Time management. It’s a popular topic in management training. Whichever way you look there is something else demanding your attention and therefore your time – and it can feel like drowning. To compensate we set up many systems to do the time management for us: email, diaries, shared calendars, spreadsheets, trackers, applications, phone alarms, meeting reminders, alerts, newsfeeds, and even good old post-its on the wall! These systems are great for staying on top of tasks and appointments. But unless you’re a strict ‘aeroplane-mode-till-5pm’ kind of person, you’re almost certain to receive unexpected communications from people throughout the day. Whilst great to hear from your colleagues, friends and loved ones, it’s also a bother when you’re trying to work! They interrupt even the best made plans with requests, chats, demands, questions and ideas. And once interrupted, it can be hard to regain your focus. Harder still to remember what you were doing in the first place.
But even if you work at home, or on the move all the time you’re never really alone. We are seemingly bombarded with bings and pings wherever we go asking us to look at something, remember something, and ultimately to take action on something.
Getting organised, streamlining your notifications, and finding ways to focus on the doing (rather than on trying to remember what you should be doing) is a great idea. Here at =mc we have a tool that can help with all of this. It’s effective, it is simple, and it really works. Drum roll if you please. You need a…
Wowser. Amazing. Such a modern invention! Not impressed? It may be an oldy, but it is a solid idea. And that’s why there seems to be so many ways of doing lists now. So many flashy apps, notebooks, tools and ideas to choose from, each promising to change your life and make things easier for you. But which is the right one? How do you know if it will work for you?
Here are our three top tips for getting your perfect planning partner:
In order to get stuff done, you first of all need to know what your stuff is! This means choosing the system that allows you to put everything on there. Every task, action, reminder, deadline, project action, and standing item you can think of. And the personal. If your list does not include your padmin (personal admin) then you may just find the really important stuff – like your doctor appointment, annual tax return, dog’s seasonal tick injection, or kid’s world book day outfit – always goes undone. Keep it together and you’ll never have to worry about what you may have forgotten. Many digital apps like GoogleTask or Outlook make it super quick to add things so you can add on the move. They also allow you to keep items private so no one else can see that you have that personal appointment to sort out.
Getting into the habit of updating your list every day means you can make space for the new, incoming things. So every day, stuff will go on your list, and stuff will come off it. But the point is every day it is there – every day. Bullet journals are a form of diary-list making, whereby you write down your list in a specific journal. You then carry that journal around with you. The idea is that you are encouraged to revise your list in a mindful way, and think about what your goals are and what keeps getting carried over and over and over. You’ll get tired of writing the same things down, so ask yourself if it ever really needs to be done.
A list can be frightening if it is too big and unwieldy. Therefore, you need to prioritise your list – what is most important? What is least important? Order your list or mark it up so you know what comes first and last. Then you can just look at the next thing, and not worry about all the things. This leaves your brain free to focus on what matters most. GoogleKeep or Microsoft Stickies can be great for this. Using categories in Outlook is another way discriminate between the must do, the should do, and the could leave ‘til later. Bullet journals work on a system of codes and symbols so you know where you are on your list.
The difficulty with all these apps, journals and systems however is they have their own innate ‘rules’. These rules may not work for you. Therefore, you need to try them out and get them working for you, not the other way around. Therefore, our final tip is to remember who is the boss of your list – you are! Keep it simple, keep it straight forward and keep it up. And review your list each week. Ask yourself: what is helping me stay focussed? What is not working for me or irritating me about this process? Is there a simpler way of listing? Don’t waste time on planning your time. Make a list. Use your brain.
And if you want to see how we do it at =mc, with our revolutionary (ok, very simple but undeniably effective) Action Sheets, then ask us about our Managing Multiple Priorities course.
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Yvette Gyles, Director