April is here, and for me, that means it’s time for quarterly planning. This is a time to evaluate the previous quarter, adjust budgets, set new quarterly goals, and line up new projects to make sure we meet them. April is always my favorite quarterly planning session – coming out of winter with fresh enthusiasm for the rest of the year as the weather gets warmer and the landscape turns green. It’s an inspiring and motivating time of year. It’s the best time for spring cleaning, too.
My quarterly plan always addresses “clutter” – distractions that could stand in the way of my upcoming quarter’s success. You know the types of things I’m talking about here…
- Email, email, email
- The latest Netflix craze (Tiger King!)
- Blogs / social media
- Water cooler banter
- Paper filing
It’s almost a reflex to write the same things every quarter.
“Yea, yea…I need to get some healthy boundaries with email; I’m on it!”, I tell myself.
But as I sat down this time to think through what distractions I may face in Q2, I was surprised to see how much Coronavirus has impacted my list. I suspect many others have found themselves with some new clutter to deal with this spring, so let’s get cleaning.
I’m a creature of habit. For years, I’ve gotten out of bed, drank my coffee, read the news, showered, and hit the office. Until a few weeks ago, that’s about all the news I needed. I was caught up, transitioned into post-coffee sanity, and ready to go. But now, it’s hard not to watch or read the news throughout the day. Where is it getting worse? Are rules changing in my state? What is the government doing to help individuals and businesses? On the one hand, it’s important to stay informed. On the other, it’s textbook clutter.
After a couple of weeks of processing this new reality by news binging, I’ve decided to go back to the old morning coffee updates. Yes, things are changing rapidly, but there’s nothing said today that can’t wait until the morning.
Takeaway: Catch the news once a day where it fits into your routine.
My tendency to work in absolute silence can be the butt of an office joke from time to time. “There he is! Haven’t seen him in days!” one might say when I finally emerge from my office after hours of really intense focus on a task. It’s how I work best and achieve the most. To say that’s changed since we went remote in early March would be an understatement. Wife, kids, dog, cat, contractors (until the shutdown) all bouncing around the house like pinballs. Throw in some potty training chaos and now we’re talking about the least conducive environment for office work on the planet.
Unlike the news, I can’t snap my fingers and clean up this clutter with a little extra daily discipline. The family is here to stay, and of course, that’s a good thing in socially distanced times!
The most challenging clutter requires the most creative spring cleaning. After spending weeks at home, I’ve taken note of times that are most quiet and now I’m protecting those times for focus-heavy work. At my house, there’s 2-3 times a day that I can protect for focus: before the kids are up, while/if the kids nap, and after they go to bed. When focus time hits, the headphones go on (no music playing, don’t tell anyone), and I’m tapped into my most important tasks of the day.
Not only does this mean that my daily work schedule is a little unusual compared to normal business hours, but it requires some extra planning to schedule certain tasks around these protected times. On the plus side, I’m able to sneak in some fun with my family throughout the day, something my office life didn’t support too well.
Takeaway: You can only do so much to bring the volume down at home, but you can adjust your schedule to maximize quiet times for work that requires deep focus.
We’re all feeling this in some way. Worried about health, friends, family, finances, etc. Worry is a natural response, and in some cases, a healthy one that encourages decision-making. Too much of it, however, and we become paralyzed and filled with hopelessness.
I have many more worries today than I did at the start of Q1 thanks to the Coronavirus, but I’m taking the time to note which ones I can fully control, which ones I can partially control, and which ones I can’t control. Any of those in the partially or fully control category need action plans. Taking action on the items I can control helps diminish the worry of those I can’t control.
Takeaway: Focus your attention on things you can control, no matter how small the action, to reduce your worries.
It’s a new quarter, and it’s very different from any quarter I’ve planned for before. By spring cleaning my clutter, I hope to stay focused, motivated, and successful.
I encourage you to do some “spring cleaning” with your clutter too!