Friday, October 28, 2011

Confession: My Time Management Challenges

Time management is a constant challenge for me. You'd like that because I wrote a book, TimeManagement, Jesus' Way, I would have a handle on it by now, but it's one of those things that I never quite have victory over. So from one busy person to another, here are a few things I'm learning about my time management challenges, and some solutions I’m applying.

I fail to give myself enough cushion. I like the adrenaline rush of getting that "one last task" done before I head out the door. But I "forget" that it takes me 35 or 40 minutes to get to some destinations, not 30. If I would plan for a 45 minute commute, I could arrive in more peace.

Solution: I am taking more time in estimating how long something should take, and then cushioning it a bit more.

I let my personality get the best of me. I am a fast paced person who tends to juggle a few things at once. That's okay, IF I don't juggle TOO many plates at one time. Since I'm also a task-oriented person, I love getting a lot of things done. However that can make me too driven.

Solution: I am slowly learning to discipline my attention span and focus on tasks for a bit longer time before switching to something else. I am also reminding myself that what I finish is not the measure of my value. 

I expect far too much of myself. For years I have been a juggler and responder. My jobs have naturally programmed me to respond to several messages quickly or get lots of little things done. Because I therefore can mark a lot off my to-do list (many of my tasks are small) I tend to expect I should get them ALL done. I create lists that are too large and then hurry to finish them, getting that adrenaline rush to fill the need I've created within myself.

Solution: apply the Gospel to my life...the fact that Jesus is enough. I don't need to prove to Him or others what I can accomplish. I tend to enjoy having a reputation for quick responses, but must keep my motive pure. Am I doing that to serve others, or so they will think well of me?

How about you? What time management challenges do you have? What have you learned about yourself? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Three Piece Way to Organize Your Desktop

Keep the surface of your desktop clear of clutter with this simple arrangement for sorting and storing work to be done, using three pieces of common office equipment.

Piece 1: Have an "in" tray for items that need quick attention or to be sorted. Train your co-workers to know that is the place to put mail or new items.

Piece 2: Have an "out" tray for items that need to be delivered to other parts of the office. Pick these up on your way out the door.

Piece 3: Get a stand and upright folders to hold items needed for regular tasks, such as data entry, filing, shredding, posting, a project in process, etc. Choose attractive folders as you will be looking at them a lot. You may want to color code them if colors match particular tasks or urgencies.

By keeping these items separate but visible, you can quickly grab something to do next without it becoming too overwhelming, and can batch tasks together.

I already have this plan in place at my part time job.  (See the photo.) Now I may need to implement it at my home office! (I'm missing the upright folders part, but truthfully, work through my in-box pretty quickly so may not need the folders at home.)

How do you keep your desktop organized?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Use that Computer!

Take advantage of your computer's capabilities to avoid piles of paper on your desk. Use task lists such as what are provided in Outlook, or set up an Excel sheet so you can sort by due dates. Some phone apps have to-do list features. You can also use Google calendar to sync all views of your calendar which is awesome! I have a copy of my calendar on my HOPE office desktop, my desktop at part time job, my phone and my iPad, all staying in sync with each other. Plus, it is always "in the cloud" through Google. Google has a task feature too that syncs with an app called TaskOS.

Due to the above, I generally avoid having written to-do lists, but if you prefer the organic paper method, I suggest you have one journal/spiral notebook (or maybe two--one for work and one for home) and keep all your to-do's in one place.  For more on to-do lists, visit the organizing hope blog today here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Task Clusters

You've probably heard it said that you should have a morning and evening routine...a set list of tasks you do each morning and evening to keep your life organized, your home clean, etc. (For those familiar with you know she advocates this.) This is a good idea, but let me suggest taking it a bit further to something I call "task clusters."

There are probably tasks that you do routinely that have similarities to them, like this picture of seashells. They are different, but similar. If you cluster similar tasks together, you get the additional benefit of reducing your "mental clutter." (I have a friend who has great thoughts about keeping your mind free of clutter and I'm stealing this concept from her. :) Keeping your mind from becoming scattered can go a long way toward more effective time management.

Perhaps the best way to explain a "task cluster" is to give an example from my own life. Each morning, I need to feed the cat, feed myself, possibly pack a lunch, and if I'm doing well, think about lunch and/or dinner plans for the family. I have somewhat of a routine in that most of those things take place in the kitchen and I can do them one after the other or even concurrently.  While I drink my morning breakfast shake, I can empty the dishwasher (also related to eating) and then I can finish up by packing lunch if necessary for the day. Do you see what has happened? All the tasks of the 5-15 minutes this can take are related to feeding/eating. By clustering tasks together that have a common theme, I'm more focused and can knock these off my to-do list quickly.

We lose time and mental peace when we bounce from one thing to another. (I'm great at that.) But when we cluster similar tasks together, we can be more effective and less scattered. So, now it's your turn. Share a cluster of tasks with a related theme that you could put together to keep yourself more focused. Let me hear from you!