Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time Management - Priority List Building

A good exercise for completing a list of priority tasks is to use a system called time-blocking. Having compiled a list of specific tasks to be completed within a given week, you should have those tasks written down in a priority order. Now on a weekly calendar these can now be placed into time slots each broken down into 15 minute segments, this is the process of time-blocking. The beauty of this system is that it does not have to just be used with work tasks, it can equally be applied to home life as well.

Time-blocking can be difficult to master at first but will become easier the more you do it, a bit like physical exercise. It will become a beneficial skill once you are well-versed in practicing it but it does take need a lot thought and concentration in the early stages. Building time-blocking mental muscles requires a level of commitment and practice. The key to successfully managing your time is through repetition. It is the old adage of 'the more you do it, the better you will become'...and the pay-off is well worth the effort.

15 minute slots.

With calendar in hand, the day needs to be broken up into 15 minute sections. 15 minutes may seem like a very short period but those 15 minutes can be very productive ones. Losing a few of these sections throughout the day can have a quite an impact, after all only four of them equate to a whole hour and eat into your ability to accomplish the goals of the day. Taking a blank sheet place a clear line down the centre to break the day up. The division between work and personal life needs to be defined. This initial steps lays out the work-life balance from the outset. Try and adopt a hard and fast rule defining your work time as Monday to Friday and your weekend as personal time. It is too easy for work related subjects to creep into Saturday and Sunday. State these two days as un-related work days, block them as personal, when presented on paper before you the easier it is to be strict with your time and the more effective time-blocking becomes.

Block in your 'free' time.

It is all to easy to fore-go something you want to do in your personal life, like taking the family for a lake side picnic for example. A mind still in the office can easily push these days out down the agenda. Work related issues seemingly take on a higher gravity and bully everything else out of the way, it is common for people to trade personal life for work. So put up a wall by time-blocking work where it should be. By segmenting the day it is easy to define a definite cut-off point where work stops and your social life starts. This can be a good motivator on both sides of the spectrum as you know that you have say only another hour and a half until you meet-up with friends at the bowling centre encouraging you to everything wrapped up by the end of the day.

Block in your work time.

Start with the tasks that are a regular part of your job and also include those non-routine but priority factors as well. No matter what departmental or management level you are at work you will undoubtedly be responsible for performing key tasks and activities every day throughout the week. These may include detailing reports, setting up meetings, gathering data for presentations, even filling... it should all be factored in and planned into the time-blocking schedule whether it be large or small.

End of week review.

Another good element is to set yourself a little time at the end of the week to check and see progress and how close you are to reaching your desired goal. This can be useful for shaping your next week's calendar schedule and prioritizing those urgent tasks. Perhaps see it as a weekly strategic planning session where you can reflect on what possible changes can be put into place to speed things up or help define clearer road to that finishing line.

Mind the gap.

Interruptions and problems are unfortunately unavoidable so be pre-planned and insert flexible gaps to accommodate for these times. Hopefully most can be sorted within a 15 to 30 minute time frame so for every two hours in your time-blocking calendar insert a 30 minute gap for the 'unplanned' events of the day.


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