Time Management for Dummies

This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on…

Time Management for Dummies
Write lists…

You must have lists. With everything on them – everything. Work through your lists constantly and try to score out more than you add on.

You must…

…become obsessed with your tasks. Get through the small stuff first, to clear the decks for the big stuff. Please those around you first: do what your boss/partner/child asks you to do. We need to get along with people. Answer the phone when it rings. If you’re serious, get a nice leather binder with all the pages you need – diary, a page for phone numbers, London underground map, metric to imperial conversion charts, international dialling codes….

Well done! You’ve mastered time management for dummies.


Time management for smarties is different.

This is what to do…

Understand your goals. If you don’t have goals, move quietly away from the computer and call me…NOW.

Once you have goals, then define your High Payoff Activities (HPAs) – they are the critical actions that deliver your goals. Add two more – planning and physical exercise. You should have less than ten in total.

Half full…

When you plan your next week or fortnight, fill 50% of your time with HPAs (including meetings with yourself to do any HPAs that require no one else). Use your diary, or better, an electronic calendar like Office or Google (type calendar into Google).

For everything else, (emails, phone calls, actions collected throughout the day, actions collected in meetings, post etc) process them all as follows:

Decide whether you will  –

* Bin it,
* File it,
* Delegate it,
* Might do it one day, or
* Action it.

For the things that you may do one day, add them to a list entitled “Might Do It Today” Put this page in tomorrow’s slot in a bring-forward file (a concertina folder with 31 slots marked 1 to 31 for each day of the present month and a second concertina folder with 12 slots marked January through December for the months we’re not in at the moment).
If you must…

For those that you must action, and only those, do the following –

* If it will take less than 2 minutes, do it now.
* If it will take 2 – 15 minutes, put “the action” (hardcopy email, handwritten note etc) in your bring-forward file to do it on a specific day (just before it must be done, no sooner). File all associated stuff (email, notes etc) or bin them. Don’t leave anything in piles, in your inbox etc.
* If it will take more than 15+ minutes to do it, schedule time for it in your diary and put “the action” (hardcopy email, handwritten note etc) in your bring-forward file to do it on a specific day (just before it must be done – again, no sooner). File all associated stuff (email, notes etc) or bin them. Again, don’t leave anything in piles, in your inbox etc.

The moment I wake up…

At the start of every day, look at your diary (week to a view) and your bring-forward file. Your diary is your plan. Remember, if you don’t have a plan, you are part of someone else’s plan. And do you know what they have planned for you? Nothing much.

Your bring-forward file for the present day will contain the trivia that you MUST do, and your “Might Do It Today” page of things you may do one day, or may never do, but don’t want to forget about. Each day, you will look at this list and you may decide to elevate one or more of the items to actions which you will then process as above. Once you have done this, put the “Might Do It Today” list back in the bring-forward file under tomorrow’s date.

Do you have piles…?

The great thing about this approach is it gives you clarity and focus. The HPAs get done. They are your number one priority. There are no piles on your desk, piles in your inbox, piles in your head and bits of paper everywhere that cause a general sense of malaise.

In this system, everything has been processed and if it merits your time it will be in your diary or your bring-forward file.

This system is not just for work, it’s for life.

Twinkle, twinkle…

Do this for a month. Then increase the time spent on HPAs to 60%. Do this for a month. Then 70%. That’s probably as far as you can go, but by then you will be spending almost 5 times as much time as most people on your HPAs. You will feel in control, on your front foot, more confident and you will achieve more and more. It’s a virtuous cycle. You have become a star player!

Merry Christmas.


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