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Time management - Scheduling



Scheduling

Diary (or calendar)

There are a few simple things you may wish to consider.

What type do you want?

Many people will only feel comfortable with a paper and pen variety whilst others will happily use software based or hand held systems such as a PDA. If you are happy that you can maintain and retrieve data from an electronic version that’s fine. Others find these systems too fiddly and like to have a schedule that is more visible and easier to adjust.

What size do you need?

You may be able to get away with a small diary that is easy to carry and travel with. If you usually need to add a lot of notes with your appointments you may need a full page diary. Electronic ones can easily add extra notes.

Visual aids

  • Rather than add all entries into a diary using the same monotone approach try to make it more interesting. Here are a few suggestions.
  • Use different colours for different topics, for example, red for meetings, blue for personal appointments, green for travel information etc.
  • Blocking out events in your diary or calendar in colour is an easy way to quickly see your commitments.
  • Use pictures and diagrams if it will help focus your attention.
  • If you need preparation time use a coloured shape to remind you.
  • Indicate quiet time with a pattern.
  • Add borders to particular events to easily show other specific events.
  • Use self adhesive stickers and shapes etc.

Develop your own code or agree it with your team or family so that all of you can see easily what’s going on.

Odd items

Don’t forget all those other little items that you may wish to indicate in your diary or calendar.

  • Travel time in cars, at airports etc.
  • Reserve space for incoming telephone calls by appointment if you get a lot.
  • Time with your secretary.
  • Mail management. That is opening ordinary with email and time for replies.
  • General organisation time at the start of the day.
  • Dealing with others by appointment, for example, reviewing, helping or other problem solving, specific training etc.

If you have any problems with particular appointments and events in your diary or calendar make some notes (hopefully in the diary or calendar itself) so that you may learn for future items.

May be you can arrange a meeting or a training session over lunch?

Personal energy

We know that we tend to perform better at particular times of the day. Find out your own peak times.
Then try to fit tough tasks, difficult appointments and tricky events into these slots. Use some code system if necessary to highlight these events.

Even if you don’t need time to prepare (or you have already done so) for the next appointment you may still need to wind down from the previous one.
If necessary, allow for this in your diary or calendar.

You can often refuel and reenergise your self with a break in between the work.
Don’t forget the need for a period of ‘quiet time’ which can be implemented not only by you but your team and the whole company.

Bits and pieces

There are many minor things to do that will not sit easily in a diary or calendar, for example, reading material, minor filing needs, initial drafting perhaps of a document using bullet points. Assessing ad hoc problems and generating a list of possible solutions.

Assistant

If you have one then make sure you come to an agreement as to how you will deal with your schedule.

  • How frequently will you update it?
  • Can your assistant help you in maintaining it so that you are not unnecessarily overloaded?
  • How will you both work together?

Overload

At times you will feel there is more in your diary than you are able to cope with. If you have good managers or friends you should be able to tell them when you are under pressure and get help to reduce your burden.
Look to see if you can delegate, delay, or share the task.
If not, can you change the scope of the task?
You may well have received the wrong message about the task and should clarify the definition.

You will help your self here if you can hone your skills to say ‘no’ and reduce interruptions.

Visible

If your schedule is always visible it will help you to stay on track.
Divergent personalities sometimes have difficulty in completing tasks for many reasons referred to elsewhere, see ‘divergent thinking’.
A visible schedule on a calendar will help a divergent person focus on the task in hand. It has the added benefit of showing others what the work load is.

The telephone

The telephone can be a curse in terms of interruptions and is covered in more detail elsewhere, see ‘the telephone 1’ and ‘the telephone 2’.
If you have to take a call try to keep it to the point and as short as possible.
If necessary, try to create a future date in your diary or calendar for the call or perhaps divert it to another person.

If you say you will get back to someone make sure you do.
However, don’t be vague.
Don’t say, ‘I’ll get back to you’ or 'I’ll try to get back to you early next week’ as it will not happen.
Think of it as an action for your self.
Set a day and time and enter it in your diary or calendar.

Try not picking up the telephone on occasion, it can work wonders. Don’t feel guilty.

Proactive

On occasion you will not be able to complete your work because you are waiting for information from someone else.
Don’t just wait for the information to appear. Be proactive and add reminders in your diary or calendar to check on progress.
Many people think that your deadline is loose. They may think that you have incorporated slack in order to get the information early.
Tell people clearly when you want the material. Don’t be vague and indicate that this is the deadline.

Non - PRINCE2 information