According to Better Meetings, in 2020 78% of employees felt that their meeting schedules were out of control. Crazy, right?! For many people, challenging meeting schedules means days where your entire calendar is blocked with back-to-back meetings and each meeting adds 1 (or 5!) items to your to-do list. If you’ve ever experienced this yourself, then you’ve come across the perfect example of a day that highlights benefits of being methodical!
What are the benefits of being methodical when it comes to workload management, you ask? In short, a methodical approach can reduce the total time you spend on specific tasks, decrease the amount of unresolved tasks you have at any one time, and help you achieve the best results from your work day. All that combines to create work habits that allow you to walk away from even the most hectic days with a clear mind and overall better work life balance.
And who doesn’t love work life balance? 🙂
In this article, we’ll explore some small changes you can make right now to become a more methodical person, different ways you can incorporate a more systematic way of managing your workload and to-do lists, as well as an overall strategy you can use to reap the benefits of being methodical in any given situation.
What Does It Mean For A Person To Be Methodical?
Being methodical simply means you have a specific course of action, order, or structure to how you do something. It may be a simple concept but the value it can bring to your life is astronomical.
When you’re methodical, it also often means you’re highly effective, detail-oriented, and able to prioritize strategically.
Think about the last time you got overwhelmed at work or in your business. What do you notice about your thoughts and your reactions when this happens?
The word that comes to mind for me is: frantic.
In the past, when I’ve found myself overwhelmed at work, my thoughts would start bouncing around between a million different things. I would pick something from my to-do list, start working on it, and almost immediately get distracted by something else.
When everything on your to-do list feels like a priority, it’s easy for your brain to get caught up in the drama of not knowing what to work on next. There is no “method to the madness,” so to speak, and chaos is the result. Instead of making progress toward a specific goal, you might find yourself working really hard only to seemingly still not accomplish anything.
One of the benefits of being methodical is a reduction of that kind of stress.
As I learned to manage my stress and my mindset, I began to notice this trend of mental spiraling more quickly. As soon as I’d notice it, I’d pause, take a few deep breaths, and force myself to slow down.
From there, I’d challenge myself to take a more macro view of the tasks on my list. What truly needed to get done first? What would have the greatest long-term impact toward my goals? What did I actually have time to complete at that moment?
Answering those questions helped me make the necessary modifications to my list to prioritize it more effectively and create more realistic goals. It also helped me focus on completing one task at a time. In short, it helped me become more methodical in the moment and make better decisions.
Everything on your list simply can’t be the same priority. If you’re telling yourself that then I invite you to take a step back and try your own deep breathing or whatever it is you need to get some perspective. It’s certainly possible that everything on your list is important but priority is driven by a number of factors like time sensitivity, level of impact, who it affects, etc.
By truly homing in on your priorities, you can break that spiraling loop and, as a result, get more done more quickly, saving yourself time, stress, and frustration. As you’re starting to see, the benefits of being methodical are impactful and far-reaching.
Is Being Methodical A Good Thing?
Absolutely! Although, just like anything, it has its right time and place. The benefits of being methodical might result in better planning and preparation for your upcoming vacation, for example, but may be less beneficial while you’re hanging out at the beach. Very few people enjoy being given a set of rules by which to have fun. 🙂
So then, of course, the question is when is it a good idea to be methodical? There are a few specific scenarios where you might find this beneficial:
- When you have a high number of set goals to complete in a limited period of time.
- When you’re overwhelmed but need to figure out a way to proceed.
- When you have clear milestones you need to hit and want to ensure you stay on track.
- When you’re trying to reduce decision fatigue.
- When you’re trying to consolidate big tasks to free up time.
- When your to-do list keeps growing but you need to make consistent forward progress.
- When you’re trying to reduce the potential risks of steps being missed.
- When it’s important to get repeatable, consistent results.
For those last two items, specifically, one methodical approach that can really help is deploying a process of completion guides. Completion guides, or process guides, are step-by-step instructions drafted and continuously updated and fine-tuned over time to ensure consistent results.
Process guides can be especially helpful in a few specific scenarios:
- In a team environment where multiple people may do the same work but you need to see repetitive results between all of them.
- For any kind of consistent process that you may need or want to hand off to someone else if you need help at the last minute, like in an emergency situation or if you go on vacation.
- If you have a task you have to do on a wide-spread cadence, like monthly, quarterly, or annually. Creating a process guide for these situations can reduce the amount of time you spend trying to remember what needs to be done.
What Type Of People Are Methodical?
There are some specific personality types or professionals who might be more naturally drawn to being methodical. For example, project managers, teachers, and other training professionals might be methodical due to the nature of their work.
One could argue that the “right people” gravitate toward those roles because they are already methodical, but I disagree.
For example, science and medicine have long benefited from the advantage of concrete processes. The success of those communities depends on their ability to achieve repeatable results. They understand the benefits of being methodical and, as a result, methodical approaches are built into the education tracts for those career sets.
They’re trained to be methodical, which means you can become more methodical over time, as well.
Leaders, top performers, and others with high achieving personalities also often trend toward being more methodical. If you refer back to the list of scenarios I shared above, notice how many of them refer to reducing time or getting more done in a shorter period of time.
It stands to reason, then, that another benefit of being methodical is that you can also become more highly effective. Bonus, right?!
How Do I Become More Methodical?
So now that you know being more methodical is a personality trait you can learn, what’s next?
There are 5 steps you can take right now to become more methodical on a daily basis:
- Focus on what you’re doing
- Prioritize your steps or tasks in a way that makes sense, given the situation
- Evaluate your results
- Adjust your plan the next time around, based on your evaluation
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
Let’s break those down a bit more.
Being methodical requires a clear mind and you’re likely to be most effective at it if you’re focused in the present and not distracted by other things, including the other things you need to do.
Given that, the first step to take if you find yourself distracted or overwhelmed, is try doing some centering exercises to bring you back to what you’re doing right now. Some good centering exercises include:
- Focusing on your breathing with slow, deep breaths
- Picking one of the senses, such as hearing, and focusing all your attention on it for a minute or two. What are all the sounds you hear? How far away or close are they? Are there distinctive differences in tone or pitch?
- Closing your eyes and visualizing someone holding a relaxation hula hoop over your head and then slowly bringing it down to your feet with you in the center. As the hula hoop moves past each part of your body, you feel that body part relax and loosen.
- Focus on your body positioning. Whether you’re sitting or standing, place your feet firmly on the ground and straighten your back. Shake your shoulders out and roll your neck a bit to loosen it up. If you’re standing, feel your weight pressing into your feet and grounding you. If you’re sitting, feel your weight pressing into your chair and take one deep breath in and out.
These short breaks to focus are something you can do anytime you feel yourself getting derailed from your overall objective.
Once you’re fully focused, the next step is to prioritize what’s needed and begin executing. What’s the absolute first thing you need to complete and what can be done at a later time? Don’t let yourself get caught up in worrying if you’re working on the right thing. Just focus on executing your next steps and making forward progress.
At the end of each day, take some time to evaluate what you did and ask yourself the following questions in this order:
- What worked well?
- What didn’t work?
- What will you do differently next time?
Now, apply those changes the next time you have this task or situation.
The final step – repeat, repeat, repeat – is the most critical because it has multiple benefits.
First, there’s the repetition of the 5 steps above. By continuously working through each of these items, you’ll take gradual steps toward honing your own individualized method for whatever you’re tackling. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully customized and effective approach that will reduce future efforts.
Also, as we know, repetition breeds habits and the habits we want in life and work are often the things that benefit the most from being methodical. So, by following this approach, you’re not only refining the approach you take, but you’re building that habit muscle that will help you see the benefits of being methodical more regularly because those habits will become second nature.
Start Applying Your Methodical Approach Today
I’ve shared a lot of information in this article and if you already find yourself overwhelmed at work or in some other area of your life, it might also feel overwhelming to try applying something new, even if you can see the benefits of being methodical.
If this sounds like you, I encourage you to spend some time on the first step – focusing – before moving on to the others. Learning how to focus and get out of a negative headspace in the face of overwhelm, stress, or frustration is one of the most productive traits you can learn and I promise you that step alone can have a huge impact on your workload.
Depending on what’s causing your overwhelm, journaling for resilience may also be helpful. Or it may be that you’re being too hard on yourself and just need to give yourself credit for all the wonderful things you are doing and what is going well.
If you find yourself still struggling with focusing or any other part of being methodical, let’s schedule some time to chat. It’s possible there are deeper challenges at play.
I love helping people deploy better strategies to improve their work life balance so I’d love to help and I KNOW you can do this. 🙂