There are few things I find more satisfying than crossing off items on my “To Do” List. Of course it’s equally dissatisfying when more items appear on the list than the number I’m able to scratch off. In fact, some weeks I find the To-Do List is the perfect summary of how my week is going – gaining ground or losing ground. If you’re anything like me, consider changing up how you view the unfinished tasks that lay ahead by trying out one of these time management lifehacks.
Divvy Up Your To-Do List
Instead of a traditional list, divide your To-Do’s into four sections like the adjoining squares on a four-square court. In the upper left hand corner, name the square “Urgent and Important.” The next square to the right should be called “Not Urgent, Important.” Label the bottom left hand square “Urgent, Not Important,” and finally, call the lower right hand square “Not Urgent, Not Important.” Sorting your tasks into these four quadrants helps you prioritize your day or week into manageable segments, and keeps your attention on the tasks that need to be attended to right away. Any tasks that you place in the “Not Urgent, Not Important” category deserve a second look. Do these items truly need to be on your plate? If they are “Not Urgent” and “Not Important,” why are they on your list?
Focus on Your Big Rocks
Another way to think about your day is through the metaphor created by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Covey urges employees to visualize a jar that needs to be filled with rocks and sand. The jar is your work time, and the rocks and sand represent the tasks you need to accomplish. If you pour in all the sand first and then try to fit in the rocks, you can’t get everything in the jar. The sand is your daily time-suck tasks like responding to emails, check-in meetings on minor projects, and maybe organizing your bottom file cabinet. The big rocks are your top priorities and goals: that major product you need to ship this quarter, the incremental revenue goal set by your superior, the novel you’ve been meaning to write. Put your big rocks in the jar of your time first, and pour the sand in around it. You’ll find that when you prioritize your big rocks, the sand somehow manages to slide in around them, and everything fits.
You Have A Duty to Delegate
Delegating is not passing the buck. Delegating is putting the right people with the passion and energy for each area of a project in the best place to do great work. If you are a graphic designer, ordering inventory might seem a headache. As an administrator, creating compelling PowerPoint presentations might not be in your wheelhouse. Put yourself and your people in the best position to succeed by dividing the work among the people best suited to perform each task. When you divide to conquer, make sure to let your team know you are giving them the job because you believe in them. Master delegators know that high-performing teams thrive when they feel that everyone is equally invested in the project, so make sure your team knows what aspects of the work you are managing, too. Have weekly check-in meetings to discuss the status of each component part of the larger goal you are all working towards, where everyone shares their successes and struggles that week.
Effective and efficient time management is achievable with the right techniques. By harnessing these strategies, you’ll be working smarter instead of harder. Organizing your work will not only help you get more done at the office, but clearing space in your schedule will release the pressure on the remainer of your life too.
Got an idea for eliminating the endless “to-do’s?” Share it in the comments below.