As a result of the faster communication and easy access to information that today’s technology has provided us, we have many things competing for our attention and piling up on our “to do” lists than ever before. To manage this well, we need to use a realistic and effective system.

The Three-Category To-Do Process
Usually, when people create a to-do list, they make a list of items to complete and prioritize them. Some of the items get completed in the desired time, some do not, and some stay on the list for a long time without any indication of whether or not they will ever be completed. Instead of this method, I suggest putting your items into one of these categories:

1.  Things I Am Doing

2.  Things I Am NOT Doing

3.  Things I Am Never Going To Do

Managing your items in this way allows you to handle them more efficiently and helps to prevent overwhelm. Here is how to manage the categories:

Things I Am Doing
The “Things I Am Doing” category includes the things that you schedule to do into your calendar:

1. Necessities: time to sleep, eat, etc.

2. Things that are important to you: relationships, exercise, fun, spirituality, creative pursuits, etc.

3. Work: Include action items scheduled into your calendar and scheduled into the calendars of all the people who work for you. 

Things I Am Not Doing
The items that do not make it on your “Things I Am Doing” list, will be added to your “Things I Am Not Doing” list. These may be things that you realize you will not have time to do.

Most people entertain the idea of doing way more than they have time for. For example, at one time I had 100 books on my list to read. I committed to reading these books, and I often thought about how beneficial it would be to read them.

Eventually, though, I had to acknowledge that I was not going to read those books. I put them on my list of “Things I Am Not Doing.” Instead, I scheduled time for the two books that I was reading. When I made this shift, my commitment shifted too. It was not spread out over a long list of books but narrowly focused on two books.

Now when people suggest books to read, I put them on my list of “Things I Am Not Doing.” I avoid feeling guilty because I have not committed to something I do not have time for. I also do not feel barraged by a long list of things I cannot possibly accomplish, nor do I feel upset that I am not reading these books.

Things I Am Never Going to Do
The “Things I Am Never Going to Do” category can help you to eliminate things from your to-do list that you may be considering doing but you know that there is not much chance that you will ever really do it.

Together, the three categories for managing your to-do list can help you to reduce anxiety about the things you need to accomplish and manage your schedule more efficiently. Also, remember that you can move things to different categories as situations change.

Honest and Specific Time Management
Being honest and specific with your time management planning process and including detailed commitments nearly guarantees delivery on promises. Here is an example:

A job will take me two hours. It’s Tuesday of this week, and I have a two-hour time slot on Thursday from 10-12 p.m. In the event that something disrupts it on Thursday, I have another two-hour time slot on Friday from 10-12 pm. So I feel confident I can promise it by next Tuesday.

It is also important to be specific in your communication with others.

Avoid vague statements like let’s connect next week and set up a time that we can get together. Instead, I give people options. For example, I have Tuesday at ten, or Friday at five. Which of those two time slots will work for you?

Multitasking gives us the illusion that we are being productive when in fact, alternating our attention and focus slows us down and we will then take longer to get the job done and be less efficient and effective. So, instead of multitasking, do what you have scheduled and stay present, focused, and productive.

Managing Disruptions
Disruptions in your schedule, such as canceled appointments, will inevitably occur so it is best to plan for them. For example, I endeavor not to schedule more than eighty percent of my day and I schedule time in my calendar for my clients to move their appointments. Each week, I set aside several open appointments available to give my clients options and flexibility.

Ralph White
Business Coach, Author, Artist & CEO
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