Over the years I have read many time management books in the attempt to try and get everything done. I have had Day-Timers, Franklin Covey Systems, Planner Pads, apps, software and just notepads full of lists. And yet I still find myself feeling behind. Rushing to something that I have forgotten. And feeling guilty about what isn’t done. So here are some things I have learned over the years:
Do the work.
First of all, getting actual work done is the most important thing. I have been known to spend time creating the perfect system when what I was really doing is avoiding actually working. If this is you right now. STOP. Go do what you should be doing. We will wait for you to get done. 🙂
So, using “getting organized” as an excuse to procrastinate is out.
Create a task organizing system
So, for me simple seems to work the best. I have had the best luck with a spiral notebook that I can make lists on. Think back to what has worked best for you. Would an app work best for you? Perhaps a purchased planner? Use what works best for you.
I have been using a new prioritizing system for about a month. I got the idea from the Coach.me app that I have been using on my phone. The Coach.me app is a great app to help create habits. It is easy to track your goals and lets you check off on a daily basis whether or not you did that activity, but I digress.
I have been using a 1-3-5 system for my to do list. 1 thing that absolutely must get done. 3 things that are a high priority and 5 other things that you would like to get done. In the past, I have used different versions of pick your top 3 things to do. This is great and was helpful in identifying the most important things that needed to be done. However, I usually had 5-8 things on the list and more that I also felt were very important. The 1-3-5 system is working for me because I can identify the truly important things. Yet, I still have room for those urgent things that need to get done as well. Give it a try. I would love to hear how it works for you.
Use your calendar effectively
The third thing that is important is to be diligent with the use of your calendar. I highly recommend using one that can sync with your phone. This will allow you to add commitments on the fly as well as quickly confirm your availability. This all seems so simple, but one missed appointment can cause a cascading effect on your schedule and to-do list.
Use your calendar to create blocks of time for creative work or larger projects. If someone wants to meet at that time, you can legitimately say “Oh, I’m sorry, I have something on my calendar at that time, how about ____(suggest a time).” It’s a true statement. YOUR priorities, dreams, and passions can have priority over everything else!
Identify when you are at your best
Consider your day and when you are at your best. Then schedule those working times for deep, important work. For me, it is the early part of my work day that is most productive. I try not schedule meetings first thing in the morning. I would rather push them off until the afternoon. This is beneficial in several ways. If the 3:00 lack of motivation hits me, I have this appointment I have committed to. The other benefit of an afternoon meeting is that I enjoy the social aspects of the situation much more. I can relax into the conversation knowing I have had a productive morning and early afternoon. I am not stressed about what I still need to do that day.
Try to schedule like items together if possible. Batching tasks is a great way to get the most accomplished in the shortest amount of time. One thing to try is to schedule all meetings in a single day. Then block days where you don’t accept meetings and appointments. This will allow you to create blocks of time to work on large projects, creative time or just get your work done.
Take Time for Yourself
We humans are not designed to be running at full speed ahead 24/7. We need time to breathe. We need time to think. In our hyper-connected world, we are often inundated with requests for your time, help and knowledge. Build into your life small oasis’ of peace. Also, once a week block of time for yourself. These two things will not only make you more productive but it will also add joy to your life.
Let me guess, you are thinking but I don’t have time to do that. I am already pushed past max. I understand and here are a few things that I have put into my life to accomplish this. First of all, I do not look at my email until I am dressed and ready to walk out the door. This allows me to get through my morning routine in peace and be mentally prepared for the day ahead.
Also, I don’t answer my phone or reply emails after 7 pm unless it is my family. This allows me to unwind from the day, focus on my family and prepare for sleeping well.
Creating a block of time
Now making room for the block of time can be more problematic. I struggle with this myself as I tend to block the time and then allow it to be crowded out with other things. I (and we) need to remember that we are as valuable as the other people in our lives. By taking some time for ourselves, it will allow us to be more productive and available to everyone else. Some ideas you might try
Schedule a “meeting” in your calendar and go have an hour to daydream, think, plan or call your best friend.
Take a yoga class on Saturday mornings.
Sign up for an art class one evening a week.
But my favorite is to schedule a 4:00 appointment with a work friend or networking contact that I like. We have a glass of wine together. It is relaxing and fun but it also builds a deeper relationship with that person. I go into my evenings happy and relaxed.
Taking control of our time is as much about taking control of ourselves and our thinking as it is about being effective in the tasks that need to be done. By considering how you are spending your time, I hope you can find ways to be more effective and efficient. This can lead to more margin, peace and time for the things you love.