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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

how to fit all your rocks in the bucket

Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.

Put the big rocks in the bucket - is it full?

Put the small stones in around the big rocks - is it full?

Put the sand in and give it a shake - is it full?

Put the water in. Now it's full.

The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won't get them in at all.In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won't fit the big issues in (a big issue doesn't necessarily have to be a work task - it could be your child's sports-day, or a holiday)
So how to organise your rocks – here are my best tips for work and home
  • Get organised and keep tidy – whether its your home, your desk or your computer files, if you don’t know where things are you’ll waste time every single day searching for them
  • If you know that you are going to have a busy day tomorrow try to write a quick to do list before you go to sleep.  You're then less likely to forget things and just the act of getting it down on paper gets your brain prepared to make a start on things when you wake up.
  • Focus – if an important task has to be done, then concentrate on it. Don’t let yourself be distracted by calls, messages and emails - you will get through the task so much quicker if you give it the attention it deserves.
  •  Get to know when you work best – if you are a “morning person” do your most important tasks then – you will work better and achieve more.
  • Try to deal with things once and once only – whether its bills to pay or emails to answer , if it can be done straight away just do it – otherwise you fall into the trap of putting things off and spend more time thinking about how to avoid them than actually doing them.
  • Make lists and do similar small tasks together, whether its looking up stuff on Google or doing odd jobs in the garden, its more time efficient to tackle them in one sitting.   Keep lists of what you need to do then when you get around to sitting down to Google or getting your wellies on you’ll know exactly what you are planning to achieve.
  • Have a routine for dealing with emails – check them several times a day rather than answering every email as it arrives – there is nothing more time wasting that continually hopping from one job to another.
  • Learn to say no.  If you are being bombarded with demands on your time, its easy to fall into the trap of spending your life doing what other people want you to do rather than focussing on what’s important to you.  If you know that you want to spend time on reorganising your sock drawer and your friend wants you to go to the pub its ok to say no (unlikely but ok).
  • Learn to delegate – and don’t be a control freak.  If you can pass on tasks to someone else, a junior member of staff in the office or your kids at home, then do it.  It might not be done quite as well as you would have done it, but how else will they learn?
  • Meetings can be a serious time waster. Be sure that if you are organising a meeting you know exactly what you hope to achieve and how long its likely to take – and stick to the agenda.  If someone else is organising it then make it clear that you expect the same of them.
  • Use public transport – if it takes you half an hour to drive to work each day that’s an hour wasted, if you travel by bus or train it may take you slightly longer but you can use that time productively to read, catch up on emails or chat with a friend.
  • Learn how to start a task – very often we waste time just not getting started on a task because it seems too much. Try different ways of getting your ideas down – with pen and paper, on a word document or even a mind map – whatever gets you motivated to start the task.
If you are still feeling seriously overwhelmed and your “to do list” is a mile long maybe you need to learn to prioritise – watch out for my next post with a task grid tool to help you do it – that’s if you have time to read it.

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