Another Monday, another week’s planning session.

Over the years I have tried lots of different ways to manage my time and what I do with it with wildly varying success rates.

I suppose time management can be a lot like dieting and features the same stages –

1. Need for preventative action identified coming down the line  (projects mounting up / oh, these trousers seem to have shrunk in the wash!)

2. Need for action now identified (definitely have put on the pounds!/deadlines missed)

3. Damage experienced (buttons burst / opportunity lost)

4. Drastic action taken (near starvation diet / complex time management tool used and all hours worked)

5. Problem fixed

6. Fatigue sets in  – slideback starts

Repeat to fade!

What I have found to work best for me in terms of actual implementation and benefit is the very simplest of systems.

I use two excel sheets. One is a list of things To Do and one is a list of things done – the Timesheet. Both are held on Google Drive so are accessible from anywhere.

Yay! It feels good to get ticked off!

 The To Do sheet is very minimalist, with just the item and the deadline but also a Yay! line for when tasks are completed – it’s important to celebrate these small victories!

The timesheet is a bit more complex – with a start and end time, number of minutes and accumulative minutes for each client, minutes calculated for each day and week and each client has the target number of minutes for that month.

This is needed because invoices depend on time spent and every minute is important.

There are two other tools that I use to compliment my low tech productivity control system.

The first is a timer (on my phone) that I set for 15 minute intervals. This is to help focus the mind on the task in hand and not get distracted by anything else – incoming emails, phonecalls etc.

The second is  a list of six things that I need to focus on today (thank you Brian Matthews – in order of priority – these generally are clients, finance, new business and other, e.g. pro bono projects. The idea is to check back to the focus list after each fifteen minute interval to make sure that you are always working on the most important thing.

I have stuck with this system for almost 11 months now – which is a great achievement for me!

The most important elements, I’ve found, are:

Discipline – just filling out the excel sheets as you go along

Prioritising – taking care of the important things, rather than the urgent things, first.

Ticking off – it’s a great feeling when you tick something important off your To Do list. However, your To Do list should not really get much smaller as new tasks should be added to it all the time, which is a good thing too :-)

Please do let me know what you think and what works for you.