In an effort to maximize my time, I’ve been testing different time management techniques. The Yesterbox approach is still working for me as a way to tame my email in-box. It’s not yet at zero emails but it’s definitely more manageable. Lately, I’ve been trying something else with great success: the 15-minute or less task and 3-5 hot projects list.
We all have big projects to tackle, whether they’re a massive work project or a remodeling job at home. We also know that in order to tackle those big projects, we have to break them down into actionable steps.
But in between those big projects, we have what I call admin stuff. Admin stuff is stuff that just needs to get done on no particular day but sooner rather than later. Most of those things won’t even take longer than 15 minutes but because they don’t have a deadline, I fail to plot them on my schedule. So, naturally, they don’t get done and they get moved from one week to the next, which is not only annoying but not efficient or productive (translation: time waster).
Right now, I have approximately 10 of those admin tasks to complete. They range from making my annual doctor’s appointment to creating an invite for my son’s birthday party. Or registering my daughter for her after-school activity and sending an email to a friend asking when we’re getting together. See? Nothing here should take longer than a few minutes.
So I’ve dubbed these admin tasks as my 15-minute of less tasks and highlight them in my paper planner as such. When I happen to have an extra 15-minute pocket of time (like when a client is running late to get on a call or another project gets done early), I tackle one of those tasks in the order in which I deemed them important to complete.
In some cases, I’ve gone as far as scheduling them on my planner. The trick is to find the right planner (more of that next month).
The other way my 15-minute task is helping me get more done is because there is usually a project I’m just dreading to work on or start. I don’t want to commit an hour to it. Or even half an hour. But 15 minutes seems non-commital enough but it keeps moving the project forward. Sometimes I just need to get over that initial hump to get started on a project because once I get past that hump, it all falls into place.
Who knew 15 minutes could be so productive.
3-5 Hot Things
The other trick that seems to be working for me is to make a list of 3-5 things I need to get done that day. That’s it. Even if my “to do” list is 10-20 items long, the reality is they won’t all get done in one day. Worse, it’ll feel overwhelming so chances are only 1-2 things will get done instead of the 3-5 that could’ve gotten done had I only focused my attention to those instead.
So now, only 3-5 things go on any day’s task list. The rest of the action items get doled out throughout the week. If I manage to knock out my day’s list, then I can choose to look ahead and tackle something the following day or enjoy the rest of my day by reading or catching up on other non-work-related stuff.
It’s quite freeing, honestly, to only have a few things to tackle a day and, better yet, my productivity is soaring because I’m not tempted to multi-task, I can focus on the task at hand and get it done faster because nothing else is competing against my time.
Have you found any time management tips that have worked well for you? Comment and let me know - I'm always willing to try new tecniques!