Time Management Basics: Using a Planner

 Becoming skilled at time management takes – guess what? TIME!

It also starts with some basic steps. Repeated regularly and consistently, these steps will help you build the foundation for good time management.

Since any change can be challenging, if you are thinking about developing time management skills, consider both what the benefits of gaining these skills might be for you and the hurdles you might face as you put a time management system in place. If you are convinced that the pros outweigh the cons, take the plunge!

Developing and maintaining a to-do list is an important part of time-management and is addressed in a prior blog post.

This blog post describes a system for using the to-do list and a planner to begin getting a handle on managing your time well.

First, select a planner or calendar that will suit your needs. You can use paper or electronic, depending on your preference. Typically, being able to view an entire week at one time can be helpful.

Second, decide on a regular time to “plan” each week. For most people, the weekend or first thing Monday morning are the most convenient. Make sure you won’t have any interruptions (close your door, turn off your cell phone, etc.!).

You will probably need about at least 30 minutes to do your planning for the week. (It will get quicker over time as you practice the skill.)

Then you are ready to start.

1) First, update your calendar/planner with any known appointments or standing obligations. (This might include certain daily or weekly chores as well as plans for self-care).

  • When putting these in your planner, be sure to add in time for getting ready to go and transportation if needed.

2) Add to your calendar/planner the top priorities for the week (from your to-do list).

  • Before assigning the items to specific days and times, be sure to estimate the amount of time the task will take so that you can select an appropriate time “slot” in your planner. If you aren’t sure, take your best guess and add some extra time as a “fudge factor.”
  • If you have mapped your time for the week (see this blog post), you will want to assign specific to-do items from each category to the related time-slots

3) Consider second level priorities (from your to-do list).

  • Look at your planner or calendar to see how much time is left each day.
  • You can then match open time slots on your planner/calendar with second level priorities, based on the estimated time the task(s) would take.
  • If any of these can’t be fit in to an available time slot this week, then start a list for next week with these items on another page in the notebook.

4) Address lower level priorities if time permits.

  • If there is any room left in this week’s calendar after assigning times for the first and second level priority tasks, add some of these lower level priority into the available time slots.
  • If any of these can’t be fit in to an available time slot this week, then start a list for next week with these items on another page in the notebook. Periodically, you may want to trim your to-do list to keep it manageable (see this blog post for tips).

5) Anticipate the need for flexibility! Since changes always happen, be flexible.

  • If a new task or obligation comes your way, consider what level of priority to assign it.
  • If the priority is low, put it on a list for next week.
  • If you encounter a new high priority item, or a high priority task on your calendar takes longer than you expected, move a lower priority item to a list for next week to make room for what is most important this week.

6) Very important: Look at your calendar/planner every day and follow your plans.

  • Most people find that checking their planner at least every morning helps with staying on task.
  • Some people like to look at their planner at night as well to be “ready” for what’s coming.
  • If you want to experience the ease and benefits of having good time management, do your best to stick with the plans you have made, adjusting only as really necessary, asdescribed.
  • If you are having trouble with this, notice what leads you astray and consider a plan for managing that distraction.

If you need help setting up or sticking with a time-management approach, consider coaching. Contact me at www.lizahmann.com for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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