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Effective Scheduling: Planning to Make the Best Use of Your Time

Schedule Essential Actions

Block in the actions you absolutely must do. These will often be the things you are assessed against.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Effective Scheduling: Planning to Make the Best Use of Your Time

Effective Scheduling: Planning to Make the Best Use of Your Time

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_07.htm

mindtools.com

8

Key Ideas

The Importance of Scheduling

Scheduling is the art of planning your activities so that you can achieve your goals and priorities in the time you have available. It helps you:

  • Understand what you can realistically achieve with your time.
  • Add contingency time for "the unexpected."
  • Avoid taking on more than you can handle.
  • Work steadily toward your personal and career goals.
  • Achieve a good work-life balance.

How to Schedule Your Time

Set a regular time to do your scheduling.

Decide on a scheduling tool to use to organize your time. You can use pen and paper or choose an app.

Identify Available Time

Start by establishing the time you want to make available for your work.

How much time you spend at work should reflect the design of your job and your personal goals in life.

Schedule Essential Actions

Block in the actions you absolutely must do. These will often be the things you are assessed against.

Schedule High-Priority Activities

Schedule in high-priority and urgent activities, as well as essential maintenance tasks that cannot be delegated or avoided.

Try to arrange the high-priority tasks for the times of day when you feel most productive.

Schedule Contingency Time

Schedule some extra time to cope with contingencies and emergencies.

Some interruptions will be hard to predict, but leaving some open space in your schedule gives you the flexibility you need to rearrange tasks and respond to important issues as they arise.

Schedule Discretionary Time

The space you have left in your planner is "discretionary time". Use it to deliver your priorities and achieve your goals.

  • Review your prioritized To-Do List and personal goals.
  • Evaluate the time you need to achieve them.
  • Schedule them in.

Analyze Your Activities

If you have little discretionary time available, question whether all of the tasks you've entered are necessary. Some tasks can be delegated or tackled in a more time-efficient way.

If you find that your discretionary time is still limited, then you may need to renegotiate your workload or ask for help.

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Once you write down the tasks you need to perform, you then have to clear space in your day to put some of those tasks onto your calendar.

This calendar maintenance is itself a useful exercise for fighting the tide of interruptions you’re always facing. It pulls your brain out of a reactive mode and forces you to think about the long term. 

Planning your goals

Planning turns abstract goals into concrete work.

For most people, the challenge is making sure we get the big-picture projects done, those that make work fulfilling. And it's hard to achieve them without breaking them into a coherent set of concrete actions you can take on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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The Pressure Of Time

Most leaders have familiar approaches to managing time: setting goals, planning, delegating, tracking commitments, and creating to-do lists. While these approaches do help in self-organization, the...

Sustainable Productivity

Instead of increasing the number of productive hours, we can focus on getting the right things done in a timely way. We also need to restore and balance ourselves, our colleagues, family and environment, instead of a neurotic or pathological focus on deadlines.

Find out what's truly important to us and use the finite resource of time wisely.

Phantom Workload

Phantom workload looks like real work but results in massive unproductivity and even conflict in an organization. The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations causes a vicious cycle of further workload.

Leaders need to take a hard look at what is being avoided or not addressed. Facing difficult tasks that were 'swept under the carpet' earlier strengthens them further to make hard decisions and face difficult people and situations.

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There isn’t enough time
Complaining that you don’t have enough time is not getting to the root problem. It may be that you’re lousy at time management. Admit to yourself that there is enough time -- you just don’t know how t...
A one size fits all solution

Instead of relying on a tool with all the bells and whistles, find out where you’re struggling and what’s essential for you. 

For example, if scheduling is taking you away from product development, then you could use a scheduling tool that uses machine learning to automate most of your scheduling needs. If you’re wasting too much time on email, then consider using a tool to help tame your inbox.

Less anxiety

Time management is only useful when you’re aware of your limitations and don't let the system dictate your entire life. 

In other words, when you don’t tread lightly (especially at first), time management can add more stress to your life.

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  • Assumed Family/External Support: It’s better to be prepared for eventualities and have contingency funds in hand.
  • Financial Requirements Decrease: Medical costs increase with age. Inflation and other factors might also come into play.
  • I will not live that long or I won’t retire: People tend to live longer, but they will suffer from medical ailments.
Retirement Goals

To have a secure and financially independent retired life during your golden years with regular post retirement income, a corpus of savings/investments and a safe shelter or home.

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At any point during the workday, you are in one of these modes:
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  • Your to-do list is a collection of those orders, which your Assistant personality will later pick up and do.
Write down the instructions in such a way that your Assistant self can just do them without having to think - or stress. 
Put Items That You're Definitely Doing

Instead of letting tasks you're not quite committed to loiter on your to-do list until you're sick of looking at them, move them off to a separate list, a holding area for Someday/Maybe items. 

Only concrete actions you're committed to completing should live on your to-do list.

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Prerequisites for Effective Time Management

Trying to apply time management tools without having prerequisite time management skills is unlikely to work effectively. The prerequisites are:

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Steps To Improve Time Management

The way to improve your Time Management skills requires us to figure out where to focus. This can be done by:

  • Getting an objective self-assessment done by your peers or boss, or establishing a baseline behavior to measure your performance against.
  • Understanding that it is your skills, not your personality or preferences that can be developed to provide the best results.
  • Identifying the key skill(s) that you need to prioritize, and avoiding spreading yourself too thin.
    Developing Awareness Skills

    The key factor to consider when developing awareness skills is that effectiveness (doing things well) is as important as efficiency (doing things fast).

    • Find which time of the day is your 'peak performance time.
    • Treat time as money, a limited resource, and create a 'time budget' for your to-do list.
    • Measure and evaluate the projected time vs the actual time taken.
    • Consider which of the tasks create follow-up tasks that take up your time later.
    • Take into consideration the 'opportunity cost' of spending time in an activity.

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      Clarify your goals

      If you don't know what your goals are, most likely you won't be able to identify and prioritize the specific tasks you need to work on to achieve those goals. 

      Write your major goals down and break them into tasks. Your goal tasks are your frogs, the things you want to work on first thing every day for greater productivity and success.

      Think long-term

      ... to make better short-term decisions.

      If you question the consequences of doing/not doing a to-do before you start on it, it not only makes it easier to find your frogs, but it also makes it easier to find time-wasting tasks that are better deleted from your list or delegated to someone else.

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      Time blocking

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      Time blocking and focus

      By scheduling every minute of your day you not only guard against distraction but also multiply your focus.

      Also, focusing on one task at a time can make you up to 80% more productive than splitting your attention across multiple tasks.

      Cons of the time blocking practice
      • It takes a lot of time and effort.
      • Few of us (if any) have the same schedule every day.
      • We’re bad at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
      • Constant interruptions and “urgent” tasks can destroy your system.
      • Flexibility is key in most workplaces.
      • You can lose sight of the bigger picture if you focus just on each day.

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      What Time Management Is

      Time is our precious resource. It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and it cannot be saved. It can only be reallocated from activities of lower value to activities of higher value.

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      Eat That Frog!

      Your “frog” is your most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

      If you have two important tasks, start your day with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Focus on completing it before you go to the next one.

      Failure to execute

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