Here are some tips I gave on the radio program Sunday.
Time Management System
"Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan"
This system trades on three important principles:
- Procrastination kills. Just do it!
- A place for everything and everything in its place.
- Don’t put it down; put it away.
1. Keep desk clear
2. Have a place for everything, including all "to do's"
3. Never lose track of any obligation, task, document, or idea
4. Have a plan to follow to accomplish the tasks of each day
- 1Password, or equivalent
- Things, or equivalent (organizes “To Dos”)
When a paper comes in:
- Throw it away or...
- Act on it immediately, then throw it away or...
- File it immediately in the folder for the month it applies to or...
- If it's for the current month, file it in the folder for the day it applies to and make an action note in Daytimer or “To Do” list for that day or...
- Make an action note in the day or month that requires action, then throw it away or...
- Put it in a permanent file for future reference.
When a task or appointment comes in:
- Act on it immediately or...
- Schedule it immediately for day or the month it applies to or...
- Put it in a long term goals/task file for future reference.
Planning:1. At the beginning of every month plan the month ahead.
- Make a monthly "to-do" list of the tasks you want to complete that month, including items from your "master list" of short term and long range ideas/goals/tasks you want to pursued that month.
- Schedule everything electronically (in scheduling calendar on your computer or hand-held device) or in pencil (in your Daytimer)—your goals, deadlines, meetings, appointments, etc.
- Also check your monthly folder for that month and place any items in the particular day they need action on for that month. For example, if in January I receive plane tickets for a flight on February 20, I will put those tickets in the February folder and forget about them until February 1st. Then on February 1st when I’m doing my monthly planning I’ll take the tickets out and place them in the folder for the 20th. On the 20th I just check the folder for that day and there are my tickets.
2. If you use a Daytimer, you must double enter your appointments. Every appointment is scheduled in the month-at-a-glance section and also as a detail on the daily page.
3. At the beginning of each day (or ideally the night before), plan your work with a list according to your daily schedule. Be sure to do the most critical/important/time sensitive tasks first (“big rocks first”). You might want to list tasks in one column and phone calls in another, both in the order they should be done based on their importance.
4. Stick with the list! Plan your work, then work your plan. It may be most efficient to do all of your phoning at one time at the beginning to quickly eliminate those items. It's also easier to make east coast calls in the morning.
5. Whatever is not finished by the end of the day is either dropped or advanced to an appropriate day on your calendar in the future. Don't just push it into the next day. If it's not urgent, move it later in the month when your schedule has more room.
6. When new ideas, tasks, or obligations come in, enter them either in the master idea file, the monthly to-do file, or the day in the present month or a future month they need to be addressed.
7. When new appointments are made, enter them immediately.
8. Any information about appointments (phone numbers, directions, etc.) should be detailed in the daily diary section or the memo section or daily record.
9. Keep an extra section as a diary of notes during the day. Write the date, then jot any notes of importance (phone numbers, brief details of a conversation).
10. When new things come up, take brief notes on paper if necessary and then enter them in your electronic schedule as soon as possible.
The basic point is that in this system every name, number, task, goal, appointment, or meeting has some place it can go in your system as either a scheduled appointment, a scheduled task, or an unscheduled long-term goal or task. In the case of paper, it can go in a long term topical file (e.g., “insurance papers”), a future month it needs to be acted on, a day in the current month it needs action, or a general idea file.
- Regarding email, I try to respond to each item immediately and get it out of the way. If it relates to something more long term I'll post the task in my calendar as a "to do" item or print out the email and place it in one of the daily or monthly folders as appropriate. The key for me is to read as little as possible, get rid of everything as soon as possible, and keep my email empty.
Principles of Time Management
1. “Big rocks first,” i.e., work on the most important things, not necessarily the most urgent things.
- Act on everything immediately—emails, phone calls, etc.,—whenever possible to keep tasks from building up. Don’t put off until later something that can be resolved right now.
- Make an instant decision on each paper that crosses your desk (act on it, file it properly, or throw it away).
7. In a few moments of idle time ask: What can I complete in the next ten minutes?
8. Break big projects into little projects, smaller parts that you do one by one to accomplish the whole.
9. Under-promise, then over-deliver.
10. Aim for excellence, not perfection.
11. Plan to be 15 minutes early for each appointment.
Read this list weekly.
- Just do it.
- Do it now.
- All things are easy to industry. All things difficult to sloth.
- Diligence overcomes difficulties. Sloth makes them.
“I daily become more sensible that my work must be affected by constant and regular exertions rather than sudden and violent ones.”—William Wilberforce