This week we are starting a series on personal and professional productivity. We all have a billion things to do each day: sales calls, meetings, writing, family, managing employees, buying groceries, taking the kids to school, etc. If you are like me, you are only completing the priorities that are screaming at you. Not a good way to live. So to combat this, in some part, I called on several of the most productive people I know. People who are getting it done each day, achieving great success and making it look easy. Our guest blogger for this post is Darrah Brustein, principal of The MJT Group, a merchant services brokerage. She is also the VP of Individual Development for Junior Chamber International-Atlanta and the author of a popular blog for 20-somethings, the Betwixter.
As a card-carrying work-a-holic, I’ve had to come to bold realizations about the value of work/life balance. Particularly, as one who runs a business from home, it reminds me of those good-old college days when you lived, worked, and ate in your dorm room, thus resulting in little to no separation of work and personal life. A messy, blurry reality that oftentimes carries into our adult lives.
There is no magic formula (from what I can tell) for juggling everything life throws your way, but I really think it comes down to priorities. I get picked on for having an overflowing plate at all times (to give you a taste, I run one start-up, am launching a second, am on three volunteer boards, and write a blog), but for me, that’s how I perform at my best. The challenge is making time for things that I prioritize lower on my list, but know are important: time to call my parents, work out, or go grocery shopping for example.
Even though I’m a young professional, I’ve learned some tough lessons about burnout. From these experiences, I’ve found that with basic practices, I can find some balance in the chaos. A couple helpful tips:
Block your activities off into clusters. If that means you’re on the road and need to be in one part of town for three things, do those back-to-back. If you’re like me and do a handful of things, work on one, then switch gears to the other. Don’t try to do one, then shoot an email off for the other, jump back to a power point for something else, and take a phone call for the first. It’s tempting, but stay focused. It will save you time in the end and you can return the call/email when you’re ready. Make lists on paper or on your virtual calendar so you can move the ‘to do’ items around and have them in front of you when you’re finished with your last activity. For me, this allows my mind to stay tuned to the task at hand and get to what’s next, when it is actually next.
Generally, be cognizant of your time. Don’t say ‘yes’ to things you really don’t want to do. If you’re like me, you might just want to do it all, but simply can’t. Again, cluster commitments or ask for phone meetings to cut back on driving time. Respect your time and others will, too.
I could go on and on with ‘tips for productivity’ as I was asked to describe, but really, listen to your gut. If you’re not feeling ‘on’ one day, give yourself a break. Don’t force it. If you’re in the zone, focus on whatever task is at hand, knock it out, and keep pushing to the next. Don’t let laziness get the best of you, but on the same token (if you’re like me), don’t allow your drive to have the same effect. At the end of our time here, will you regret not working enough or not spending time with your passions? If those two intersect, you’re lucky, but there must also be time for health, a social life, and love. I guess that’s an altogether different subject. For now, go and be productive.
Darrah Brustein is an Atlanta transplant, by way of Philadelphia and Baltimore. She holds a BA from Emory University in Religion and Italian, which she naturally parlayed into a career in wholesale apparel sales.
Ready for a new challenge, she joined forces with her twin brother to go into business, brokering credit card processing. As a natural ‘sociologist’ of life around her, Darrah blogs to the ‘quarterlife’ generation, speaking on topics pertinent to them. She is an aspiring children’s book author, lover of finance, fashion, and real estate.