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Time for Time

Courtesy of iStockPhotoTime. We have all been allotted the identical number of minutes in a day. The number is 1440. Depending on how much you sleep (360-480 minutes) you might end up with a few more or less than the person in the cubicle next to you.

Personally, I function very well on about 330 minutes of sleep. I’m usually in bed by 11:00 pm and sitting at the computer keyboard by 4:30 am. I attribute my sleep habits to a summer I worked two jobs for the same company. I worked as a custodian from 4-8 am and then clocked in on a different time card to do food prep from 8 – 2 pm. Some days, mostly weekends, I would do custodial in the morning, and then come back late-afternoon to work the dinner shift and close at 1 am.

I am a morning person for a number of reasons. Firstly, my mind truly does function better in the morning. When I was working on my Bachelor’s degree and then again on my MBA, I did all of my studying and homework in the morning before my family was up and moving. The house was quiet; the phone didn’t ring; no one was knocking on the door. There were no interruptions.

Secondly, I always feel guilty when I cheat my family out of time with her husband or their father. My evenings, for the most part are devoted to them. There is always a play or concert or recital or activity or meeting or function or gathering of some sort that demands my attendance. And I’m obliged to attend. I enjoy watching them perform or playing a game or just sitting on the couch watching a program on TV. I can’t do that, enjoy myself, if I’m worried about other stuff. I know that I will have about 120 minutes of morning minutes to devote to the other stuff. So my evenings are theirs.

So how do I do it? How do I keep my schedule organized and my life in some semblance of order? How do I manage my 1440 minutes?

I am a chronic list maker. Everything that needs to be done goes on a list. I spend about 10 minutes of my morning routine generating the list for the day. My list goes into a Microsoft Word document named DailyTaskList that is stored in my Dropbox folder. (How I use Dropbox is a discussion for another day.) The document has three columns: “Today (20 January 2012)”, “Tomorrow”, and a third column divided horizontally into “Short Term” on top and “Long Term” on the bottom. Short term task need to be done in the next week or two. Long term items need to be completed in the next month or year. In the morning, my “Tomorrow” tasks roll to “Today”. All of the completed “Today” tasks get deleted. I review my calendar for today and the week and add any tasks to “Today”, “Tomorrow” and “Short Term” that need, or will need, attention.

I don’t do a very good job at prioritizing my lists. But what it does do for me is give me an idea of how much I need to cram into my 1440 minutes–or about 1000 minutes after sleep, eating, and other personal essentials and unmentionables. I look at my list and think, “Wow! I have a lot to accomplish today.” I can see that I don’t have any room to take on unforeseen projects. If they occur, I know I have to put them on the list for tomorrow…or next week. It gives me fuel and courage to tell people, “No.” It give me the fortitude to control my own life.

Can I do better? Could my lists be more efficient? Yes and yes. But this is what works for me now. I’ve tried other canned packages (Covey’s prioritizing and Allen’s GTD and others). Though the desire was there to do better and be more organized and efficient with the use of my time, I wasn’t committed to their systems. THIS is my system and it works for me.

Find out what works for you and do it. Trust me. I’ve read countless HowTo books about time management and organization and productivity and efficiency. You, too, can read them all year long. But the thing that will make the difference in YOUR life is YOUR system. Find it. Apply it. Stick to it.

If you’ve got a system of task organization that works for your 1440 minutes, let us know. Post a comment and share your ideas. I might even consider a guest posting to the blog so you can give us all more detail.

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Categories: Time Management
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