Many years ago, I developed a variation on the daily time management â€œto do listâ€ system and have been teaching it to my CEO clients and my students both in the US and China.Â Yesterday, for what must be the 100th+ time, I shared it with someone red it with you. So let me do so now.
There are six key elements to this system:
- An ongoing list of projects that need to be done
- An honest assessment of how much time it takes to do each project
- The relative priority of accomplishing each one
- An understanding of how your day unfolds
- Creating the â€œDaily-To-Doâ€ List
Most of us have an ongoing flow of projects â€“ some may take several minutes; others many hours; some need to be completed by a certain deadline, others lack a time specific deadline.Â The key is to manage the workload, deadlines and control the potential for stress that comes from being out-of-control. This is done by using two lists: Ongoing-Projects and Daily-To-Do.
Column 1: List the title and brief description if not clear
Column 2: Number of hours you expect it to take
Column 3: Relative priority to all day things that need to be done within the next days
Scheduling Â requires that you make a few honest self-assessments.
- Productive Hours Available. If you work from 9AM to 5:30PM and usually take an hour for lunch, that means the number of hours available to do any work is 7.5. You also know that you tend to take breaks amounting to 15 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon. So total available work time is only 7 hours. This means if you need a few more minutes on any project you can â€œborrow themâ€ from the breaks and/or come a few minutes earlier or stay a few minutes later.
- Complete each project at one sitting. If a high priority project is going to take 3-4 hours, schedule to finish it at one sitting. If youâ€™re working on something longer (e.g., 15 hour proposal) break it into components, with each taking a maximum 3-4 hours available.
- Productivity Biorhythms. Weâ€™re not machines â€“ equally productive around the clock. When are you most productive for specific activities? Choose your activities to take advantage of your natural energy cycle. For instance, some people like to write in the morning and hold meetings in the afternoon, often because creativity is higher in the morning, and people invigorate them and give them more energy for afternoons. Also, some people divide handling emails into two parts: 15 minute morning scan to deal with whatâ€™s urgent and then handling the rest at less precious times.
Now draft the Daily-To-Do list for the next day, starting with the highest priority tasks and the ones taking the longest units of time. With small projects (e.g., 30 minutes), use them as fillers around larger projects for the morning/afternoon shift, and/or schedule them together since the momentum for all will be about the same (e.g., end of day do them for a greater psychological sense of accomplishment). The goal is to get all the highest priority projects accomplished first each day.
Finalize tomorrowâ€™s To-Do list before leaving each night and put it on your desk/desktop. Next morning you know exactly what to do and when. If you canâ€™t be in the office, someone else can easily use it to help you/others get some of it done. At the end of each day, delete whatâ€™s been done already from the Ongoing Projects list, and start again.Â Over time, it takes a few minutes each day to use this system.
Try it â€“ and let us know how itâ€™s going.Â Wishing you more productive, less stressful days!