If you’re anything like me, you have just a few things on your plate keeping you busy these days. Right now my company is in the thick of trying to implement some of our Obamacare initiatives, so the IT department has quite a list of “to-do’s”. On top of that I’m kind of running a blog, working on next year’s budget for my local church, being a husband to my sweet wife and a dad to my 2 awesome kids.
While reading some of my favorite personal finance blogs I realized that some of my methods of time management and organization might be of interest to others out there who struggle with a busy schedule.
Now, these aren’t really “revolutionary” by any means, they’ve been tried and tested and written about elsewhere. But personally, I find great value in reading about experiences and getting recommendations from people that I trust, so hopefully these will help give you some ideas for yourself.
The Getting Things Done Method (GTD)
Getting Things Done, or GTD for short, is a process of evaluating and acting upon the tasks that you have before you. Created by David Allen, this method is described as a way to “free up your RAM” so that you can concentrate on one task at a time.
My really short summary of the GTD method is this: Take inventory of all the things on your plate, then make a decision about each item. Your options for each item are–
- Do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes)
- Delegate it (if you can)
- Schedule it (using a calendar you will be monitoring)
- Put it in a “someday” folder (to be referenced monthly or so)
Going through this exercise helps you to clear out your “inbox” so that you can fully focus on the task that you’re working on, and also helps you to rid yourself of things “hanging over your head”. There’s a time for everything, but it’s not going to be “right now”, so don’t stress about it!
Personally, I’ve tweaked the GTD system a little for myself, you probably will too if you try it out. The book was originally written for a paper-intensive working environment, but there are adaptations for electronic environments now. For me, all I needed was a custom “Quick Step” in my Outlook that simultaneously deletes the email from my inbox while attaching the email to a new calendar item. I pick a day and time for the task to fall on and boom. It’s out of my way and assigned a slot on my schedule. Of course, if I’ve delegated or knocked the task out already there’s nothing to tie up my valuable calendar space.
7 Habits Weekly Planner
About 4 years ago I was moving into a new job position that required me to become more of a project manager than I’d ever been before. Around the same time I became a deacon at my local church and took over a set of responsibilities there. I was also becoming a father for the first time. I would routinely get to the end of a work week and realize “I haven’t made any progress on half the things I should have this week, and some areas of my life I’ve totally neglected!”.
It just so happened that I re-read The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People that summer, and this time through the messages and the methods of the book made complete sense. One of those habits (Habit 3) was about putting first things first, and it involved a Weekly Planner.
The Weekly Planner (which you can see here) is something I use almost every week to this day, laying out both my major responsibilities as well as my desired events for the various categories in my life, like this:
- Sharpen The Saw (personal growth and refreshment)
- IT Manager
- Friend and Family Member
- Salt and Light
Not only do I fill in the items that I wish to accomplish during the coming week across these areas of my life, I schedule them on my calendar so that I plan around them as the week goes on.
The entire exercise takes me about 30-45 minutes each Monday morning, and the best part for me is that these things actually get done.
One Minute Management
If you are in a position of authority or leadership I highly recommend this small, easy-to-read book: The One Minute Manager. You could read it in an hour or two, it’s almost like a coffee table book. But it has some timeless truths about how to effectively manage people.
The major takeaway from this book for me is that my employees want to learn, want to grow, and want to take on responsibility. If I’m allowing them to develop a dependency on me for their decision-making not only stunts their growth, but it makes both of us less efficient and productive.
When my direct reports come to me with a problem I try my very best to have them contribute to the solution (or come up with it themselves if at all possible)! Giving them confidence in their own decision making has been huge, and helps our IT department run as efficiently as possible.
If you read the book you’ll realize that this “one minute management” style requires investing extra time at the beginning of any new project or responsibility, in order to establish clear marching orders and expectations, but long term this will build confidence between team members and will give your employees the ability to think and act for themselves.
Have you used any of these techniques before? What are some of your favorite time management or productivity methods that help YOU to get more done?
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