I remember the difference Charles Hobbs’ “Your Time and Your Life” made in my life. My ministry was growing, but with it came that un-welcomed sense of “there’s too much to do and not enough time to get it done”. My lists were endless and I was tired of always re-copying them. Some people like lists with lined-out items. It shows them what they’ve accomplished. I like clean, forward-looking lists.
A couple of friends carried these nifty little pocket calendars around. When I asked, they quickly confirmed how they helped them stay organized and in control of their active lives. (“Active” is no less ambitious than “busy”, but it sounds and feels better.) Their enthusiasm for the product was contagious and by the time I reached the end of the free trial Day-Timer offered at the time, I’d learned what I needed to know. I do better when I schedule my time. I bought and listened to “Your Time and Your Life” a couple of times, adjusting as I learned and enjoying the improvements, BIG-time. It wasn’t the Bible or anything, but working toward pre-determined goals and objectives sure beat what I’d been doing!
It didn’t take long to discover that I was most creative when I could work in large blocks of time. Two to four uninterrupted hours yield better results artistically than half an hour scheduled every day. Since I can usually accomplish more between one and four in the afternoon than at other times, I blocked those hours for creativity a couple times a week, and for demanding tasks on other days. It worked! Plan your work and work your plan!
Before long I was scheduling everything. What time shall I run that errand? When would be the best time to care for that household chore? They all found themselves assigned a place on my schedule. I loved discovering Lotus 123, and could carry printed copies of my calendar and other related documents in my leather binder. Even better was the day my PDA —in a much smaller case— replaced the full-sized binder. I affectionately referred to it as my “little leather-bound brain”. My PDA would remind me what to do next at the time I told it to remind me. I loved being able to focus even more and not watch the clock so much.
As the schedule grid became increasingly crowded, however, that little alarm reminder began to interrupt my thought processes. I found myself feeling guilty for being late while I finished up projects and priority-1 tasks. Not good.
I’d escaped the tyranny of the list by scheduling things, but over time that schedule began to add to the frustration instead of helping me with it.
“What’s the next step to improve my performance?” I wondered. Reflecting one morning, it occurred to me that some of the things on my schedule were there every day. I’d put them there. I’d even picked the time for each. But if the phone rang and I found myself in a longer conversation, a phone interview, for example, that unscheduled good thing could push the first domino over and affect the rest of the day. Taking an extra half hour to finish something creative could put me in catch-up mode the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.
What if —
What if I used a hybrid? A combination of check-list and schedule?
If I put all the daily tasks on a check-list, I’d maintain the focus I need, and wouldn’t feel like I’m behind all the time because my PDA keeps chirping at me.
Its worth a try —
I created my task list with “Today is __ / __ / __ ” at the top of the column. With first-thing tasks at the top and evening tasks near the bottom, I edited and condensed so the list fit into a single column, with hollow bullet points for my check-marks. (I still don’t like lining through the item – clutters things up for me)
If I decide to leave a task undone one day it’s because I choose to; because I decided something else was more important, or because there really wasn’t a need for it today.
“So is this something new?” you ask.
Actually, no. It’s just the latest in my quest for performance improvement. I’m always after increased performance. To me it’s part of excellence. Not in a compulsive way, but in a Good Steward way. In manufacturing they call it Kaizen – steady, incremental improvement. Athletes are always looking for ways to shave a tenth of a second of their time, raise their batting average, shoot a higher percentage from the floor – I want to maximize my use of the time God’s given me. So no; I’ve done similar things several times over the years, getting a bit better at it each time. I’m still working on it. I’ll ALways be working on it, I think.
This works, though. so if you can use the idea, help yourself.