Karen Lum of KLum Consulting, has helped the KRose Company so much with organization and prioritization, that we just had to ask her to share her thoughts will all of you! She gives some tools that she has found and loves and we can’t wait to share them, enjoy!
Organization skills and prioritization methods are abundant online; in fact, there are so many options it can feel quite overwhelming to determine what prioritization methods and organizational tools to adopt for your own professional success. Here is the real key to finding a great prioritization method that works for you; you first need to understand how you think and function best. If you start with understanding your own tendencies and stuck spots you will have far more success when vetting systems and tools to support you with prioritization of goals and tasks.
So how to go about doing this… here are a few options: Find an assessment tool or two that you can take to learn a bit more about how you are wired. Insights Discovery, Myers Briggs are both long-standing assessment tools that can provide insight. The Enneagram assessment has also become quite popular in providing perspective about characteristics and tendencies of individuals.
In addition to these tools, you can do some of your own assessment through journaling and answering questions about your current processes.
Here are 7 self-assessment questions:
- Do I have a realistic sense of how long tasks take?
- Am I currently using any method at all to track my tasks or time? If yes, describe the method?
- What time of day do I feel most in ‘my zone” and productive?
- Do I get overwhelmed easily? If so, what specifically triggers my feelings of overwhelm?
- What communication method is my preference when someone is delegating work to me?
- Do I prefer hard copy business and organization tools or electronic tools? Why?
- What is my process for evaluating progress on my goals?
I have three tools that I, as well as many of my clients, use and have had success with and I would love to share them with you!
Trello is an online tool with an app that works wonderfully on mobile as well. Of all the digital organizational tools I have tested or used, Trello remains my favorite. I tend to use a combination of electronic and hard copy prioritization tools and Trello’s interface feels a lot like an old-fashioned bulletin board to me (I dig it!). Trello utilizes digital “index cards” to support users in building out tasks, projects, timelines and accountable parties. It can easily be used by an individual or a large team who is collaborating on a larger goal.
Some of my favorite features of the Trello app are:
– The awesome UX of Trello that feels like a throwback bulletin board but on steroids (it works with my visual learning tendencies)
– Ability to physically drag “cards” to other areas of my “bulletin board”/project list
– Ease of sharing components of my Trello board with others when I want to collaborate
– Color-coding of tasks and projects
– Super smooth experience breaking down any “card” or task into a To-Do list with dates and action items
– The sheer versatility of the tool – basically Trello gives you this simple framework of a bulletin board with columns and you can build them out to reflect any tracking need or project you can think of! You can build an entire board that is just tasks by days of the week. Or you can build out a board that you use for brainstorming new projects. Its amazing and I kinda find it fun, which I can’t say about many professional tools!
I suggest you give my Top FIVE Priority List process a try for three weeks and see what you learn about yourself and the flow of your days. The power of this process is in its simplicity.
The Top FIVE Priority List forces you to focus in on your micro-planning while keeping the bigger picture in mind. I developed this tool for myself when I noticed how susceptible I was to sitting down at my desk in the morning and utilizing email as my guide for what got my attention. Regardless of what larger goals I had on my radar for the day, once I dove into email, I would quickly use an hour (or sometimes more) tackling correspondence or tasks that were not on my radar before that moment. Then I would spend the rest of the day playing catch up while trying to fend off all the negative self talk telling me how I had such a terrible handle on my schedule and had too much to do with the time I had. Can you relate?
Top Five Priority List was born out of my necessity to guide my focus each day and to give me a visual reminder of what I have committed to for the day. The process includes prioritizing the most critical tasks for the following day, before the end of your work day. It supports you in clearing your mind, making choices about how you plan to use your time and force ranking your tasks. Our brains love it when we narrow in our focus and build lists of 5 to 7 items (same reasons memorizing phone numbers works so well!). So do yourself a favor and try this version of micro-prioritizing and see what you learn about yourself and your schedule. The full directions for the Top Five Priority process can be found here.
Have you ever experienced a tough time balancing all your roles or feeling there wasn’t enough time each week to fit “it all in”. First of all, I am here to say, most weeks in our lives will not feel balanced. Try to stop seeking “balance” and your internal contentment meter will probably go up pretty quickly! There will be weeks where work takes first priority and other weeks where the needs of our families or personal goals take the lead. It’s a dance more than a balancing act.
I have found however, that having a tool (whether electronic or hard copy) that provides a week-at-a-glance view has been tremendously helpful in architecting effective schedules I can follow. I use a weekly desk calendar made by Smitten On Paper (but you could make your own as well) to chunk out major themes for each day of the week; this gives me a bird’s eye view of my week so I can experience clarity in how all my days line out for the week.
If you’d like to support a small business local to Bozeman, Hey Day Bozeman, has some amazing planning tools! They carry a lot of Smitten on Paper including the Week-at-a-glance planner I have mentioned and every time I go in, I am constantly finding awesome stuff! Check out their online shop here!
When using the week-at-a-glance tool, I suggest holding yourself to one AM theme and one PM theme. For example: Monday AM is “Admin tasks” and Monday PM is “Client Meetings”. Tuesday AM is: Proposal writing and Tuesday PM is: School pick up /family time. Sometimes an entire day needs to be dedicated to one theme and that is ok too.
The biggest benefits I have experienced since mapping out my week in this way, is a solid sense of the themes that dominant my week (that lets me mentally prepare for what is ahead) for example is this a big client-facing week or a lot of individual project work or maybe even a lot of after work commitments with my family), an opportunity to check in with myself regarding what my overarching priorities are and a chance to adjust them proactively rather than experience regret at the end of the week, a quick at-a-glance check in to see what is coming up in my schedule, any time I need a reference point.
I hope you find some of these processes and tools useful for your own prioritization and planning. Keep in mind, having systems is less important during the times when we are on-fire, in our zone and slaying the day. Systems and tools are there to serve us when we are feeling overwhelmed, disenchanted, lacking focus or feeling less than our stellar selves. Processes and tools are there to provide the structure and discipline we need to actually think LESS and just get to work. Because despite the myths floating around, motivation rarely comes before action; it is action (even micro-movements in the right direction) that then breed motivation and momentum to continue forward!
Here’s to momentum my friends!