We all share the same finite resource – time. No matter what we do, we can’t magically add more time into our days, or extend our weeks. Therefore, how well we manage our time, and our tasks, is critical to our overall success. There are many time management books and systems out there, along with ones that you can create from whole cloth. For off-the-shelf systems, choosing one can be daunting – there are so many, and it’s hard to know what criteria to look at when you’re selecting one to try. Here are a few key things to keep in mind to help you:
Big picture or small tasks? Are you more of birds-eye view person, focusing on ideas and high-level plans, or do you really like planning out every detail? Different systems approach these two perspectives in different ways. Getting Things Done is about getting the small tasks under control so you can focus on the big picture, while FranklinCovey is about focusing on the big picture to help guide you towards the right small tasks. It’s all a matter of perspective – both the one you already have, and the one you’d like to gain.
How planned do you like to be? Each of us varies on how much we like our days to be structured. Some of us thrive with lots of structure and have most of our day fully planned, while others work better when just a few key items are planned and the rest of our time gets filled as each day progresses. One method is not necessarily better than the other – and there’s certainly a continuum between them. Systems vary on how much structure they encourage – for instance, Action Method helps you plan and strategize your individual tasks, while The Now Habit’s Unschedule leaves your day more open. Choose a system that fits what works well for you, and you’ll likely be more successful.
Learn and use your system and give it a fighting chance. Once you’ve chosen a system, make sure you take the time to understand not only its big tenets, but also the ins and outs of how it’s meant to work on a daily basis. Listen to podcasts or read blog posts from the makers of your system, or work with a productivity expert to help guide you through the process. As you gain understanding into your chosen system, make sure that you’ve given yourself adequate time to practice using it. As with anything new, it takes both understanding your new time management system and putting it into practice for a while before you can see what is – and what isn’t – working well for you. Especially with time management, change typically doesn’t happen overnight.
Use bits and pieces. Whatever system you choose, don’t feel obligated to use every single element of it – especially if you find that parts of it don’t work well for you or if all your needs are not fully addressed. Use the parts that DO work well for you and if there are areas where your chosen system doesn’t fit the bill, choose elements from other systems to fill in the gaps. For instance, maybe some of the big-picture planning tools from your main system work really well for you, but you find that the day-to-day task planning isn’t really your cup of tea. In that case, choose a daily planning method from another system. After all, it’s your time – how you plan it should fit you!
Joshua Zerkel, Productivity Strategist, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and the founder of Custom Living Solutions the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier productivity and organizing consulting firm, and he’s the creator of the Profitable Productivity System. Josh specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses find easy ways to get control of their space, information, time, and technology so they can reduce stress and boost their productivity – and their profits. Visit Custom Living Solutions and get instant access to Josh’s exclusive Special Report “The 7 Must-Have Productivity Systems” and schedule your complimentary “Eliminate the Chaos” strategy session!