Mental boxes

Chris Brogan is a business hero of mine. He’s built his own escape velocity in every sense. His blog is great a platform showing a balance of marketing, business, new media and raw advice. This has got him to AdAge’s marketing list at #3 (behind King Seth and the much-overrated Copyblogger). He shares ideas and advice in a philanthropic and life-coach way. As such, he’s one the more sensible Americans in the Twitter elite.

I really like his three-word riff. It’s his clever play at managing New Year resolutions. Three words to constantly remind you of where you want to be for 2011. Here’s something else I’ve found equally helpful in the getting-your-head-around-your-busy-life department: moving boxes.

I set up a spreadsheet that shows an overview of what I’m trying to achieve in the coming months. It’s not a detailed life or business plan but it prevents me trying to take on too much today and allows me to see progress without thinking I’ve got a million things yet to do and how will I ever get there.

Firstly: compartmentalise

I find compartmentalising things immensely helpful. I can cope with far more tasks and projects as long as I’m fully aware what plates are already in the air, what’s on them and where they are in their lifecycle. Putting things into a compartment is the knowledge and ability to mentally file away new issues and tasks. It means new developments don’t end in tears when looking at an already lively workload.

– Split big areas into individual sections e.g. re-launching your marketing campaign would fall in your work category; increasing your own Twitter usage would come under personal promotion.

– Include things that will take mindshare in your business and personal life. Also don’t be afraid to list a reward e.g. hit sales target this quarter and treat yourself to a new toy or a weekend away (it’s important to reinforce a positive otherwise it can all become a chore regardless of good or bad results).

Secondly: be realistic with time

Economists would say everything comes down to scarcity of resources and this is born of the same breadth. You can’t physically do everything right now or even this quarter, so prioritising, delegating and monitoring all play a huge part in your work life.

– Split your areas across weeks or months

– Be realistic and don’t over commit

– Be ruthless and stick to the priorities you set yourself regardless of other distractions (e.g. you planned to book your 2012 ski holiday in June so stop wasting time, surfing through choices today).

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