Hardware

Getting it all done, the art of time management

Have you got a brain like a sieve or can you remember every little thing you are supposed to do? Do you have methods that help you to keep up with work or do you lurch from one crisis to the next on a daily basis? Jeff Dray is looking for time management tips.

If you're anything like me, you will have trouble remembering everything you need to get done during the day. Making a to-do list is no good for me; I am so forgetful that I will lose a written list. Having listed the tasks, what is the best way to go about completing them all?

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Having a PDA for work use is a useful addition to my array of items that are there to help me do my job. The alarm regularly sounds to remind me of a task that I have promised to fulfill but then immediately went out of my head. If I can be disciplined enough to make an entry in the PDA calendar, then there is a good chance that it will get done. One thing is sure: it is no good relying on my memory to keep on top of work.

I am sure I am not alone in this. After all, how many of you have to set an alarm to remind you to wake up at the appropriate time each morning?

Joking aside, it can be frustrating when someone asks you what you are doing on a particular day and you set up a meeting, completely forgetting that you are supposed to be somewhere completely different. I have found that diary keeping is a bit of a chore. I never know how long to allow for appointments, I underestimate the "hidden" timings, such as travel time, and in my job I don't normally know where I will be setting out from to get to a meeting or appointment. In this way it is possible to waste a lot of time.

For example, if I have an appointment at 11 a.m. in Dorchester, which is at the western end of my work area, do I fit in a job before it? It might be that I could fit in a quick repair nearby before heading off, but what if that quick repair turns out to be a more major task or if the traffic puts me behind my schedule?

The system used to assign calls to our field engineers has a useful feature in that you can record diary events in it, but the Windows Mobile system also has a calendar/ diary feature that allows me to make notes that are not entirely work related yet have to be fitted into the working day, thus an appointment to meet the local account manager would be logged in the work system, while a reminder to mail a letter or buy cat food would go onto the Windows calendar, so that I can keep both requirements under equal but separate control.

We all know these tips, but it doesn't alter the fact that I am dealing with an imperfect mechanism, my brain. After half a century of regular overuse and abuse it doesn't function as well as it did. I set numerous alarms for myself every day, but I can't help thinking that there is another way. So here it is: if you have a great way of remembering your to-do list, a top gadget that organizes your life, some great piece of software that you've found helpful, or even a rabbit's foot on a chain, let me know about it. I am not too proud to beg for help.

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