(I had reason outside this blog to write this. It may not be at the center of interest for this blog, but I’ll include it here in case it helps someone!)
Good process makes time management lots easier and less stressful.
List The Big Goals It’s great to always know the three most important goals for the coming months. You might find the exercise of writing them to be difficult! Try it! Maybe you don’t need three; maybe you need more. Find a number that works for you, but don’t try to work with seventeen “most important goals”; that’s too many.
Make a To Do List In my personal life, I’ve experienced a certain feeling of being constantly behind and stressed; it’s tough! The antidote is: Write it all down. Every time I’ve felt that feeling, I’ve also felt I should have recognized it earlier. Every time I’ve created a list of all the things to do, I’ve emotionally reacted to the full list with relief, “This isn’t that tough!”
Your list has all your assignments and due dates on it. Feel free to put other things on the list; they may deserve part of your time, too.
Prioritize Your To Do List Sort your list by importance, which for me changes with due dates and with my Big Goals; you may have other factors. The ability to sort the list is valuable; consider writing the list items on index cards or in an electronic file so that sorting is easy for you. (In this case, “easy” includes “quick”; don’t spend a lot of time maintaining your To Do list!)
Break Big Items Into a Series of Smaller Items Perhaps a first task for a major project is research. Set yourself a date by which you’ll complete that research. You’ll may want to get more sources as part of later work (making the task not fully complete), but getting most of the research done early makes the rest of the project smaller. Further, it’s easier to prioritize the research with other current priorities when it is separate from the larger project.
Look at the Top Several Items Often, you’ll see interaction: “The only way I’ll complete this number 4 item in two weeks is to defer this number 3 item for a while.” Let your Big Goals drive such tradeoffs; focus your limited time.
Execute The Plan Every part of every day, work on the most important item on your list for that moment. Work each item thoroughly and to reasonable completion, but don’t spend excessive time. There’s a balance here; there’s other work to do. Leave the right amount of time for fun and family (especially if you didn’t include activities with them on your To Do List!)
Schedule Fixed Time Big Goals may deserve scheduled blocks of time. Reserve your work time. (Income is good!) If you’ve committed to an organization (say, a church choir), reserve the time they need. If every Tuesday evening (only an example), you work on Big Goal #1, it gets to be a habit and it’s easier to complete that goal. Don’t schedule your whole week; you need some flexibility. Are you over-committed? If so, the best time to say “No; I can’t do this.” is early rather than late!
Stick to Your Plan You’ll probably feel, “Is it worth it? Really? Spending time surfing the ‘Net is so much fun!” Yes … it is. That’s just an example of conflict you might find with this process. It’s a matter of balance. Are the choices you’re making entirely consistent with your Big Goals? That’s your call! Do your Big Goals need change?
That’s a good process for managing your time. There’s lots of flexibility in it; if changes to it work better for you, who better to decide to use them? Good luck!