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We’re all busy, stressed and tired. We all have 1,000 (oh, just got a new email, so make that 1,001) things to accomplish before the end of the year. Instead of feeling like things are quieting down as we wrap 2015, work seems to be increasing. New priorities, new projects, new partners… (sure – these are all good problems to have) but where do we find the time to handle each task with excellence?! With the arrival of a 6lb, 12oz bouncing baby girl a few months ago, I’ve had to really focus on working smart. Hopefully the following tips can help you navigate this season and finish strong.

1. Set priorities.

Each morning, sit down and make a list (yes, a physical, written list) of the top three things you need to accomplish that day. Work on those first. FIRST! Don’t get distracted by the little things, thinking they’ll be easy and quick to tackle. Be sure to give the items that matter the proper attention. Finish your top items before moving on to new priorities that crop up throughout the day.

2. Multi-tasking is not always the answer.

FOCUS. Sit down and complete a full task. It will take you half the time to finish a project if you don’t allow yourself to be interrupted. You’ll be able to complete thoughts and you won’t waste time going back and forth between things, trying to pick up where you left off.

3. Keep an eye on incoming messages, but don’t respond right away.

Responding to each email as it comes in is a TRAP! Don’t get caught. Often, an email thread takes on a life of its own. If it doesn’t require your immediate action to move things forward… wait. Continue working on the task at hand and tackle it fully (see above). Designate time later in the day to respond to all emails. (To be fair to clients and partners, let them know that while some responses might not be immediate, you will get back to them by the end of each day.)

4. Put perfectionism in check.

I’m going to make a few assumptions – that you and I struggle with perfectionism.  You are most likely:

a) a dedicated business owner or employee,

b) who really cares about your work

c) you spend a little (or a lot) of extra time on projects making sure they are perfect

Perfect is good. However, every email does not require that you wordsmith it to death. Understand your audience and the purpose of your message. Communicate your thoughts and press send. If you’re working on a document, design templates for weekly updates, proposals, agendas, contracts, etc. This will save you from reinventing the wheel each time.

5. Stay in your lane. (Trust your team.)

The hardest thing for me to do is to NOT complete a project from start to finish, top to bottom. There is a lot of pride involved to want to be solely responsible for every detail, but if you’re lucky enough to work with an amazing team (like I do), trust their strengths. Start a working draft and get feedback, ask someone to help with administrative work, share your vision and trust that others can help you accomplish your goal. This will save you time and energy… and result in a stronger finished project.

NOTE: These are not earth-shattering and you’ve probably heard them all before… but have you ever committed to using these tools? Start today!