Busy people who also happen to be disorganized often look for methods on how to best manage their time and efforts to achieve optimum results within the specified timeframe. Over years, many techniques have been developed and the choices are varied and confusing. How to tell which way will work best for you?
I’ve found this to be effective: read as much as you can about time-management methods, list down the tips that appeal to you, and through trial-and-error, create your own system that will work with your personal habits and way of thinking.
After going through quite a few systems and planners, I’ve finally developed a system that increased my productivity, wasted less time, and left nothing undone. It’s loosely based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) action-management method insofar that I free my mind to actually work on tasks “by moving tasks out of (my) mind and recording them externally.”
I’ve tried using large, book-type planners but found them too heavy to lug around in my bag and too unwieldy to use in the field. So I trawled the ‘Net for ideas and came up with this system:
“Hipster PDA” - (bottom left) A sheaf of 3x 5 index cards held customarily by a binder clip or metal ring. I use a pink carabiner to make it easy to flip the cards. This is my “to-do” list. Color-coded cards organize the action tasks by context: blue, “@Work”, pink, “@Home”, white, Projects, because these are the categories that make sense for me.
Dashed notation for action items: – : action item undone; + : done; <-: waiting for another action; -> : delegated; (-) : moved to another list; * : cancelled/abandoned; and the division sign for ‘on hold’. It is easy to use because you always start with just a dash.
Pocket Red Moleskine 18-month Weekly Diary: (bottom right) For listing appointments, meetings, etc. Its the perfect size for me – small enough to carry in handbag or tuck in pocket, I’m never without it.
Desk planner – (top) With two pages allotted for each day, it’s where I list all the little bits of information that come my way - phone numbers, notes of telephone conversations, sudden inspirations – rather than write them on scraps of paper that can get lost or misplaced. In the GTD system, it’s my “bucket” where I capture the data for later processing.
I also have an 8-1/2 x 11 size three-ring binder with tabbed divisions. Each division corresponds to one project – ex. “Short Story Collection”, “Racing History Book”. It’s where I write down notes, proposals, plans, mind-maps, and the like. I review my binder weekly, and list down action tasks pertaining to current projects in my Hipster PDA.
People get frustrated when choosing one time-management system and forcing themselves to work with it rather than make it work for them. Customizing a system yields better results and will help you on your way to professional and personal productivity.
(Yes, the pen on the Moley and all the pens in the pen-case are fountain pens.)