Personal Productivity – Module 3
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
Routines and rituals should form the framework of your days at home and in the office. In addition to these key activities, you will have day to day tasks, projects to complete, and goals to work on. This module will explore how to schedule those tasks and activities in the most efficient way possible.
The Simple Secret of Successful Time Management
In order to be as productive as you can be, you must remember the simple secret of time management. There is no secret, no one-size-fits-all solution, and no magic button. You must explore different methods and, through trial and error, find the solutions that work for you. Note that we said –most people find that combining several different time management and productivity methods creates a system that works for them.
As a last note, remember what we said earlier about growth. As you grow, and as your life changes, you may need to revise your time management system. Remember, keep an eye on what others are doing and new ideas that emerge. You might just find something that works for you.
Developing a Tracking System
Although there are many time management systems out there, we have found that most systems boil down to a few key principles. Here are our top three ideas.
Electronic Solutions: Most e-mail applications (including Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes) actually fall into the category of a PIM (Personal Information Manager) application. This means that they can store calendar, task, e-mail, and contact information all in one place.
To make the most of your electronic solution, follow these tips:
• Keep personal and professional information in two separate locations. (For example, you might have a computer at home and one at work, or two e-mail profiles on the same computer.)
• Take the time to learn about the features of the application and how to use them to be more productive. We’ll look at this a bit more later on in the course.
• Try to use just the application as much as you can. Switching between your computer and your day timer will waste time and increase the risk of missing information.
Productivity Journal: If you’re more of a traditionalist and prefer using something similar to an old-fashioned day timer, try this solution.
To start, get yourself a spiral notebook and label it as your Personal Productivity Journal or your Professional Productivity Journal. (We recommend keeping a separate journal for work and for your personal life, so you can focus on them at separate times, thus maintaining your optimal work/life balance.) Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day. Next, prioritize each task in order of importance. Highlight the top three items and focus on those first. Cross off items as you complete them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.
You can keep a long-term calendar in the back of the book (or use a three-ring binder with sections) to record upcoming events.
The Urgent/Important Matrix: Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, you need to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important. This concept, coined the Eisenhower Principle, is said to be how former US President Dwight Eisenhower organized his tasks. It was rediscovered and brought into the mainstream as the Urgent/Important Matrix by Stephen Covey in his 1994 business classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Here is a breakdown of each quadrant.
• Urgent and Important: Activities in this area relate to dealing with critical issues as they arise and meeting significant commitments. Perform these duties now.
• Important, But Not Urgent: These success-oriented tasks are critical to achieving goals. Plan to do these tasks next.
• Urgent, But Not Important: These chores do not move you forward toward your own goals. Manage by delaying them, cutting them short and rejecting requests from others. Postpone these chores.
• Not Urgent and Not Important: These trivial interruptions are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. However, be careful not to mislabel things like time with family and recreational activities as not important. Avoid these distractions altogether.
It’s important to master the art of scheduling appointments efficiently in order to maximize personal productivity. Some tips to get started:
• Block off solid, quiet time to work at your desk without interruptions—no phone calls, meetings, or visitors dropping in unannounced. Make sure that people know you’re unavailable from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., or whenever you find yourself working most productively.
• Leave the most convenient time for callers to call on your voice mail message, or ask them to leave you a time that’s convenient for you to call them back. You can also use voice mail to communicate your current status – at your desk all day, travelling, or on vacation.
• Meetings can be a big time-waster. Suggest start and finish times for meetings and strictly adhere to them. (Remember, after 45 minutes, most meetings lose steam.) When possible, use conference calls and web conferences to save travel time.
• If you’re leading a meeting, remember to prepare a meeting agenda in advance with copies e-mailed to everyone. Set a good example by starting and finishing on time, with important points discussed first.
Are you finding your to-do lists getting longer and longer? Give some of these ideas a whirl:
• Instead of being overwhelmed by a large project, deconstruct it into smaller, bite-sized projects.
• Delegate effectively by matching up individual strengths with project tasks.
• Be strict with deadlines, but be flexible enough to accommodate individual situations.
• Always have a backup plan!
• Allow for extra time when dealing with external parties.
Frank had been way behind schedule and couldn’t see his workday ending. Sandra poked her head in his office and saw the beads of sweat hitting the mounds of unfinished work in front of his computer. Franks eyes bulged and his teeth were clenched as he raced to type in more data information. Sandra knew that time management could save him from himself. Sandra offered a hand, she organized his desktop and placed a timer on his desk instructing him to lighten his heavy load and split his work into smaller manageable pieces instead of tackling them all at once. He saw no end to his turmoil, but agreed to give it a shot and organized his work to accomplish the next day