I read an article recently that suggested that the average worker uses 13 different time management tools. It made me inventory the tools I use.
- watch – well, watches – I have a few to choose from
- paper desktop calendar
- photo wall calendar
- paper monthly calendar on fridge – for kid’s lunches and so they can see their commitments
- dry-erase monthly calendars in my office
- online stopwatch/timer
- workflowy to do/to consider list
- index cards for daily focus
Are your time management tools working for you? Consider these time management tools which fall in three main categories:
1. To Do Lists
As discused in the last article, I suggest creating master lists to capture personal and professional activities, most of which must be scheduled. Daily lists are helpful to keep you focused on immediate tasks. Make sure your lists can be referred to and updated with ease.
“To do lists” can be incorporated into paper planners work journals, notebooks. I recommend reserving several pages at the front or back of each book solely for to do lists so they are quick to find. Electronic options abound – you may wish to check out Workflowy, Astrid, Todoist, to name a few. All are a little bit different so if you know what works for you, select on the basis of those features. If you’re not sure, try one and learn what you like and don’t like. Many have 30 day trial periods or free options.
2. Planners and Calendars
Calendars exist in a huge variety of formats to visually portray the abstract passing of time. Traditionally, and still in use in many places, are monthly wall calendars which give a broad perspective of time and any upcoming events and deliverables. Wipe off versions make it easy to make changes. If installing wipe off calendars, consider having at least two so that you can plan ahead without affecting the current month. Small desktop calendars provide a quick and easy way to check dates without switching applications.
Mobility drives the need for portable systems such as paper planners or personal digital assistants (PDA’s) and smartphones. Paper planners have been not only important time management tools, but style statements in recent years. They are in most cases still faster to update, and if you enjoy writing, provide that pleasure. They don’t, however provide redundancy if lost. If you update a monthly view, I suggest snapping a picture of booked months every week or so as a backup plan.
The evolution to electronic calendars has been challenging for many. Phone screens provide a reasonable account of a day’s activities, but fall short of providing a detailed week view at a glance. I used to recommend a combination of electronic calendar and portable monthly calendar highlighting key dates, but it did involve duplicating dates. The introduction of tablets has made it much easier to adopt an online calendar which syncs between the tablet, computer and phone. Now it’s possible to see a decent amount of detail a month at a time which gives you a better sense of your commitments and therefore facilitates scheduling on the fly. Add to that the resiliency of an online solution, and electronic calendaring is really taking off.
The number of people referring to a calendar must also be considered when choosing a time management system. Online calendars make it easy to share schedules between people. Privacy can be maintained by only making selective entries public. These solutions can work well for shared personal calendars in conjunction with the planning system you adopt for business.
Our phones are becoming our time keepers of choice with easy-to -program alarm systems to help us keep track. Alarms can be set at varying amounts of time in advance of meetings or due dates, helping not only to keep us on time, but not lose track of upcoming deadlines. Be wary however, of potentially unnecessary alarms or notifications, such as email notifications, becoming a distraction.
It will be interesting to see how the younger generation evolves its use of watches…or if watches will evolve to become our phones. Strapped to a wrist, there’s less chance of losing it!
Online timers are a handy way to keep track of how long an activity takes for billing purposes, or simply to know how long to set aside for a task when scheduling it. To beat procrastination, you might play ‘beat the clock’ to see how much you can get done before the timer ends. For those with ADD, timers can help avoid hyper-focus – getting so deeply into a project that one spends more time than is available on it.
Timekeepers can be such an important part of the way we live that we can even get attached to them. I rely on an old phone just for its soothing ‘Chi Gong’ alarm sound to wake me each morning.