Using time management works best when you are planning first on a weekly basis. As I plan my week, let me share with you some tricks and tips for managing your time.
Almost every Sunday I sit in front of my computer, pull up Todoist, and plan my week. I learned long ago to manage on a weekly basis from Steven Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A week is long enough to get a lot done but not so long that things change too much.
As you’ll see in the video, I do a review on a daily basis. Moving tasks around and deciding not to do things. But I don’t add more stuff from my big list of stuff to do.
When you have set a bunch of goals, you are going to have a bunch of tasks to accomplish. Having just one huge list of all these things can be overwhelming. There is so much to do … you don’t want to do anything. Or you can work non-stop forever because you are never done. Your long list always has something for you to do.
By breaking off a piece of that list once a week and then further breaking that list into days, you now have a manageable, finite set of tasks.
So come along as I plan a typical week.
How I Use My Calendar
Most of my planning is done in Todoist, but I need to have Google Calendar open as well. You see I put tasks that are untethered to time in Todoist as they come up, but I add appointments to Google Calendar. Things that have a specific date and time. This can be far in the future – I have a dentist’s appointment 6 months from now. These are easy to forget if you don’t have a calendar-based system to put them in.
But I’m a little lazy and generally don’t enter an appointment in both tools. So it is important to open up my calendar and look for appointments. Then I can decide if they also need to be on my to-do list, or if just in my calendar is good enough.
OK, let’s open up Todoist and get ready to go through my projects.
How I organize my projects
In my last video, I mentioned I’ve broken my life down by roles. I name those roles by the people or organization they are about. I try to put God first in my life, so that is the first project on my list.
Then my personal stuff, my family, and friends. Then the organizations I work in organized by priority. DFL is first, then writing. I’m currently part of two mastermind type groups and Reactuate Services are my programming projects, whether for myself or other people.
The top of this list is pretty set in stone, God, Self, Family, Friends. The roles after that change over time. For a long time there was a Toastmasters group that had a lot of activity in it. But now it is archived. Now writing is its own major role.
So what is in all of these roles? I’m going to show you, but first let’s talk a minute about how these things fill up.
I’ve talked a lot about putting your action steps from your goals in here, and that is true. In reality a lot of tasks get added because, well reality needs them. You have to pay your bills and taxes. You have to take your wife to PT, or friends ask you to come to a pot luck dinner. Those things create tasks you need to work into your todo list to make sure they get done in time.
I’m of the opinion you needs to create subcategories under these roles as you need them. Don’t try and figure it all out at the beginning. Start out just dumping things into a big list.
Then after a few weeks of working with it, you may notice you have a bunch of House related tasks. Then create a subcategory of Personal for that. Or you do a lot of accounting-related tasks in your business, so add a subcategory for them.
Keep this concept in mind as we walk through my role groupings.
My first role is titled God, because that is who it is about. I try to put the ultimate goodness that is God first in priority, so it is listed first.
As an aside, God stuff is the ultimate important but not an urgent project. There is no sense of urgency. This means it is easy to let the important religious practices fall through the time cracks. What is important in our religion, spirituality or non-spiritual practice will dictate what you want here. I’m not going to delve too deeply into mine here.
Next, I have a project named Personal because there are just things that are about me that have to get done to make all the other things work. The biggest subcategory we all need is Maintenance.
When I first started doing this I didn’t have a Maintenance category or these specific sub-categories. But I kept needing to add things to personal because they didn’t fall under other roles. As a single list got big I started breaking it down into sub-categories.
Some of these sub-categories came because of tracking. I really wanted to know how much time I was spending dealing with tech related issues, so when I started tracking that, I added those tasks here as a subcategory in my todo list. We’ll talk more about tracking in a future episode.
Planning the week
I’m planning my week, which isn’t about organizing these categories. It is about deciding which tasks are going to get done this week. Let’s do that.
The basic rule is:
- Go through every item in your projects and decided if it needs to be done this week.
- Give it a day of the week you are going to work on it.
I click on a project and read every task in the list. I can skim over things that already have a date associated with them, but it is important to read every item.
Not only are picking what to do this week, but we are also looking for tasks we’re never going to do. If I read a task week after week, and never actually put it in a week, then maybe I need to admit it isn’t compelling enough to actually do. If so, maybe it is time to delete it.
Or maybe a task’s time has passed, like that can of tuna from 2019 in your pantry. Delete it.
If I hit a task that does need to be done, I assign a day of the week to it. Todoist makes this really easy with their natural language interpretation. Just click, type “Thursday” and hit return.
I go through every single item and decided to
- Do it – then give it a day of the week.
- Delete it
- Let it be.
This takes about 20 or thirty minutes, depending on how much stuff is on your list. Once you’ve gone through everything, you might want to use Todoist’s Upcoming panel to review what you have on each day of the week. Notice if you overloaded a particular day.
Over time I’ve discovered that some days of the week are more productive than others. You will too and can take that into account when scheduling.
For instance I get an incredible number of tasks done on Monday morning. Don’t know why it works that way, but if I have 30 things on Monday, it is OK. If I have 30 on Wednesday, I’ve got a problem.
Question of the Day: How do you plan your week?
There are lots of other things you could do at this point. A big one some people do is transfer each item to a specific time in their calendar. I’ve tried this in the past, but it frustrates me that I don’t hit those times. But if it works for you then do it.
Sometimes I will block out a chunk of time for a kind of task. For example, I used to dedicate the hours of 8 am to noon for DFL. Then I would only work on tasks related to DFL. But I didn’t schedule each task for a specific period of time.
Which is probably the most important distinction for time management. Do what works for you. Try things and find out what works and what doesn’t. Then modify your system.
Now that my week is planned, what do I do each day to ensure I get stuff done? Well, that’s next week’s topic, so stay tuned for it.