Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Time management tips for real life

When you look for tips on time management, you find the most obvious ideas on every single list. I'm starting to think that people are missing the point. "Keep a to-do list" is not the advice I'm looking for. Prioritizing your to-do list isn't very helpful either. I'm interested in making life more efficient and more productive.
In a recent seminar on time management, we talked about 2 personality types. Both are part of the Myers-Briggs personality survey. There are "judgers" and "perceivers." Some would say that judgers made a to-do list to use it and perceivers make a to-do list to lose it. Kind of unfair, but there is some truth in that generalization. I have a split personality. At work I tend to be the nose to the grind stone, efficient type. At home I look like a chicken running around after having its head cut off. That's usually how I feel too! People with either personality type can be productive, successful people. One isn't better...just different and recognizing how your gears turn can help identify strategies for being more organized, efficient, and productive at work or at home.

If you needs a couple of tips that go beyond the basics, here are three that resonate with me.
  • Identify why tasks haven't moved off your to-do list. Are you dreading it? Is it just not all that important to you? Can it be broken up into smaller tasks?
  • Learn to use small chunks of time to make progress. Gone are the days that I have an entire day to get in a groove and get a big task done. I've found that by making constant bits of progress when I have small chunks of time, I end up finishing tasks faster than I would have thought. 
  • Make your to-do list work for you. As basic as it sounds, when you have a million things to keep up with a to-do list probably needs to go beyond some scrap of paper. I have friends who use excel spreadsheets, a bazillion post-it notes, online task managing tools, and notebooks. Find something that works to your advantage. 
I found a great daily planning printable from what used to be Life's a Journal and now is Thyme is Honey. Actually, the printable I use is slightly different. This must be an adaptation. Here's the low-down on what I like about it. 

1. It's one-sided, so I use the other side to take notes during all my meetings. 
2. To-do vs. Today's goals: I can keep a broader view of my projects and tasks in the to-do section. I write the items that will get done today in the goal section. I can refer back to previous sheets to track progress.
3. My "Dailies" are a) respond to emails, b) write for 45 minutes c) read 1 paper and d) organize for tomorrow.
4. I like the visual reminder to go get another glass of water. Hydration is good for the brain.
5. Appointments: Sure they are in Outlook, but sometimes it's nice to have them written down on the piece of paper that goes with me everywhere for the day.
6. Fitness and don't forget: These are my sections. It gives me permission to bring a little "perceiver" into my work day!

Now if only I could bring that judger personality home with me, I'd be a bit more organized at home too! I'd be curious to hear what helps you organize your day for the most productivity! Do share!

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