With the new year finally here, many of us have taken the time to pause for reflection about how we can better ourselves and our businesses in the coming year. Personally, I am working on focus in 2016. Event planners can benefit more than most from some true focus, and in this post, I outline 9 ways that we can all cultivate a little more of it into our hectic lives as event planners.
I am one of those people who likes to know as much as I can about a topic before I move forward with it. I have a streak of perfectionism in me, and when I couple that with my tendency toward analysis paralysis, it can be easy to feel frazzled and disjointed. Even working on your time management techniques isn’t enough if you lack the focus and the follow-through to actually get through your to-do lists!
Here are 9 traits of focused event planners, with tips to help you get as much done as you can during your workday, without losing focus on distractions.
1. They Think Weekly, Rather Than Daily
The current productivity system that’s been working for me is to take a few hours at the beginning of each month to jot down a general overview of what events and projects I’m working on in the coming month. From there, I spend about 30 minutes each Friday planning out the subsequent week. Switching over to this weekly view of my tasks, as opposed to planning out each day, has done wonders for my focus.
Though I still take time each morning to orient myself with what is on my task agenda for the coming day, checking your schedule daily is a totally different experience than planning out the day fresh each morning. The daily view is too narrow and can help add to the scatterbrained feeling that keeps you unfocused. Keeping a weekly schedule, with daily refreshers is a much more focused scheduling method.
2. They Keep An Idea Journal
One of the things that keeps me from staying focused are the billions of ideas that seem to ambush me at random times of day. If you’re a naturally creative person (which you’d have to be, to be an eventprof) you may find yourself chasing errant ideas, like so many butterflies. The problem, however, with mindlessly following both butterflies and creative ideas, is that without a roadmap, you’ll probably get lost.
To combat this deceptive distraction, I’ve begun keeping an Idea Journal (I’m a fan of using a physical journal, but a page in Evernote or your favorite note-taking app works just as well!). I carry my journal with me everywhere, and whenever I am struck by a great idea, I toss it in the journal. When I’m feeling stumped with a client, or for any other project, that journal is the place I turn to for inspiration. My Idea Journal helps keep me focused by not letting me get distracted with an idea that I shouldn’t be focused on in the middle of writing a blog post or doing client work.
3. They Only Do What They’re Good At
I’m sure I raised a few eyebrows with this one. But the truth is, people focus better on tasks that they’re actually good at doing. When faced with any task, the most focused event planners decide if that task should be automated, delegated or initiated.
Automating a task means implementing a system (usually through some form of technology or software - more on this in another tip) that will automatically do a task or set of tasks for you going forward. Delegation is when event planners leave certain task to someone who is more qualified than you to complete. Any task that should not be automated or delegated should be initiated - or done by you. Knowing which tasks are which, and being able to split work effectively across your team is a clear sign of event leadership.
4. They Block Time
This is a great little trick that totally changed how much I was able to focus on my tasks. Time blocking is the act of prioritizing tasks (so that the most important ones get done first) and then organizing them into “batches” of similar tasks, and blocking out chunks of time to accomplish each batch. As an event planner, the scope of your daily tasks can vary greatly. Time blocking is a great technique to help focus the hectic schedule of an eventprof.
Using myself as an example, I batch my tasks by day - meaning that I devote one batch of tasks to each week day. Generally my system has me do all the research for upcoming content creation on Mondays, write blog posts and all other long form content on Tuesdays. I shoot videos over the weekend, and do client work on the other days (except Sunday - all I do on sunday is snuggle my dog, and recuperate from the week). This method helps me to stay focused on each task because I know at the start of each day what the major work objective is. This makes it easier to stay on track.
5. They Pause To Reflect
I made it a point to speak to a professional business coach right after the ball dropped, which is something that I suggest any professional do (when you can afford the investment). One thing my coach and I spoke about that really stuck with me, is the need for regular reflection, and how reflecting improves focus.
Focused planners have some method of analyzing their own performance. Consider taking about 15 minutes at the end of each week to write down a Weekly Reflection. Jot down what you’ve accomplished, and how reaching (or not) the goals you’ve set for yourself has made your feel. Also take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and are grateful for. According to my coach, savoring each moment (especially those that induce feelings of scattered misfocus) is the key to unlocking new innovations and growing as a planner.
6. They Rely On Technology
Remember when we talked about automating tasks not too long ago? That goes hand in hand with taking the leap and relying on the various pieces of tech that can make our lives easier. Event planners are always around technology and using it to enhance our events, but the most focused planners have figured out how tech can enhance our lives.Think about where you lose a lot of your time doing repetitive or difficult tasks, and see if there’s a form of technology that can streamline or automate that process.
Eventprofs that spend too much time on social media, can find an automation tool that can send out pre-scheduled social updates on your behalf. Planners whose time is eaten up with meetings, can set up a Slack group or some other project management software that keeps them in touch with their team from afar and makes it possible to work on projects remotely, but in real time. Switching over to digital RFP’s, revamping your registration process, and finding a system that keeps client files organized and up to date is something all truly focused event coordinators have done. This is what technology is for. Lean in.
7. They Relax
This should go without saying, but it doesn’t: If you want to focus, you’ve got to relax. Focused people pay attention to issues that make them feel anxious, and try to avoid them when possible. If you have trouble relaxing while you work, there are many things that may help: try playing soothing music in the background to help focus on the task at hand (look into “productivity” playlists on Pandora and Spotify). Don’t turn on your favorite songs, otherwise you’ll be adding to the distraction factor. Many event planners have reported results from trying a hand at yoga, or meditation or coloring! I recently bought an adult coloring book, and I can’t tell you how calming it is, or how much I enjoy it.
The point, here, is to try and find a way to put yourself into a calm and relaxed state of mind, and figure out how to get back there more often than not.
8. They Stay Healthy
Similar to staying calm, staying healthy will really help you keep your focus. Event profs who get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat healthy food and stay active are generally way better at staying focused at work, as well. Taking care of your body will only help your productivity because you’ll be faster, sharper and have more energy. Not to mention, the diligence it takes to hone your body, will spill over into the rest of your life. A good night’s sleep, and a well fed and hydrated body will keep you focused and on task at work - rather than online shopping when you should be sending venue lists to your clients.
9. They Schedule Time To Get Lost
And finally, it’s really important that we as event planners take the time to “lean in” to our hobbies and interests. Just like your ideas can sometimes pop up and distract you, so can your interests. The most focused planners out there know that if you schedule a time to learn something new, or deepen your knowledge of an interest you have, you’re way less likely to be distracted by boredom and longing while you should be working.
What new things would you like to try, or skills would you like to cultivate? Follow the path of the most focused planners by putting aside time to learn about these activities and try them out on your calendar. Even if you only get around to learning about your new interest on YouTube, it’s better to do so at a time you set aside for leisure, than it is to get lost on Pinterest for 3 hours midway through your content marketing strategy.
I’ve made it a personal resolution to find and increase my own focus in the coming year, but I think focus is a key tool for any event planner. The key to staying focused is to make room on our schedules for the things that distract us, to keep ourselves healthy and happy, and to remember that not all work needs to be done alone.