Category: Organizing (page 1 of 2)

Your Calendar is the Key to Managing Your Time and Priorities

Keys to an Effective Calendar

To begin with, it doesn’t matter what calendar program you use whether Outlook, Google Calendar, or some other app. What matters is that you make the most of the technology available.

Use whatever program you like and are comfortable with to manage your time. The key is to establishing ownership of your time by setting reminders to maintain focus and performing weekly reviews to ensure priorities make it into your schedule.

This is the third part of a four-part series on time-management. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Own Your Time by Putting It on Your Calendar

In a previous post, I discussed some quick tips that will help you own your time. In that post, I briefly discussed the importance of using your calendar to gain ownership of your time. Scheduling priorities on your calendar allow you to protect your time and get things accomplished. Focusing on what is important to you is the key. Also, scheduling your priorities communicates to other people what time is off limit.

Allowing others to determine how your time will be spent forces you to focus on their priorities and not yours.

If you want to get something done put it on your calendar. As Stephen Covey said, “The key point is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

Time is your most valuable resource. It is the only resource you have in abundance. It may not feel like it if you have allowed others to own your time. Liberation will come when you acknowledge that you own your time.

By scheduling your priorities, you take complete ownership of your time. Putting priorities on your calendar makes that ownership real.

In my next post, we will talk about the importance of priorities and discuss some ways to go about establishing them.

Use Reminders

After you have established ownership of your time the next thing you need to do is keep yourself focused. One of the most underused tools in calendar apps is the reminder. People tend to put things on their calendar and then fail to follow through on those items.

Using the reminder gives immediacy to your scheduled priorities. It gives you a heads up that your priority is due and keeps it front of mind. Use your reminder to keep you on track and focused on your priorities.

Weekly Reviews

Finally, scheduling a weekly review will help priorities stay scheduled and protect against infringements of your time.

The weekly review should be a scheduled block on your calendar. It should be a one-hour block of time that is reserved for doing calendar maintenance.

This is your time each week to ensure that your priorities remain on your schedule. It is also the time where you will ensure that others have not taken control of your time.

This time should be scheduled at the end of the week, so you can review the previous week and plan for the next week. Maintaining your priorities on your schedule is the key. Take time to review your priorities, what you have accomplished, and what you need to accomplish.

Make sure your schedule for the coming week conforms to what you want to get accomplished. Clean out items that conflict with your goals.

In Summary

Good time management requires that you know what your priorities are and that you create a schedule that aligns with those priorities.

Your time is yours and you need to protect it. A calendar app is the best tool for accomplishing this task. By scheduling activities that conform with, and support your priorities, you take ownership of your time.

Next, reminders help to keep you focused and on tasks. They help to prepare you for the work that you have set as being important.

Finally, weekly reviews help you to maintain your focus. By looking back on what you got accomplished and looking ahead to what you need to do you get to set your action plan to keep you focused and effective.

By scheduling your priorities on your calendar you protect your time and establish ownership over it. And when your priorities are scheduled you will not be living somebody else’s priorities.

5S Your Work Space to Get Control of Your Time

What is 5S?

5S is a component of Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing. The main goal is to make the work area organized to optimize performance. It requires all unneeded items to be removed from the work area and everything else to be organized in the most efficient manner. Once the work area is properly organized it must be sustained to ensure top performance is maintained.

While it was originally put into use in manufacturing environments it can also be employed in office environments or anywhere work is performed.

The components of 5S are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Why Implement 5S?

With the above facts in mind, we can look at why 5S is a good method for helping manage your time and getting your workspace organized.

First, let’s consider time management. How many times have you come into your office only to become frustrated by the pile of stuff you have laying on it. It makes it difficult to find what you are looking for. Getting anything done requires you to spend time putting things in order. And a messy desk causes you stress and anxiety.

So, getting your desk in order can help you begin to prioritize the items on it. Once the items on your desk are prioritized you can get to work getting things done.

Second, 5S is a precise methodology that tells you exactly what you need to do to get organized and stay organized. By following the 5-steps of the process you will great rid of the clutter and create a system of sustainable organization. This will help you manage your time and your stress level.

Getting Started

Now that we know what 5-S is and why its important let’s talk about getting started. You need to set time aside to start. Don’t allow for any interruptions. Dedicate yourself to completing the 5-S process.

Before beginning take pictures of your work area. All workspaces, inside drawers, shelves, and desktops. These pictures will serve as a reminder of where you started. When you look back it will be important to remember why you did this work and what you want to avoid.

Next, make sure that you have a space to take items you do not need but others may have a use for. Also, have garbage bags and cleaning supplies available.

Once you have your time scheduled and all items required it is time to get to work.

Sort

To begin the process you must sort everything on your desk, in your desk, and around your desk. You will make three piles:

  1. Garbage
  2. Good but don’t need
  3. Keep

Garbage is just that. It is junk that serves no purpose to you or anyone else. This includes old paperwork that is no longer required to be kept. Broken tools and office supplies. And any other junk that no longer has a useful purpose.

Good but don’t need – this is stuff that you no longer need but others in the office may be able to use. Maybe it’s an old textbook, some guides, office supplies, or any other still functioning item that you no longer need. If you have not used it for 6 months consider getting rid of it.

Keep – an item that you have used in the past 6 months or need to keep as a part of your job.

Set in Order

Now that you have sorted through all the clutter you are ready to begin to set things in order. The key point to remember is that you want to find a place for everything and everything in its place. This is key.

Organize your work area so that items you use frequently are nearest at hand and items that get used less frequently are put in a place where they can easily be found when needed but stored neatly out-of-the-way.

It is a good idea to make use of file organizers, storage containers, and labels. If you are putting something in a drawer put a label on the outside of it so you know what’s in it.

Shine

So, you have sorted and set everything in order. Now it is time to make it shine. Simply put you are going to give everything a good cleaning. Get our your cleaner and rag and start in.

As you are cleaning look for the causes of clutter and dirt and come up with ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If your desk gets cluttered because people are always putting paperwork all over your desk, then get an inbox and clearly mark it so people know to put paperwork in it.

Remember, you are going to want to sustain the cleanliness so consider taking 5 minutes once a week to clean your work area.

Standardize

Standardization is about making things stand out visually. You want to be able to quickly look at your work area and notice if something is out-of-place. You can do this by using shadows for things like a stapler, tape dispensers, and other work tools. In your drawers, you can have organizers clearly labeled. If you have bookshelves you can label them to clearly show what books go where.

Additionally, you can take pictures of your work area after it has been cleaned and standardized so you have a visual tool of how you want to maintain your area. This can be posted as a reference to use in the sustain step.

Sustain

The final step is to sustain your efforts. To do this put a half hour to hour block on your schedule at the end of the week. I suggesting scheduling it for the last hour of the day at the end of the week. Make sure you put it on your calendar and block this time.

Once a week you will pull out your sustain picture and ensure that your work area looks like the picture. If it doesn’t use this time to get it back in order. Then pull out your cleaner and rag and clean all areas.

To see an example of an office 5S implementation check out this short YouTube Video.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately, you are only as effective as you are organized. If you take the time to get your work area organized and make it a priority to sustain it you will have a much better chance of making better use of your time. It is hard to feel in control of your time when you are stuck under a pile of clutter.

By implementing 5S you will have a systematic method for getting your work area organized and keeping it that way.

Once you have your work area organized you can move on to the next step in managing your time – your calendar.

If you haven’t read the first article in this series on time-management check it out here.

Go to Part 3 in this series.

 

Manage Your Time, Don’t Let it Manage You

You’re the Boss of Your Time

We all struggle with time management. The day begins with the best of intentions. Plans are made and then they blow up in our faces. Chaos takes control and we find ourselves in a vicious cycle putting out one fire after another. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’re the boss of your time. If you don’t make a plan that is flexible, yet allows you to accomplish your goals, then you have just allowed yourself to be controlled by circumstance. No plan is perfect. You have to allow for the unforeseen. But, not making a plan allows the unforeseen to be the plan.

Setting Priorities

I have read from more than one time-management guru that the best planning begins the day before. Every day before you leave the office to allow yourself 15-30 minutes to set your priorities for the next day. Make sure to put this on your schedule and stick to it. Getting organized for the next day will help you to make goal setting a daily priority. It will also allow you to start the next day out with a plan.

On the flip side, allow yourself 15-30 minutes at the beginning of your day to review your priority list and readjust based on whatever you walked into that morning. Your list should give your day structure but it should also allow you the flexibility to adjust to new priorities and circumstances.

The To-Do List

You may see a to-do list as an anchor tied around your waist, but if done right it can be a valuable tool to managing your day and keeping track of multiple priorities.

I have discussed to-do lists in two other posts: Creating Lists to Manage Projects and Prioritize Tasks and Giving Your List Power – Creating Context, so I will just give some quick tips here.

Building your list can be done utilizing Evernote, Google Keep, One Note, a Word document, or pen and paper.

Use whatever method gives you the most flexibility and keeps you on task.

Get your priorities written and then prioritize them based on importance, when it needs to be completed, and how long it will take to accomplish each task.

Make sure to set a date for accomplishing each task. It is probably a good idea to add these tasks to your calendar and set reminders to ensure you get them done on time.

Keeping a list also has another side benefit – it allows you to go back and look at what you have accomplished which will help keep you motivated. Some days it can feel like you haven’t gotten anything done. Then you go back and look at your to-do list and see that you’ve accomplished quite a bit. That can give you a good feeling that should help keep you motivated.

Just Do Em’s

When starting your day if you have tasks that you can accomplish in under 5 minutes just complete those items. This will get tedious little tasks out-of-the-way so you can focus on bigger, more involved projects.

Minor tasks can clutter up your day and keep you from getting focused on important tasks. Better to get through them, or set aside a specific time for getting them done, so they don’t become speed bumps.

Your Outlook Calendar is Your Friend

Technology can be both an enemy and a friend. It is our enemy when we allow it to be a distraction – i.e. email and Facebook. It is all about how you utilize it. Turn off your email alert and set aside five minutes every couple of hours to check email.

One of the best tools is your Outlook calendar as it allows you to create tasks, prioritize, and set reminders. If you have longer-term tasks with multiple steps Outlook can help you to set up reminders to keep you on track. Here is a good video that discusses how to use tasks in Outlook to create a to-do list.

One thing to remember – if you need time to accomplish something create an appointment, not a task. A task is a specific item that needs to be accomplished without setting a specific time for doing it. If it is a specific activity that needs to be done then set an appointment for completing it.

Take Charge of Your Time

With all the tools and technology available to managers there is no reason why you should allow circumstances to set your schedule. By doing a little planning and taking advantage of these tools you can become productive no matter what comes up. Setting priorities, staying flexible, and keeping track of tasks will allow you to gain control and become the boss of your time.

Giving Your List Power – Creating Context

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Giving Your List Power Through Context

In my previous post on list building I talked about some simple techniques and apps that can be used to help you achieve success in creating lists. In this post, I want to talk about how to gain the true power of list creation by creating context within your lists.

Context is about defining priorities and time lines for accomplishing tasks. A list is merely a list until you set priorities and create deadlines for accomplishing these tasks.

Priorities

Let’s start with priorities. First, if something can easily be accomplished with little to no resources and within minutes, that is a “just do it” and should not be added to a list. You need to complete that item right away to free up your time for more important items. The items you put on your list need to have some sense of importance and also will more than likely require you to seek out further resources and assistance. These are items that can’t easily be accomplished in a matter of minutes otherwise you would just do them.

In my previous post, I urged you to just get your items on your list without worrying about prioritizing. This is important because you want to get items on the list when they are top of mind that way you won’t forget them. After you get them on the list you can sit down and go through them one by one to decide the degree of urgency each one requires and also the amount of time each will take to accomplish.

You can prioritize your list in a number of ways – by when it has to be accomplished, how long it will take to get done, by the degree of payback or reward that will be realized upon completion, or by priorities that are set for you by a manager.

Due Dates

Once your list is prioritized you need to set due dates for accomplishing the main task and any sub-tasks. Even if you don’t have a hard date that something needs to get done, set what you see as a realistic date for accomplishing the task. Never leave a task open-ended or it will never get done. Deadlines create urgency.

Resources Needed

After you have set your deadline, list under each task or sub-task what resources you will need, either material or human, and a date for when you need to have those resources available. Understanding what you need and when allows you to formulate your plan for getting a task done and makes you aware of items you may not have considered. When you know what resources you need, and the date you need them by, you are setting yourself up for success by not having to scramble at the last-minute to attain what you need to complete a task.

Next, you need to decide how long it will take you to accomplish each task and decide upon a start date for meeting your deadline. Make an educated guess, one that is conservative but yet challenging enough that it pushes you to get it done.

Reminders

Finally, set reminders. Some list apps allow you to set reminders for tasks items within the app, or you can simply copy items off your list and set them as appointments in your Outlook or Google calendar. Set a reminder for when you want to begin the task and one for when the task is to be completed. If a task will take a week or more, set check points on your calendar to put aside time to review the task and check to make sure you are on track to finish the task on time.

Lists by themselves help to organize ideas, priorities, and to-do items, but context is what gives a list its power. By thinking about, and writing down the contextual elements of a task, you give your list power by putting limits on each task and assigning the time and resources necessary to get the tasks accomplished. Lists without context are just a rough draft, but with context they become a full-blown plan for getting things done.

Using Evernote to Build Lists

Evernote is a powerful tool for creating lists. Below you will find a brief video tutorial that will show you how you can use Evernote to build lists and organized your day.

 

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