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Learning 2XL

How 2│XL at everything!  Daily individual time planning


Step 1 - Getting yourself organised


Desk cluttered?  Heaps in the in-tray?  Spending hours looking for that form/ address/ letter/ file…?

First step is to ‘File the Pile’!  Do this after work when the office and phones are quiet, you won’t get interrupted and you will have a bit of space around you to lay out papers, like the floor or someone else’s desk.

Suggestions for sorting-out piles:

  • Action Now (do it now)
  • Action Later (decide what to do and put a ‘do by’ date on each item)
  • Action by Others (attach a comp slip with details and pass on)
  • Filing (do it now or reference it for an assistant to do)
  • Reading (only if you really need to, otherwise dump or pass on)
  • Junk (use the bin for this pile!)

Step 2 – Prioritising

You will need a small notebook, about A5 size, preferably spiral-bound so it lays open easily, but this is not essential. Open it at the first double page.  Write at the top of the left hand page: TO DO, week beginning …….(add appropriate date)

On the right hand page, in two columns or two half pages, write ‘Quick jobs’ and ‘Phone/email’. (See picture)

Take the two piles: ‘Action Now’ and ‘Action Later’. As you decide on a task for each item, add it to your to-do list and file it away appropriately. Don’t forget to make a note (on the to-do list) of where to find it again!

  •  ‘To Do’ jobs are ones that need time and thought – e.g. major tasks/ part of projects
  • ‘Quick Jobs’ are ones that can be done in a few minutes, say, just before going home, while waiting for someone or something, when you have computer downtime, or when you are too tired to tackle the major tasks.
  • ‘Phone/ email’ is obvious - better than lots of yellow stickies on the desk!

Don’t forget to check ahead in your diary – are there any tasks you should be doing now in preparation for a meeting, project or presentation, etc?

Do one of these double pages each day, or couple of days, or each week depending on how quickly you get through your major tasks.  There is no point in rewriting a list each day and it is time-consuming in itself.  If a task appears 3 or 4 weeks running, ask yourself – “do I really need to do this?”, or “what will I lose by dropping this altogether?”

Now decide on a priority order for your major tasks and mark them as follows:

  • Either A,B,C depending on importance – A being ‘DO THIS TODAY’, B being ‘DO THIS WEEK’,  and C being ‘WHEN I GET TIME’
  • Or: 1, 2, 3, etc, depending on deadlines – earliest deadline gets no. 1.


Step 3 - Scheduling and Diaries

So now, how can you fit it all in the time available?  It’s like filling a bucket with large rocks, small stones, sand and water.  If you fill it with the sand and water (minor tasks) first, you won’t get any rocks in, so put the large rocks (major tasks) in first (!! ) or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days (a big issue doesn't necessarily have to be a work task - it could be your child's sports-day, or a holiday).

·         Use your diary (write in pencil).

·         Block out ‘Prime Time’ (this is your best thinking time, when you are most alert, and differs from one person to another).

·         Choose a major task that you need to start soon.

·         Decide what specific thing you must do to get started.  Write this in your diary (eg resourcing information, analysing information, preparing a report, planning/costing a project, etc) in the PRIME TIME slot.
This may include booking a place to work in where you won’t be interrupted.

·         Keep this time sacrosanct – don’t agree to change it unless absolutely essential, and if you do, rebook it in your diary straight away.

·         Ask someone else to cover your phone, and promise to do the same for them when they next need it. (About 2 hours is the maximum you should ask for – don’t abuse the favour!)

·         Schedule meetings, but remember the value of future time.  It’s easy to say yes now, but this meeting may not seem so important if you have a crisis to deal with on the same day.  Keep some time free every day for the unexpected. You can always use it for ‘quick jobs’.

·         Where possible, arrange meetings just before lunch or towards the end of the day (focuses the mind wonderfully!)

·         Work out your ‘external prime time’. This is when it is easier to speak to your customers, suppliers or colleagues because they are not snowed under for any particular reason.  It is possible that external prime time may be best used for sorting out your queries and requests for information. List your calls and tackle them together where possible.

The biggest challenge is keeping this going.  Share these ideas with a similarly muddled colleague and encourage each other!

See Time Management course details for a fast-paced half day training workshop packed with tips and ideas for saving time and becoming more efficient and effective or phone 07514 031549