July 27, 2008

Scheduling Your Priorities The Seven Habits Way

If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of.
— Bruce Lee

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
— Henry David Thoreau

As the ultimate nonrenewable resource, our time is precious. We spend better when we plan. That's where time management helps us. Different systems achieve similar results when followed regularly.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
—Peter Drucker
In the early 1990s, I adopted a basic suit-pocket-sized DayTimer system with new inserts each month and a box to store the year. This worked reasonably well for scheduling but didn't help me plan my life the way I wanted. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People did. I read Stephen Covey's book in the later 90s and found that his approaches resonated with me. In a 3-day seminar, we got the compact Seven Habits planning system (two pages per day) and I used it for a few years.

Putting First Things First

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. — Goethe
Using the Seven Habits, you plan a week at a time:
  1. identify your key roles, which can change each week (e.g., parent, gardener, exerciser, project manager)
  2. for each role, set a goal (minor or major)
  3. for each goal, schedule time
For example, in your role as an exerciser, say you want to workout twice for two hours each time. You schedule those sessions in your calendar. As a parent, you decide to spend Thursday evening taking your youngest child to see SpongeBob SquarePants. Simple enough?

Visually, you fill your container of time first with rocks (what matters most) and then sand. If you add the sand first, you'll have no room for the rocks.

Relying On Technology
As Microsoft Office became the standard, I switched to Outlook, which synchronized to a portable Palm Tungsten C with built-in and external keyboards for speed. Unfortunately, the synchronization with Outlook was unreliable. In 2005, I got Blackberry, which synchronized to Outlook extremely well but didn't have a time-saving touch screen or the ability to personalize with thousands of third party applications. No external keyboard either.

I soon went back to a Seven Habits organizer, this time with 8.5"x5.5" pages. I got a nice zippered binder with a handle and 7-hole punch to save money by creating my own notepaper. My first calendar had 2 pages per day, which uses lots of paper if you're carrying last month, this month and next month. Last year, I picked 2 pages per week and this year I'm down to a page per month. Outlook and the Blackberry supply what's missing. I use the binder mainly for note taking, rather than organization.

Enter Getting Things Done
In recent weeks, I've experimented with David Allen's model called Getting Things Done or GTD. He has interesting ideas. I'll fill you in on what proves valuable. I'll also write more about the Seven Habits. As soon as there's time ...


No comments: