For years, I worked with a to do list. Every day, I would come in to the office. I would start my computer. I would get a glass of water and a fresh cup of coffee. And then I would sit at my desk and take ten minutes to organize my day.
Some days, I won’t lie, the list had three things on it. And other days, well on other days the list covered two full pages. However, on those days, thankfully, many of the items were things like “put stamp on birthday card and put in mail basket” and “confirm registration at seminar.” In other words, I may have had a chance to cross twenty things off the list in less than an hour if I remained focused on crossing things off the list.
Since the beginning of the year, I have been experimenting with time management methods. Suddenly, I can no longer get everything done on the list. I constantly feel like I am behind. I read an article last week where it all started to make sense. Apparently, this “too much to do” syndrome is part of starting a business. When the business is yours, you always have five more things you want to do to make it grow or to get the work done or to make your clients happy.
These are the methods I have tried:
Putting “the list” on a schedule, and then actually stopping working on task #4 when it is time to start task #5. This is beneficial when I have multiple vague projects going on that I want to work on all at once. I also found it helpful for those things that I have a tendency to just keep going at — like research — when an hour might really be enough. My problem is that I will read something interesting, that has a link to something else that is interesting, that has another link, that…. you see my problem. Three hours can pass with me not catching the time.
Finishing thing one before starting thing two. This has been helpful in the last few weeks as I started to add real client work to the mix. Instead of finishing my start up tasks, working on marketing efforts, following up on my part time project or working on a freelance writing gig, I had real people that needed real things done, now. The good thing about this method: the letter gets written and mailed, the appearance is printed and filed and the trip to the post office and the bank is finished. The bad thing — all those “think about” or “follow up on” tasks, including asking key mentors to lunch and prepping some promotional material are now undone
A balance between the two — realizing that tasks some times take longer than I anticipate, so scheduling myself more loosely.
I have heard of a “Pomodoro” technique that involves working solidly for a period of time — like 25 minutes, and then taking a solid five minute break before tackling something else. This acknowledges that our brains can only focus on a single task for so long.
This morning I read another article about the outer limits of our attention span. I’m not sure I am completely following its advice, since it is after 8 pm and I am still working on checking off my to-do list for the day. But at the same time, it had a valid point. One I will listen to, tomorrow.
So what about you? What time management struggles do you have?