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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts

Time Management Tips Still Effective

Posted: September 23, 2015

Can you believe it? We’re almost done with the 3rd Quarter! We made it through the heat of the summer; the new school is open; and for many of us, our fall activities are in full swing. 

So what’s next? Do we put it on cruise control and coast from now until Christmas? Or do we push pause to get a breather? Or maybe choose what’s behind Door #3, and see what else we can get into during the last three months of the year?

One approach might be to ask yourself this question: What did you want to do this year that you haven’t gotten done yet? Maybe there’s something you can still do about it. You’ve still got time. 

For me, I can think of lots of things that I haven’t gotten to. My problem is which ones to try and focus on. Not one to sit around much, I tend to have a bunch of balls in the air at any one time. Some are too big to tackle just yet. Others are smaller, but still pretty interesting to me. 

So I keep juggling. Some days I feel like I might just figure out this multi-tasking thing. If I could just be a mom for a little while, I’m sure I could get it. Being Daddy to an almost five-year-old just about gets me there some days. 

Still, I’ve been learning that it’s one thing to have a list; it’s another thing getting through it. More often than not, I’ll scratch off several things, add a few more, and have to write: “Continued tomorrow.”

I probably could have several lists, if I were trying to keep things separate, but I’ve learned that would just be more stuff to manage. So my list just has a couple critical things on it, across all genres of things to do. 

After all these years, I still like the Steven Covey approach from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I’m still working on the highly effective part). If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth your time to take a look at it. If you have, you might recall he designed a rectangular time management grid where you place tasks according to the level of urgency and importance. There are four boxes: 

I. Urgent and Important (Crises)

II. Not Urgent but Important (Prevention)

III. Urgent but NOT Important (Interruptions)

IV. NOT Urgent and NOT Important (Trivia and Busywork)

The main idea is that we spend too much time down in grids III and IV. The interruptions in grid III are hard to stop, but we need a strategy to try and minimize them. 

Maybe we don’t have to answer every call, text, or message right away. Perhaps we can set aside some dedicated time for getting back to people. I know, it’s hard not to pick up that phone the second it chirps. But if we could just wait until we finish the thing we’re doing, we’ll be able to finish the thing we’re doing. 

The other time killer is in grid IV (trivia and busywork), and is really something we do to ourselves. Covey says we use these things for downtime, escape, or even to avoid doing something we don’t want to do. Either way, when we’re in grid IV, we’re basically just wasting time. 

According to Covey, we need to spend most of our time in grids I and II, where we’re doing things that are important and critical, like deadlines, or putting out real fires. The other area is important too, but now you’re working ahead a little bit, like doing some planning, or taking some action steps toward a goal. 

If we do need some down time (and we all do), Covey recommends that we plan for it, building some exercise or recreation into our schedule. But it will be planned, coming out of your time budget, as it were. 

For me, I’m learning to do the critical stuff first. You know, things that have to be done today, like this article. Then I’ll spend a little time I have left for some planning for this upcoming project. 

Later, I’ll teach some classes, do some training, and so on. Some homework tonight, for a class I’m taking. Some interviews for another article I’m writing. Some remodeling, get ready for belt rank testing. Wait, how does that grid go again?