5 Steps in Becoming an Effective Time Planner
Ready to get started? Below are the first steps to becoming a time planner:
- Get a really good calendar, use your Outlook (or other email) calendar, or create one yourself using your regular software package. Your calendar should contain squares big enough to accommodate tasks and should block out time in no greater than 15-minute increments.
- Divide your current to-do list into two columns. One column will be all the items that are pretty much preset, such as regular Monday morning meetings with your team. The other column will contain “floating” responsibilities. For example, you may occasionally need to attend networking events, but the times and days won’t be consistent.
- Take all the predictable items from your first column and begin to plot them into your calendar. Estimate the time needed based on past experiences, knowing that you can always make adjustments. These will be your “fixed” responsibilities, so it’s best to place them during times of the day where you generally won’t be side-tracked. For instance, don’t put them into your lunch hour period if you often go out to lunch with colleagues or clients because you’ll compromise your ability to stay on track for the day. (Hint: Many people like to do the “fixed” items first thing the morning or last thing in the day, when distractions and emergencies tend to be at a minimum.)
- At this point, your calendar has probably started to fill up, which is very good! And that means you can begin to section off “blocks” that will contain your “floating” and one-time duties. As you section off blocks of time, take your responsibilities from the second column and place them into the available time blocks. Be reasonable. If you have to make a phone call to a chatty customer, you might want to give yourself 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes (unless, of course, you’re determined to keep the conversation to 15 minutes, which is a subject for a future post!)
- You now have a “game plan” with open periods that can accommodate new tasks (and that includes personal ones, like running at the gym or playing with your kids in the backyard) as they pop up. Feel a sense of relaxation yet? If you do, you aren’t alone. Many people find it refreshing to have a map of what their journey (from a time perspective) is going to be.
At this point, you have a solid calendar with your weekly responsibilities. Each evening, go over the next day’s plan and add anything new that needs to be accomplished (don’t forget to include personal items like buying a birthday gift, going to the grocery store, etc.)
Whew… you’re done… congratulations!