The best Time Management Method for GTD
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES
For most workaholics, the concept of Time Management (TM) brings about all the same connotations as when you know the in-laws are coming. That sense of dread, the ‘not again’ feeling and the inkling that you just aren’t living up to those high expectations.
No matter how many times you try TM techniques, you either resort back to your old ways or just find you have no time to worry about improving your TM.
But just like any skill, repeat it enough and you’ve got yourself a habit. But for most of us, we just don’t turn the proverbially switch on. Sure, the original opportunity to flick the switch was many years ago, even decades before, but these switches are not turned on unless it happened to be said in a certain way, by a certain person that causes you to have enough pain to get off your ass and take some action.
Take your typical teenage male. His parents can tell him hundreds of time, “don’t were that shirt”, but it’s not until his cool mates say “your shirt is not cool man” that he’ll take notice.
So unless you can really figure out why and sway enough motives inside or find a source outside that gets you to say “hey man, ineffective time management..is not cool”, then you won’t change. Because to use the words of polymath Benjamin Franklin, “Dost thou love life?, then do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.” An alternative, more modern version I overheard in the street today was ‘Don’t f**k your life up- get your sh*t in order”. Either way works.
I’m sure you know what effective TM is and how to use it. You may even have bought copious products and gizmos that help organise your time but to no prevail. There are so many products out there from PIM (Personal Information Management) applications, PDAs, web-based and computer-based software programs and packages to complex second diaries. There are hundreds of products out there each saying they’re the best or for a different purpose. You can use the FIT Method, POSEC Method, The Eisenhower Method or the Covey system to name a few. Sure each serves a purpose, but the purpose they serve is the same- to organise your life.
Alot of these techniques complicate what should be simple. And as the late Jim Rohn said, ‘You can’t manufacture new antiques’. So listed here is not a technique- but an antique. The antique is simply the pen and planner. And as Dolly Parton once said ‘It’s how you use them that counts’. Listed here in its purest form is the easiest, most efficient TM strategy there is.
- Picture the day to come before it happens.
The thing with TM is that you can only manage the future. You cannot manage the present moment and you definitely cannot manage the past. You need to envision what has to be done. You can only manage what is yet to come.
- Write it down, then cross it off.
Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system is to write in your planner under each day your daily task list. There is no point in writing down your year goal of say ‘Build a massive e-commerce website’ for your day. Break it down into doable tasks. So your task today might be- buy a book on building a website. Big goals simply don’t work unless you know what tasks need to be done to get there.
This step is like forgetting your partner’s birthday. At the end of the day you’ll feel like you’ve been slapped in the face if it didn’t already happen and the following day you’ll realise you’re in massive trouble.
Mark next to each task a number in order of priority. This step is a must for effective TM. This step is essential if you want to see performance, personal, professional advancements.
Also remember Pareto’s Law. 80% of the tasks can be completed in 20% of the time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take 80% of the time. This principle is used to sort tasks into two parts. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.
The commonsensical approach is after your day is out, transfer what tasks are left until tomorrow. Also by transferring what you haven’t done, you have given that task more leverage for the next day.
Faking your day away.
Don’t fake your day. Just because you have 10 things to do- doesn’t mean any of it is meaningful. If you log into Facebook every 15 minutes, you are not just procrastinating, but probably have seriously low self esteem issues. So what if you have no messages that moment? In the grand scheme of things, whether you log into facebook 20 times a day or twice a week the social benefit only marginally improves. Also whilst on this note, these do not count as meaningful tasks and are low end tasks:
- “Call Samantha, Lauren and Jill about Emma’s Birthday”,
- “Email Sue about Friday dinner”,
- “Bitch to Phil about receptionist”
- “Book pedicure”
- “Get new shoes today”
Procrastinating your day away.
Procrastination is a habit. Like any habit, the solution is daily repetitive action to form a new one and change the old one. That is why if you have tried to stop procrastinating in the past and it did not work, it was because you did not stick with it long enough. Research states that is takes between 24-31 days of continuous repetition to form a new habit. It doesn’t work if you get up to day 14 and quit for a few days. You need continuous action. The longer you go without procrastinating, the greater your chances of forming a permanent new habit. Isn’t it worth sticking to something for just 24-31 days if it could alter the rest of your days?
Do you know why you procrastinate? It is because you have not organised yourself sufficiently or just feel overwhelmed or unpleasant about your abilities on the task. By writing and prioritising your day (which in essence is organising your life) it will eradicate procrastination.
If you ever feel like you are not in the appropriate ‘zone’ to tackle an important task- or worse- you start it and within seconds get sidetracked; then that’s your procrastination talking. You need to procrastinate on your procrastination. Get into the habit of telling yourself you’ll procrastinate later. Personally, a quote from my adolescents always crops up when I’m squandering my time. The quote is “Procrastination is like masturbation, it is fun until you realise you are only screwing yourself”. Another is “procrastination is the procreation of crass creation”. The first has more of a ring to it.
Here is a different method, which may or may not work for everyone. For some people if you combining your other senses to tasks it will get them done quicker. The reason you combine them with a sense or a strong feeling is to ensure each task has sufficient leverage and emotion to get you to follow through- especially if you don’t want to do it!
For example, imagine each priority as a smell. You wake up each morning and rate each priority as a smell. The biggest task obviously smells like the morbidly obese sickly middle-aged man’s rancid Indian curry diarrhoea. It’s a smell that doesn’t go down well first thing in the morning. So, just like trash days, you take out the garbage first thing in the morning so your house doesn’t smell bad. Each priority after that smells a little better. So going back to “call Sue” or “get a manicure”, you can imagine what they smell like. Possibly roses or your Grandmother’s freshly baked cooking. These make the house smell good, so you keep that around until later in the day- hence they come last on your priority list.
I’m sure for many, this method may seem different, but it comes from the same premise that the more emotion and sense you use on something, the higher the likelihood you will develop leverage on completing the task. The same pretext of course works on all senses or emotions that create a level of pain or pleasure on each task. If you look at your tasks through degrees of positive pain (just like going to the gym) you’ll find you will have more success. It’s been said many times that we as humans work harder to avoid pain than gain pleasure.
So use your pen and a planner and do these three things mentioned: picture your day in advance, write it all down and prioritise it. The two sub notes on this are again: don’t fake your day with small prioritise and procrastinate your procrastination. If you need a bit of extra flavour to increase your success, try getting some pain/pleasure involved using your emotions or senses.
This time management method is more so a principle of time management than a technique. So please use it, or at least make an effort and take some action today on improving your time management. Unearth your catalyst where you go out and stumble on the ‘group of cool kids’. Because if you don’t, some day you’ll realise how much you could have done but didn’t or would of helped but couldn’t, just because you didn’t have the time. So, get the time.