The Monday Message – What are the 6 most important things you should be doing today?

Information overload on an unprecedented scale, or at least you are being bombarded with more than you can possibly handle.

Emails, telephone calls and the new kids on the block – Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn.

But where on earth do you find time for the day job, which has become more and more pressurised and not just because of the billing targets but the complexity, regulatory burden, client demands and practising a defensive style of law (which makes you second guess every decision you make)?

The Monday morning routine is the same: Arrive, turn your computer on, scan for troublesome emails and then pick up where you left off on Friday: aiming to bill between 6-7.5 of chargeable hours, which means working, sometimes, twice as long just to make sure you get the clock into the green area.

It doesn’t take long for that relaxed sense that you finished Sunday night with to be pulped to nothing.

And then there are those clients who have a habit of storing things up and waiting until Monday to spring things on you. Dirty rotten scoundrels!

I often wondered why we made it so difficult for ourselves. Having worked a few weekends in my time, you were able to come in on Monday well ahead of the work game but your inner psyche was crying out for space to breath. Being in an office all the time just isn’t good for the soul.

To avoid the weekend slide, I would recommend that you plan each day the night before (the most important day being Monday). Now, of course, no day can be planned down to the last minute, but if you have been able to tap into your firm’s email system, you should get a good idea of what you need to squash come Monday morning.

Now planning is not new, and those people who say that planning the day before leaves you exposed on the long-term vision are missing out on the discipline of considering the here and now – which is far more controllable.

Getting a piece of paper (I used card that I can fold and put in my pocket) and writing down the night before the 6 most important things you have to do the next day is immensely liberating.

It is important that you allow yourself the opportunity to plan. Don’t leave things until the last minute on Sunday night or first thing Monday morning. Neither will work as well as sitting down with a blank piece of paper and thinking what you have to do a few hours before you go to bed.

Give yourself at least a minute of silence and no interruptions. It is amazing what thoughts will come into your mind.

Don’t get worked up if you only get through 2 from your list. The main thing is to make sure that you don’t keep carrying forward the same jobs day after day. If you have the same jobs by the end of the week then you may want to consider whether it is a job that you should be delegating.

Next time you arrive on Monday with that slightly harried feel, consider if having planned your day may have just given you the inner confidence to see the day out without losing some of that relaxed feel from Sunday night.

~ JS ~

8 responses to “The Monday Message – What are the 6 most important things you should be doing today?”

  1. Jon Bloor says:

    Totally agree that planning your day is critical (and something which a lot of people overlook).

    However, the “elephant in the room here” is the use of the email inbox as something which drives the structure of your day. Somewhere along the way email seems to have gone from being a communications medium to a substitute for task management – with checking and responding to your email inbox the first task of most people’s day (as you recognise in your post the workflow goes:- come in, turn on computer, check email – maybe with make coffee thrown into the sequence somewhere).

    I would suggest taking a step back to looking at the email inbox as what it really is (or should be) – one of several forms of incoming communication which needs to be processed periodically and added to your task management system.

    The biggest productivity lift here is to do your six items list and them come into the office and start work on it… and push back checking your emails until say 10am (by which time you will inevitably have made some progress on your list).

    There is no service level agreeement built into email (it doesn’t guarantee a response the next second) and making this one change gives you back a great deal of control over your workflow… rather than reacting all the time to your Monday morning inbox.

    There is a lot to be said for limiting your email checks to say 10, 2, 4 and just processing the contents of your inbox into whatever task management system you use at those times (so that you end up with inbox zero each time).

    I haven’t done this myself, but I have seen some people advise using an “out of office” type response to let people know you are doing this (“I check my email at 10, 2 and 4 each day – if you need a response more urgently then please give me a call”). Would lawyers get away with this or not do you think?

  2. Jon Bloor says:

    Totally agree that planning your day is critical (and something which a lot of people overlook).

    However, the “elephant in the room here” is the use of the email inbox as something which drives the structure of your day. Somewhere along the way email seems to have gone from being a communications medium to a substitute for task management – with checking and responding to your email inbox the first task of most people’s day (as you recognise in your post the workflow goes:- come in, turn on computer, check email – maybe with make coffee thrown into the sequence somewhere).

    I would suggest taking a step back to looking at the email inbox as what it really is (or should be) – one of several forms of incoming communication which needs to be processed periodically and added to your task management system.

    The biggest productivity lift here is to do your six items list and them come into the office and start work on it… and push back checking your emails until say 10am (by which time you will inevitably have made some progress on your list).

    There is no service level agreeement built into email (it doesn’t guarantee a response the next second) and making this one change gives you back a great deal of control over your workflow… rather than reacting all the time to your Monday morning inbox.

    There is a lot to be said for limiting your email checks to say 10, 2, 4 and just processing the contents of your inbox into whatever task management system you use at those times (so that you end up with inbox zero each time).

    I haven’t done this myself, but I have seen some people advise using an “out of office” type response to let people know you are doing this (“I check my email at 10, 2 and 4 each day – if you need a response more urgently then please give me a call”). Would lawyers get away with this or not do you think?

  3. Jon Busby says:

    I would strongly advocate the management of email by scheduling. You should be able to set up send/receive on Outlook so it is automated. So you could run the schedule at 9, 11, 2 4 along the lines of what Jon says. If unsure, just turn it off.

    There has apparently been research into this and that it actually does increase productivity because we are less distracted and when we go to get the email at the appointed times we are more enthused.

    As to the social media stuff. Most of that wasted time will get washed away when the hype is over and we start using it just with the people in our network that we find valuable. Just won’t happen in the near future because we are still in the ‘toy store’ stage of technology re social with companies bringing in new toys all the time to keep the whole thing moving. We will go home eventually.

  4. Jon Busby says:

    I would strongly advocate the management of email by scheduling. You should be able to set up send/receive on Outlook so it is automated. So you could run the schedule at 9, 11, 2 4 along the lines of what Jon says. If unsure, just turn it off.

    There has apparently been research into this and that it actually does increase productivity because we are less distracted and when we go to get the email at the appointed times we are more enthused.

    As to the social media stuff. Most of that wasted time will get washed away when the hype is over and we start using it just with the people in our network that we find valuable. Just won’t happen in the near future because we are still in the ‘toy store’ stage of technology re social with companies bringing in new toys all the time to keep the whole thing moving. We will go home eventually.

  5. Miriam Said says:

    I have a very good e-mail management system.

    I have 4 folders:

    Urgent
    Important
    Needs Reply
    Info

    Urgent gets done as soon as I’ve triaged my e-mails
    Important gets done after I have seen to the Urgent e-mails

    Then I do work

    After lunch I do an e-mail triage again and drag items into the four folders.

    An hour before the end of the working day I scan my Needs Reply folder and prioritise them into sub folders:

    Replies Tuesday
    Replies Wednesday
    Etc., you get the picture.

    I then check my Urgent and Important folders incase I’ve missed something

    The Info folder is for any e-mails I find interesting or which may contain information I will be able to read at my leisure.

    The spam gets deleted just before I leave for the day.

    If you are luck enough to have a Secretary, they could do this for you which allows you to check your e-mails when you want to as they have already been triaged.

    It works wonders for me and keeps me on top of the urgent and important stuff.

  6. Miriam Said says:

    I have a very good e-mail management system.

    I have 4 folders:

    Urgent
    Important
    Needs Reply
    Info

    Urgent gets done as soon as I’ve triaged my e-mails
    Important gets done after I have seen to the Urgent e-mails

    Then I do work

    After lunch I do an e-mail triage again and drag items into the four folders.

    An hour before the end of the working day I scan my Needs Reply folder and prioritise them into sub folders:

    Replies Tuesday
    Replies Wednesday
    Etc., you get the picture.

    I then check my Urgent and Important folders incase I’ve missed something

    The Info folder is for any e-mails I find interesting or which may contain information I will be able to read at my leisure.

    The spam gets deleted just before I leave for the day.

    If you are luck enough to have a Secretary, they could do this for you which allows you to check your e-mails when you want to as they have already been triaged.

    It works wonders for me and keeps me on top of the urgent and important stuff.

  7. Thanks for your great comments on email. I run a couple of accounts and do try and leave myself windows of time to look at what has come in but much like the one touch approach with paper, I try to action an email when I read it, rather than allow it to be stored up.

    Julian

  8. Thanks for your great comments on email. I run a couple of accounts and do try and leave myself windows of time to look at what has come in but much like the one touch approach with paper, I try to action an email when I read it, rather than allow it to be stored up.

    Julian

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