Nothing tests your time management skills quite like the switch from summer “vacation season” to the fall “stressfest” of work.
One thing is for sure, getting caught up in the mass hysteria of “too much to do and not enough time” isn’t going to be the best strategy.
But it is hard to go from one stressful extreme to the other.
Over the summer, you might have found it difficult to get things done because someone was always absent when something critical needed to be done or decided.
That’s because the most popular vacation time in America by far is between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
That can be a frustrating time to try and get work done.
Then, suddenly in September, everyone is back.
And they are freaking out because there is a lot to do in this period until the next “vacation season” comes at the end of the year (December is typically the next most popular vacation month in the U.S.).
That can be maddening. Because it’s a big shift from one extreme to another.
The good news is that you can reduce the stress of this transition with a few simple time management strategies.
That’s what I’m going to show you now.
Let’s plan to work more calmly and productively through this fall’s busy time of work.
First Step: Think Big About Months
The post Labor Day mad rush back to work in the U.S. does have one clear advantage. It’s a pretty clean run up to Thanksgiving.
You have pretty full months in September and October to get things done.
This is when you should probably focus on getting decisions made and resources aligned. People are back and they are busy. But they need to be accessible and you need to nail them down.
Book out some meetings well in advance. It’s human nature to more easily agree to things further into the future. While everyone is focused on the mayhem of the day, they will likely accept your meeting request for late September or early October pretty easily.
Once November hits, we will find ourselves in the run up to one of the biggest U.S. holidays, Thanksgiving.
In November, people start to split their world in two. There’s the stuff that happens before the Thanksgiving break and the stuff that happens after. You don’t want to be caught up in that. Get to people now.
After Thanksgiving, you have the run up to Christmas and other end of year holidays, including the end of the year itself. There are many demands on people’s time from lots of different directions.
This is a challenging time to organize. Which is why it’s best to have things planned and decisions made so that people can work individually and get things done.
Second Step: Pick Your Goals
Now that you have a sense of the rhythm of the next few months, pick some goals.
Here you will likely need to do a bit of triage. You should prioritize things by force ranking them.
This will help you to come to terms with the fact that everything might not be do-able. It will also help you to set a strategy for which priorities are more important than other ones.
Try to pick just a few big goals.
Then, think about who needs to be involved. Who needs to make decisions? Who needs to support the administrative process to make things happen? Who needs to do the work?
Now, start booking those meetings to make sure that these people are aligned to help move your priorities forward.
Third Step: Establish a Rhythm
There is tremendous strength in patterns. Humans are wired for them. You are, and so is everyone around you.
Do yourself a favor and establish some patterns that can serve you well over the coming months.
For you, this means a good set of daily rituals. These little things make all the difference.
The way you finish out your day, the way you start out your day, the way you revive your energy during the day. All of this helps you to get into a good cadence of productivity.
The biggest thing to focus on for time management is setting goals. Decide tonight what your main goal will be for tomorrow.
Go through a morning routine that prioritizes self-care and heightens your energy going into the busy work day.
And, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, take a break during the day. Productivity is lost when you try to just grind it out all day long. Take a walk. Go out for lunch. Call a friend.
Do something that takes your mind off of things at work for a bit. Then you can get back at it with a fresh restart for the rest of the day.
Wrap up your day with a ritual too. Neaten up your desk. Review your todo list. Pick a big goal for tomorrow.
Then go home and get some rest.
Establish a rhythm for others too. If you are leading a team or a project or anything that involves other people, get them used to a pattern.
Block out a regular meeting time and place. Establish a routine of regular email reports with a certain format. Devise a status report structure that will work for your project.
Do anything that helps to create a cadence for the work.
Most work comes with a natural cadence. Nowhere is that more evident than around the popular vacation seasons of the year.
You probably see it coming. The frustratingly fragmented summertime followed by the stupid-busy fall festival of work.
Ugh. What are you to do?
Take charge, that’s what.
You can sketch out big plans month by month. You can choose your goals strategically and align them with this natural flow.
Pick some big things to get done before Thanksgiving and then before the year’s end.
Then, create a rhythm for yourself and others to ensure that the decisions get made and the work gets done.
Patterns are soothing to humans. This is true for you and everyone around you. The more you can leverage this, the less stressful the more productive things will be.
Use the simple 3-step process outlined in this post to get your fall in better order this year.
And don’t forget to make your winter vacation plans 😉