Time Management Part the First

Back at it after a pretty long stretch of back-to-back work. Now I’m back in the midst of stretching, resting, and catching up with things I decreed “Okay To Let Slide This Time.” Alas, writing was one of those things.

While at conference, I attended a 2 part session on classic time management systems hosted by Emily Wilska. It reviewed 6 major systems that are by no means the definitive list of all the ones available, nor necessarily the most popular. They are prevalent enough, however, that getting a grip on how they each work can help provide a deeper understanding of ways you can vary your approach to fit varying situations, clients, personality styles, environments, what have you. In short, the more knowledge you have, the easier it is to create solutions on the fly.

So, without further ado, let’s meet Getting Things Done, Franklin Covey, and The Now Habit.

Getting Things Done (also known as GTD) blew up in my circle of friends a few years back. It’s a system created by David Allen that focuses on keeping your mind empty, and therefore able to focus intently on whatever it is you decide to do. GTD breaks your workflow into 5 parts: Collect/Process/Organize/Review/Do. Collect everything around you and in your life that’s a reminder of something you need to do (also, collect everything in the same spot). Process your heap o’ reminders by touching on each one and asking if you can do anything with it right now. If yes, and it takes less than 2 minutes, then do it. If not, then schedule a time to do it (and stick to that schedule). Organize the (now processed) heap o’ reminders by context. Put all your phone calls together, all your errands together, and so on. Review your calendar to do the things you scheduled for later, and review your (now processed and organized) heap o’ reminders each day to keep up with and update everything. Do the things on your calendar and in your reminders based on what you have time for at that very moment.

GTD is the one system I read up on before attending conference, and I have to say, it was a grueling read. I do use some parts of this system, like using one particular place to keep everything, and a running list; but I don’t use all the prescribed steps. If this approach sounds feasible to you, learn more at David Allen’s website.

Franklin Covey is a beast. It’s a conceptual mash-up of ideas and tenets from Stephen Covey (who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Hyrum Smith (his Franklin Quest Trainings), and Benjamin Franklin (yes, that Benjamin Franklin). This system posits that having a clear vision of your life goals and priorities, obtained by creating a Personal Mission Statement, will lead you to choose the right course of action. What is the right course of action? Actions that fall in Quadrant II of the Franklin Covey Matrix (Not Urgent, and Important). I have to make a confession: when I saw the matrix come up on the screen, my skin crawled, and it sparked flashbacks to sitting in meetings at work where someone explained how you want to operate in Quadrant II, and everybody in the office chuckles and says we never get there because we’re eyeball deep in Quadrant I all day, every day. Don’t laugh, I can’t be the only one.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about 3 books down in my pile of reading (yes, I started a business without reading it first). So maybe my understanding of this system will change with a bit of perspective from reading it. Or not. I don’t use this system in whole or in part, so I can’t vouch for it in any way right this very minute. But if this makes you perk up in some way, then you can check them out at the Franklin Covey website.

The Now Habit was totally new to me. Created by Neil Fiore as a way to cope with overload, he is of the mind that procrastination is a reaction to having too much to do, or attempting to do it all at once. This then gets tied up with guilt because you aren’t out doing every single thing you said you would. So instead of trying to figure out all the things you need to do, you schedule all the “non work” things first. Eating, sleeping, working out, and yes, slacking off all count under this category. This does two things: first, it allows you the space to slack off…it gets it’s own calendar spot! Second, it allows you to see the true amount of time you have available to do “work.” (and realize that every moment is not taken up with work, it has endpoints, so it’s ok to work…playtime will come soon enough) Such an upfront, outright embrace of the slack in a time management system gives me the warm fuzzies. However, I can’t really say I’ve field tested any of this system, either. It doesn’t really address what you do with your work, just the time that surrounds it. Want more? Neil Fiore’s website has it.

Next up, part two of the time management class, where we meet the Action Method, the Pomodoro Technique, and Do It Tomorrow.