Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

Time Management For The Distracted And Overworked

03.23.2010 · Posted in Business Solutions, Time Management

Small Business To Do Time Management

I recently had to come to terms with my to-do list.  I’m the type of person who has about 20 different things going on at once, and none of them are related to each other, so my mind is really all over the place.

A few days ago I sat down and reorganized, well, pretty much my whole life.  Between my 9-5 work, family, an upcoming move, Army (I’m in the Reserves), my own side-business, school and…what was the other thing?  Oh yeah, being pregnant – trying to juggle all of those balls I was afraid if I didn’t address the issue sooner or later I’d drop them all.  And if there’s anything I hate it’s feeling like I’ve failed someone else because I couldn’t keep my own life straight.

Now I know what you’re thinking – um…can’t you just not do so many things?  The answer is no.  I can’t.  I can’t not be insanely busy.  It’s just who I am.  If I’m not being productive in some form or fashion, my heart really might explode.  This is probably why vacations are so hard for me.

One priority that had to be addressed was sleep.  I haven’t been getting to bed on time, which means I haven’t been getting enough sleep.  And being susceptible to pregnancy brain makes sleep even more important to maintaining functionality.  But one night I got so stressed out about the ‘to-dos’ that I couldn’t even remember tasking myself with, that I just had to stay up until about 2 a.m. straightening out my to-do list.

The first thing I did was open up an excel spreadsheet (although paper and pencil would work just as well) and create headers for each ‘category’ of my life (right now).  That included columns for School, Work, Home, Army, Student Loans (do they ever stop?), Move, and a couple others I can’t remember right now (see pregnancy brain reference above).  Then I went through all my paper lists, all my emails for work, Army, school and personal, and listed every actionable item under the appropriate heading.

Having done that, I could then move things to order them chronologically or by priority, and I could clearly see pretty much every aspect of my life all in one (long) spreadsheet.  But I didn’t stop there.

Next I opened a second tab in the same Excel spreadsheet and made a table matrix with four boxes.  The columns are labeled “Important” and “Unimportant.”  The rows are labeled “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.”  I then moved every item from the first tab into the appropriate area in the matrix.  This gave me a great visual aid that showed me what really needed to be done and what could – or had to – wait.  This method of time management and organization is called the Eisenhower Method.

For example – how important is it that I pack all of my shoes away today?  And how urgent is it really, since I don’t move for another couple of months?  However, figuring out which apartments we’re going to look at this Thursday is pretty urgent and important if I don’t want to waste the opportunity.

Creating a useful and manageable list also helped me figure out what I could delegate to others and what I’d rather do myself, further emptying my plate.

Sure, I stayed up late to do that, but I’ve slept MUCH better since then knowing that my life and my to-do list is under my control, instead of controlling me.  Now that I’ve got things in a manageable state I could probably condense the two tabs into one, simply labeling the items by category, but I’m not ready to let go that much yet.

I’m happy to say that in just a couple of days I was able to clear out everything in the “Urgent” row and several of the “Important” and “Not Urgent” things as well.  Now the trick will be to maintain the list.  Hence the Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to pencil and paper.

I highly recommend implementing this method for yourself starting right now.  Literally.  You’re obviously at a computer – open up Excel right now and get on it.  Then come back here in a couple of minutes/hours/days and tell us all how much better your life is for it.

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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