Organizing is not always about stuff and being efficient with space. Often, it’s about finding the best ways to plan and use your time. With Thanksgiving around the corner and a hectic December on its heels, I thought this might be a good time to send out some simple steps you can take to get the most out of your time. The most important thing to remember when you’ve got a lot on your plate is to plan ahead and break down tasks into workable chunks. As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” So whether you’re preparing to host Thanksgiving, starting your gift purchases for the upcoming holidays, getting ready for finals, or simply looking for a way to be more efficient with your time, read on for some easy actionable steps.
Step One: Write Down Tasks
You can save yourself precious time by planning and thinking ahead. Each morning (or the night before), take a quiet few minutes to make a list of your tasks for that day. Don’t rely on your memory–when you’re overloaded or stressed or simply distracted with other things, your memory will fail you and tasks will slip through the cracks. Write down everything you can think of that needs to be done, small and large. Tip: When I create my list for the week, I also include how long I expect that task to take, so that I can better arrange for it to be completed.
Step Two: Prioritize Your Tasks
Once your list is complete, it’s time to determine when it will all get done. All tasks are not created equal, nor is your time. Tasks that are urgent and important are top priority and go at the top of your list and will be completed first. These are followed by the next most important tasks then need to be done, but not as urgently. Finally, list the tasks that are least important–small things that you can fit into your pockets of time or that can be scheduled for when you’re mentally drained. Tip: You can rewrite your tasks into three new lists (tier 1, tier 2, tier 3) or simply color code by priority with highlighters. Items that are time sensitive or can only be accomplished at a particular time are considered top priority so that they have first pick in step 3.
Step Three: Schedule Each Task
Finally, look at your calendar or schedule and determine when you have availabilities. Allocate time for each of the tasks you have listed, starting with the most urgent. Be strategic about this; plan to do the most difficult tasks when you have the most energy. Think about when you are the freshest and most productive, and that is when you’ll tackle your big fishes. Smaller, less demanding tasks can be done just before bed, on your way home, sandwiched between other obligations, or whenever you have extra time. Now that you’ve taken the necessary steps to make the most of your time, ensure you follow through by setting reminders for yourself. This can be in the form of strategically placed post-its (my preference) or programmed into your phone to alert you.