This will be a fairly brief post. However, I think it will resonate with some and bring back something that David Allan (Getting Things Done) and Steven Covey (7 habits of highly effective people) wrote about last century. This summary is my personal take on it. So here we go:
- Be clear about your goal and values.
I think these 2 elements are essential. They have a long term focus and put everything you do in perspective. They describe your personal what and how.
- Clean focus
Pay attention to every item you do. When you talk to somebody, don’t pick up the phone. When you are in your creative phase don’t react to “you’ve got mail” notification.
- Say No
not everything that pops up in your Inbox is for you to do or worry about. Learn to say no, advise on the right person, or delegate.
- Be persistent, from day to day
If you want to achieve something you need to follow through. Don’t get distracted or sidetracked.
- Be Flexible
That may sound contrary to what I listed above, it is not. Planning is necessary, it makes it clear what it is you want to work on. And there will be interruptions, the person you wanted to talk to is sick or access to information is blocked. Be mentally prepared for this.
My 7 habits are not the same as Steven Covey’s, although you may find similarities here and there!
How many emails are sitting in your Inbox? How many stacks of papers are on your desk? Can these be categorised or organised so they fit with your priorities?
- Write it down
You know your goals and values. Write it down and stick it to your wall or desktop as a constant reminder and as a helpful tool when deciding on task priorities. You may also want to highlight or flag certain tasks and projects.
- Focus on one task at a time
It’s a repitition from the related attitude. Although this is a habit the other a principal.
- Do the right thing before doing things right
You can do something perfect and it looks great. Everybody might say wow or cool. However, it wasn’t the thing on top of the priority list. Don’t get distracted – follow your plan.
- Base priorities on values
often enough I come across 2 tasks and both are in the top quadrant = important and urgent. I have the habit of using my personal values to decide which one gets the higher priority.
- Create Routines
Do the same thing at the same time every day. It’s simple and it helps. I check my emails in the morning, review my calendar appointments, and check my notes for today. I try to have routines meetings before lunch and one on one’s after lunch. My creative times are when others have their morning tea, in the afternoon and in the evening.
- Set time for renewal
I need to re-charge my batteries. And not just in the holidays. There are times during the day when you can do that. Take a lunch time walk, or do some exercise, have a fun project, read an article or watch a TED video.
3 Tips and Tricks
There are probably a dozen more. But let’s focus on just these 3:
- Create projects rather than tasks
I said earlier categorise or organise your Inbox and stacks of paper. Let’s be more precise. You have your goals, to achieve those you can break them down in projects (business jargon) or sprints (agile jargon). By doing that you can allocate your tasks to these buckets and make daunting goals manageable.
- use to-do lists
Make a single to-do list for today. Collate all input, including yesterday’s incompleted tasks, your email Inbox, your scheduled tasks, your voicemails and personal visits. Eliminate what doesn’t need action, park what’s not for today, and prioritise the rest. Work with dates and categories. Strike completed tasks of.
- use checklists
Checklists are simple reminders that important steps are not missed. They are not step by step instructions but memory joggers.
That’s it. That’s my list of making time management work.