On (Daily) Time Management
In addition to the 15/5 reporting, I also advocate a simple daily time management ritual: the “to do list”.
At the end of the day before I leave the office, I will write down 3 things that I will commit to finish by the end of the following day on a sticky note. JUST THREE THINGS!
You can write other things you want at the end, but they are optional, and you don’t get to do them until you go the core three things done. I call the core things “rice” and the extra items, “gravy”, to show that you can’t make a meal of gravy unless there’s rice. Food imagery works for me. Try another imagery that works for you. The commitment has to be strong. I tell myself “I don’t get to go home until they are done”. So, of course you make sure you know how to do them, it can be done in a day, and not over promise.
THAT’S IT. But every part of the simple instructions is important. It must be before you leave the office, because you want to come into the office in the morning fresh and already knowing what your 3 things are. You must be able to complete all the rice, which means you want to “right size” the task to something you can complete within a day.
- Make sure one of the rice items is small. I force myself to do that first small item so I have something I can check off in a short period of time during the morning. Then I allow myself to scan through the daily email, with my mind already focused (rather than looking for distractions in email, being tempted to put out brush fires), and feeling productive (“hey, I already checked off one thing for the day!”). What is it about making a list that is so engaging? It’s the opportunity you are providing yourself to be able to check items off the list! What is it about checking an item off that’s so rewarding? The “big mo” (momentum) that you have created for yourself. Do not underestimate Newton’s First Law.
- Jump start your items by including details on the “to do” list. For example, if I need to make a call I’m not looking forward to, I’ll write out the phone number and maybe even scribble the main points I want to convey, so I don’t give myself any excuses why I can’t complete the task e.g., “oh, but I have to dig up that phone number…” or “what do I need to say again?”
- Stationery matters. It can’t be just the stationery-crazed Japanese DNA…I know some of you noticed it, too. Some pens/writing instrument, makes you feel smart(er). Some pieces of paper stand out more than others. I have a special pen I use for the To Do List. It’s changed from time to time, but it’s usually a different color pen than I use for regular writing, so if I have the list anywhere on the desk, I know it’s my To Do List. I usually have a special sticky note than the generic one, the novel kind your mother-in-law found in a museum shop when she was traveling. Actually, what I liked most was old business cards (with outdated information). I would end up with boxes of them, from staff who left, the ones printers didn’t set right, etc.). Their thickness made the To Do List perfect for standing on the keyboard, so it will be the first thing I see on my desk in the morning.
It feels good to have a ritual at the end of the day, to collect your thoughts for tomorrow and writing them out so you won’t be obsessing over them later, so that you know exactly what to do first thing in the morning, with or without your morning beverage of choice.