Kate, our mentor ( @kateab ) saw that time management was an issue for many of us so she advised writing a list (read how the others did on The Five Fs Blog). Simple. She gave suggestions of course. There's the urgent/non-urgent grid, the list website, prioritising and shifting items accordingly. Me, I just like a straightforward list. I've said it before, I am the List Queen. I write an action list every day (almost). I write a list of things to do from the master list (this may be prioritising). I do it in my Filofax. I love it. I don't always do the things on the list. Some items appear daily for
several days weeks. This is called procrastination.
A word about procrastination. Procrastination is very good for lists. While you are avoiding the thing that is paralysing you for whatever reason, you zip through the rest of the list with an efficiency fuelled by dread. Anything not to have to face the dreaded thing that's freaking you out. I had one of these dreaded things to do and was avoiding it at all costs. Consequently my list became a great success. It has an official name: Positive Procrastination. (Btw - the dreaded thing required me to step outside my comfort zone and is the subject of the next LifeCirlce post.)
So here is my list philosophy:
1. I write a list of up to 60 things to do and give myself the whole week to complete them. Obviously some things have to be done on a certain day or at a certain time. Other things are as and when I feel like it. I tend to feel like it more if there is the satisfaction of crossing an item off the list to follow.
2. The items are not all equal. Some are merely making a two minute phone-call or paying a bill online. Some items are big projects like grading all the papers from a course taken by 100 students. This takes several days and many hours. Other items can be lumped together and accomplished on one trip to the shops - deposit a cheque, buy a new kettle, weekly food shop, post a letter, get a spare key cut, etc... It doesn't matter. I tend to do a short task; wash dishes, put on a wash, hang out laundry, etc, during 10 minute breaks in the longer projects.
3. During the course of the week some jobs will become obsolete - I found the spare key so no need to cut a new one, the phone-call phoned me first. Thems the breaks, just cross 'em off the list.
4. This is the crucial one. Do not expect to do everything on the list. Once you've done say 50/60 and reached the end of the week, cut your losses and start again. Write up a new list for the next week. Some items from the week before will be rolled over - it doesn't matter. Some things like food shopping are repeated weekly. Somethng that started as a big project may be able to be chunked down now that you're into it. For example, grade all the papers that came in on time and grade the late papers as two separate items. Or grade papers on option A, option B, etc... Spring clean my bedroom might become; sort out my clothes and clean wardrobe, sort and clean bookshelf, sort and clean dressing table, wash bedroom window, etc...
I accomplished my 50/60 last week and I'm itching to write the list for next week. Part of the ease of it is that you don't have to finish anything by the end of the day and you aren't aiming for 100% completion so you never get upset.
And here is the most exciting thing for a certified procrastinator like myself - when you have done about 70% of the list and the things left to do seem very little and totally manageable, when you get to that point, the dreaded item that you've been avoiding doesn't seem so daunting. You've got the time and clarity to tackle it as you've already done so many of the other things that were dragging you down. You are feeling virtuous. It makes you strong. You're willing to take the risk and step out of your comfort zone. But more of this next time - I've got a list to go and write :~).