As senior vice president of marketing at Cold Stone Creamery, Kate Unger heads up marketing for the global custom ice cream franchise, its 1,500 stores in 31 countries, and its infinite flavor combinations.
"My work, like so many others', consists of believing my day will look one way and it completely taking off into another direction despite all my planning," says Unger. "I am the queen of making lists and knowing the master game plan. However, two hours into my day—sometimes even just a few minutes in—that can all change. To maximize productivity for me means always knowing what that big picture looks like—that list of to-dos—but also realizing it all can’t get done."
To hold herself accountable while also being realistic, Unger approaches each day with two guiding rules, and says her productivity has soared as a result.
"If you get an email and open to read it; finish it out and delete or file it away," says Unger. "Sometimes that is not possible, but 90% of the time I find it works. Something crosses your desk that you pick up to read? Read it, deal with it, and move to the next. So many times we come back to the same email, file, or project multiple times when we can touch it once, do the work, and be done with it. The repetitive nature of the 're-visit' is a time killer."
For many of us, dealing with daily tasks is not a problem—it's addressing the bigger-picture needs that aren't due yesterday, and languish on our to-do lists for days or weeks at a time, but are still critically important.
"Being mindful of that big picture, each day I pick two items from that master list, whether they be creative brainstorms or a project that needs to completed—and I do it," says Unger. "Anything else on top of that is a bonus. It ensures I get my day-to-day items done, plus two strong hits I need to move things forward."