Even if you think you have time management nailed, it sometimes happens that your mastery slips and you allow unplanned changes to your process. Suddenly you find that time is a problem again.
That was me a few weeks ago. I was forgetting important deadlines and tasks, my desk was a jumbled mess of half-finished projects and I was not feeling that I was in control. So, back to basics.
I find that starting with a list of everything that you need to do or control is essential (even if the list is daunting) to avoid forgetting tasks. These days, online To Do lists like Trello allow you to share, delegate & prioritise tasks quickly & effectively.
But, particularly if you do have a long list, I prefer to have a paper-based (hand written?) list of the four or five most important tasks on my real desk. By limiting the number, it is easier to focus on getting those done before replacing them with new tasks. This helps avoid the feelings of overwhelming that can sabotage your day.
Of course, in listing the tasks on your plate, the traditional approach of classification is still as essential today as it ever was. In case you’ve forgotten, these are –
- Do it now - These are the important tasks with time constraints that only you can do;
- Don’t do it - These are the time-wasting tasks that add nothing to the progress of your business and should not be left on your list at all;
- Delegate - These are the important tasks that you can have someone else do. Note – I wrote “Delegate” not “Dump” (there is a huge and important difference); and
- Delay -These are important tasks that can wait for you or someone else to complete (before they become time-critical).
Allocating specific times during the day to tasks would be preferable if your job description and work practices are conducive to that. However, locking yourself away for (say) 25 minutes 3 or 4 times a day will help productivity when you need time to focus on a specific project or just need to complete a number of smaller tasks.
Mastering the use of the precious time in your day is particularly important in business if you want to be able to walk away at a reasonable hour each day with a feeling of achievement. Allowing your day to be a series of random events that you just encounter as you struggle through the day is a guaranteed way to fail in business and in life.