Your to do list and your time

By johannatime On August 4, 2013 Under Getting Organised

Your to do list may count more actions than can fit on one screen or sheet. So whenever you have a moment to get something done, you have to scroll back and forth to find a suitable activity to do. Last week I explained how to organise your list according to context. But there are more things to consider, because if your moment is only 10 minutes long, you still risk spending quite a proportion of that time on deciding what to do.

Organising your to do list

Here is a way to sort your to do list time-consciously: consider for a moment, when you add anything to your to do list, how much time it would take you to complete that task, or how much time you want to spend on it (e.g. googling works best when you set a time limit). Then you organise your list according to time: group the 5 minute tasks together and also the tasks for 10; 15; 30; 45; 60; 90 etc minutes. Many digital task managers let you sort them ascending or descending in one click so you have a magnificent view over your commitments.

Why this is relevant

An average day is a mix of meetings, travel time and time in between meetings, and when the meetings are running off schedule, the time in between them is, too. You never know until in that moment, so to make optimal use of your time given this unpredictable reality, you’d better have a flexible tool that serves you with the right suggestions for what to do in any given moment: your time-conscious to do list!

How you use it

Imagine you have 35 minutes between your meeting and the moment you have to leave for your next appointment, what can you do? A long list of to do’s would be a bit overwhelming, but now that you have your actions sorted according to time, you select one that would take you about 30 minutes and just do it. It works the same for short 5 minute time slots.

Tips to make this work

  • Have a look at last weeks’ calendar: what does your schedule look like? How long are your typical windows of discretionary time? If you never have longer than 45 minutes, then don’t allow tasks longer than that, either. Chop them into smaller chunks
  • Small tasks are like treats: have many of them to snack on, because they make you feel satisfied even for spending 15 minutes at your desk
  • Choose a task as long as possible for your available time. Long time intervals are rare, and long tasks don’t get done otherwise
  • Above all: challenge yourself to take small steps. ‘Writing chapter 1 of my novel’ can be broken down into ‘brainstorm for 30 minutes’; ‘draft outline for 45 minutes’; ‘make paragraph handles (15 minutes)’; ‘draft paragraph 1 (60 minutes)’, rather than allowing a >2,5hr task on your list, even if you had that time available

With your to do list sorted according to time, you’re unlikely to feel overwhelmed by your commitments and you will make the most of your available time, and have a rather flexible schedule, because there is no need to plan all of your activities in order for them to get done.

So do you just let time slip through your fingers? Or have you tried sorting your actions according to time? And how did you go? I’d love to hear your thoughs and experiences in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

  • […] Sometimes that is determined by the task itself, often by the circumstances you are in and the time you have available. By all means give yourself a break and do that […]

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