Implementing a Time Management System Pt.1a

By Christina Suter on Apr 13, 2019 at 09:00 AM in Business Issues
Implementing a Time Management System Pt.1a

I have discussed the topic of time management numerous times throughout this blog. The topic is one that is important and essential to the success of a business run by a sole proprietor or entrepreneur. But when I say time management what I'm actually talking about is the management of your mind. Mind management is the management of your mind and expectations and your relationship to the things you need to get done. If you spend your time the way you want, you get what you want out of your time. 

The same way you manage how you spend the money in your bank account, you must manage how you spend your time.

We have a tendency to overcommit; we put too many things on our plate, too many tasks on our to-do lists. The result of that overwhelm is your time and energy get absorbed by things on your list and other things get sacrificed. You work through your lunch break and your body and mind suffer. When you don't get enough sleep or you don't spend enough time with your family, your work life balance is thrown off and that's because you aren't effectively managing your tasks, time, or mind. When we tack on tasks, the number of things we need to get done lead to feelings of anxiety, we forget more often because there's so much to try to remember, and that leads to us feeling broken down, frustrated, ineffective, and incompetent. 

Ask yourself, Am I using my mind to effectively spend my time? Use your brain for creativity, not as a memory system of all the things you need to remember.

Time Management System Components:

1. Calendar 
2. Task List
3. Filing System

Look at your time management system as a flow of things coming in and going out. Whether it's an email or a piece of paper; once it exists in your world and goes unfiled, it takes a portion of your energy and focus. Your body runs on a system of addition and subtraction, you add food to your body and your body expels or removes the waste. Much like your body though, if you were to continuously eat but not expel, you would experience physical pain. When you don't have a process in place to complete and catalog the things in your life, on your list or in your inbox, it will hurt to walk into work. 

Calendars are pretty straight forward. The only things that go on your calendar are things that have a date-- things that expire. If you have tickets to the theater for a play on Thursday at 7 pm, the play will go on whether you are in attendance or not. What doesn't go on your calendar are the things that can be done at any time; if there's no time commitment, those go on your task list. A great tip I use and I encourage you to, is to always leave extra time for travel before and after your calendar event for travel.

Task lists start off with a mind dump where you write down ALL the things you need and want to do, from projects and ideas to errands and phone calls you need to make. Give yourself 20 minutes to write down everything until you have nothing else to write. After that 20 minutes, you'll find that over the next 24 hours or so, more things will come to mind... add them to that list. You don't want to use your mind to memorize what you think you want to do. When you lose track of a thing you've said you want to do, you lose track of a commitment you've made to yourself and you have a vague, sinking feeling of not following through. 

Once you've done your mind dump go through the list and divide them into projects versus tasks. Finding a new website designer is a project, whereas buying milk is a task. Tasks are implementable and involve an action. Projects consist of a series of tasks. A task has an action and an object (buy + milk) start with the action. When you see that task written out in front of you, you don't have to rethink about what you need to do and how to get it done. Your brain doesn't have to work hard to recall what it means to buy, nor does it need to think about what milk is. 

Task management systems should have categories, and according to David Allen, those categories should be by context, not the due date. Categorize things by the action required to complete them. Things you can do if you're near your computer, or in your car, or you have your phone available should be grouped together. 

With all this information, create a project list that's separate from your tasks or to-dos. Open a tab or use a new piece of paper for each project and do a mind dump on each project. These things don't need to be organized or in any order. The important part of managing your time-- which is managing your mind-- is to give your brain the space to work on tasks, be creative, and problem solve. You want your mind to be available to think creatively, not use it as a storage tool trying to keep a running list of all your tasks and goals.