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Developing a Tracking System
Although there are many time management systems out there, we have found that most systems boil down to a few key principles. Here are our top three ideas.
Electronic Solutions: Most e-mail applications (including Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes) actually fall into the category of a PIM (Personal Information Manager) application. This means that they can store calendar, task, e-mail, and contact information all in one place.
To make the most of your electronic solution, follow these tips:
- Keep personal and professional information in two separate locations. (For example, you might have a computer at home and one at work, or two e-mail profiles on the same computer.)
- Take the time to learn about the features of the application and how to use them to be more productive. We’ll look at this a bit more later on in the course.
- Try to use just the application as much as you can. Switching between your computer and your day timer will waste time and increase the risk of missing information.
Productivity Journal: If you’re more of a traditionalist and prefer using something similar to an old-fashioned day timer, try this solution.
To start, get yourself a spiral notebook and label it as your Personal Productivity Journal or your Professional Productivity Journal. (We recommend keeping a separate journal for work and for your personal life, so you can focus on them at separate times, thus maintaining your optimal work/life balance.) Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day. Next, prioritize each task in order of importance. Highlight the top three items and focus on those first. Cross off items as you complete them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.
You can keep a long-term calendar in the back of the book (or use a three-ring binder with sections) to record upcoming events.
The Urgent/Important Matrix: Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, you need to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important. This concept, coined the Eisenhower Principle, is said to be how former US President Dwight Eisenhower organized his tasks. It was rediscovered and brought into the mainstream as the Urgent/Important Matrix by Stephen Covey in his 1994 business classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Here is a breakdown of each quadrant.
- Urgent and Important: Activities in this area relate to dealing with critical issues as they arise and meeting significant commitments. Perform these duties now.
- Important, But Not Urgent: These success-oriented tasks are critical to achieving goals. Plan to do these tasks next.
- Urgent, But Not Important: These chores do not move you forward toward your own goals. Manage by delaying them, cutting them short and rejecting requests from others. Postpone these chores.
- Not Urgent and Not Important: These trivial interruptions are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. However, be careful not to mislabel things like time with family and recreational activities as not important. Avoid these distractions altogether.
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