Are you using these checklists?

Do you use checklists at work?

I do.

When I left my first permanent job for pastures new I was asked to produce a bible. A HOW TO for doing my job. I filled a spiral bound notebook with guidance, top tips and most importantly checklists which I understand was a great success and was used by my successor.

Since then I developed a habit of keeping checklists where possible as they proved incredibly useful (and saved a lot of time at later dates).

The checklists I designed for my job are split into 3 categories:

1. “How to” Checklists and Training Materials

These checklists are mainly used for training purposes and are designed to give the basic information to new starters and trainees that they can refer to or work through Step-by-Step. These also form part of my ‘bible’ for when I move on from a job. These are mainly used for straightforward technical matters where little or no discretion or knowledge is required.

2. Customer, File Or Project Overview Checklist

These checklists are used for the day-to-day job. You can set them up by file or customer or whatever category best suits the job. For example: you might want a checklist for the life cycle of your file / project so you can see what progress you are making and ensure you tick off all the different steps and don’t miss anything out. These are designed so that they can be used by you or another member of your team or anyone doing the same job. These are designed as standard documents but which save time by setting out everything clearly, streamline a process so everyone is doing the same thing or is used as a checking mechanism to minimise mistakes.

A well designed checklist can both save time and ultimately be used as your to do list.

3. Personal Checklist

These are checklists designed for personal use rather than for the use by a team. These include things that YOU specifically need to remember to help you do your job. For example I have a checklist for various documents that I proof-read as I find that both myself (and others) have the same blind spots time and time again. I will keep a checklist for things to double-check when proof-reading. Another example is where I make regular phone calls to various financial institutions. I often note which security questions they ask so that I have that information readily available as each institution seems to ask for different information and I waste time flicking through the file each time (It can also be useful to note the options on the automated service).

All the checklists (however they are designed and used) should be useful. Don’t forget some aspects of your job will become second nature and it is not necessary to keep a checklist for everything as this can waste time rather than save it. The key is finding a balance after all using a checklist should help you work efficiently, work to a high standard and in a consistent manner, prevent common errors or mistake and if your job requires you to –  assist with staff training.

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How to Plan for when you are on holiday

Before you go away try to leave your work in a ‘tidy’ state and leave comprehensive holiday notes for anyone covering your job while you have a few days off.  Where possible try to schedule in advance or circulate things early.

Depending on the turnover of your work try to start your holiday notes a week in advance to make sure you have covered everything. If you rush something together in the final moments before freedom you are more likely to omit something important. Start too early and the ‘current position’ will have changed by the time you are leaving the office.

I have created a #flashfreebie as an example of the template that I use for my holiday notes which could be adapted to suit the needs of your job.

Flash freebie: Holiday Notes

Whatever form you choose to complete your holiday notes in, just make sure your colleagues are aware of the following:

  1. Urgent Items – what deadlines must be met, what bills must be paid
  2. Items you have left with another colleague  – be clear about which of your colleagues you have left work with, and brief them before you go. All colleagues who have been allocated work to cover should be emailed a copy of your holiday notes (and your secretary should have a copy too).
  3. Which items can wait until your return
  4. Any phone calls, post or emails you are specifically expecting.
  5. Note the “Current Position” in case a client or customer phones ‘for an update’.

and before your leave the office don’t forget to:

  1. Tidy your desk and leave files in the proper place so people are able to find them in your absence.
  2. Make sure anyone actively covering your work knows where relevant files and documents are.
  3. Turn on your Out of Office.
  4. Change your answer phone message if this is company policy.
  5. If you need another member of staff to ‘sign things off’ make sure you ask them first and don’t just assume. Have a workable system in place.

Once you have done all this you can rest easy and have a stress free trip (and hopefully not get any emergency calls or emails).

The Holidays are here

I have the oddest holiday allowance at work, but it usually ends up that in a 6 month period I get a week off (for my going away time) and 5 odd days which I tend to use for ‘me days’.

This year I am taking a one week cottage holiday in August which will be a mixture of ‘me’ time, catching up with friends and family and spending some quality time with my other half. (yep, 9 days to fit all that in).

I also want to take a few days for some more personal ‘me time’. Some down time when I am simply not in work. Time to draw, paint, write and generally be creative (all the things I can’t do in work).

It is easy not to have a plan for the summer, but you should have a basic plan if you are to make the most of your time off. Even if it is just planning to take advantage of the good weather and relax. Schedule it in.

How to make a free time plan:

1. Write a Summer Bucket List

Make a list of the things you want to achieve this summer. Strike some items of your bucket list and add some new ones.

Free Download: Summer Bucket List (for your Filofax)

2. Find a happy medium

When you have time off, schedule time to relax. Don’t be so busy that you don’t get any rest and relaxation, but if you are bored you clearly aren’t using your time wisely (and this boredom will put you off revisiting this experience if you are a workaholic).

3. Indulge in your hobby

You should be doing this on a regular basis in any event, but if you have the day off (or week off) schedule in some hobby time where you can take advantage of the extra time. E.g. Catch up with some friends with a round of golf. Go on a day trip when you have the extra travel time.

4. Attend Events

Check out what is going on in your local area and get involved. The summer months are packed with festivals, outdoor movies, summer parties, longer opening hours etc. Don’t miss out. It won’t be long until we are all moaning again about the rain and the dark nights.

5. Read a Book

Catch up on your reading – indulge by reading a few chapters of that book you have been meaning to read.

6. Catch up on Chores

Only after having some time to yourself should you really be using your time to catch up with chores. Set aside a specific amount of time for chores so they don’t take over your whole holiday.

7. Review and Manage

Take the time to review your to-do list, your daily default schedule and all the other ways you manage your time. Take some of your free time to assess how well it is working and consider how you can generate extra free time.

Time Management: Prioritisation

Last week I wrote about using paired analysis to help prioritise items on your to-do list. Using this method you compare items on your to do list and decide which is the most important. This is a great method but you also have to be consistent when determining what is more important for it to have real value.

What values or criteria should be used when assessing importance? There are 3 CORE drivers within task prioritisation:

  • Time
  • Importance
  • Value

You should consider the answer to the following questions to help PRIORITISE your tasks effectively:

Time

Consider:

  • How long will this task take? Do you have the time available now?
  • When does the task have to be done by? Is it a soft or hard deadline?
  • Do you have to set aside the time to do it?

Action: either do it now or set aside some time and mark it in your diary.

Importance

Consider:

  • How important it is to get this task done? Who else is this task important to? (Consider the overall effect).
  • Is the task my responsibility or should someone else be doing it?
  • What other tasks or outcomes are dependent on this task getting done?

Value

Consider:

  • How valuable is this task to me? (Consider your goals, aspirations and personal needs)
  • How valuable is this task in monetary terms?
  • How might I be able to use this task to drive other financially viable projects/incentives?

Action: Evaluate how the task fits in with your career development plan (and your corporate goals).

If you are struggling with your prioritisation use these questions to help you evaluate what should take priority.

Time Management: Prioritisation using Paired Analysis

So you have written up your to-do list and it is a mile long, everything needs to be done ASAP… how do you prioritise the items on your list?

Prioritisation can be difficult particularly if you work for others and lack control over your own to-do list/workload.

Today I am going to share a prioritising technique called ‘paired analysis’. The paired analysis process allows you to compare each task on your to-do list relative to the others.  It is simple – compare two items and decide which is more important. You simply look at two items at a time and fill in the grid – rather than comparing the list as a whole. This makes it more manageable and less overwhelming.

1. Download the free Worksheet

Grab it here.

2. Write your do to list

Write your to-do list in the left hand column (or copy the items you want to prioritise from your to-do list into this list). You don’t have to write them down in any particular order nor do you have to completely fill the box. The next steps will do the priorising for you with however many items you have.

3. Complete the Grid

Each box on the grid represents a pairing. Mark in each box which is more important and then grade the importance – 1, 2 or 3. 1 being a bit more important and 3 being a lot more important.

So for example lets take the first box.

  • Compare Task A with Task B.
  • Is Task A or Task B more important?
  • Write the letter of the task that is more important in the box.
  • Next consider how much more important it is. 1, 2 or 3?
  • write this number in the box beside the letter.
  • continue for all the items on your list.

4. Total the Scores

Now you need to add up the total number of points for each letter and write the total in column T. Complete this for all the relevant letters.

5. Rank the Tasks

Finally, rank the tasks by assigning a number to them in Column R. Number them from 1 onwards starting with the Task (Letter) with the highest total in column T. You should then have a priority order to work from. If more than one is tied. Pick one to prioritise (or toss a coin).

Time Management: One hour a day…

Do you have an “in the background” project that you are supposed to be doing? Are you getting it done?

No?

Quite frequently we have “in the background” projects such as filing, record keeping, databases etc that are ancillary to the job we do, a bit on the dull side but nevertheless important to do – at some point. Usually it is a mixture of ‘I don’t particularly want to do this’ and ‘I don’t have time to do this’ as quite often there are more important and more interesting things to be getting on with.

However, if we don’t dedicate any time to “in the background” projects they will never get done (or when we do have time will be so overwhelming that we don’t know how to get started).

The solution…

Step 1: allocate one hour a day to “in the background” projects.

For example, at the moment I am trying to update our client database at work. This is a long task and requires files to be checked and addresses etc to be updated, duplicates removed etc and then the re-labeling and re-filing of the files. I have the assistance of a secretary for this job but both of us are continuously kept busy with our ‘real job’. So we have decided to allocate an hour a day so that we know that we have at least made a little bit of progress each day.

Step 2: Choose a specific hourly slot

It is not enough to say you will dedicate an hour a day to the task you also need to think about when the best hour in the day is for you. Choose an hour where you will actually get things done with minimal interruptions or if an easy admin task when your productivity is at rock bottom.

For example I normally choose the first hour of the day as I am an early bird and in the office before everyone else. This gives me some time which is usually interruption free so I can get it out-of-the-way before starting the rest of my day. By contrast the secretary who is assisting me has chosen the opposite end of the spectrum and uses her last hour of the day after the post has gone as anything she does after post will not be going out until the next day anyway. She can’t do it in the morning like I do as she is usually swamped with phone calls.

Step 3: Block it out in your Calendar

Add it to your schedule or diary.

Time Management: Review and Adjust

There is always something that you have been trying to get off your to do list for the past month and it has not been happening. Don’t worry we all know that feeling. The solution: review the situation and adjust your strategy.

Unfortunately when faced with this sort of situation where you are not getting things done we have a tendency to procrastinate and postpone the task or action but do not always take the time to consider WHY it is not getting done.

So next time you are faced with this situation consider:

1. why is it not getting done?

(I don’t use the excuse “I don’t have time”).

  • you are waiting for…
  • you are avoiding…
  • you hate…
  • nothing…
  • task is too big…
  • you need…
  • you don’t have…

2. Then consider whether this is a genuine reason or a procrastinating excuse

Too often we convince ourselves that we have a reasonable excuse or reason, when really we are just putting it off for no good reason.

3. Finally consider HOW you are going to get it done!

For each to-do item consider “an action” to take you one step closer to getting it done. If you are genuinely waiting on someone else, chase them. If you are simply procrastinating SCHEDULE in time to do the task into your diary – break it down into bite-sized chunks if necessary. Have an Action Plan.

Flash Freebie: Stop Procrastinating Checklist (Filofax)

Flash Freebie: Stop Procrastinating Worksheet