Before you determine that you can’t live by a schedule, consider what happens when you don’t…
The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is a common ratio used to determine performance versus resources. It is a general assumption that we use 80% of our resources (time, money, skill) to achieve 20% of our performance. The opposite is also true — we use 20% of our resources to achieve 80% of our performance.
It is impossible to suggest that any person can be 100% productive for 100% of the time. We all have our most productive times of the day, activities and abilities.
Now you need to recognize that to use your time to the fullest you want to find ways of increasing that 20% to 30%, 40% or even more. When you identify the most productive times of the day and schedule your top producing activities into those times and make that task a priority you’ve already reset your thinking and will be working smarter — not harder.
The ‘To-Do’ List
The ‘To-Do’ list is not just for list making junkies. If you find that tasks are not being accomplished on time or even forgotten you need a ‘to-do’ list.
How detailed you make the list is up to you but every task that is given to you should have the following recorded with it:
When does it need to be completed?
How long will it take to do
How important is it?
When will I do it?
At the end of day make a list of tasks that need to be accomplished the following day. Prioritize them according to importance. Give each task an earlier deadline and 50% more time to complete than you think.
As soon as you start your work day you will know exactly what needs doing and when. If you have booked some uninterrupted time you will have no problem accomplishing your highest priority tasks. Tasks that do not get completed will be reassigned for another day, delegated to someone else or removed from your list.
Get in the habit of creating a ‘To-Do’ list each day. It may be easier to keep this on your computer or PDA so that you can easily re-schedule activities without writing them over onto a new sheet.
Not every task can be competed in a day. Your schedule will just become another ‘task’ in your day unless you learn to prioritize. Prioritizing ensures that what NEEDS to be done is done.
When you are handed a new assignment you should immediately put it on your ‘To-Do’ list. Number the tasks on your list so that number ‘1’ is most important and work down from there.
Take your top three priorities and schedule them into your weekly or monthly planner. Write down your deadline (always a few days early!) and block off time to get it done. If it requires collaboration with others, schedule that too. You may have to make some appointments when you know where you are at with the task but it is important to write something down so that you don’t overbook.
After the top three priorities have been given their spots in your schedule start adding the others. Schedule the most important tasks first. Keep your schedule with enough time to manage day-to-day activities like reading email and returning phone calls. Plan on 50% more time to finish each task than you think necessary.
Each day will now have a list of scheduled activities that take into account the priority of individual tasks. Use this to create your daily ‘To-Do’ list.
Scheduling Low Priority Tasks
As you see your schedule filling up with high priority tasks you will need to make some decisions about your low-priority tasks.
If you have scheduled low-priority tasks into your day but have had to move them onto the following day’s to-do list they will quickly become bigger and more of a priority as you continue to put them off.
One way to prevent this is to use the ‘one more task’ philosophy. Every day try to do one more task than you planned or scheduled. One more phone call or 10 minutes filing will keep these tasks from becoming daunting.
If that is not working you may determine that these activities need to be delegated. Valuing your time requires decisiveness. These tasks keep your work moving along and if they are ignored it can cause a huge interference. Think of looking for a file when a client calls and you see that it is in a pile of 50 others. You will be losing the effects of time management by not dealing with these issues right away.
Action plans are not to be confused with ‘To-Do’ lists or schedules. Action plans are the itemized tasks you need to follow to complete a goal.
Sit down and determine what actions are needed to accomplish your goal. Who do you need to meet with? What resources do you need? Where do you have to go?
The Action Plan will be a crucial tool for your scheduling purposes. If you have not planned your actions your schedule may be flawed if you did not make time or plans to accomplish the goal.