Welcome back to another installment in my Time Management 101 series! So far we have looked at mindset, goals and motivators, and your personal archetype. Today’s article is going to build on all these things. We are going to look at which time management techniques will work for you!
Now, there are a lot of different time management techniques out there. And it would be nearly impossible to include every single one in a blog post.
So I’m going to walk you through some of the more common ones, and then give you some insight on the type of personal archetype that they would be most successful for.
And I know I’ve said this a million times, but this is just a reference point. Just because a method matches up with your archetype doesn’t guarantee success. But it’s a great place to start. Figuring out the best time management system for yourself is a process that will only be perfected through trial and error. So allow yourself to be flexible, and don’t be scared to try something that sounds intriguing to you just because it doesn’t match up. I have certain techniques that I use to manage my time that fall outside of my own archetype. So anything’s possible!
Tracking Your Time
Tracking your time and keeping a log of everything you do for a certain amount of time is one of the most common time management techniques. It could be compared to a food log for someone on a diet or a spending log for someone on a budget.
The purpose of it is to see how your time is spent clearly, to identify areas for improvement, and to then make changes with your goals in mind.
I have written a previous post on tracking your time which included a free spreadsheet to help you out. I also have a 5-day productivity challenge based on the concept, as well as an eBook with an amazing workbook to walk you through the process.
Like I said, this is a very common time management technique that has allowed a lot of people the ability to become more productive.
And this type of program works great for someone who doesn’t mind looking at spreadsheets. Referring back to the archetype post, these would be someone who is more of a thinker than a feeler because you are more analytical.
This isn’t the best choice for someone who hates spreadsheets. Or analysis. If this is you, then I would suggest first trying a lighter version to see if it’s something you can keep up with. Tracking everything you do can be tedious, but for the right person and the right temperament, it can also be exciting. For some people, data is exhilarating because it tells you so much!
Subtract Before Adding
So what if there is absolutely no way that you are going to sit there and track your time. You know you need to make some changes, but looking at how you spent your time for a week is the last thing you want to do.
Well, one thing you could do is to make sure that before you add anything to your calendar, you are taking something else off.
Most of us have pretty packed schedules. Even if we don’t, our time is still being spent one way or another. So, in order for something to be added to your calendar, something else must first come out, whether you are conscious of this or not.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that every day you get home from work right at 5, and you usually spend about an hour just unwinding. Maybe you watch a little TV, or you read a book. This isn’t something that you put in your calendar every day, it’s just something that you do.
One day you decide that you want to join the gym and that it will be easiest to go straight from work. Not a problem since you aren’t doing anything during this time anyway, right? The thing is, though, that you have been doing something during this time. Even if you spent that hour standing still staring at the wall, you’re still spending that hour standing still and staring at the wall.
So in order for you to add that new gym time in, you have to take out the time that you had been spending winding down after work. You more than likely won’t realize this is what you’re doing, but you should. Especially if it is essential to your own well-being that you have a little bit of “me time” after a long day. If that is the case, you would need to decide if taking that time out of your routine is the best decision, or if there’s something else that could go instead.
Regardless of how you look at it, though, you will always have to subtract something before you can add something else.
I would suggest this technique for someone who likes to make on–the-spot decisions. Someone who is more impulsive and doesn’t stick to a strict schedule. But, if you like to make changes in your schedule as stuff comes up, just remember that something else has to go first.
On the other hand, this wouldn’t be the technique that I would recommend to someone who likes to have a schedule and stick to it. Mainly because they won’t need to consider the implications of on-the-spot decision-making.
It could work for someone with a strict schedule, though, who wants to add a new project, hobby, or task. They would more than likely prefer a more logical and structured technique to modifying their schedule, though.
Blocking Time for Your Most Important Tasks
So let’s look at a way to set up your schedule, then. And one way to do this is to schedule the most important things into your calendar first. If you refer back to the article on setting and prioritizing your goals, I included a worksheet that will help you determine the daily tasks that should be prioritized based on your goals. If you haven’t already, grab a copy.
Stephen Covey used the “Big Rocks” allegory to illustrate the importance of scheduling these tasks first. In his example, he would take an empty pitcher and put 7 big rocks in it and ask his audience if it was full. Then he would take smaller pebbles and fill the pitcher in around the rocks and ask his audience if it was full. Then we would add sand around the pebbles and ask if it was full. Finally, he would add water to the sand, at which point the pitcher was as full as it could get. After this, he would take an empty pitcher, fill it with water, and ask his audience if it was full. It wouldn’t work to add the big rocks after the water.
The point of this allegory is to highlight the fact that the big rocks need to go in first. So, if the big rocks are the important things in your life, your big goals, you have to schedule them into your calendar first, or else all the little things in life, the pebbles, sand, and water, will fill your schedule, and there will be no room for the important things.
This technique would be beneficial for most people. The difference, though, would be in how you schedule them in.
If you’re a jogger, your big projects would be broken down into their different steps and then scheduled in accordingly. Whereas if you’re a sprinter, you would simply just want to devote time to the project as a whole. Rather than saying you are going to work on a specific step of the project on Thursday afternoon, schedule it in as the “one thing” you are going to be focusing on over the weekend.
The One Thing
And this brings us to our next technique—focusing on your “one thing.”
This is an idea created by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. Their book, “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results,” talks about identifying what the one thing is that is standing between you and your goals and then addressing it. It’s about figuring out what the one thing is that you should be doing to get to where you want to go.
So if my goal is to finish a book, my one thing should probably be my writing. But if I have a draft of the book done, then my one thing would probably be editing. And so on.
The point is to look at where you are and where you want to go, and then to pinpoint the one thing that you need to do to get you there.
This method can really be applied to any of the archetypes we discussed.
For someone who is easily overwhelmed, it helps them focus on the most important task.
If you like to make on-the-spot decisions, it helps you decide if you should act or not.
And if you like to slowly and methodically plan out how you are going to do something, it allows you to keep your focus.
But what if it’s difficult for you to identify what that one thing is?
A great way to get to the root of anything is to mind map.
I’m sure you’ve done at least one version of this in school, but it’s where you write down a topic and then branch out everything you can think of.
From there you look at everything you’ve written about the main point (or node) and branch out on those. And so on.
This could also be written out in an outline or a brain dump.
The purpose, though, is to get everything you can think of about a topic onto paper. From there you can organize it into steps or different projects.
For time management purposes, it helps you visualize everything that you need to get done as well as stuff you need to cut out.
This method would be most beneficial for someone who prefers to base their decisions on their gut rather than logical reasoning.
Scheduling in White Space
Up until now, we’ve discussed different ways to determine how to fill up your calendar.
It’s also important, though, to schedule in plenty of white time. Think of it like this: you schedule every single minute of your day. You have meetings, writing time, conference calls. Every second is scheduled. Then your kid dumps cereal all over his shirt and you’re 20 minutes late leaving the house in the morning. Your first conference call gets pushed back half an hour. It’s a domino effect from there. Every single thing you scheduled into your day is off because of a bowl of Cheerios. And what’s the result? You are stressed to the max! Which probably throws things off even more.
So to prevent this from happening in the first place, leave some gaps in your schedule.
And I get it, this is going to be tough to do, especially if you already have too much to get done. If that’s the case, then think about what you need to subtract in order to make room for that white space.
This technique will help someone who sticks to a strict schedule from feeling overwhelmed when things don’t go as planned.
It will also help someone who plans as they go remember not to overbook themselves in the process.
Setting Boundaries and Saying No
But what if you just can’t figure out how to make that white space possible?
If that’s the case, then you might need to figure out a way to start setting some boundaries. If someone wants a meeting at 1 and you just can’t make it work, tell them no.
Which brings me to my next suggestion—learning the power of “no.” First of all, don’t agree to meetings right on the spot. Take a second to think about if you even want to meet with this person. And, if so, does it have to be today? Or this week? If you don’t have time for it, you don’t have time for it. Is there someone else that could meet with them and fill you in?
Take some time to think about all of the requests you regularly get on your time. Which of these requests could you say no to?
If that doesn’t give you a clear enough answer, think about every request for your time in relation to your goals, values, and motivators. Does saying yes to something align with them? If not, no might be the better answer.
Okay, we just went through a lot of information! Did this help you figure out some techniques that might be worth trying?
This is really only a tiny sampling of the many different time management techniques available.
If deciding on a time management technique that is right for you is something you just can’t do, though, it might help to get some coaching. I offer one-on-one coaching services that will help you get to where you want to go. Sign up for a free discovery session today!