Have you ever found yourself arriving at a location and stepping out of your car only to realise you don’t remember a single thing about the car trip? Do you have bits of paper or sticky notes with “things to do” dotted all around the house?
The best way I find to deal with my never-ending “things to do” is to write them down on ONE list. Of course it can be difficult to capture everything on the same list as you often think of things to do when you are out and about. But, if you can remember to update your list at least once a day, your mind will thank you for it. If you have an iPhone, the notes app is a great tool to track actions that come to mind while you are on the go. You can also sync it to your email account so that transferring the actions to a master electronic list is easy.
I haven’t come across any great apps for action tracking yet, but would love to hear from anyone who has.
Prioritising Your Actions:
The “Urgent/Important Matrix” is a great tool for helping you prioritise your actions. Dr Stephen Covey mentions this tool in his best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
The Mind Tools website provides a great graphical representation of this tool:
According to Mind Tools:
Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, and to minimise the stress of having too many tight deadlines, you need to understand this distinction:
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.
Businessballs.com provide a good summary of the “The Urgent/Important Matrix” to get an idea of the different types of activities that would fall into the categories above:
Source: © alan chapman 1995-2009 (Re-formatted slightly to align with the figure above from Mind Tools).
So, in other words:
- Work on the “Critical Activities” NOW.
- Dedicate time to “Important Goals” specifically spending time to plan how to action them, as well as time actually working on them.
- Manage “Interruptions” by consciously minimizing your time spent on them, saying NO to non-critical actions, or delegating where appropriate.
- Avoid “Distractions” as these are low-value activities and are unlikely to lead to your success.
Planning Your Actions
Once you have dealt with the fire-fighting usually associated with “Critical Activities” – and only the “Critical Activities”, (not “Interruptions” which can get confused for “Critical Activities”) get onto planning your “Important Goals”. The more time you spend planning your “Important Goals” ideally the less actions will fall into your “Critical Activities” – apart from UNKNOWN emergencies or demands of course.
A couple of great tools to help plan your actions for your “Important Goals” are to create a mind map, or a timeline…
Planning Your Actions Using a Mind Map:
A mind map is excellent if you are not quite sure where to start, and have a lot going on in your head. I learnt this strategy while completing the Activate28 “90 Day Action Plan” course.
- Write a timeframe down in the middle of the page i.e. 90days (or 3 months) 1st June – 31st Aug.
- Brainstorm all the important goals you’d like to achieve in that time.
- From each important goal, brainstorm the actions you’ll need to take to achieve that goal.
Although this is a fairly simple overview to mind maps – it is a quick and easy way to visually plan your goals.
Planning Your Actions Using a Timeline:
After creating a mind map, or if you have a fairly good idea of your important goals, create a timeline and block out time & key milestones towards achieving your goals. For example:
- Write down the months remaining until the end of the year (or the weeks over the next 3 months to continue with the mind map example above).
- Write down any deadlines, or milestones for your important goals.
- Block out any time where you already know you are unavailable. This step is CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS. It is often easy to overestimate how much you can achieve in a certain time. A great rule of thumb is to estimate the time it takes to complete an action, then allow double that amount of time as this is more likely how long it will take.
- Now block out time (in a different colour or something to differentiate it from unavailable time) to spend on the smaller actions required to complete each of your important goals.