There are a couple of time management jobs that you really should take care of each day.
Neither is particularly difficult, but both have the power to consistently make a real difference to your productivity.
Work often appears randomly. An email here, a request there; you just don’t know what’s going to come your way today.
Do you know how to marshal those incoming tasks, then actually do them?
Unless you take care of these two time management jobs each day things can soon spiral out of control.
Here’s what to do:
1. Plan the day
You have two elements to your working day - unscheduled work and scheduled work.
The first usually has to fit in around the second.
So how do you manage it?
Meetings, appointments, even scheduled tasks, all take care of themselves - they should happen at pre-determined times (when they finish is another matter).
But it’s the unscheduled stuff that you need to take care of.
Make a daily task list.
I know, I know… you’ve heard that before; but it’s not just about making a plan for the day.
It’s about how, when and where you make it.
‘Capture’ tasks as they appear with anything you have to hand, but put them all onto your daily planner.
So, for example, you might be in the shower on a Tuesday morning when you remember that you want to contact someone - let’s call him Mike. Take a shampoo bottle with you, and keep it whilst you get dressed as a reminder to write “Contact Mike” on your daily task list.
(Remember the shampoo - put it back when you’re done!)
Ideally, do things the day after they appear in your life. This reduces the amount of reacting you do and means you only ever have a finite amount of tasks on any given day.
So, going back to our buddy, Mike; write “Contact Mike” under Wednesday’s date in your daily planner.
2. Do something about everything on your plan
Contacting Mike should be straightforward, right?
You’d think so; but stuff happens; communications break down. Mike may not be answering.
You tried, but you didn’t get the outcome you wanted.
So enter “Contact Mike” again under Thursday’s date.
What matters is that you persist. Keep contacting Mike until you get hold of him.
You don’t have to finish each task on your daily list (although that’s the ideal scenario), but you do need to do something about each one each day. That’s the best way to eventually close every loop.
So, let’s say that yesterday I planned 12 one-off tasks to do today.
The aim is to do something about each of those 12 tasks, even if it is one small part of the task. Those that don’t get completed get re-entered under the next day’s date.
That’s it - the two time management jobs you need to take care of each day.
Sometimes you may really need to get hold of “Mike” quickly.
If so, do it. Don’t let systems and habits override common sense. The more you do use the system, though, the less you’ll find you have to react.
These time management jobs aren’t principles, methods or skills; they’re ‘must do’ habits to do each day.