How many time management courses have you attended? How many books on this topic have you read? What tactics or strategies do you employ to manage your time?
I still have the first time management book I read, “If You Haven’t Got the Time to Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It Over,” written by Jeffrey Mayer back in 1991. It was a bundle offer when I ordered from Day-Timer that year. You can read about my adventures with planning systems in this post.
Time Tracking is not Time Management
I can recall at least two different employer-mandated time tracking programs in my career. At one job, we had an empty pre-printed notebook that we had to fill out each day and leave on our desk for management review. The other employer had a distributed Microsoft Access application for similar purposes. Neither helped one to manage time, but it gave management a warm fuzzy.
Over the years I have found that categorizing how I spend my time is more valuable them tracking the time. I organize my time into Goals, Requests, Urgent Demands, Ideation, and Household Duties. Within each category, I keep a running list of things I need to do. Each evening I decide what I need to accomplish the next day. Throughout the day, I will capture the time spent in each category – not task by task – and cross completed items off my list. At the conclusion of the day, I review my accomplishments and plan for the next day.
Popular Time Management Systems
There are many time management systems in existence. I’m going to try and list a few of them and make a note of ones that I have tried. As of this moment, I’m not following any particular published methodology; instead, I am doing what works for me.
The one thing that I remember from the Jeffrey Mayer system was TRAF: Trash, Refer, Act, or File. That process has stuck with me throughout the years. Every piece of paper, or every email, I try to categorize it as (a) something I can Trash, (b) something I can refer to someone else to act upon, (c) act upon the item right away, or (d) file it.
I finally got around to read the “Getting Things Done” book in 2007. The initial method is to empty your brain of everything and from that list, decide what to do each day. That worked for the first few days, but the list grew to an overwhelming size.
The Franklin Covey system has its basis in Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Effective People.” It focuses on the steps you need to accomplish your goals. You do need to focus a considerable amount of time on your mission and plans for achievement.
My Time Management System
I use a hybrid of the aforementioned methodologies in my DIY Planner. For the past couple of years, I’ve been purchasing Momentum Planners to print out from Charlie Gilkey. Charlie is a retired Army Officer and I heard about him from another veteran friend of mine. I encourage you to follow him on LinkedIn and listen to his podcasts.
At the beginning of each month, I complete the Monthly Planner page. Then, each week I transfer items to the Weekly Planner. Finally, I run my day based on each Daily Planner page. You already know that I prefer paper, so this process shouldn’t be a surprise!
Summing It All Up
Time tracking is not time management. No matter how hard we try to bend the laws of physics, there are only 24 hours in each day. It seems that categorizing my time into big blocks works better for me. I try to allow for fire-fighting time: this could come as an unexpected call or an emergency support task that needs my attention. If you know me, you know that I don’t like to be boxed into a particular methodology, so I prefer a DIY system.
In my next article, I plan to discuss all of the time management apps I’ve tried. Please, take a moment to sign up for my newsletter (at the bottom of this page), and I promise you that you won’t be disappointed!