Time Management

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Woodpile In Scottish Forest

The first time I heard ‘work smarter, not harder’ I was like ‘yeah – sign me up.’  The second time I heard it I was like ‘yeah, that is going to be harder than it sounds’.  After struggling for some time to apply that which is the ambiguity of the instruction ‘work smarter, not harder’ I came across a simple way to apply it each day.

Have you heard the idea that if you take fifteen minutes to plan out your day you will gain it back ten times in productivity?  Me either, but after doing it for several months I am convinced it is true and man – does it feel good to prioritize and knock things out.  To accomplish this Dave Ramsey suggests spending 15 minutes each day before we start work listing and categorizing our tasks into one of the following three categories:

  • A – Must be done today
  • B – Should be done soon, but today would be nice
  • C – Everything else

Once we have our items into one of these three categories number them by order of importance.  Put a 1 next to the most important ‘A’ item and a 2 next to the next most important ‘A’ item and so on.

I like this.  It hits one of the larger ideas from Getting Things Done by David Allen which is getting to do items out of our head and on to a list so they do not take up space – brain space.  I have found this to be very calming.  I use a google doc so I can always have access to it, which I find handy.  I love the feeling I get when I strike something out.  (actually I turn it blue)  I know I have had a good day if all my ‘A’ tasks get done.  I also have different headings – work, personal, etc.  I tie my daily tasks in to my goals by reviewing my goals before creating my list each day, which has been a helpful way to have day-to-day focus that leads to where I want to be long-term.  If things pop up during the day that can not wait until tomorrow I have a section creatively named ‘items for tomorrow’.  I categorize them the next day – genius, should I slow down?  When things pop up that seem urgent I ask myself ‘are they more important than my ‘A1’ item?’ or whichever item is up next, this helps me focus on what is important.

A takeaway from Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey.

 

Any other time management tips or systems?  What’s your favorite book on time management?  As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned would be the coolest but anything is cool.

 

Goals

Goals are visions and dreams with work clothes on.

-Dave Ramsey

Work Boots

During my studies I became very interested in goal setting.  I will never forget an ISU alumni and entreprenuer who came in and gave a brilliant talk on goal setting.  “Write your goals down” he said.  “I’ll give you the secret to achieving all your goals” he said.  Yeah, I was listening – and that day, that speaker, that talk – changed my life.

After that talk I became very, very interested in goal setting.  I wanted to learn everything I could about it so I got some help from a couple professors.  Professors are trained researchers.  They hunt for, consume, and analyze information and data at an incredible rate.  They are particularly good at doing meta data analysis, a high level summary of all the research and publications on a given topic.  I was lucky enough to have taken a class with an entrepreneurship professor named Dr. Terry Noel who made a study of goal setting.  Dr. Noel also condensed his findings into a year long online course on setting and achieving goals that I was fortunate enough to take.  About a year or so after I finished Dr. Noel’s course, Dr. Doan Winkel also helped me research goal setting.  If you are looking for more of a DIY approach, Doan and I took what we learned up to that point and wrote a series on goal setting.

If you do not have the time to check out either of those, I must give you the summary.  Great goals are;

  1. measurable and time bound,
  2. written down, and
  3. read daily.

Now the secret I learned a few years back that changed my life. If you want to achieve every goal you set this is the secret:

Do at least one thing each day to move you even just a tiny, little, almost laughable bit closer to achieving your goal.  Everyday.

In my experience, goals are not mythical, ever elusive things that are just beyond our understanding.  Goals are quite simple.  Let me restate that.  Great goals are quite simple, but they can require hard work.  And it is typically not the kind of hard work that makes us say “I am not going to get off this treadmill until I lose 5 pounds.”   More often than not it is the kind of hard work that persistence and discipline over time affords.  It leaves us saying “I will spend 30 seconds to track the calories that I consume every time before I put anything in my body, and I will not consume more calories than I burn in a day, everyday.”  If this sounds like hard work, perhaps this particular thing is not so important to you.  In my experience it is much better to start with fewer goals that you are passionate about.  When you do not care so much, goals become the hardest of things you set out to do.  When it is something you are passionate about, really passionate about – it becomes easy.

 

A takeaway from Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey.

 

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned about this stuff would be the coolest but anything is cool.  Does anyone else have any tips or lessons learned on setting great goals?