Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Key to Professional Time Management

Some more World of Cubicles advice learned from a few months shy of two decades of serving on multiple schedule oriented teams while supplying information to many different departments, and occasionally leading my own projects.

Start every single day compiling and organizing a detailed “To Do” task list spreadsheet.

Once established, the previous day’s items should be copied to the new day as the starting point.

The first column should indicate priority. Any relative scale will do. 

Numeric - Rank 1-9, “1” must be completed immediately, “9” is only a reminder or placeholder.  “Zero” is reserved for emergency issues.

Qualitative – Use words that will sort alphabetically based on urgency: “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Week,” “Week Next,” “XXLater,” “ZZReminder.”  “!!!!” is reserved for emergency issues.

As company and project needs shift and grow, be sure to reassign priorities and re-sort on the fly.  Items can only be crossed off when completed, or with an explanation, or change of direction indicated in the third “notes” column.

However make sure that in the second “description” column, if an actual due date exists it is listed.

The details provided should be as short as possible, but still contain which project it is related to, and if any additional information or resources are needed.

The “notes” column should also be used for any follow up actions. It can be filled out after crossing an item off to generate a related new item the next day.  All lines containing crossed out items get deleted at the start of the next day once up items have been listed and assigned priority values.

All tasks must be included on the list.  This is not only limited to assigned action items, but also tasks others are doing that feed into your goals. (That is: if a technician is running a test for you, the test and the tech’s name should be an item on your list, to remind you to monitor progress.)

Similarly, any feedback or information solicited, but not received, should be added as a task to allow tracking of turnaround time, and to prevent schedules from stopping due to unanswered questions. 

Personal items and commitments that must be addressed should also be added, but sorted in a way (“9” or “ZZReminder” above) to set them apart from daily work priorities.

Regularly occurring items (payroll signoffs, weekly test monitoring, etc.) should remain on the schedule every day, but with the lowest priority.  Include the date/weekday the item must be performed in the description.  This triggers setting the item to a high priority on the days it is required.

Keep a record of each day’s spreadsheet by making a new tab every morning, and save each month in a backup directory to allow easy self-assessment come review time.

Once the detailed “To Do” task list spreadsheet is created, implemented and followed daily you are ready for the MOST IMPORTANT PART:

Discovering the ability to immediately recognize mornings when you shouldn’t even bother to open excel, never mind consult the “To Do” list, and zoom around the building running and screaming to deal with the insanely monumental piles of flaming, thorn filled manure that have suddenly fallen on a majority of your tasks.

And that…is the Key to Professional Time Management.


Bruce Fieggen said...

Thanks for the link, Jeff.

My word verification was 'Oychige nut'. I take offence to that. I'm more of a Filbert.

Jeff McGinley said...

No problem.

Time management shaggy dog stories and nut nomenclature while you wait.