus.
Before you know it you will have many plates spinning at once and your co-workers will wonder how you do it. Give parking a try!
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