And we want to talk to you about personal time management. This subject is a little bit of a detour from our more specific project management program. But we believe that time management is an issue that affects everyone,
We don’t want to say that they need to be really good at something and that there is no quick fix. Instead, we should say that we are going to offer them an easy way to improve their time management and show them simple things that they implement right away and get great results.
The best methods for upping productivity are based on two key objectives: The first objective is to capture all the things that need to be done – now, later, someday, big, little, or in between – into a logical and trusted system that’s outside of your head and off your mind. The second objective is to discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about all the inputs that you let into your life, so that you’ll always have a plan for next actions that can be implemented at any moment.
Most people these days will tell you that they have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. We’ve enhanced our quality of life in so many ways, yet, ironically, we nearly kill ourselves with stress by taking on more work than we have the resources to deal with.
That’s why time management is so important, because it’s really a kind of stress management.
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to shut down your brain at night when you’re trying to fall asleep? Why are so many thoughts running through your mind all the time?
Let me explain how stress is created. it’s not just the big problems that create stress. All of the little unresolved tasks that we have to deal with sit at the back of our heads, subconsciously creating tension. If you put your mind’s attention on something that needs to be done, and then don’t complete it because it’s low on the priority list, your mind will have already created an open process that keeps running in the back of your mind, and is going to keep bothering you to complete the task. Worse of all, it takes up your energy and prevents you from having a clear focus on your more important tasks.
It’s kind of like your Windows Task Manager. When you open Task Manager, you see that there are a lot of processes running in the background – processes that you didn’t even know existed. Many of them don’t do anything for days, but there they are consuming your computer memory and causing it to run slowly. But if you shut down the processes that you don’t use, then it frees up the memory and your computer will run faster.
All these open processes create stress. So how do we handle with all these processes and how do we minimize stress?
The key is to clear the open processes from our mind by having something else managing them.
Now we come to the question of how you process this information. First of all, you need to determine what the item is and what you’re going to do about it. For example, maybe you have letters from the bank or the government. Or maybe you received an email from a supervisor about a new company policy.
Ask yourself: Is this item actionable, yes or no? If no action is needed, then you have three options. One, it’s trash – so throw it away. Two, no action is necessary now, but you might need to do something later on, so you incubate this item. Three, the item is potentially useful information that you might need later on, so you can classify it as a reference item.
If it is actionable, then something has to be done. So, ask yourself: What project or outcome have I committed to? And also, what’s the next action required? If it’s about a project, then capture that outcome on a project list. That will remind you that you have an open process. Determining the next action is a critical step for anything you’ve collected. The next action is the next physical activity that has to be done in order to move the current situation to completion.
Once you’ve decided on the next action, you have three options. Option One: Do it. If that action will take under two minutes, you should do it then and there. Option Two: Delegate it. If you aren’t the right person to do the job, assign it to the appropriate person or entity. Option Three: Defer it. If the action is going to take more than two minutes, and you are in fact the right person to do it, then you can track it for later on a Next Actions list.
To keep organized, do one of the following to your “no action” items: Throw them out, mark them for later reassessment, or file them away so that they can be located and referred to at another time if needed.
To manage the actionable items, you’re going to need a storage place to put the tasks, a calendar, a list of reminders of next actions, and a list of reminders of things that you’re waiting for. You’ll also need a list of projects. Projects are things that need to be completed by following a set of tasks. Hiring a new employee, decorating a room, and building a new version of software are all types of projects.
As soon as you attach a “should” or “need to” to an item, it becomes incomplete. Decisions that you still need to make about whether or not you’re going to do something are already incomplete.
In order to manage this inventory of open processes, you have to capture it in containers that will hold them until you have time to decide what they are and what you’re going to do about them. Then you need to empty these containers regularly to ensure that they remain good tools for collecting.
The fact that you haven’t put an item in your basket doesn’t mean you don’t have it. You need to be sure that everything you need is collected somewhere other than your head.
Now there are many kinds of collection tools, and they can be physical or digital. For example, a basket, writing paper, a Word document, an email, or issue tracking software are all different types of collection tools.
There are three main factors that make this collection actually work. One, every open process has to be in your collection system and out of your head. Two, you must have as few collection buckets as possible. And three, you have to empty them regularly. These collection tools should be part of your lifestyle. Keep them nearby so that wherever you are, you can always collect a potentially valuable thought.
And emptying them regularly really is very important. Otherwise, there’s no point. You don’t necessarily have to complete the item in your basket or in that Word document, but you do have to take it out of the container, decide what needs to be done with it, and if it’s still unfinished, then organize it into your system. Not emptying your containers is like having garbage cans that never get dumped. You would just have to keep buying more and more cans to hold all your trash.
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