Diary Management – An essential skill in effective time management.

In a year we have 365 days to achieve what we want to achieve. We should allow for downtime, typically the weekends (if you are not side hustling), and perhaps a holiday (4 – 5 weeks). After these deductions, we have 240 days typically or 1920 hours a year to go about our business. Sometimes, the 8-hour boundary is crossed and we can artificially increase this, but how we manage this limited ‘time-cheque’ is critical. How often then, do you find that you run out of time to get everything that ‘you need to’ done.

Your time management skills are therefore an essential part of mastering your success, and how we work with our online or offline diary could be the key to this mastery.

One method that you can adopt is to hour block your diary. This method is an easy and powerful way to master this skill and work towards your goal of becoming the master of your calendars and to-do lists. You can use it to block off hours in your schedule and get more of the important tasks finished. It enables you to take control of the minutes each day.

Follow this process to take advantage of this valuable technique:

Start with planning.

Make a task list of the actions you need to complete to achieve your goal. Then, narrow this list down to three to five essential tasks. Be realistic about your planning. Avoid thinking that you can do a million tasks in one day or week.

Block your hours.

After you have a shortlist of tasks, block the hours on your schedule. This is called time blocking and essentially requires you to take each hour and assign a task or item to it. This technique can greatly improve your time management but you need to stick to it.

Clump related tasks together and add them to specific blocks of time.

Remember to schedule lunches and breaks. Taking time to rest your mind and body is important! Your breaks allow you to get back to your tasks with renewed energy.

Reduce distractions.

Hour blocking demands that you eliminate distractions, so you don’t lose focus.

Figure out what your main distractions are.

Do you waste time on social media or constantly check your phone?
Do you spend hours in your email inbox and respond to every message instantly?

Eliminate or reduce these distractions. You may want to set aside a specific chunk of time each day to handle your social media, email inbox, and other tasks that distract you from your more essential actions.

Personally, I try and work on these by adopting time limits at the start and end of a working day. Although I do find this is sometimes an aspirational goal, I find that just having a small part of the email activity allocated allows me to work on larger projects and tasks during the day.

When you’re working, let other people know that you’re busy. This allows and encourages uninterrupted time so they can limit their interruptions.

Keep the time blocks flexible.

Unless you know the exact amount of time each task will take, it’s important to keep the time blocks flexible. This will also enable you to take care of other important things that come up with a minimum amount of stress or changes to your scheduling.

Life also does tend to throw us curved balls. That is, we may have the best-laid plans in our calendars but something happens at home that we are unexpecting.

Review your time blocks regularly.

Make adjustments as needed. If your tasks change, or you find that they take more or less time than you thought, question your time blocks to take the new information into account.

Reviewing your time blocks will also give you the chance to see when you’re most productive. If you do your best work in the morning, schedule more important tasks during these hours. Reviews will help you evaluate your productivity levels, assess your project effectiveness and decide which task or goal needs attention.

Another advantage of doing reviews is that it gives you the chance to see if your reminders are working or if they need to be changed. Use alerts on your phone or computer, sticky notes, or traditional alarms to remind you that it’s time to move to the next task. The key is to find something that works for you.

Effective time management can help you finish more tasks each day and feel more accomplished. Hour blocking is a useful method for anyone who is interested in greater productivity, either at home or at work.

If you want to take this one step further, perhaps think about working with the Pomodoro method… more on this later.

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