How systematic is your time-management system?

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Lots of people use our planners to keep track of their entire schedules. Geralin Thomas, for example a professional organizer based in Cary, North Carolina uses an alphabetical system and a Minister to organize her time.

I’ve got a much more haphazard way of doing things. I use my Outlook calendar to keep track of my phone calls and appointments (mostly on account of the automatic reminder function, which is great for an absentminded person who’s always at her desk). But whenever I go anywhere, I take my Sapa X with me so I can schedule things on the road.

I have a two-columned notebook on my desk to keep track of current projects. On the left-hand side, I write down my ongoing tasks in order of priority. On the right-hand side, I list some errands I’d like to run (dry cleaning, for example) that I probably won’t get around to for a while, but don’t want to lose track of entirely.

Then I have a bunch of other notebooks on which I write stuff down and actually do work, and a small pad in the kitchen to write down grocery lists. It’s not a system, per seI’m always adjusting and rejiggering things like how much detail I go into on my to-do lists, or how I keep track of deadlines (mostly in my head). But I don’t think I’d be able to maintain anything more well, systematic.

What’s your time-management system?

One thought on “How systematic is your time-management system?

  1. My system is very straightforward in a neurotic-but-nothing-ever-gets-missed manner. I call it “Time Traveling”, because I consider that I’m leaving a message for my future self.

    –I write EVERYTHING down…immediately. I never say “Oh, I can remember that until I get to my desk” because that means I have to keep something in the forefront of my mind, blocking new ideas from coming in. Instead, I keep a yellow legal pad with me wherever I go. When a new subject/conversational partner/phone call comes up, I flip to the next blank page and take my notes. Dated, timestamped, with the name and phone number of whomever it is (unless I know for certain I’ve got the person’s digits). It’s great to be able to flip back and say “When we talked at 10:15 on Saturday the 9th, you said…” If I’m *ever* somewhere without my yellow pad (Inaugural Ball? A pal’s knighthood?), I record a memo on my cell phone or call my voicemail with the info–time traveling to leave a message for the self that will be home later.

    –If something is DATE sensitive (i.e., I’m going to call them back on Tuesday or they’re going to send me something by Friday), I make a note on the appropriate day of my planner.

    –If something is TIME sensitive (i.e., someone wants me to call back in an hour, or I’m afraid I’ll get too caught up in a project to notice the time), I immediately set a task in Entourage (the Mac version of Outlook) or set an alarm on my cell phone, depending on whether I’m at home/office with my computer or out in the world with only my phone. Neither takes more than 10-15 seconds.

    –If a piece of paper, rather than a conversation, triggers the realization I need to do something (i.e., a bill with a charge that needs to be challenged; a document that needs to be read, signed and mailed), I put the paper in the appropriate page of my tickler file. If it’s an idea that just hits me (refill an Rx; pick up laundry), I write it down and put that note in the tickler, on either the date I estimate I can accomplish it, or on the next “admin” day I intend to review and schedule tasks. (I love tickler files so much, I wrote an ebook called “Tickle Yourself Organized”!) I check my tickler file daily, each morning, so I see what paper-triggered tasks I’ve assigned myself for the day.

    One legal pad, one planner, one tickler file, and two alarm systems (the computer a home, the cell if I’m out). I have a super memory, but almost never have to depend on it because I make my system remember what/when something needs to be done, freeing up my brain for solving the world’s (or favorite TV characters’) problems. For those who are afraid they might forget to check their ticklers, planners or yellow pads…that alarm system (phone or computer) shouts “hey, you! Did you do your homework yet?! Go read your assignments” with gentle authority!

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