Now that the weather is sunny, are you too busy to enjoy the outdoors? Is your day-planner or master to-do list so packed that you no longer even attempt to accomplish all the tasks at hand? Ever wish you had a few more hours in every day?
Consider the whole concept of time management similar to that of organizing your home space. An overscheduled day is like a cluttered closet, whereby you chaotically shove in new things that develop. Make time as tangible as a freshly cleaned out closet. Start the process by implementing a system I call S-A-V-E, saving you both time and frustration.
SORT: Just as you would begin creating order in a disorganized closet, start grouping like items together in your day planner or your to-do list on your electronic calendar. For instance, group agenda items that can be done from your desk into one block of time (computer work, writing, emails, etc.), out of office agenda items together (combining store errands with your lunch meeting downtown), phone calls to be made or returned in another block of time, and so on.
And, to be clear: sorting also means purging, a time to get rid of excess clutter. Study the items on your agenda and decide what you really need to do today, what can wait for another day, what you could delegate to another person, and what you really can forget about.
ASSIGN: Find a specific home for each agenda item, just as you would do when tackling your closet. Designate pockets of time each week to accomplish specific tasks. The assignment that is toughest is the one you should address at your peak energy level in the day. If you are a morning person, chip away at this task first thing, before you get side tracked. Creating start and stop points in your day for various tasks, so they are contained in a wall of time, will prevent them from taking up most of the day. Also, put an estimated time allotment after each to-do item on your list and the time of day you plan on doing it. Remember, a ‘to-do’ item not connected to a ‘when’ is worthless and will not get done.
VISUALIZE: Look at the bigger picture. Imagine your perfect day with lots of energy and not feeling overwhelmed. A day that has breathing space integrated into it, with manageable agenda items that will leave you feeling accomplished at days end instead of exhausted. Just as you would see some open shelving in a cleaned-out closet, make sure you see “white space” on every page of your day planner!
EVALUATE: This is daily maintenance. Fine-tune your daily agenda every day, as your schedule may need tweaking from time to time. If you consistently seem to be carrying over agenda items from yesterday to today to tomorrow, consider cutting your daily ‘to-do’ list in half.
When planning your to-do list for the day ahead, make sure you also include things you really enjoy doing (hobbies, sports, socializing, etc.). This might provide the incentive you need to accomplish the more burdensome tasks to get to that extra time for pleasure. Personally, I prefer to plan my next day plus two, allowing me to see ahead a few days to juggle any items I know I won’t be able to get to on the first day.
Taking control of your time means that time will no longer control you. This is what organizing truly is - giving yourself access to what’s important to you. Good luck and enjoy your extra time!