Goal Processing: Time Management Pillars of Success
The following list is a short collection of the mission-critical time management strategies I use daily and I teach in my time management workshops. Before you work through them, click here to see if you even need them.
This stands for Take Care Of It Now. Much of our ineffectiveness with time management is caused by fatigue - low energy, low focus, etc. Much of this fatigue is caused by things "piling up". If you can take care of a task in two-minutes or less, do it. Get it off your desk, out of your inbox, out of your life. This will prevent you from getting to the end of your day with a million little things to finish up. This technique also helps you to conquer, what David Allen calls, Open Loops.
To do lists are vital for anyone juggling more than one ball. The key to effective to do lists is to only put actionable items on them - not line items that involve fifty smaller actions. Only put the next step necessary to accomplish at task. This will allow you to mark things off quicker and give you reachable benchmarks instead of just a long list of items that each contain their own to do lists.
There is a difference between time to do something and the "right" time to do something, called an open window. Open windows are unique to each person and each task. Picking your open windows involves understanding what time of day you work most efficiently, what location works best for which task, when your distractions are lowest, which hours of your day you can accomplish flow (described below), etc. The open window strategy is a true example of taking control of your time. Learning, leveraging and taking actions based on when you work most efficiently and effectively.
This is a time management strategy based on brain science. Flow is described as the mental state when you are working most efficiently. Every task requires a complex coordination of functions in the brain. It normally tasks around 20-minutes for your brain to get "up to speed" and work most efficiently on a task. This post-20 minute state is called flow. If you are not controlling your little distractions and interruptions (email, phone calls, walk-ins, etc.) throughout your day, you are probably never accomplishing true flow and never working most efficiently.
Your email inbox should not be used as a to do list. Primarily because that is not what it is intended for and because it is a totally reactionary tool. IE - the items were sent by others and when they wanted to send them. Whenever you do check your email, do something with each. Take action, delegate, move to a to do list, put it in a folder (you can search to find it later if you need it), archive it, delete it forever. A hefty inbox is a major source of fatigue (even if you don't notice it) and is a sign of poor time management. Take control and get your total email count (read, unread, etc.) to under 15 every day. If you want to learn more about how to do this magical trick, email me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com. My strategies in this area were originally inspired by Merlin Mann.
Just Say No
The magic bullet for most people when it comes to managing their time better is to get better at saying no to any commitment that you know you either can not do or can only do halfway. I would personally rather you say no to something than say yes and not follow through. And so would most people. This also includes commitments given to you at work. You know your work load better than anyone. If your boss or team leader gives you a task and you are already over-committed, be honest and let them know that something will have to not get done if this new commitment is to happen. Of course, this strategy will only fly if you have built up your trust account with others and it is well known that you are working hard and committing fully to your current tasks.
Focus longer. Set realistic, but stretch goals for the task in front of you and get them done. The tools listed above (and the thousands of others out there) will only work if you will.
Click here for another quick list of techniques.
Following are a few pre-made tweets to share with your network.
Follow us - @pli_leadership
@pli_leadership says to spend your time with T-COINs - Take Care Of It Now. http://ow.ly/e6re6
@pli_leadership says that your inbox should not be used as a to do list. http://ow.ly/e6re6
@pli_leadership says to let your co-workers know if their request will over-commit you. http://ow.ly/e6re6
@pli_leadership recommends reading the works of Merlin Mann and David Allen for time management tips. http://ow.ly/e6re6