Time Management: How to Find Time for Things?

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Do you want to get things done on time?

Next, I will show you how I manage my time in a way that keeps the stress to a minimum.

For example, you can’t fit more than 4 or 5 hours of work in your 8-hour day. Find out how to plan your day not to worry about the things that you don’t need to worry about yet.

I often started a day with perfectly laid out plans for how everything will happen. Then 12 hours later I had several tasks unfinished and no hope of getting them done that day.

My day exploded because I forgot to include one meeting on the daily list and one important discussion just needed to happen. That discussion led to a task that took another 40 minutes. Adding all this up led to an additional 3 hours of unplanned activities.

Bed-In for Peace, Amsterdam 1969 John Lennon Yoko Ono

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. ~~Lennon / Saunders

How to plan your day so that you can have unexpected events and still manage to get stuff done that you planned for the day. I have tried to find an answer to that question for years and come up short. The reason why I have not got an answer is that the answer I want to get is different from what’s really possible.

The answer we want to get is how to squeeze 12 hours of work into 8 hours. Many of us have come to realize over the years that this is impossible. We are stunned, but in the end, we’ll accept the third-grade math lesson that 12 is greater than 8. But we are not beaten.

We’ll turn to another powerful math tool the equal sign. 8 = 8.

Yay! Why didn’t I think of this earlier? If I have 8 hours, then I should schedule 8 hours of work.

Wrong!

If you are thinking about the work, you have to do and scheduling the tasks you may think that you can get one hour of work done in one hour. It’s not true even in the environment where you are not distracted by an external stimulus (phones, people, notifications, etc.).

Read next:  How to Remember Things You Have to Do

In the ideal environment, you have some idea how much work you can do in an uninterrupted hour. When you are planning, you consider an ideal situation and use that as a yardstick, even if subconsciously. That is why you usually get more stuff done when working alone.

Enter the evil co-worker.

They are hired for the sole purpose of distracting you and slowing you down. Research shows that you get on average 11 minutes on any given task in an office environment before someone or something distracts you. And that’s not the worst part, to get back on track it will take on average 25 minutes. In the worst case scenario, you get 18 minutes of work done in every hour.

How to deal with that? One way would be to get all your co-workers fired. However, fewer people might increase your load even more and is thus not recommended. There’s another way.

Daily Time Management: 1-2-3 method

I use 1-2-3 method. This is one of the simplest time management techniques. For every day I plan

  • one really important thing in my day,
  • two other larger tasks and
  • 3 or 4 smaller tasks.

The most important task gets two 40-minute slots, two larger tasks get 40 minutes each, and the three or four smaller tasks share two 40-minute slots. The key is to plan 1 hour for each 40-minute time slot and use the remaining 20 minutes for task switching, low priority activities and relaxing. Return phone calls, check email, chat with colleagues, go for lunch, etc.

The plan seems really simple until reality hits, and you really have to get more things done than there’s time. Well… just say no! You can not do 2 hours of work in one hour. If you don’t say “no,” your to-do list will continue to grow and grow and then grow some more. You will have sky high stress, and you will feel that you are not up to the challenge.

Read next:  Psychology and Willpower Reading List 1

Using this method will help you get a grip on things, but there are always going to be days when even the best-laid plans will blow up in your face.

Give yourself some credit, understand that you are doing enough and plan realistic amounts of work into your day.

Long-term time management and to-do lists

Getting Things Done Stress Free ProductivityI use 43 folders from the Getting Things Done book to plan my week, month, and year. The folders are not physical, of course. I use a single Word document where I have headlines from 1 through 31 and 12 months. I have formatted the document into three columns and two pages.

  • The first page contains the remaining days of the current week.
  • Then there’s a hard page break.
  • On the second page, I have the next 21 to 30 days plus the next twelve months.

I usually update my 43 folder to-do list on my computer. I don’t need it for tactical time management. However, sometimes I open it on my mobile to check dates for future events.

Before that, I used various other systems but moved on until I found 43 folders. GTD is the system that I have been using for almost 4 years.

 

1-2-3 and 43 folders together

When you combine the two methods above you will get maximum peace of mind. Use the 43 folders for longer planning and 1-2-3 for daily tasks. If there’s a better system, then I haven’t found it yet.

Bonus: 26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20

Here are simple ideas from some of the best people in various industries. How they manage their time to get more done and avoid being overwhelmed. Collected by Etienne Garbugli.

Great time management skill set you apart from the rest of the crowd when are reaching for your goals.

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Image: To Do List by Beth77
Image: Bed-In for Peace, Amsterdam 1969 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono 16 by Nationaal Archief

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1 Response

  1. June 4, 2013

    […] How to Find Time for Stuff […]

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