I am a fan of back to back meetings because I think it is efficient to have blocks of meetings and then a block of work time for yourself. Ideally you may want to have your meetings start at 5 or 10 minutes after the hour in order to give other colleagues with back to back schedules a chance to get from one meeting to another and not be late. This concentration of meetings will then hopefully open up a time in the day that allows you a chunk of work time. You may want to try and schedule at least a 2 hour block of work time on your schedule every day for your highest priority project. It is amazing how efficient you can be in these blocks to knock out creative projects that require thinking and focus. My personal rule is not to respond to email during my blocks of work time so I don’t get distracted. You will want to protect this block of work time as much as possible but may find that sometimes you need to be flexible on when in the day it occurs and the length of time you actually get. As a special treat to yourself you might want to try a day with no meetings. You will be amazed at how productive you can be!
You may want to set aside time in your calendar to reflect on your progress to date. It is important to be introspective and ask yourself what is going well so you can keep momentum in those areas. It is equally important to ask yourself what is not going so well so you can change paths and do things differently. Things may need a small or large course correction. Without stopping to pause on a regular basis you can drift or go down a sub-optimal path, so regular check-ins with yourself are helpful to stay on course.
Once you determine what your deliverable is, you need to create a work back schedule. It is important to break down the deliverable into key milestones to help break the project down into manageable components. It is also important to realize that meeting each milestone will involve time working alone and time collaborating with others. Block out working time on your calendar to set aside the time needed to finish your project work. If you have dependencies on others, even more time is usually needed. Everyone has busy schedules so it is important to look out at a two week horizon to make sure you will be able to secure the meetings with others that you will need input from to complete your project. Remember it is you who is accountable for your deliverables so you need to ensure that you have the resources, input and time to succeed and milestone planning helps you do just that.
I think staying on top of your calendar is key for a productive week. I like to link what I want to accomplish to deliverable dates. I proactively decided that I would take a little time out on Sunday night to set myself up for success for the next one to two weeks. I evaluate what deliverables I want to achieve when and then go about working backwards to set meetings and blocking work time to meet my milestones and deadlines. This means that I can hit the ground running on Monday morning knowing that my time has been planned to achieve my short term goals. Mind you things change throughout the week..people decline meetings and they need to be rescheduled, projects take longer than you think, managers give you additional work, but now I am at least working with my most up to date playbook. Then at the end of each day, before I head home I take 5 minutes to review the upcoming schedule, especially for the next day to see what has changed and implement whatever tweaks I need to make to stay on course from a calendaring perspective.