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?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.

14 comments
profdocg
profdocg

I have this believe which became part of my life after working with my Director in last job who has emphasized always that we can TRAIN our BRAIN. We are so dependent onto these new Tech stuff that we have a reminder to remind us that we have to check the reminder that remind us of the task to do. Simple solution to problems is to TRAIN our BRAIN (ToB) that it can do whatever it wants including remembering the Tasks to do. I have heard in the past that all the technological development till 21st Century is just some percent of Human Brain effort and we still have to explore its capabilities. So atleast start pushing the brain and Train it to do its best. You would be amazed that it would beat the BLACKBERRY and WHITEBERRY too.

WasabiMac
WasabiMac

I have a Treo, an iPod Touch, a computer and a decent Nokia phone with reminders. The only thing that seems to work almost 100% of the time is to write things on the palm of my hand with a permanent marker. My computer and Treo are OK if I am looking at them, but it noisy or chaotic environments, they just blend into the noise. For some reason I remember things on my hand. It is kind of ironic since rumor has it that this was the original inspiration for the Palm, i.e. someone writing on their hand. Maybe I am more Neanderthal than nerd...

Bacon 3000
Bacon 3000

First of all, let me say thank you for your candor. I think a lot of folks are afraid to admit to either absent mindedness of just plain poor memory in general. Who knows what others might think about someone with a... "weakness!" Who cares, I'll admit it also. Anyway, I rely on Outlook 2007. It allows color coding of appointments for "at a glance" prioritization. I have it linked up to my Smartphone (Alltel HTC PPC 6800 Titan) and it syncs up via the unlimited data connection. So now it just boils down to dedication. I'm sure we've all heard the old saying, garbage-in garbage-out, no room for laziness or procrastination if you truly want to get organized and stay on top of your schedule and tasks. I use Outlook for everything. Appointments, notes, contacts, tasks by priority, and of course, e-mail. You can, and I have, taken it a step further and added the free MS download, "Business Contact Manager" which takes this conversation to the next level of organization. I would say that having my desktop Outlook automatically update/sync with my mobile device is the key to all of this for me. One more thing since we're talking time management and service calls. Take advantage of all the free remote connection software being offered. Two of my favorites are Logmein and Teamviewer. I use a combination of both and they have saved me a TON of time and fuel.

Raphael Angelos
Raphael Angelos

I work primarily at my desk (phone conferences, etc., and My company uses Lotus Notes. I don't usually have the problem with travel time. When travel time is involved, I title the entry as "Meeting with Joe at 6:00" with the actual time of the meeting set with an appropriate lead time. The alarm defaults to go off 15 minutes prior to the alarm time. This gives me 15 minutes to quit what I'm doing plus however long I schedule for travel. The really great thing with Notes is that I can use the scheduler feature to look for open meeting times with other company personnel. I use the To DO list for recurring things like "change passwords", "extracts due", "take out the garbage", etc. (Really forgetful) I set the To Do's with a priority of Low, Medium, High, or None. I needed I set them up to repeat on set intervals by day, week, or month, or set up custom repeats. I also use them to link to my Lotus Notes project database which is set up for more lengthy or complicated projects or tasks. My project database is a company developed one, but a link to a spreadsheet or other system could work. The database is personal and contains all the information that I need including due dates and priorty. There are different views that allow me to look at my listed sorted by priority, due date, etc. The fourth thing I use for short term single shot email follow up items is Notes' "Follow Up" feature which allows me to select the default 1 week follow up or set a custom date and time. I used to sync Notes with my PDA, but haven't set it up again since my laptop was re-imaged. I was able to sync my calendar, To Do's, memo's, and contact lists. Don't need them right now, so haven't bothered. I sound like a Lotus Notes salesperson, but I'm not. Notes has some great features that help me keep track of everything that comes me way. Maybe someone else can apply some of this to Outlook or their system

reisen55
reisen55

I have long been in corporate support so as an independent, I manage my time very well but my associate is technically brilliant and an idiot when it comes to project planning and time support. I am seriously considering cutting the associative support.

art.martinez
art.martinez

I use a series of folder for work M-F, and a "Hot Calls" This allows me to show my supervisor. Where my time is allocated. I currently use MS Outlook and soon I will have a Blackberry, I am fortunate to have Blackberry Server with live sych for email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks.

cwfording
cwfording

I haven't found anything new but it helps to hear that I'm not alone in what seems like a never ending struggle to not forget an important task or meeting. Right now I use Outlook appts and tasks and am thinking about a PDA.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Our brain is good, smart but far from perfect. I deal with tons of pending matters in the office, from support, managment, security, warranty, providers, etc. Is almost impossible to keep all this by memory, so the tech helps a lot here. All pending matters goes to my tasks and calendar. Becase we have a BES, we have fully wireless sync with the blackberry. I always put a reminder with certain ammount of time in advance to minimize problems. We only need to be smarts prioritizing things (i.e: meeting with partners, CEO's, important videoconferences, client visits, etc. I used in the past excel spreadsheets, word documents with lists etc, but the calendar and tasks in outlook proveed to be very efficient (you can use recurrencies, invite attendees or assign taks to improve profesionalism and minimize impact or overloaded work journals). Keep things organized is vital for this tighten schedules and tons of pending matters.

webtips
webtips

Hello, I am a Behavior Analyst and time management is a problem for many ... AAMOF, about 28% of the adults in the USA will lose or forget to take a written list most of the time. Not only that, but they HATE to write anything down anyway -- they'd rather walk down the hall and meet F2F or pick up the phone. Besides, To Do lists aren't *fun*. That being said, you've asked for some ideas so let me suggest a couple. Essential PIM Pro is an inexpensive, very useful PIM that handles TO DO lists extremely well; not to mention, all of the contact notes, general notes, schedule, etc. They even have a portable version that packs on a thumb drive. If you're interested in knowing more, go to http://www.essentialpim.com and look for the Portable version. I used to use ACT for years and finally trashed it for this program which I recommend to most of my clients. Quite basic but powerful enough and the learning curve is light. One other essential program that I also recommend a lot is Evernote. It is the endless tape program that is searchable and you can categorize individual notes until the cows come home. I have several 'To Do' categories and some clients like this one too. www.evernote.com Finally, I use an Adesso electronic notebook which is one of my favorite time management tools. You can write, draw, keep a hard copy of notes PLUS, with Evernote above installed, you can transfer your notes from an SD card in the pad to Evernote and keep your handwritten copy OR Evernote will OCR your notes into a text note. It's really slick. Scribble your to do's any time you think of them and then pop those puppies into your laptop or desktop; I even transfer individual notes to my blackberry too. I found my Adesso at Tiger Direct or Amazon ... be sure to get a 2G SD card as the internal memory with the pad isn't much. There now, hope that gave you some great Christmas tech gift ideas! Good luck on time management. It's a beast that can be tamed ... just find something that works the way you do.

user support
user support

According to a time management article I have read, the trick is to get one Personal Information Manager that fits most needs and get rid of all the rest. I just read an article this morning about Gmail labs has added tasks to its email. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work with my Gmail account so I am sticking with my Casio PV-S400 Plus a no bells and whistles organizer that syncs to Outlook at work, can import and export Excel, and jot down quick notes with the stylus. I use it at home with its own calendar software. I am looking into http://www.soshiku.com/tour from an article here at ZD net recently. "invented by 17 yo hs student - send text message from cell phone to this website to track your course assignments without writing them down" Although not a student in the traditional sense, I think this product has potential for office workers as well.

ebsfrmr
ebsfrmr

Totally agree. It really takes a lot of energy, time, and commitment to stay organized. It is always a work in progress. I am also using Outlook's Calendar and Tasks features. I print out my tasks, and keep on a clipboard to take with me so I can make notes on the fly. Tasks are filtered and sorted by date--wish there was a way to sort the most important to the top of the list, and number each task's priority. Also, on my desktop I like having a "Sticky" notepad on my Vista Windows Sidebar, to quickly type in reminders. In addition, I use my email program to help me stay on top of issues. I try to keep it cleared out of non essential messages by dealing with them right away, or sorting non-essential messages into other folders for later. Then, as I look at my Inbox, I can flag and Bold (Mark as Unread) any important messages. Once they are handled, they are moved to another folder. For emails I have sent out, and which still need follow up, I move them out of my Sent box to my Inbox then flag and bold as appropriate. My Windows Mobile PDAs have proved too unstable and frustrating. Best used to syncronize Outlook between my desktop and laptop and leave back at the office. Basically, I combine electronics with a hardcopy daytimer calendar and regular printouts of my tasks. This also protects me in case of electronic failures.

mattindub
mattindub

I like the author face the same issues however don't have the luxury of putting it down to 50 years of use/misuse of my memory... My Blackberry has been my saviour...with our corporate Blackberry Enterprise Server in the back end I now get email on my handset before it hits my outlook inbox & can see, accept & schedule meetings in my calendar. The tasks feature is also useful for making note of tasks when not at my desk. I have also added my hotmail & yahoo mail accounts so get all work & personal email as well as calendar items for each service on the handset....no more nights spent in the dog box for forgetting anniversaries or birthdays etc...

TechSetter
TechSetter

organization is truely the key to proper time management.

nick
nick

I agree with TechSetter that you need to be organised. However it is hard work being organised. The creator of this post will lose a to do list on a piece of paper, but not a PDA? Can't be bothered filling in a diary? If you cannot trust your memory then you have to document it. Full stop. You have to find a way that works for you. And you have to make the effort to keep it going. Stop being lazy! My preferred option is to put appointments into Outlook and synchronise them with the calendar on my mobile phone. Generally my phone is with me to help avoid the obvious clashes. You still have to add the updates either as they come in (on the phone) and then synchronise up, or update Outlook and resynchronise the phone. It still isn't perfect and sometimes I think a pocket sized paper diary is best.

Editor's Picks