Ten Time Management Tips That Work for Me

Over the last few years, I’ve read a ton of time management books and tried out literally hundreds of systems and standalone ideas for maximizing the effectiveness of my time, particularly in terms of my work.

There’s a huge, direct benefit for me when I find a productivity tip that really works. It enables me to get more work done in the same amount of time (allowing me to “grow” The Simple Dollar by writing in more venues or doing other things) or get the same amount of work done in less time (allowing me to spend more time with my family).

Here’s the problem with productivity tips, though. Most of them don’t work. Some are simply inefficient. Others are only efficient in certain situations. Still others only work well for people with certain mindsets.

I’ve tried many, many productivity ideas, yet I keep coming back to the same handful in the end. These tips work for me. They keep me from wasting brain cycles on remembering what I need to do and when I need to do it. They keep me from wasting time bouncing back and forth between projects. I think most of them will work well for you – at the very least, they’re worth trying.

1. Avoid multitasking like the plague.
Every time I attempt to multitask, I wind up doing each task with a lower level of quality than I would have if I had focused on just that task. My concentration isn’t fully sustained on any of the tasks I juggle, so I wind up using only a slice of my brain for each task. That simply results in lower quality work.

I also wind up investing the same amount of time – or even more – when I multitask. That’s because there’s a brief pause each time I switch my primary concentration between multiple tasks. If I keep switching back and forth, those lost seconds start to really add up.

In the end, I’m left with tasks done in a mediocre fashion and, quite often, no time saved at all. That, to me, is a lose-lose.

Here’s the way to solve it: focus on only one task at a time. Let the rest slide. Work on that one task in bursts – at most an hour in length. Then stop and catch up on any incoming messages you need to deal with, take a break, and so on.

How I Do It
When I begin a big task, I shut off everything. I turn off my cell phone and the ringer on our home phone. I close my email program. I shut my office door. I choose music (or similar audio) that’s conducive to concentration. I set the clock to an hour or so. Then I bear down. I do the research. I write the article. I let everything else go. After about five minutes, I usually get into some sort of flow where I fail to even notice what time it is until my clock alerts me that the time is up. When I stop and step back, I usually realize that I’ve completed what seems like a lot of work, far more than I would have achieved with interruptions.

2. Keep a notebook/PDA with you and write down your thoughts.
We all have lots of good ideas float through our heads throughout the day: things we need to do, ideas for future directions, facts we need to look up. In an average day, I usually have twenty or twenty five of these little things bubble up from my subconsciousness.

Many people try to just trap these in their conscious mind until they can do them, but doing that makes it harder to concentrate and really bear down on an important task. You’re using part of your mind to keep that idea locked in place. Thus, you’re unable to devote your full concentration to the task at hand – the multitasking problem all over again.

Instead of doing this, keep a pocket notebook or a PDA with you at all times to jot down any small things that pop into your head. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good idea or not – just get it down on paper and deal with it later. That way, you can go immediately back to whatever task you have on hand instead of wasting brain cycles on trapping that idea.

How I Do It
For years, I used a simple Mead pocket notebook to do this. Quite often now, though, I simply jot the note down using my iPod Touch. I use Evernote to do this. Evernote allows me to see my notes, edit them, and add new ones on my iPod Touch even when I’m offline, but I can access these notes, edit them, and add new ones from any web browser as well. There’s also a useful client program for Windows and for Macs, which I leave open all the time in case an idea pops into my head when I’m working on something – I just switch to Evernote, jot it down, then go back to my main task very, very quickly.

3. Keep an “inbox” and process it once or twice a day.
So, what do you do with all of those jotted down notes – and with all of the other things that come your way in a given day, like mail, miscellaneous tasks people send to you by email, and so on? It’s pretty simple – once or twice a day, process all of it. Take some sort of action on all of those stored-up items – toss them in the trash, file them away, take care of the task, pencil it in on your calendar, or so on.

The goal needs to be eliminating everything in your inbox. You should strive to get to “empty” once a day, with everything in there dealt with in some capacity. If you let it build up, it will grow out of control.

How I Do It
I usually keep two separate “inboxes” – one on the computer and one on the left side of my desk. I pick through each of these at least once a day, usually at the end of the day. I make it my goal to deal with everything in some fashion, so I usually spend time adding to my idea file, taking care of little tasks, adding things to tomorrow’s to-do list (see #5), updating my calendar, updating my grocery list, and so on.

The biggest challenge I had to work through with this was not simply making another pile out of things that needed filing and things that need further reading (like notes for a future post). I’ve recently solved that problem (see #7).

4. Keep a project list – and focus on it at least an hour a day.
We all have a lot of projects that we’d like to work on – projects that aren’t really essential to what we’re doing, but would go a long way towards making life easier once they’re complete. Things like reorganizing the pantry, cleaning out the garage, sorting through all of our kids’ clothes and putting up everything that isn’t at least 3T in size, doing a small marketing project, writing something intriguing but complex, and so on – they vary widely from person to person.

One great method for doing this is Mark Forster’s Autofocus system, which he’s discussed in various forms in his books. It’s pretty simple, actually: you just keep a project list in a college-lined notebook, one project per line. When you finish one, cross it off. When you fill up a page, keep adding projects to the next one. Then, when you’re ready to tackle something, start going through the notebook, browsing all the tasks until you find one you want to do. If you go through a whole page without tackling any projects on it, tear out the page and throw it away since the tasks left on it are ones you aren’t really compelled to do.

Of course, a project list is useless if you don’t use it. Set aside one hour each day where your focus is on one of the projects on your list. Pick one out and make some progress.

How I Do It
I keep a “to-do” list that is a maximum of thirty items long for such projects. I use Remember the Milk to keep this list. I order it by the day that I add a task to the list, so that the oldest one is always at the top of the list. If the list has thirty projects on it and I want to add another one, I simply delete the one on top of the list. When I want to work on something, I start at the top of the list and go down the list until I find one that’s compelling for me to work on at the moment.

This works amazingly well for me. If a task reaches the top of the list and I haven’t taken significant action on it, it’s because on some level I’ve realized that I’m not really that interested in the project. It also keeps my “project list” from getting impossibly big, making it feel like a realistic thing to manage.

5. Keep a SHORT to-do list for each day – four items, max.
I used to weight down my to-do list with way too many things to do. At the end of the day, though, I would not only feel as though I rushed through stuff, I’d feel like I hadn’t really accomplished too much because there was always stuff left on my list.

The solution is pretty simple. Your to-do list should have at most four items on it. Naturally, your day routine will have several other tasks that you do as part of a routine (checking and responding to emails, maintenance tasks, regular meetings, and so on) – don’t include these on your to-do list. Instead, those routine items should be used to fill in the gaps between the big items on your to-do list. Finish off each day with the routine of ensuring your to-do list for tomorrow is ready, but you can/should be assembling it throughout the day.

Construct those items carefully so that they can be done with about fifty minutes of truly focused work. This way, you can complete a task on your to-do list with a single block of focused time (as in tip #1, above). If you need to fit in more work than that on your to-do list, add it to the one for the day after tomorrow, or the day after that.

How I Do It
Again, I use Remember the Milk for this. I just add items throughout the day to my lists, then at the end of the day, I fill up tomorrow’s list to four items with tasks that always need done – drafting posts, researching a particular angle, and so on.

Each day, I live by this list. I close out distractions and focus on one item on the list until it’s done. Then, I do all of my routine tasks in the gaps between these big jobs. If things go well, I might steal an item from the next day’s to-do list if I have time for a fifth thing.

6. Check email only twice a day.
Email is almost always a major time sink. It’s rarely a simple matter of just reading messages. Many messages demand responses, and some messages demand follow-up tasks. Leaving that email window open throughout the day ensures only one thing – your concentration will be interrupted constantly by messages that come in that need responses.

My solution is to simply close the program. Open it only two times a day or so and do an email session, where you deal with everything in your inbox. Then, close the program completely (including notifications) and move onto something else. If it’s truly urgent, someone will come directly to you, so don’t worry about missing out on something vital.

How I Do It
I check my email twice a day. I often do one email session while eating lunch, then a second session just before finishing up tomorrow’s to-do list and quitting for the day (on occasion, I’ll do a third one in the morning before the kids wake up, but this one is often interrupted). My goal with each session is to clear out my inbox – I deal with every message immediately unless it involves a task that’s going to take more than five minutes or so.

7. File things once a day.
This is actually a pretty recent addition to my routine. I had to add it simply because I had a giant pile of things that didn’t need immediate action, but needed to hang around for future reference: statements, prospectuses, post ideas, receipts, magazine articles, and so on. My pile of such items eventually came to dominate my desk and it was often impossible to find anything in there.

To take care of this, I started a very simple filing system in a box that I keep next to my desk. This keeps my desk clear most of the time (giving me space to work on things at hand), plus it enables me to find stuff quickly when I want to find it. The best part? Once the system is in place, it doesn’t take much effort to maintain it – maybe a minute a day. Considering I’d often burn ten minutes digging through the pile finding things, this is a huge time saver for me.

How I Do It
I just made a filing system that makes sense to me, since these are just documents for my own use. Six folders (“to-read,” “2009 receipts,” “post ideas,” “prospectuses,” “2009 account statements,” and “other”). Within each folder, everything is dated and ordered chronologically. It works like a charm for me – I usually have a great idea of when I put things in there, so it’s quite quick to find them. Filing a day’s worth of items takes less than a minute and I’ve had no trouble finding a single thing.

8. Start your day with your major creative or thought-intensive task.
When I start my day, I have a choice of the four items on my to-do list. Which one will I tackle first? I’ve usually had breakfast and a shower and prepared the kids for their day, so I’m wide awake and my brain is running.

I’ve found, time and time again, that starting your day with your most thought-intensive task sets the tone for the whole day. It forces you into prime thinking early on and you can ride that wave throughout most of the day. If I do a major thought-intensive task after several hours of work, my brain turns to mush for the rest of the day. Finishing the day with my easiest task leaves me pretty fresh for my evening activities with my family.

How I Do It
Whenever I look at the day’s to-do list, I always choose the item that seems to be the most thought intensive. That means I do my heaviest thinking earlier in the day, usually ending with an afternoon task or two that doesn’t require nearly as much active thought. I’ll do creative work in the mornings and things like interviews in the afternoon, for example.

9. Take lots of microbreaks (or at least switch to very different tasks regularly).
One of the biggest enemies in a workday is lethargy. It’s easy to find yourself in a low-energy period, sitting there having trouble keeping your eyes open or concentrating on anything. Once you’re there, it’s often very hard to pull yourself out of it – you’re running on low energy for the rest of the day, even if you do rebound a bit.

The best way to combat it is to never let your energy level get that low. That means not sitting at your desk or your work area for long periods. Get up and move on a regular basis. Instead of eating a big, heavy lunch, eat smaller snacks throughout the day. Stretch. Drink water. Do this as often as you can – bookend task sessions with a microbreak where you do these things.

How I Do It
Whenever I finish an isolated block, I take a five minute break. I get up from my desk, walk downstairs, get a drink of water, use the bathroom, stretch a bit, and maybe grab a very small snack (like a granola bar or a piece of fruit).

Doing this has basically eliminated the mid-afternoon energy lull I used to have – around two, I would basically hit a wall and not be productive for the rest of the day. Now, I can keep going until … well, read the next tip.

10. Don’t overwork.
Sure, once in a while, you have to put in some extra hours in order to really do your job well. It’s also important to note that different people have different energy levels for their day.

Given that, though, the worst mistake you can make is to overwork. If you’re nearing the end of the day and you just can’t seem to get anything done, don’t push it. Time and time again, I’ve found that pushing myself to get just a little bit more done at the end of the day has long term negative ramifications. I have a harder time getting going the next morning, for example, and if I do it consistently, my overall productivity slows to a crawl.

How I Do It
If I feel myself starting to slip at the end of a day, I stop. I finish up my day and move on to something else.

Burning myself out with regards to my work is incredibly dangerous and something I take great pains to avoid. Stopping early might slightly reduce my productivity for that given day, but it doesn’t drag down my long-term productivity at all – if anything, it does the opposite, because I’m not burnt out the next day.

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  1. Those are great points, but I do think that multi-tasking can and will enable better time management if done properly. For me, I can work on emails/phone clients and trade stocks at the same time and essentially kill two birds with one stone.

  2. Eric says:

    I agree with Trent on multitasking. I am an engineer and really tend to focus on one thing at a time. I spend so much time switching between tasks that any time savings of working on more than one project at a time is negligible.

    I do check my email constantly, maybe checking at set times wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    I also use Evernote on my iPhone, it is great but a little slow sometimes. I wish there was a quicker way to add a text note.

  3. Kyle says:

    I think that Multi-tasking curtain things and it isn’t going to cause a problem, you can batch curtain things that are very alike… Like reading blogs and using twitter.

    When it comes to working on projects though, I have to agree with you that it’s better to stay focused. You have some really great points in this post, good work.

  4. Great, thorough article! I especially enjoyed the first two points as the really hit home with me. I always do ten times better when not multitasking. I used to always play music in the background, but have been working a lot better with it off recently. Also, keeping a small notebook like you suggest does wonder for me remembering fleeting ideas and random to-dos I would like to accomplish.
    Great article keep it up!

  5. Rob says:

    A notebook in my back pocket is a must. I feel naked without it. As for multi-tasking, I have a 2 year old. If I didnt multi-task, we would never be out the door on time. Plus, a time management plus for me is the nightime. I always get things ready for the next day. Clothes, lunch, coffee, etc, etc. This helps. I also never let my gas in my car go under half. Last thing I want is an emergency with my 2 year old, pull into a gas station and there is a line.

  6. Mule Skinner says:

    I also don’t multitask well. But . . . you wrote: “Take lots of microbreaks (or at least switch to very different tasks regularly).” How is switching to a different task regularly different from multitasking?

  7. Great post. I think people tend to underestimate the value of point #9 (keeping your energy level high by moving around and such). To accomplish this, I like to drink a lot of water while working (keeps me cool and I have to get up and move around a lot). I’ll even put on some music and take “dance breaks” to get the blood flowing every once in a while.

    In general, I think we underestimate the value of a conducive work environment, whether that be decor, music, pacing, or activity. It’s something you have to calibrate over time, but a lot of people just try to fight it and “power through” whatever cubicle walls they’re in.

  8. Adam @ Checkbook Diaries says:

    I am banging my head against the wall right now for not using a small notepad more often. Just yesterday I had a nice idea for an article and didn’t write it down. I ended up forgetting what it was, but then remembered again when I was out running errands. Needless to say I didn’t write it down that time either and forgot again. Now that I am in front of the computer I’m wishing I had at least used a scrap piece of paper or even written the idea on the back of a dollar bill…oh well.

  9. Goal Hunter says:

    Nice post.

    By the way, multitasking is not necessarily bad because of the time wasted in the switch. True, if you switch a lot then the overhead of the switch adds up.

    The real problem is that multitasking delays the task you switched from! You aren’t any more productive, you just left something undone to do something else — something you probably won’t finish either.

  10. Megan says:

    I love the idea of a project list that incorporates many different types of activities. It sounds like what I am doing with my Spring Cleaning. I have a large list of projects for my house, and I simply go and pick one that sounds do-able for the time period I have to work. It makes the whole process feel easier.

  11. cv says:

    It definitely true that different tips work for different people depending on the situation. I’d love to keep my to-do list to four items for each day, but the nature of my job is that I often have a much larger number of tasks that each take a much shorter amount of time.

    I can’t check email only twice a day given my office environment – I schedule a lot of meetings, and if I didn’t respond to people quickly, the multiple rounds of “That doesn’t work for you? Let me check the new time you suggested with the three other attendees and get back to you” would be spread out over days instead of hours.

    It’s interesting to me how much of what works depends on the type of job, office culture, and how far up the food chain you are – it gets easier to set your own terms for things like blocking out large chunks of time or checking email twice a day when you’re higher up.

    Glad you’ve found a system that works for you, Trent.

  12. Trent, whatever problem I may have with your posts on frugality, this post was great & definitely is the kinf of content that keeps me coming back!

  13. Brittany says:

    Execllent tips. I don’t see these anywhere else, but somehow I feel they would work perfectly! (Especially the email tip!) Any suggestions on what to use as an inbox and outbox? I don’t really have small boxes lying around. Do they sell these types of things at office stores for cheap?

  14. Sylvie says:

    Great post. I have noticed that I don’t multitask well at all; I’m much more effective when I focus on one thing at a time.

    For those of us who work in offices and are expected to check email often — when I’m under deadline, I sometimes tell people I’m going off email for an hour and that’s not a problem.
    I’ve also found email to be an inefficient way to communicate about anything in depth when several people are involved. Sometimes it’s quickest just to walk down the hall!

  15. J says:

    I completely agree on turning off multitasking. Even computers don’t truly do it well, either :)

  16. Lenetta says:

    Sorry to echo #10 but this is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back too. (Except I do like your posts on frugality.) Even if I don’t implement all of these things, I ought to be able to take at least a handful. Thanks!

  17. Su Prieta says:

    These are the types of things I try to include in my day everyday. A couple of things:

    1. re multitasking and taking breaks – definitely use your break time to remove yourself from your area of work – such as going to the bathroom. I used to take breaks from ‘focused’ time to check emails or do something else Internet-related. This only turned into ravenous multitasking as I can rarely go out on the net without getting sidetracked.

    2. One thing I haven’t tried is the inbox – I want to try that immediately – i think physically taking things out of the box and then being able to crumple up the paper and throw it away may be more powerful than just crossing things off a list sometimes.

    3. Do you do all of your work at home? I always need to divide these types of things between my office in the office and my office at home.

    Thanks for these great ideas!

  18. steve says:

    I just gotta say, the reason multitasking is inefficient is that you can’t really multi-task. you are really switching from one task to another in smaller and smaller increments. The key here is that the more time you can devote to completing a task the less time you are losing/wasting in actual switching between tasks and re-focusing on the task you are now attending.

  19. Regarding #4, I use a to-do list in an Excel format. I have it conditionally formatted to show me only those tasks that are due over the next 3 days. Any tasks with due dates beyond that are blanked out. This way, I only need to maintain one to-do list, and can just keep adding new tasks to it. Only those that are current are displayed.

  20. Sarah says:

    Fantastic post! I use some of these systems, especially the autofocus — though I just started doing it as a running list and then learned a lot about my real priorities looking at what does and does not get done. Anyway, I still have trouble with ‘not overworking’ not that I’m a work-aholic, but I have five kids and work about 30 to 35 hours a week. Getting everything done I sometimes crash, especially on Mondays after cleaning, organizing, et.al. Then I start to really get down on myself for not being more disciplined. I’d love to hear more about how people let go. It’s so hard to want to accomplish so much but to be limited by my own energy and time constraints. Thanks for this post!!!!

  21. Toni says:

    I carry a small micro-recorder for capturing ideas; this works better for me than a notebook as I am often driving, hiking, etc. when the muse hits. Then about once a week I sit down and transcribe my notes to to-do list, projects, etc.

    Thanks, Trent, for your great posts – I am a faithful reader!

  22. Kabukimono says:

    @J, you said “I completely agree on turning off multitasking. Even computers don’t truly do it well, either”

    As a retired IBM operating system developer, I must disagree! Modern systems (not only IBM) run hundreds of thousands of tasks simultaneously. The task-to-task switching time is measured in millionths of a second. When delays occur, it is due to lack of data availability or lack of available memory. When the needed resources are avialable switching is swift.

  23. I don’t really like multi-tasking, but it seems that as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom of four kids, I don’t really have a choice! There’s always more than one thing going on, and interruptions are a regular part of my day. I always say that mine is a life of distraction.

    It frustrates me sometimes, to be sure, but I try to remind myself that the years of having to deal with interruptions and distractions will be over before I know it(probably too soon!).

  24. Excellent article! I completely agree with multitasking and how much it sucks. I avoid it as well. (Unless I’m at home with two kids)

    I wrote an article on my blog (http://www.ericlightbody.com/2009/03/25/conquering-google-reader/) on how to apply what you wrote about email to google reader.

  25. Marsha says:

    Nice post – I like how you framed it as “here are things that work for me.” In my experience, it’s not that some time management systems don’t work, but the trick is finding the best system to match (a) your work, (b) your life, and (c) your mental and personality style. [not sure I said that last point in the best way, but hopefully people get the point]

  26. james says:

    I think you have reached a lifestyle balance that most people would like to have. Multitasking is a ploy by greedy employers to squeeze every bit of effort from employees, costing theworkers their health while employers enrich themselves with profits and bonuses. In an emergency, multitasking may be necessary. Emergency defined as probable loss of life or grave injury, not the “emergency” the employers claim due to their lack of planning. Life is a marathon and not a sprint. Your system reflects productivity without the pandemonium generated by selfish people to maximize their gain at the expense of other people.

  27. Danielle says:

    About multitasking… there are different kinds of multitasking, I think. There’s the fact that I’m a mother and almost constantly looking after my daughter while doing other things, for one. Another type of multitasking is cleaning two different rooms at the same time (or washing dishes and tidying up the kitchen). The first helps me get more done faster, and the second slows me down quite a bit.

    I like the advice about limiting to-do lists. I think that’s something that will affect my ability to get stuff done as a stay-at-home-mom, which is not without positive effects on our finances.

  28. Rob says:

    Good point Danielle, its also time managment. Throw in a load of wash while vacuming. One thing is going, while doing another.

  29. Dana says:

    A lot of good tips that take you back to the basics. Sometimes we just gotta turn things off and focus on one thing at a time.

  30. Cathy says:

    I’m an automation engineer. While my automated tasks are running, I work on other things, then check the results. That kind of multitasking works for me.

    Doing things like coding and writing, though, requires my absolute attention. If I get interrupted, I have to go back to the beginning and start my thought process again.

    I keep project lists with lots of next step action items. That one when I finish one, I just roll into the next one.

    Some aspects of GTD work really well for me. I keep an empty inbox. When I get an email, I make an instant decision – file as reference, file as archived, or delete. Announcements to changes in 401K plan get filed. General communications from the team get archived. Notes about cookies in the kitchen get deleted (once I get a cookie).

    Tickler files, on the other hand, don’t work for me. I put all reminders in my google calendar. I try to keep a paperless system. If I get an important paper, I scan it and file it in my OneNote workbook.

  31. Mercy Mei says:

    It’s a great list but not everyone can just check e-mail twice a day.

    I’m a freelancer and need to be in touch with clients and vendors throughout the day. However, I’d say “try not to respond to e-mail immediately unless you have to.” Then, it might work.

  32. Mary says:

    I love having an ‘inbox’; mine is a shoebox. I put everything in there, and ‘forget’ about it until I have time to deal with it. I really helps not to have any paper clutter lying around, and I don’t forget anything.

  33. Mark Tomczak says:

    Could someone who uses Remember the Milk comment on how to get the program to sort by the day an item was added? I see the “Sort by” column listing Priority, Due Date, and Task Name, but nothing having to do with the day the task was added.

    Good suggestion, but but I don’t see how to make it work in the program.

  34. ellis says:

    most time management books etc seem to rely on two main points…
    (1)do the tasks you are supposed/need to do
    (2)motivating reader to do the tasks they are supposed to do.

    with this in mind it’s not the systems put in place that are actually effective- just stop pissing about and get on with your job

    unfortunately nobody wants to buy a book that condenses time management to one sentence of common sense so the publishers keep turning me down

  35. Gail says:

    Because I check my e-mail only three times a day, I have included an asterisked note in my signature stating so and urging those with pressing matters to call me instead.

  36. Stephen says:

    Thanks for sharing these points.

    I am a big fan of the zero inbox concept for my email.

    I have been using it at work for several months now and my productivity has improved significantly.

  37. MeekWoman says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I wholeheartedly agree with most, if not all of it! I remember you had suggested “Remember the Milk” in one of your previous posts, which I had tried using for a few days but for whatever reason could never get it to functionally work for me.

    Do you think you could write a post where you provide some screenshots of how you use Remember the Milk? I remember my biggest problem had been literally not checking the list–I would see the little icon in Google Calendar but not the list itself.

  38. TB says:

    Great post, I’ve certainly found multi-tasking to be a poor substitute for focus unless the tasks things like brushing teeth whilst watching TV…

  39. Love this post! I am a real supporter of #2. I always have a Moleskine notebook and my FiloFax . . .

  40. FruGal says:

    Unfortunately these are not all practical ideas if you work in a busy role in an office with many people competing for your attention constantly. People tend to want instant contact all the time with others these days. It would be nice to try and avoid multi-tasking, but it’s not possible if you want to appear flexible, able, and basically, good at your job. Sitting at your desk avoiding calls and emails while you work on one single thing is not going to give your superiors that confidence that you can multi-task and handle a busy, varied role.

  41. Larry says:

    Hi Trent,

    I have been visiting your site and recieving your posting in my email for the past few months. My partner and I have been stuggling with time managment. We are both at home with our infant son each day. My partner has been finishing up her masters degree, we recently pruchase an new home and have a bathroom we are rebuilding, a teenager, I have been re-training in a new career and organizing a new business and we have a new infant to care for. We are also working to restucture our lives so we have more family time and less work or job time. As you can see we have alot going on and it is easy to become distacted through the day and the day is gone before we get started on a project. We have found we pick a project for the day…school work may be the focus of a day or the bathroom…mixed in is caring for our son and my teenager. I enjoyed your artcle on time managment as well as many of your other articles. One job I had the day was brocken into time blocks, no one could bother you when you were in a time block..we are trying to do this at home but have found we need to be much more fluid. I agree with you on multitasking…mostly I think one needs time to focus on a given task, uninterupted maybe asking to much with an infant in the home, as I write this I can hear he is most unhappy at the moment and my attention is split. Thank you Trent for your continued articles. If it is not to much I would be interested in starting a caonversation via email with you…..Larry

  42. littlepitcher says:

    Today’s laugh–I check my e-mail once a day. I have a hospital table set up above the treadmill, with the laptop and fan on a vibration-absorbing pad. I get the cardio in while checking the e-mail. Not that this is conducive to high-quality typing, of course…

  43. Mahoji says:

    Some are old ideas frankly, but don’t know why on earth do I always fail to do time management right. This is a good reminder post, with some extra value-added point in it. Thanks..

  44. Daina says:

    As you noted, other tips are great for people who think differently. I’m a scattered person, so I love a LONG to-do list with everything I need to do on there. Otherwise, it’s amazing how often I’ll forget to do some things, like walking down to the mailbox to check the mail or taking my vitamin (especially important while I’m pregnant). I also like the long list because at those parts of the day where my brain comes up blank, I can scan and quickly see what I need to do today, even if it is just making a mail run.

  45. Ed says:

    Nice ideas here – my time management skills definitely need work, and these will make a good start!

  46. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this post. I am very busy and sometimes I can feel overwhelemed with all of my responsibilities. I have been thinking about adjusting my time management methods and seeing this helps me to focus. This will be especially helpful when I start law school in the fall and my free time will be severely limited

  47. Carey says:

    I love the idea of going through your inbox daily and filing things daily. I had myself dedicated to doing both once a week, on Fridays. This did not go well! I inevitably found myself stuck in some last minute work-week task and pushed off the chore for ‘later’. I now have an overflowing inbox full of things that I probably was supposed to handle long ago. This is my goal for the weekend, now, which is a time that I shouldn’t be handling such things. I’m going to try your approach starting Monday!

  48. Mark says:

    Why do you use Evernote and Remember the Milk? Wouldn’t it be better to have one software “input” method? Or do they offer significantly different features?

  49. Marcia says:

    Great ideas! Thank you for your clear and sensible writing. And the personal experiences! I’ve adopted several items that you’ve referenced such as BackPack, and Mark Forster Books. Mark Forster’s notebooks work wonders for me.

    Thanks again.

  50. Sabrina says:

    How did you get Remember the Milk to sort tasks by the date added?

  51. Max says:

    This is really an obscenely well written and well thought article. Props bro.

  52. Charlie Park says:

    Trent, thanks for linking the AutoFocus system. I hadn’t heard of it before, and I’ve just started using it in conjunction with Evernote (which I had signed up with close to a year ago, but hadn’t found a compelling use for until now). I’ve tried a number of other tools (Backpack, RTM, Things, etc.), but AutoFocus really seems to be working well for me.

    Thanks again.

  53. Allison says:

    The Simple Dollar has been picked and featured as the Best of the Web on the Worthington Wire. You will see your article linked in the healthy living category today.

    Feel free to grab a badge to show off that you were featured on the Worthington Wire.

    http://worthingtonwire.com/badges

    Congrats on the feature!

  54. Awesomely awesome post, Trent. I just wrapped up (Time) Management March on my blog, but I gotta tell ya, I get the itch for a new way of doing things every few weeks! I appreciate the details in this post, and the way you shared your findings. I’m focusing on being a better uni-tasker now & that’s been a big help. Next up: checking email twice a day & responding there & then. Scary!

  55. Ali says:

    Great post. One of the tools that I use for time management is a “time map.” I have written about it here: http://motivatedmama.net/?p=30

  56. Geoerge says:

    Ummm, when do you live life? It seems like your life is pre-planned… Life is short so why don’t you stop wasting your time doing something at every moment!

  57. JasonD says:

    Multi-tasking is a crock of $h!+. Checking your email and using twitter is NOT multi-tasking. Both tasks are complete once done. (Directed at one of the comments.)

    Multi-tasking is like driving while you are texting. Two separate tasks which both require individual attention. You may never get into an accident, but you will never be a safe driver or text a complete thought. (That was the point.)

    It is not always avoidable, but places that demand multi-tasking are eminently set-up for failure. They create high stress, more errors, waste time, and leave everyone wondering what they just did. Or if they missed anything. (The mind believes it has done things which did not happen, but were simply thought about.)

    Unfortunately, multi-tasking can not always be avoided. You need to watch your speed, the sidewalks, signs, lights, other cars, while staying in the lines, and looking for your destination turns… That is multi-tasking too… And presents the same mentioned problems… (I thought the light was green. I didn’t see him crossing the road. I missed my street. That car came out of nowhere.)

  58. Premium Finance says:

    Thanks for the tips they do work very well and are big help

  59. Ashton says:

    I work in the wedding business and this has helped me out greatly, thank you! I really need to stop checking my emails everyday. If anything I should only check them at the end of the day. The short list will help me too. Thanks!

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