This blog will offer a time-management tip that I picked up many years ago which has transformed my most arduous and foreboding tasks into manageable segments and beacons of accomplishment.
How is it that some people can accomplish mounds of meaningful work when others seem to procrastinate themselves into a depression? As a partner in a video production company, I know that when we embark on complex projects, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the details. This is likely the case for many people reading this blog post as well.
The solution to many time-management problems is to create a proper To-Do List.
The Power of Writing Things Down
My To-Do lists often begin as simple streams of consciousness that are then put to paper or the computer screen, itemizing things that must get done. These actions may be small and relatively unimportant, or they may be major events to accomplish a larger, specific goal.
By documenting your stream of consciousness in writing, you’ll be able to better visualize your tasks and goals. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll remember everything you need to do, so keep this list as a working document, and freely add to it when other items or thoughts come to mind.
Your First List
To start out, and to give you a manageable starting point, begin with a list of the items that you hope accomplish within a single day or two.
Once you have this “to-do-list-in-progress” document, you are ready to get into the organizational mode. We’ll be using a numbering and lettering system to help you.
First, review your list to get a “lay of the land,” and acquire an overview of everything that you have annotated. This may inspire a few more line items and help formulate “next steps.”
Next, look over your list and identify the “important-but-easy” tasks that you can accomplish relatively quickly. Assign these important-but-easy tasks with the letter “A.” For any “not-as-important-but-easy“ tasks, assign the letter “B.” Continue down your list until all the easy tasks are assigned a letter.
Optionally, you can choose to further prioritize these simple tasks by assigning a number beside the letter. “A1” would be the most important-but-easy task that you have to do, and so forth.
Finally, identify any “important-and-high-priority” tasks for the day and assign them numbers: #1 is the most important task, #2 is the second most important, etc. These tasks that are given a number may not be easy and they’ll likely take longer than the tasks you assigned a letter.
Reviewing Your List
As you review your list, you may realize that relatively simple tasks have stolen much of your valuable time in the past, which prevented you from working on the really important stuff. This technique should help put an end to that.
As you begin working with this system, you will quickly come to understand how many of these big projects you can realistically tackle in an 8, 9, or 10 hour day. As a rule of thumb, I find that I can realistically accomplish around seven or eight of these high priority tasks in a given 8 hour day.
It can be demoralizing when your daily expectations are set beyond what you can realistically achieve. This does you no good and will often give you a bad attitude which will slow the entire progress of every item on your list.
One other thought: if you find that you have far more “filler tasks” in a given day than you can accommodate, try amassing several “filler tasks” together and make them collectively another higher priority item.
As you become comfortable with the system, you may soon discover that you are actually accomplishing more than you ever thought you could. In reflection, you will come to realize how majoring in the minors has cost you dearly in the past.
As an author of several books, a broadcaster and videographer, I can tell you from experience that orchestrating your days in the manner outlined will allow you to accomplish your dreams, giving them the priority that they deserve.