Not having a plan forces you to decide what to work on in the moment. This might work for some time. However, when you get tired, it is harder to make good decisions and to force yourself to do important things that may not be pleasant.
A good time management plan helps you maximise your time and resources:
- Step 1 – List all your tasks, assignments, and goals
Writing down all your tasks and assignments will help you understand what needs to be done and to make sure that you do not forget anything. Including your goals may reveal some tasks that you did not consider but that are needed to achieve those goals.
- Step 2 – Prioritise the tasks
Use the Urgent-Important Matrix to identify the most important tasks and those that need your urgent attention.
- Step 3 – Estimate how much time you will need to do them
Use your common sense and experience to allocate time to each task.
For more complex and longer activities, you could use the PERT technique. This approach uses the weighted average of 3 numbers to define a final estimate: the most optimistic (O), the most pessimistic (P), and the most likely (M). Then you just need to apply this formula: [O + P + (4 × M)] / 6.
- Step 4 – Create a schedule
Now that you have listed, prioritised, and estimated the time for each task, you are ready to start creating your schedule
- Schedule mandatory time
There are some things that you cannot change and that you cannot skip (8h sleeping time, your lunch breaks, or your training sessions). Start allocating those in your calendar to make sure that you have time for your basic needs.
- Schedule your tasks
Now it is time to allocate your tasks according to your Urgent-Important Matrix. Don’t try to do too much from day 1. If you are not used to follow a schedule, it is better to start with just 2-3 tasks to make sure that you complete them. Overcharging your schedule might be overwhelming and decrease your motivation.
- Schedule contingency time
You need some white space in your schedule. Don’t schedule one task after the other. Try to keep break times between tasks that would allow you to disconnect and recharge your batteries.
These white spots can be also used for contingencies or emergencies. The more unpredictable the project, the more contingency time you may need.
- Schedule discretionary time
This is your time for you, for your family and friends, for reading a book, or just for doing nothing and relax. We all need these moments and you must make sure that your schedule has them planned.
- Use time blocking
There are many applications. However, you can also use your mobile phone calendar and add reminders for when to start and stop your tasks. Your willpower will be critical to follow those reminders!
- Step 5 – Revise your schedule
It is likely that your schedule will not be perfect on your first attempt. You will probably use longer times for some tasks, others you will completely miss because you are tired, and others will be stopped because of other urgent matters.
What it is very important at this stage is that you keep some time at the end of the week to reflect on it. Analyse what went as planned, and what didn’t. Understand the reasons behind it. Consider new options and what things could have been done to improve your planning.
Remember that each week is (and should) be different. You cannot just copy/paste your previous schedule. So, at the end of each week, take some time to reflect on your past week and to plan the following one.