How many times a day do you find yourself thinking “if only there was more time in the day”? Trying to balance all of the aspects of our lives, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, that instead of spending time doing something productive, we spend it staring at the computer screen mindlessly visiting sites or playing endless games of “Farkle”. After reading numerous blogs, websites, books, and the like I have come up with some time saving strategies that work for me. With the Time Management Series, I want to share those strategies with you, in the hope that they can help you as well.
1. Create a Routine – I am one of those people who thrive on routine. When school is in session, we live by a pretty strict routine around here. In the summer our days tend to be a constant stream of either random events or absolutely nothing. This summer I was determined to change that. Inspired by Fly Lady at www.flylady.net, I sat and came up with a few routines: a nightly routine, and a routine for housework to be done each day. The nightly routine is made up of things that need to get done, as well as things that will make the next day easier. For example, at night I always clean up the kitchen, run the dishwasher, and take out dinner for the next day. For the housework routine, I wrote down all of the housework chores that needed to get done, and then started spreading them out among the six days of the week (Saturday is a freebie). These are both typed up and put in a place where both my wife and I can see them. I didn’t originally do a morning routine, however, I am seeing that we fall into one each day. I plan on writing it up and making it “official” soon. If you are interested, you can download my routines HERE.
2. Use To Do Lists – I have talked before about my love of to do lists. I take great satisfaction of crossing something off my to do list. With to do lists, I can see what needs to be done, what I should do next, and what I have already done. My to do lists are a three level process.
- The “Brain Dump” – First, I take a notepad and spend time writing down EVERYTHING I need to do within the next month or so, making sure to put a deadline on everything. If something doesn’t have a deadline, I give it one. I go through my calendar, my email, and check the forums I am active in for things that I need to complete. I usually do this on a Sunday afternoon or evening. Sometimes it takes a long time, other times it takes a few minutes. When I am done, I usually have a pad full of things that need to be done, with the dates they need to be completed by.
- The organized list – Since my brain works in often erratic ways, my “Brain Dump” list is often out of order. There are things that are due next week with things that are due tomorrow, followed by something due later in the month. To keep myself organized, I take a minute and rewrite the list, putting everything in order of it’s deadline. This chronological list helps me to figure out what needs to be done each day.
- The To Do List – My daily to do lists serves as the planner for my day. I write the to do list for each day the night before on a 4×6 index card. When I am writing my to do list, I look to include a few things: the chores from my everyday routine, aspects of my everyday life such as “workout” or “pick up perscription”, items from my organized list that are due that day or a day in the near future, and last minute issues or projects that pop up. I stick to one rule about adding items to my to do list: if it takes less than two minutes to do, it doesn’t get added to the list, instead I put the list down and do the task. Often, I split my list into three separate categories: work (when school is in session), home, and scrapbooking/design. Each task gets placed into the appropriate category. When I am done, I have a comprehensive list of what needs to be done on the following day.
These two strategies are at the core of my time mangament efforts. Also, to answer the question, yes, all of my to do lists end with the same task: make to do list for tomorrow!
In the next installment of the Time Managment Series: How to surf the ‘net and not waste time, or “oooh, another Facebook App!!”