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Effective time management is an indispensable skill. In Time Management Fundamentals, Dave Crenshaw explains how to sensibly allocate time in order to achieve greater productivity. Dave details a set of principles for staying organized, consolidating the workspace, keeping a clear mind, and developing a time budget. Also covered are techniques for managing a full inbox, processing email, and reserving time for the most important activities. Exercise files accompany the course.
Now that you understand how "what, when, where" processing works, it's time for you and me to start practicing. I want "what, when, where" processing to become second nature to you, to get you conditioned so that when you pick up an item you're processing you quickly take the best action with it. In the beginning, this system may be a little bit awkward for you, and that's okay. Just take your time, be patient, and repeat the process until it becomes automatic. During the gathering video, I asked you to separate into one box any items that need to be dealt with this week.
We're going to begin practicing with this box. I'm going to show you right now how this is done. First, I pick up one item out of the gathering point. It's an offer for a credit card. So I ask myself the first question: what is the next step? Well, in this case, do I need a credit card? No. I don't need another credit card. So I'm going to throw it away. That's the next step. When will it be done? Well, I'm going to do it now. Where is its home? I want to be safe with my identity.
So I'm going to throw it into a plastic slot that I've set aside and labeled for shredding. So, I can shred that later. What I just did may seem very slow for something that seemed obvious to you. Keep in mind that repetition is a powerful teacher, so practice always asking yourself the what, when, where questions, even on obvious items. Let's take another one. Here is a bank statement. What's the next step? The next step is I need to review it and make sure there aren't any strange charges on it.
When will that step be done? Well, can I do it in five minutes or less? Yes, in this case I can do it in five minutes or less, so there is no need to schedule it, no need to even pull out my calendaring system. So I'm going to take it out and look at it. Where is its home? When I'm doing this step, its home is right here in my hands. So I'm going to go ahead and do it right now. Great! It looks good. Am I done yet? I reviewed it and everything looks good. So I processed the item, right? Not yet, because there are still more steps until it's complete.
I need to process it again right now by repeating the what, when, where questions. What's the next step? Now the next step is I need to file it. When will it be done? I can definitely file it in five minutes or less, so I'm going to do it now. Where is its home? Well, its home is right here in the financial files that I set up for the month of January. So I stick it to the month of January, and I'm done with that.
Now let's take one that's a little bit more complex, that requires a little more action on my part than just filing something or throwing away. I have a note here to myself to follow up with Bob Jones about his interest in buying my product, and I need to follow up in three to four months. So what's the next step? The next step is to send him an email about this. When will it be done? Three to four months from now. That's pretty flexible. Can I do it now? No, I can't do it now.
Should I calendar it or task it? Will it take me more than 15 minutes, or is it time sensitive? Its completion date is flexible, and I doubt that sending email will take more than several minutes. So this belongs in the task list. I am going to put on the task list to email Bob Jones. Let's open this up on the computer screen so you can see it. I'm using Outlook right now, but most any program that handles tasks can do these simple things I'm going to do here.
All I need to do is create a task to contact Bob Jones. Down in the Notes box, I could put some notes to remind me about our conversation if I want, and then I'm going to put the time and the date on which I think I'll contact him. Now for the last question of processing: I have a what, I have a when, but now I need a where. Where is its home? The where in this case is going to be a category for the task, where I need to be when I do it.
And I need to be at my computer. So I put @Computer for this task. I save it, throw the paper in the recycle bin, and I'm done. I've decided what the next step is, when it will be done, and where its home is. The beautiful thing is now I can completely forget about this task. I don't need to worry about it anymore. So let's do one more quick example, so I can show you how to use the calendar.
Right here, I have a pile of thank you cards. These thank you cards are for people who hired me to speak for their company last month. Let's process it. What is the next step? Now I need to write a handwritten note for each one of these clients and I have several cards. When will it be done? Can I do this in five minutes or less? No, because I want to write a thoughtful note to each client. In fact, it will probably take me about 30 minutes. Because it's going to take me over 15 minutes, I know immediately this step has to go to the calendar.
I open up my calendar to set a time. Again, any calendaring program has this ability, even a paper planner. I am going to set a time in my calendar to complete these thank you cards next week on Thursday at 9 am. That should give me plenty of time to go through and write thoughtful notes. I also want to look at my calendar and make sure there is plenty of buffer space on either side of this that are not cramming this in, and Thursday at 9 looks good.
I've got at least a half an hour of space on either side of this, which is more than enough. Now that that's scheduled, I ask myself the last processing question: where is its home? There are two parts to this. First, I'll put the category of @Office to the calendar item because I need to be in my office for the appointment. Second, I still have these cards, right? So I pull out a manila folder, label it Thank You Cards, put the cards in, file it under T in the miscellaneous folders, and I am done.
I have processed the item, and it's complete. Now it's your turn. Begin processing items from your inbox one at a time. Spend at least one hour practicing with the existing items that you have. This will help make this processing system becomes second nature for you, and condition your mind to get faster and faster at "what, when, where" processing.
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