Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Setting your processing schedule, part of Time Management Fundamentals.
- If you completed the task that I assigned you in the previous video, then you've already spent one hour processing items, one at a time, out of your inbox. If you haven't done that yet, I encourage you to pause and schedule one hour to complete that task first, before proceeding. After you've completed your first hour of processing you'll realise that while you're off to a good start you likely still have a lot more processing to do. In fact, you'll always be processing.
It will now be a lifelong habit. Your target should be to get in a rhythm so you bring each of your six approved gathering points to zero at least once per week. Not all at the same time, but each of them to zero at least one moment per week. Sound intimidating? Don't worry, it's very possible. First, you'll want to set a recurring appointment in your schedule to do processing.
My recommended weekly allowance of processing is 5 hours a week. Some people need less and some people need more. After you've worked your system for a while adjust to your needs, but let's start with five hours for now. When should you schedule that five hours a week. To find the best time for your recurring processing schedule consider the times at which you're least likely to be interrupted. All of us have interruptions in our day, but there're also ebbs and flows in your weekly schedule to those interruptions.
Look at your calendar and find the natural times at which you are least likely to be interrupted. For instance, let's say that earlier in the morning I'm usually not bothered by other people. In that case I could schedule every morning from 8am to 9am for processing. That would give me five hours a week based on a Monday through Friday week. Incidentally, I recommend you don't schedule in increments of less than one hour of time.
Why? Because I found that most people get into a productive processing rhythm at about the 25 to 30 minute mark. Schedule at minimum one hour at a time to make the most of that rhythm. You can even schedule entire chunks of time, such as five hours of processing in a day. If I preferred to work in a large chunk of time, perhaps I could schedule every Friday from 8am to noon, that's four hours, and I'll give myself an hour lunch break, and then schedule another hour from 1 to 2.
That way I get all my processing done in one day. Are you concerned that I'm asking you to spend five hours a week? The truth is you're already likely spending two or three times that right now. Everyone has to process since it's simply the act of deciding what is the next step, when will it be done, and where the homes for things are. But most people do this haphazardly throughout their day, back and forth, all over the place.
In comparison, this system is asking you to spend less processing time, but do it in a focused way. This leaves us much more time for doing the work and performing tasks. Now it's up to you to decide what schedule you want to try first. Please pause the video and set up in your calendar your recurring schedule for processing, at least five hours each week. Then come back for one last step.
Pause now to schedule your recurring processing. We're almost done with scheduling your processing, but not completely. What about the backlog, in particular, the backlog of all those boxes. During the gathering process you may have finished with many boxes, perhaps dozens. The average person ends up with about four backlog boxes. Also if you completed the mind clearing exercise you may have gathered dozens of incomplete tasks that were floating around in your head.
No matter how many boxes and incomplete tasks you have you'll need to schedule extra time for processing, just this once. In general, scheduling 1 extra hour per large unfinished box and 1 hour for every 30 unresolved tasks you gathered from your mind. This means that if you had five boxes beyond your normal inbox and 60 unresolved tasks you'll have to schedule an extra eight hours of processing.
You don't need to go through it all now, or even next week, but try to schedule this to occur as soon as is reasonable for your schedule. A good target to aim for is completing this backlog processing within the next month. I've seen first hand that many of my clients have had a liberating experience when they bring the backlog of inboxes to zero for the first time. It's so helpful and powerful, and I want you to experience it. So please, once this video stops, go to your calendar immediately and schedule extra time for your backlog of large inbox processing.
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.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- 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