Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three Tips To Maximize Your Time Budget

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article titled, "Get More Done Today With 4 Steps to Budget Time." Within that post, I shared how I manage time to insure that all priorities are given my undivided attention.

In this article, I would like to go a little further and provide three tips for maximizing the time budget.

Create A To-Do List
Once you have a time budget in place, it is time to start filling your calendar with to-do items. The easiest thing to do is pull those items from a list.

The list can be a piece of paper, notebook, notepad, Word document, voice note, or Google Doc. It doesn't matter which one you use as long as it's convenient and available. In photography, the best camera is the one you have with you. I'd use that same idea with to-do lists. The best list is the one you have with you.

Personally, I keep my list within a Google Doc. I like it because I can update the list while on the go using my smartphone or while sitting at my desk. The benefit of Google Docs is that I'm always working from the most updated list.

The purpose of a to-do list is simply to capture items as they arise. For me, I find that I come up with to-do items while busy with something else. I could be shopping, eating, reading, or sleeping when a nagging task presents itself. Once I get it written down, I can let my brain rest.

An example of my To-Do list looks like this:
To-Do List
  • Write article on time management
  • Clean fish tank 
  • Pay cell phone bill 
  • Read journal on Organizational Commitment  
  • Write article on the slow-carb diet
Schedule Tasks On A First-in First-out Basis
With a to-do list established, it is time to take those tasks and schedule them on your calendar. I assume you've designed your time budget already. If not, visit the aforementioned post and create one now.

Thanks to my budget, I know that I can only devote an hour and a half to blog articles per day. To write an article on 'Time Management,' I have to visit my calendar and decide when I can fit it in.

Let's say I can afford some time tomorrow afternoon. To book it, I simply write the task from my list on to the calendar between 2 - 3:30 pm. Voila!

Let's assume that later on tonight, I come up with another blog topic. Looking at my calendar, I see that the next possible date to begin writing will be the day AFTER tomorrow. I'm ok with that, so I book it.

As demonstrated above, any subsequent article that comes into my head can now be scheduled as I think them up. To put it another way, first-in first-out.

The concept of first-in first-out works with meetings, chores, and even telephone conversations.

Prioritize Tasks As Needed
The first-in first-out method works the majority of the time. However, there may come a time where something more important requires my immediate attention. At work, for example, my boss may request that I attend a meeting or complete a project today. If it wasn't planned on my calendar, I may have to readjust my schedule in order to accommodate. When this happens, I will review my calendar and prioritize as needed.

In the case of a meeting, I know that I can only schedule two hours a day. Assuming I have meetings already on the calendar, I may be forced to call and cancel. However, before I do, I determine if the new meeting is more important than the meetings already on the schedule. If 'Yes,' then I adjust accordingly. If 'No,' then I ask if I can schedule a meeting to another day.

It is important to note that unforeseen tasks will show up. However, I found that it is much easier to say 'No' to a last minute request when the calendar is already full of items. Additionally, having a plan in place allows me to maintain control over my time.

Final Thought
As I bring this article to a close, remember that this calendar is yours. What you accomplish in life depends heavily on what you spend time doing. Therefore, take control by actively adding tasks to your list, schedule items on a first-in first-out basis, and, when absolutely necessary, prioritize tasks as needed.

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Photo provided by JJThePooh


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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