As the calendar reminder comes up with the dreaded 15 minute warning for another work stoppage event, it occurred to me how import it is to prepare for meetings to make them as productive as possible. I like to use Evernote to document all meetings and projects. Each morning I take a look at the scheduled meetings and start a new note for each of them by creating three sections:
- Items to Discuss
- To Do
Based on the meeting, I go through my master to do list and create bullets under ‘Items to Discuss’ to update the status of each item. I also comb through my inbox and add any issues that might be relevant to the meeting. It is important to spend time updating this section of meeting preparation, this can ultimately serve as a personal agenda so you can get all you points across to the rest of the attendees.
During the meeting I use the ‘Notes’ section to record items that pertain to my responsibilities and if actionable, they are recorded under the ‘To Do’ section. Once I have time to review my notes from the meeting, I’ll create new tasks in my master to do list from the ‘To Do’ section and give each item a priority based on the other tasks. I like to follow Brian Tracy’s (b|t) approach to prioritizing tasks based on his book Eat That Frog.
This is a great book that talks to procrastination and how to prioritize your biggest tasks (frogs) first instead of the smaller and easier tasks. By using his system, I’m able to knock out my big frogs and feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders. Before using his system, I would go through the day completing lots of smaller tasks, feeling great, but always knowing that the ‘big frog’ was always going to be sitting on my desk staring at me.
On a weekly basis I sit down with my manager for a one on one status meeting to talk through my priorities. I would suggest this for everyone to make sure your priorities line up with what is expected of you. Before each status meeting I’ll prepare the same way as any other meeting by creating a meeting template with in Evernote. For my one on one meetings, I like to review completed tasks for the week and set priorities for the upcoming week. Going over completed tasks is a great way to start the meeting off. It will give your manager an update of items you’ve accomplished for the week and set the tone for the upcoming week. Starting off on a good note leads to much more productive meeting in my opinion.
While I’m not in meetings and keeping my instances of SQL Server running their best, I like to use Thomas A. Limoncelli’s (b|t) recommendations in his book Time Management for System Administrators. This is a great book for those just getting started or the seasoned veterans looking for ways to maximize their day. One of his points in the book is to how to handle interruptions. Interruptions can be handled in three ways:
- Delegate It
- Record It
- Do it
Everyone dreads that simple question, “You got a minute?”, that rarely lasts under a minute. You get two or more of these questions a day, and you can throw a wrench into any plans you had for completing your priority tasks. When someone asks you for help, they just want to be acknowledged. This is where Tom’s process helps, first you acknowledge the question, then determine where it lies with your other priorities.
If you have the opportunity to delegate it, this is always your best option, get the monkey off your back! If it needs your attention and can wait, record it as a tasks, give the person asking the question an estimate to complete and go back to doing your higher priority items. The last option, and the most damaging, is doing the task at that instance. This is the best outcome for the person asking the question because they receive instant gratification, but requires you to break your concentration on your current task and shift your focus to something new. Don’t forget to record this as a completed item in your master to do list. These ‘little’ interruptions can push other tasks out, so make sure your manager is updated on interruptions during your one on one.
I hope these tips and two book recommendations help you prioritize your day and take control of interruptions!