It’s a Sunday afternoon, and families are packed into a local cafe. While they’re laughing and breaking bread I’m camped out with a Diet Coke, catching up on a few things after traversing the country for a week, including penning this column 36 hours before my deadline.
A waste of a weekend day in upstate New York? Not when I put off these tasks on Monday afternoon to instead go for a mid-afternoon run, on a 75-degree, blue-sky day, in San Francisco. Making choices like this is one way I try and balance a workload that even a few years ago would have overwhelmed me.
Is your to-do list spiraling out of control? Try these six suggestions to tame the beast.
1. Review and reassign. If you’re part of a larger team, make sure to evaluate what’s on everyone’s plate at least biweekly, then reassign responsibilities for the short- and long-term.
2. Buy a break. Does your organization allow you to buy additional vacation time? While most companies offering the benefit require that you commit to the program at the start of each year, others may have more flexible opt-in procedures. If you tap into this, be sure not to leave your peers in a lurch; make it easy for them to fill in while you’re out.
3. Make minutes matter. Have five minutes free? Resist the urge to scroll your Facebook wall or browse that online sale. Instead, see if you can take care of a small job or chip away at a larger one.
4. Switch schedules. If you collaborate with a colleague or client in a different time zone, work on his or her schedule one or two days a week and aim for more live conversations versus time-wasting back-and-forth emails.
5. Sacrifice small stuff. If everything is a priority, nothing really is. Explore ways to minimize or eliminate work that ultimately will have little influence on the bigger picture, making sure your boss and your teammates are in the loop to avoid unpleasant surprises or finger pointing.
6. Define delight. You can’t do it all, especially if you’re trying to have any type of life beyond the office. Figure out what really makes you happy, and then use this insight to prioritize your personal commitments. You don’t have a personal list? Start one, keep it focused, and go after it with a passion.
Column done, it’s time to venture into the 22-degrees, snow-covered parking lot. It’s a poor excuse for springtime, but a reminder that my impromptu 5K-trail run in the California sun was the right decision.
Mike McDougall is president of McDougall Communications (McDougallPR.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter, @MikeMcDoug
This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.