No matter how hard I work, sometimes it feels like I’m climbing up a never-ending stairmaster. I have a huge to-do list, there’s a strategy meeting in 10 minutes that I’m not ready for, there’s a release today but the build is broken, and I’m embarrassingly far behind on the marketing content I promised Vanessa!
And I know I’m not alone; I keep hearing from friends and colleagues that there’s not enough time in the day/week/month to do all the things we need to do … and that feeling of always being behind and ill prepared is stressful.
My approach of managing stuff on-the-fly and dealing with the biggest fire wasn’t working, and all my meticulous note taking just resulted in a long list of things that I’d never get to. I realised that I had to be smarter about the types of work that I would take on, and be more diligent with scheduling my time so things would get done.
I started using the concept of The Eisenhower Matrix to help me think about the multiple facets of prioritisation. The matrix has urgency on one axis, and importance on the other.
If something is urgent and important, you should probably just get on with it. If something is important but not urgent then the work should be scheduled. If something is urgent but not important then these tasks can be delegated. And finally, anything that is not important and not urgent can just be dropped; you have better things you should be doing!
Time blocking was another step change for me as I used to treat my calendar as a place to organise time with other people (meetings and such), but now I use it to actually schedule my own time as well. When I have something that needs doing, no matter how small, I’ll block some time in my calendar to do it.
Now, things won’t always go to plan, and interruptions happen, so sometimes I get to a task in my calendar and have to move it back. But that hour I scheduled to plan how to improve our release process has not just disappeared, it’s been pushed back to a free slot next week.
Have you used these before? What other tools and techniques have you used to better manage their time and work more effectively?