Monthly Archives: October 2010

Time Management – how is it going?

Well, it seems like only a week since I last blogged about this. Oh, wait, it is only a week since I last blogged about this. I thought a quick re-cap on how to manage time might be helpful. I hope you have had time to read it and time to put it into practice……..thank you, again, to all the people who have emailed me with their thoughts.

Incidentally, this time management lark takes proper practice, so those who find it all a little scary – the notion of stepping away from  tasks or building in task-time and down-time – could take some comfort from the fact that I had several emails from people who “simply couldn’t” plan so effectively because they forget stuff. That is the point – if you plan and factor in those blips you rarely forget. And for those of you who claim to prefer to be spontaneous – you know who you are and I have already replied to your emails!! – I ask: at what cost? Spontaneity is lovely during holidays and weekends (if you don’t have a family and ironing to factor in….) but doesn’t cut it as a lifestyle choice in the world of employment and business. Trust me.

Here is a daily Q&A for you to use:

  • Do I have a jobs-to-do list?
  • What is the most important thing I am going to do today?  (Note to Old Man – this can include buying chocolate for a hard working wife/spouse/husband/partner/significant other/insignificant other/harem)
  • Have I allocated a slice of time for it?
  • Am I doing anything to help me to avoid doing or facing anything at the moment (you know what I mean – my personal favourite is deleting emails……clearly they can’t wait until I have completed that important but daunting task that I am pretending not to avoid….)
  • What physical exercise will I get today?
  • Are the people that I am spending time on today adding value to my life?
  • Will I get some Labrador Time today? (Labradors have got it sussed – they run about, eat, get muddy, bark a bit and get stuff done, and then they lie down and stare into the fire or into space before getting up and doing it all again with wagging tails, wet noses and plenty of energy. The only bits I want out of those are the energy and the down time. Sadly I also seem to have acquired the wet nose…….)
  • What will I enjoy doing today?
  • What am I looking forward to?
Labrador Time is as important as the stuff-doing time. If you – I am looking at you –  don’t have time to quietly think and be yourself, to re-position your self at the centre and keep in touch with what makes you you, you will cease to be you and will just be a work-machine with add-ons. Equally, trying to cram Labrador Time into a frantic regime will not allow you to expand to fill it, and if you don’t fill your Labrador Time you might as well be a stuffed Labrador…….
Go – work, play, rest, have a good life. Wag your tail……….

Managing Time and wearing your underpants over your trousers……….

Managing Time is a strange concept: a bit like herding cats or sewing with water. Time just is, it does what it does, it flows forwards (and in some cases backwards – I am thinking about those fabulous meetings in large rooms without an air supply and a parade of suits with an opinion between them and an afternoon to kill………) and we bob along with it, sometimes bumping into the riverbank or each other, turning gently at times, violently at others. Whoever thought we could manage that stuff?

And yet, we all do it every day. You decide to get up at a particular time, to have breakfast and shower and dress in a particular order and leave the house at a  certain time, to buy a paper on the way to work or not, depending on what time you have, thinking up a good excuse for being late if The Boss is already there, planning the time for your first fag break or tea break.

We talked a few blogs ago about goals and achievements. If you have sorted out your goals and have thought through your lifestyle, if you do not have a personal organisation system you will fail. (If you have an organisation system and no goals, however, you are simply a bit sad………….shape up there! Get a few goals! Get a life!) There are lots of tools to use to help your system along, such as a PDA or filofax (Blimey – remember them?!), a diary, or your PC or laptop. Whatever you use you will need to have a plan. You will need:

  • An overview list
  • A daily jobs list
  • A diary
Your Overview List is the bigger picture – not the little things like “buy chocolate” (although I think that is one of lifes important tasks, frankly) or “darn socks” (does anyone darn socks anymore? It might be something we all have to learn to do again if the latest cuts bite as deep as they could do…….), but the more major tasks, like “learn Japanese” or ” buy a Winnebego”. These will probably drop out of your goals, which I know you will have worked out after the fabulous blog about them a few weeks ago. These bigger tasks will probably be the tasks that propel you towards your goals, or they might be imposed on you by The Boss – which probably means they will still be part of your goal-plan anyway.
Your Daily Jobs List needs to be updated daily, probably at the end of the working day so that you can start fresh again the next day without having to trawl your memory for the tasks. This is like the palate cleanser between courses – it clears away the gribble from your head and allows you to focus on the tasks rather than what the tasks are, and frees you up to enjoy them. Honestly. These tasks will feed into some of the Overview List tasks, such as if your Overview Task is “learn Japanese”, one of your daily tasks might be “find Japanese class”. Cleansing the mind of gribble is healthy, and BOY does it feel good to cross things off!!
Your Diary makes visual what is a strange concept: you can see time!! You can divide the day/week/month into manageable bites and fill them with stuff that will nudge you towards happiness. What a great thought that is!  However, if you fill your diary more than, say, 75% full, it will drag you down towards the Pit of Unhappiness by forcing you to rush, compromise and lie. Yes, lie. You will find yourself having to look at your diary and say to a perfectly nice person, while looking at a perfectly blank page, “sorry, I am booked up all day on Friday 13th so can’t do that thing you want me to do.” That is because you will be running away from commitments rather than planning for them. That 25% of diary time that is unaccounted for is reserved for all those Maniac Things and Monster Issues that you know are going to rush in but you pretend won’t, because you can’t write them into your diary. Don’t write them in, write in spaces and down time. And them when Monster Issues come rampaging into the office you can say ” Stand Back, it’s ok, folks, I am a trained time manager and have plenty of time right now, in my diary, to sort this out. Panic not, my little friends, I will put my underpants on over my trousers and in one bound we will be free”. Or words to that effect. You get the picture………..
   If you plan your Overview List, out of which will drop your Daily List, your Diary will soak up the resulting commitments freeing you to play croquet, paint a picture of Trafalgar Square, or skip into the Guinness Book Of World Records for doing more crochet than anyone else in the world ever, because you will see when you can do stuff and when you have to do stuff. If you have bi-monthly  reports to do, diarise them, and then diarise a reminder 2 or 3 days before the due date so you are not caught off guard. I have recently failed to do this in spectacular fashion, meaning I have to work all day Sunday to complete something for Monday. Not like me and not nice!!! And if I had followed my own advice, which I usually do, I could spend Sunday skipping about and laughing instead of hunched over my laptop pulling my “I hate Mondays” face which rarely sees the light of day as I love my job!! Photos will follow on the next blog. Scary – don’t look if you are of a nervous disposition or prefer your own “I hate Mondays” face.
  • Write it down
  • Write it down
  • Write it down.
Have fun, enjoy your tasks, and enjoy watching them ease you towards your goals and therefore your happiness. If it isn’t fun, you aren’t doing it right and neither is The Boss. Talk to The Boss about fun and injecting a little into your work, but don’t approach her/him empty-handed – take some ideas and some enthusiasm with you. S/he he will appreciate it if s/he is any good, and will value your thoughts, your ideas and your work.
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