This morning I opened a seemingly innocuous email (no, it wasn’t from you- I promise), which asked several favors of me and requested, “let me know what your schedule looks like this week.”
My immediate (I haven’t sent it) response: No, thank you.
Sounds harsh? Let me explain.
We get a lot of seemingly immediate requests. Some truly are urgent and important (remember the time management matrix), but many are not. Like I do each week, I mapped out the next week’s work on Friday before leaving the office. During this week I am- presenting a 4-H Connections webinar, working on my team resiliency certification, meeting with a statistician, visiting Camp Cherry Lake, finishing my final edits on my packet, completing a grant application, applying for an enhancement award, etc. Beyond that I need to answer emails, phone calls, set other appointments, oh…maybe think– and THEN there is are the drop ins and emergencies I haven’t already accounted for.
We all get these- can we meet- requests frequently. Sometimes it’s in our best interest to drop what we are doing and tend to them (an important project with a club leader or a visit from your boss). Others, like this request for my assistance can be met with a – thank you so much for asking, unfortunately this week is booked, but could we schedule something for the following week?
BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?!
- Experts say to have the best handle on your time, you should have four lists! Yes, four- master, monthly, weekly, daily. For instance:
- Master- POW/ROA
- Monthly- Your calendar
- Weekly- I like to use the 168 hours spreadsheet at https://lauravanderkam.com/manage-your-time/
- Daily- This is your on your desk (or calendar) visible list for the day.
However, just having four lists is not enough. There are good lists, and there are bad lists. Some things to think about when scheduling:
- Fill your weekly and daily lists with realistic, actionable items. REALISTIC: Call Joe. UNREALISTIC: Complete my dissertation. This is important because we like completion. It is important to break down big tasks into smaller bite-sized portions.
- Remember- first eat your frogs! Complete the big, ugly, important things first in your schedule.
- Tasks take as long as you let them. The Law of Forced Efficiency says that people become more efficient if they have less time. Contrastingly Parkinson’s Law says that tasks expand to fill the time allotted. All this to say, be reasonable with regard to how long you expect tasks and projects to take.
Your daily and weekly lists should be monitored closely to avoid inefficiencies. Consider things such as:
- Do important tasks in prime time! That is work on your hard projects when you are at your freshest.
- Batch tasks. Try to make all your phone calls, emails, at once. Much more efficient than scattering these tasks throughout the day.
- Think of smaller units of times hours and minutes vs. days. Fill that time with smaller tasks which lead up to the completion of bigger projects.
Above all- PLAN! It’s is almost without fail that I have my next work week planned before leaving the office on Friday. Sometimes that plan goes array. That’s life. However, having the plan in the first place allows me to know how much time I can safely give away to unexpected projects and requests.
“Every minute you spend on planning can save you 5-10 minutes in execution.”– Brian Tracy