My most favourite tool for managing my time is what my old life coach Natalie Bacon calls calendaring.
That’s calendaring used like a verb.
I used to be the queen of to do lists. In fact I developed a fabulous complicated to do list. It had so many sections for the different tasks that I had to do. I shared it with people because I thought it was great.
But now looking back that wasn’t the answer to my time management problems. Because every task takes an amount of time, as that’s how our lives are measured in the seconds, minutes, days, hours, weeks, months and years we spend on this planet. And all the things we have to do take up a portion of that time.
The trouble with to do lists is they don’t tell us how much of our life we need to devote to each of those little lines on our to do list. From answering an email to writing a PhD thesis. Each one can take up the same space on your to do list, but can be very different in the amount of time you need to allocate to them.
That’s why I love calendaring. It gives you an idea of how much you’ve actually got on that week or that month. every single thing I have to do has a slot on my calendar. At least when it comes to my work. As soon as a new task comes in I don’t put it on a list. I put it on my calendar.
That’s why I love calendaring, by which I mean putting all of my tasks on my calendaring in Microsoft Outlook at work. It gives you an idea of how much you’ve actually got on that week or that month. every single thing I have to do has a slot on my calendar. At least when it comes to my work. As soon as a new task comes in I don’t put it on a list. I put it on my calendar.
I deal with emails and phone calls by having a regular blocks each day for those. And there is a sort of mini list on the email block of ones that I need to send and on the call block of people I need to phone, but that’s about as far as I go with lists. Otherwise tasks get 15, 30 or 60 minutes on my calendar.
So most people when they open their calendars just have appointments with other people. Otherwise the time is wide open and nobody would know what they were doing when they weren’t in meetings. But my calendar looks like I’ve got a million meetings each week, but actually they’re just meetings with myself. Appointments that I’ve made that I am going to honour for all the tasks that I need to do for that week to make sure that I meet my deadlines and get everything done that I need to do.
And what happens when my calendar gets too full. Well that shows maybe I’ve got too much to do. I need to move things around. I need to start saying no when taking on more work. You can see ahead of time if a week is going to be busy or if it’s going to be quiet. If your deadlines are all coming at once you can spread the work out so you’re not tearing your hair out one week and twiddling your thumbs the next.
I can’t speak highly enough about calendaring. I really would encourage you to give it a try. It is a real game changer.