ENDING YOUR DAY RIGHT

Especially for my writer friends (but nonwriters can steal these tips), before you leave your desk for the day or night:

BACKUP YOUR WORK: In two places is best. I use OneDrive and a thumb drive, then once a month I back up to an external drive I keep in a water and fireproof small safe.

CLEAR OFF YOUR DESK: Put everything away and file anything that needs filing.

CALENDAR: Make sure everything is written on your calendar and check to see if you have any early-morning appointments.

TO-DO LIST: Be very systematic with your to-do list. Quickly write down everything you hope to accomplish the next day, but then put everything in order of priority.

DO ONE EXTRA THING: If needed, for example, write one email you owe. Deal with one piece of paper you’ve been hanging onto. Make a quick phone call you’ve been putting off.

Did I leave out anything anyone thinks is also important? Let me know in the comments!

THE IMPORTANCE OF TO-DO LISTS

The importance of to-do lists cannot be over-stated. Almost everyone who uses them gets more done than those who don’t. Sure, a few people can keep everything in their heads without a problem. Most of us need some help remembering, especially lists.  Studies have shown that people who are disorganized are anxious. Making a list of to-dos, and using a planner, calendar or spreadsheet for expenses can help calm the anxiety.

However, be very careful with that to-do list. Here are several ideas I’ve come across during my study of this subject:

Go ahead, make the list. Then choose either the three or up to six most important things on it. Write them down on another list, and put away your longer one. Concentrate on getting those three to six things done before tackling anything else. This does not work for long-term projects, however. Most people cannot write a whole novel using this idea.

In that case, break your six larger projects down into smaller chunks. For the novel, your to-do list says to work for a certain about of time or word count every day. Then you go on to the next item.

If the next item of importance can be finished, after doing your hour or so on the broken-down project, finish item two.

Maybe item three or four is also a project that will need to be spread out over several days. Again, plan to devote a certain amount of time to it, then get to the other things.

Another way to do a list is to break down your life into sections: Family, work, health, finances/family business, spirituality, leisure. Or pick your life priorities, and put them in order of importance. Then plan to devote a certain amount of time every day to each one. In this case, you’ll probably have to again break down your work priorities into order of importance and amount of time to spend on each every day during working hours. Notice the coincidence of my listing six life priorities. The other day I read about picking three things from your to-do list every day to concentrate one. Today, I read about picking six items. I’ve seen the other idea of life priorities over the years.

I’m thinking for work, you might want to have three major project priorities, and three smaller ones that can be done quickly.

I suggest fooling with your to-do list or lists (could be one for work and one for personal) until you find a system that makes you the least anxious and least likely to procrastinate.

That will end up being your own, personal system.Then, you can do the happy dance.

AUTOPILOT REVISITED

He’s back:

Remember my post about developing habits to help you get through your days quicker and easier? http://www.janchristensen.com/is-habit-destiny/

Well, here are a few more thoughts about fine-tuning your schedule.

1.     Have a routine for checking your notes, calendar and to-do lists every day.

2.     For major projects, don’t list on your to-do list more than three to five actions related to the ones you’re going to tackle that day.

3.     Prioritize your goals on your list, not just in your head.

4.     Take items off your lists that are no longer necessary or desired, even if you haven’t finished them. It’s surprising how many of us leave things on there that no longer interest us or that we haven’t a prayer of accomplishing. They just clutter lists up and can make you feel discouraged.

Realize that you cannot always, get everything done that’s on your to-do list every day. Hardly anyone ever does. This will eliminate a lot of stress.

And finally, effective time management uses the great in-and-out system;

Try not to take on a new task before an old one is finished.

This works on so many levels—Before bringing in a new food product, new clothing, new decorations, new project, new anything, get rid of something else. You whole life will be less cluttered.

And your time will be more easily managed.

PICK A DAY TO CLEAR

You’ve been keeping lists of your to-dos, and even crossing off some. Maybe you notice that several of them have been hanging around on the list way too long. Probably because you dread doing them. They are unpleasant in some way—will take too long, get you all hot and sweaty, take too much brain power, or something else.

Want to clear those tasks from your list in a hurry? Pick one day to do them all, or as many of them as you can cram into the day.

Decide on a time to start and a time to finish. Work for your one hour, take a ten-minute break, work the next hour, take a break and continue until mid-day when you take an hour for lunch and relaxation. Then go again in the afternoon with one hour/ten-minute break until the time you decided you would stop. You may even get on such a roll that you decide to continue until you have more done.

Friday’s a good day to do this. You have the weekend to look forward to, and during that weekend you can bask in all you accomplished on Friday.

ANOTHER WAY TO SORT YOUR TASKS

A, B, C is often suggested as a way to sort your to-do list. Simple. Top priority are A’s, would-be-nice-to-do are B’s and C’s are hardly necessary to do at all.

 

But how to make the decisions? Would word classifications help you more? How about A being Reach (for long-term goals or goals that will give you the most return), B being Standing Still (for tasks that you need to do to keep yourself and your environment up to snuff), and C being for Forget It (unless you use those tasks to procrastinate, and they make you feel good).

Can you come up with some other words to use that will help you understand what role doing your to-dos has in your personal growth and achievement?

WHEN ONE IS ENOUGH

Time management is tough. Picking the right tools can take some time because everyone is different. Some swear by paper and pen. Some won’t go anywhere or do anything without having and constantly checking their smart phones. Some use paper for some things and a personal digital assistant  (PDA) or smart phone for others.

The three essentials are a calendar, a to-do list, and a way to keep notes.

 And most important of all is to only have one of each that you carry with you at all times. The only possible exception is the calendar—you might have one you carry, and one at the office and one at home for everyone to look at and add their own items. But you have to be very careful to update everything at least once or twice a day if you have extras. If you can get everyone onboard, you could also use Google Calendar in “the cloud.” And if only you need to use it, that’s a great option if you’re on-line line a lot and have a smart phone to access it.

Pick each tool with care. Then stay with it. Once you’re used to your system, it will probably take more time to switch to another than you’ll save. The plus side is you’ll both feel and be more organized with those three essential tools.

TO DO LISTS

Everyone knows it’s a great idea to keep a to do list. And many think that’s it. You just list everything you have to, need to, want to do, and cross off each item as you accomplish it.

And basically, that’s true. So, if you’re doing this and still not getting things done, what’s wrong?

There are a few hints about using a list you should know.

First, only use one list and one system. Do not have pieces of your list scattered all over on notepads, sticky notes, napkins and on the back of other people’s business cards. Carry a notebook with you and “capture” stray thoughts about what you want to add to your list. Then add those items to the list when you next look at it. You have to have everything listed so you can prioritize what needs to be done.

Next, it doesn’t have to be an actual list. One nifty way to handle your to-dos is to use index cards. They are handy because they can fit into a small space like pocket or purse, and they are more durable than paper. I have just recently come to this system because I have many recurring to-dos each day.

  1. I have a card all made up of routine tasks for each day of the week.
  2. And I have two other cards made up for things I want to do every day. One for work (writing) and one for household.
  3. Then I have a card where I list occasional things, like getting the tax stuff ready for the tax man, making a dental appointment, fun things like that. Those things I cross off as I do them. When the card is too full to add anything more, I transfer the undone things to another card and keep going.

All the other cards have the things I need to do daily in a semblance of the order I hope to do them in. So, I don’t cross off anything. I just look at them every so often to see how I’m doing.

If your routine isn’t so structured, then having a running to do list is probably the way to go. Just remember to keep it all on one list and look at it often during the day.

Using a to do list is the most basic and probably the most powerful thing, along with a calendar, you can use to organize your life. Do you have a to do list?

MORE ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT

Think about it—the more organized you are, the more time you have to relax and be really happy.

Routine and organization are essential. Think ahead, plan for the unexpected, and focus on exactly what you want to achieve at any given time. You can learn to do this. And you can unlearn bad habits. Believe me, you were not born this way. You have control.

Here are some hints. Pretend someone very important is going to show up tomorrow and see how you’re doing. Pretend you are being paid for getting each task done. Each task, not for a day’s work. Think about how it will make you feel next week if you’ve done everything you’ve set out to do this week. (How will your future self feel?) How will it make you feel if you don’t accomplish everything on your to-do list?

And speaking of your to-do list, you have one, right? Be sure it’s not too long or too short, but just right. You know from past experience how much you are likely to accomplish in one week. Have a running list of everything you want to accomplish. But choose from those tasks wisely to make your weekly list manageable.

After your list is honed, schedule your activities. Write them down on a calendar, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. These are appointments with yourself to get stuff done. Today is Monday. I do these time management/organization posts on Monday for a reason. Most of us start off the week with high expectations. We hope to be able to look back at the week when it’s over and pat ourselves on the back for getting things done. The new year is coming up. Also a great time of feeling as if you can, this year, get your life the way you want it to be. Start now by planning ahead. Your future self will thank you.