We can all be ‘busy fools’ by not planning effectively and instead reacting to whatever is presented to us or ‘he who shouts loudest’! So today I am going to help you juggle less tasks and become laser-focused with effective time management and productivity tips.
[01:38] How to break your year plan into daily calendar entries
[02:45] When planning your day put times by each task rather than just work through your list from A-Z
[03:37] Prioritise your day by doing the hardest things first (not last!)
[04:30] Plan your day in 30-minute chunks and don't underestimate how long tasks will take!
[05:19] Overestimate how long tasks will take (to cope with the unknowns that will invariably happen)
[06:20] Block out time in your diary that is uninterruptible
[08:30] Physically cross out tasks as you complete them
[08:55] Your daily goal should be to cross off all tasks
[09:40] Aim to start and end your day in the same way everyday - your morning and evening rituals
[10:50] Set your big goals for the week (by looking at your month plan)
“When planning your day, always strive to do the hardest things first.” - Rob Da Costa
“Your daily goal should be to cross off all tasks rather than carry any over.” - Rob Da Costa
“We overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do n the long term.” - Bill Gates
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In today's podcast, I want to share with you the approach I take to managing my time. Specifically, how I plan my day and my week. I thought I'd record this because I see many of my clients making the same mistakes when it comes to planning their days, and that can lead them to work long hours to never have that sense of accomplishment and therefore feel like they're taking one step forward and one step backwards. So today, I want to focus on how to stop juggling so many balls and become laser focused.
So let's dig in and let's get on with the show. I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator Podcast as someone who has stood in your shoes, having started to grow and sold my own agency and just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing my and my guest's experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable business. Now, before we jump into today's show, I want to ask you a big favour, especially if you are a regular listener to the podcast, and that is to make sure you have left a review on Apple podcasts.
And also, of course, make sure you've hit, subscribed and shared this episode with your colleagues. That can be quite complicated to actually leave a review. So I've shot a quick 32nd video, put in the show notes, to show you exactly how to do that. Okay, thank you so much for doing that. And let's jump into today's content, all about how to stop juggling so many balls and therefore become laser focused. Now, I hope that you have a plan for the year for your agency, and I'm not gonna jump into that today.
But if you do have a plan, you'll be breaking that year down into quarters and then breaking the quarters down into months. And then the next stage after that is to take those monthly plans and break them down into weeks, and then today in two days and then put them into your diary. That is a really good practice for making sure that the steps you take every single day, a micro level, are driving towards that bigger picture macro level of delivering your vision for the year, and that is the only way you're going to do it.
If you have a vision for the year and then you just kind of hope that it happens. Well, I'm sorry to say that it probably won't happen, and maybe you'll have achieved a few of the goals, but undoubtedly there will be many goals that you haven't achieved. So we need to take this step approach from bigger picture thinking and chunking it right the way down until we get into the weeds and the detail of what we're going to do on a day-to-day basis.
So that's the first thing that you need to make sure you have done, which has a year's vision, break it down into quarters, break the quarters down into two months, break the months down in two weeks and then take the weeks and break them down into what you're gonna do on a day to day basis and put them into your diary. So let me share with you a few tips that work really well for me, so I know they will work for you as ever; I practise what I teach.
So I know this stuff works. So the first thing is that when you're planning your day, you want to put time into the activities. I often see people opening up their pads, and they list all the tasks that they're going to do, and then they just work in a linear fashion from top to bottom. And that is a surefire way of making sure that you end your day with half the task that hasn't been done. And then you just have to transfer them over to the next day, which is not the greatest thing to do.
It never really ensures that you're focusing on the right things that move the needle. And it also leaves you with a sense of lack of accomplishment because you've got this big list to do before you've even started planning the following day. So if that's the way you plan your day, typically, I would say, make your list first of all, but then you need to prioritise it. And the way to prioritise it is to make sure you are doing the most important things first and make sure you're doing the hardest things.
First, I see a lot of people who create to-do lists, and then there are maybe five things on that list that they can check off really quickly, so they think they'll start with that. Meanwhile, there's a difficult report or this proposal looming in the background. That's kind of getting harder in their minds because they're sort of putting it off. So rather than doing that, you should do that report or that proposal first because not only have you got it out of the way, but you will also feel really good about yourself.
And invariably, those things don't take as long or are not as difficult as you anticipated in the first place. So you're gonna have your list for the day, and you want to prioritise it into the most important things first, and then you want to start assigning time to those tasks. Now, my advice is that you plan your day to the nearest 30 minutes so that you might say 9 to 9:30, you're doing this from 9:30 to 10:30. You're doing that from 10:30 to 11 and so on, and you also want to schedule in there when you're gonna take a break, when you're gonna have lunch or when you're gonna you know. Like for me, when I'm working at home, when I'm going to the gym and when I'm going to walk the dog, I put all of those things in my daily plan.
Now the most important thing to say at this point is that we tend to underestimate how long a task will take. So even if we planned our day down to the nurse half an hour, something takes more than half an hour, and then suddenly everything else, like a house of Domino's, has fallen over. And then our plan goes out the window. So we ignore it and just get on with our day. And then, of course, that isn't going to ensure that you're focused on the right things.
It's not going to leave you with a sense of accomplishment. So when you are planning your task, you absolutely need to overestimate how long the task will take. I'm going to say that again because it's that important. You need to overestimate how long the task will take. Now, this does two things. First of all, it ensures that you've got some flex when a task takes longer than you thought. But second of all, if there are things that are going to interrupt your day, which of course, invariably there are phone calls from clients or a situation that you couldn't have possibly anticipated at the start of the day, then this gives you some flex to do that.
So if I've got a task that I think will take me 40 minutes, I plan an hour for that task. And then that's going to allow for all those unknowns that will invariably happen in your day. Now, of course, if you do get that task done in 40 minutes and you scheduled an hour well, guess what? You've now won back 20 minutes of your day, and you're going to feel really good, and you can move on to the next task or even slot something else in.
So that is a really important point to make, which is to overestimate how long tasks will take to plan for all those unknowns that you couldn't possibly plan for at the beginning of your day. Now, talking about that hard task, there is a really important task. We need to make sure that we are blocking out time. That is uninterruptible, so this is the time when you don't want to answer the phone when you don't want someone coming up to your desk and asking you a question when you don't want a chat box pinging up when you don't want to check your emails.
So we need to have that time in our day every single day. It can't be. Hold the whole seven or eight hours, but it might be an hour here in an hour there, and one of the ways to do that is to make an appointment with yourself and to think right, this is time I'm not available for anybody else. In effect, you want to shut your office door so that other people know that you can't be interrupted if you want to be efficient. You have to do that because when you are writing that proposal, writing that report, and you need to have your head in the game, you're going to get that task done much more quickly.
If you can just focus solely on that with your head so totally focused on that. If, of course, you are doing that, and then you get interrupted, and you see an email pinging in, and you go and answer it. Now your head's come out of the game, and you've got to kind of get back into it. So that task is and ends up taking 50% longer if you're interrupted two or three, or four times while you're trying to do it. So make an appointment with yourself. That is a really good way of doing this.
I remembered years ago, I worked with someone very busy, and she would schedule time in her diary to write a report. So she put in her diary working on this particular report. But then people would have access to her diary, and they would see it, and they would think, "Oh, well, I can interrupt that because that doesn't look that important." So I'm going to invite her to come to this meeting. And she constantly found that time she was scheduling in a diary. To do this difficult task was being overwritten by other people.
So I told her to put an appointment in her diary so that other people wouldn't know what it was for. So if you do have that same problem, then just put an appointment in there so that other people won't interrupt. Now, if you use a physical notepad or even an app to plan your day to do your to-do list, I use an app called Marvin, which I really like, and I put a link in the show notes to it. You want to be able to physically cross off the task from your list, so obviously, it's a notepad.
You can just literally cross it off, but if you want to use an app like I do the way, you can literally do that as well. So it gets great out when you tick the box to say the task has been completed, and I've got to say there is nothing better than at the end of the day seeing an empty to-do list with all of the tasks crossed out. There is a really big psychological benefit of crossing tasks out as they get done, so that's something else I would advise you to do.
Whether you use a physical notepad or an app for that now, the goal obviously should be that at the end of every day, you've crossed off every single task on your list rather than carrying the task over. And if you find yourself constantly carrying tasks over again and again, then you have to ask yourself, "Was that task really a priority? And should I go just not have it on my list and am I completely overestimating how much I can get done in a day?".
And therefore, I need to be more conservative, which will help me really think about what my priorities are because my goal has to be to cross everything off. So the next day, I start with a clean slate. Bill Gates said it very well that we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term. But underestimate what we can do in the long term. And in this context, the short term will be your day or your week plan. Now, let's just talk a little bit about when you should create to-do lists, and I'm going to refer you back to Episode one, where I talk about my favourite productivity tools, techniques and hacks.
And in there, I talked about morning and evening rituals, so I'm not gonna jump too much into that. But suffice it to say that you should start and end your day in exactly the same way every single day. So you might want to start your day by making your coffee and checking your emails, and doing all that stuff, but you're then going to make your plan for the day. And indeed, at the end of the day, you might start making that plan for the following day.
So I always think you should start the day by making your plan because that's going to give you a sense of control. It will give you the time to see the bigger picture for the day before you get consumed by the minutiae and stuck in the weeds of tasks to do. But rather, you'll take a step back, and you will plan your day. And then, at the end of the day, you want to review your day and start creating an outline for the following day. If you do that consistently, then creating this to-do list and using it, as I've outlined in this podcast, will become second nature and very easy for you to do now.
You might want to take that a step further and say, once a week. I'm actually going to set my big goals and big rocks for the week. What are the things that I want to achieve? And then, of course, on a day-to-day basis, you're going to look at that list. Then, on a day-to-day basis, you're going to look at that list to identify the priorities that need to go on your daily to-do list. So you might want to create a week plan as well, which identifies the big goals of the week.
And, of course, you're going to identify what those are by looking at your monthly plan as part of the vision that we talked about at the start of this episode. So there's a very methodical approach to this, and there's a routine that you need to get into in order to make the duelist concept work for you. But I guarantee that if you can implement this and remember, it takes 2040 days, whatever, to change a habit, so you need to be really diligent in committing to this to start with before it does become second nature.
But I guarantee that if you do it, you're going to feel really in control. And you're also going to feel confident that things that you do on a day-to-day or an hour-to-hour basis are the things that are going to drive your agency forwards. So this is super important, and the concepts I've talked about in this episode are exactly what I do. So, for example, this podcast episode was scheduled for an hour and a half in my diary in order for me to write an outline and then actually record and create the show notes.
Hopefully, it won't take me that long, but that's how long I've scheduled. And as I said, I practise what I teach. So everything I've outlined in this podcast is exactly what I've learned in terms of best practice, but also what I implement in my own business and my own day as well. So I hope you found another practical episode. And if you did find it, you saw, as I said, over, please do consider leaving a review and make sure you've subscribed and shared this episode with your colleagues.
Other than that, I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.