Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Processing question 2: When will it be done?, part of Time Management Fundamentals.
- After you've decided what the next step is now you get to decide when you will do that step. The question When will it be done? doesn't apply to the entire thing you're processing, or the entire project. It's just referring to when to do that step you decided to do. While determining the "when" for your action step be specific. Decide on both the date and the time. I'm going to do it sometime next week is vague.
Choose a specific time, such as I'm going to do it next Tuesday at three o'clock, or even right now. But how do we know which when is best? Here are a few rules of thumb my clients have found very helpful. First, if the item can be done in 5 minutes or less do it right then, do it now. Why five minutes? Well, suppose we decided to put this off a little bit, just scheduling the step would take a couple of minutes, plus we have to account for the switching cost involved.
Remember, switching cost is the transition time of mental effort and energy when you switch from one task to the other. The switching cost alone is at least two to three minutes, so if something can be done in five minutes or less just do it now. Second, calendar the item if it will take more than 15 minutes, or if it is time sensitive. If something takes more than 15 minutes, even if it doesn't have a deadline, and even if it's of minor importance, it must be budgeted in a calendar.
Why? Well, something that long isn't going to fit quickly into a busy day. We have to reserve some space in advance, or budget to get it done. Otherwise it will just get pushed off into the future over and over. So if it takes more than 15 minutes put it in your calendar. Also, if the step is time sensitive, meaning it has a deadline and must be completed by a certain date, you also need to put that in your calendar. Your calendar is a solid, firm commitment of how you're going to spend your time.
In general, if you're processing properly, most everything will either be done now or end up on your calendar. Third, everything else belongs on the task reminder list. Everything else refers to steps that take between five and 15 minutes and aren't time sensitive. The task reminder list, sometimes called a task list or reminders, is most effective when used for short, brief, and flexible actions.
Typically the minority of the items you process will end up here. If the calendar is solid the task reminder list is fluid. Use the task reminder list to remind you of possible dates and times when you're going to take action steps. If you don't perform the task at that specific time you can snooze, or reschedule the reminder. Another tip for when will it be done is that you may find it helpful to group repetitive tasks.
For instance, if I have a series of bills to pay, rather than have a bunch of separate calendar items scattered throughout my week or month, it may be wise to have a recurring appointment in my calendar to pay all the bills at once. Grouping repetitive tasks can be an efficient way to get in the groove and accomplish many things of the same type efficiently. Another rule of thumb, leave buffer space between appointments. Avoid over-scheduling yourself, or putting appointments back to back to back.
We live in a fast-paced and interruptive world, so let's leave breathing room between appointments. A little bit of extra time before and after your calendared items. In general leave at least 10 minutes of buffer space for every scheduled hour. So if you have a two hour appointment, that means you're going to need to leave 20 minutes of buffer space after the appointment. Leaving buffer space will leave enough room for you to stay on top of unexpected interruptions and give you time to prepare for your next appointment.
You'll also likely feel less stressed in general. So, in summary, be specific when answering the when will it be done question, do it now if it can be done in five minutes or less, calendar it if it will take more than 15 minutes or is time sensitive, use a task reminder for everything else, group repetitive tasks, and leave space between appointments. And now we're ready to move to the final processing question, where is its home?
Learn how to get more done in the shortest time possible and avoid the obstacles and distractions that can get in the way of good time management. Dave gives practical strategies for increasing productivity in three main areas: developing habits to be more organized and reducing clutter in your workspace; staying mentally on task and eliminate the to-dos you have floating in your head; and developing a time budget to get the most done during your workday and focus on your most valuable activities.
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- Finding your productivity style and motivation
- Understanding the principles of time management
- Avoiding the pitfalls of multitasking
- Narrowing your gathering points
- Consolidating email and voicemail accounts
- Practicing mind-clearing techniques
- Choosing and using calendar software
- Saying no with tact
- Mastering the what, when, where processing system
- Processing email vs. checking email
- Maintaining productivity gains