Planning, preparation and distractions

Using Red Urchin is extremely easy. You can plan as simply or as detailed as you like, or need, to get everything you need to complete, completed. If you are completely new to time management start with the Red Urchin Starting from Scratch tutorial.

Lets work through a typical day utilising all of the main features of Red Urchin so you can see what works for you…Take a completely fictitious Tuesday the 29th of May.

Pre-populated pages

Over time, the ‘To Do Today’ page for any given day is normally pre-populated with some activities. These activities can come from direct entry by you or from your sub pages. When you enter these activities ensure you enter as much information initially as possible but specifically around the Reference field.

Part of effective time management is that you put activities when you think you can do them (or when they need to be done by), which is not always the same day. It is a good habit to get into when you have a new activity to take the time to assess accurately which date to initially place it. You can never remember all of your tasks, from meetings, goals, projects and everything else, so by accurately placing them on the corresponding day then they are there when you get to them as a starting point.

If you are unsure how many previous activities you have you can use the automatic task forwarding function. Select the Settings menu from the ‘To Do Today’ page. Select the dates as required and Red Urchin will automatically move al non-completed activities to the date specified.

Plan tomorrow today

One of your final tasks of any day is to plan tomorrow. So on Monday the 28th we would take 5 minutes to plan our Tuesday. Using the pre-populated ‘To Do Today’ page for the 29th, we plan Tuesday using three very simple steps.

1. Add additional activities

Firstly, add any additional activities to Tuesday’s ‘To Do Today’ page. You might clean out your intray, inbox etc. Add any activities as required and don’t forget to include personal activities and commitments.

2. Prioritise your activities

Now that you have a full list of activities for the day (or at least what you know about so far) it is quick and effective to prioritise them and estimate their completion time. Go through your list and give them an A or B priority, where A has to be done that day and B is that it would be nice to complete it that day. You can also prioritise a 1, 2, 3 etc order for your A and B activities. This is the order in which you think they need to be completed. In addition, estimate the time to compete each activity in minutes, these will total at the bottom of the column.

3. Manage tomorrows time

Looking at your calendar/schedule for Tuesday, you should be able to see your free time between appointments/meetings etc. Add to your schedule blocks of time to complete your activities as required. Block out time specifically to do your A tasks and separately to do your B tasks. You can see the time required for A and B tasks so you can easily see if you have time available to be able to complete all of your required activities (and specifically your A activities). Remember to also schedule your personal time and activities into your schedule. (NOTE: You can also colour code or highlight your activities by selecting the * Action Menu for an activity and selecting Change Font)

If you can’t fit in the A activities, its time to start re-scheduling activities, allocating more time to activities, delegate some of your activities etc. At least you know before you even start the day!

Starting your day and completing activities

With the quick and simple pre-planning that you have done, you know exactly what you are doing and when you are doing it. You should have all (or at least most) of your activities either prioritised A or B or second level prioritised A1, A2, A3 etc, so you know exactly where to start. When you get to your first activity you can easily find the information you may need to complete the activity because it will be noted in the Reference field. Complete the activity as required and the select the * icon and Mark As Completed to set the activity to completed status. You will notice that is still visible but greyed out. Move on to the next activity.

Incoming activities

As new activities/tasks/commitments come in during the day, messages to return, emails to respond to, it is critically important to manage these with some rigour so that you can easily address the important activities and also not to disrupt or distract you from your plan. You should only check your email on a scheduled basis (maybe 2 or 3 times a day) and again this time should be allocated in your schedule. You should process each incoming email/activity etc by applying the 4 D’s of time and priority management:

D – Do in Now!
D – Delegate It
D – Dump It (Delete It)
D – Decide When to Do It

When you have Decided when to do an activity, go to the ‘To Do Today’ page for the date and make the corresponding activity entry (and the relevant Reference data) and file any relevant information you need to quickly locate when the activity is due.

If you Delegate a task, go to the ‘To Do Today’ page for the date the activity is due and make an entry in the Due From Others section and remember to add an entry in the Delegate Field to note who you delegated the activity to.

As new activities get added to your daily ‘To Do Today’ page, utilise the re-prioritising system of Red Urchin. By changing or adding an A/B prioritisation for an activity all activities above that number will re-order sequentially. Some users will add incoming tasks and messages at the bottom section to keep them separate visually. You can add activities on any line so you can layout and colour/highlight your activities any way that suits you.

As you move through your day, you should be working through your activities in order as you prioritised them, systematically adding new activities as required and managing your time as effectively as possible, but remember to apply the simple rules and you will be able to focus on what is important to complete. If you need to tidy up your ‘To Do Today’ page at any point during the day, you can select the Red Urchin logo at the bottom right of the screen.

Going to that meeting/working on that goal

During your day you may need to create/edit/add to your sub pages for relevant meetings, communications and goals. As you work with these sub-pages your additional activities will appear on your ‘To Do Today’ pages. It is an important habit particularly with Communications Pages to use them when you meet with a person or group.

As an example, your schedule dictates that you have to attend a meeting with Bill Smith. We have met with Bill many times (if not we would create a new Communications Page and work through the same scenarios) so by using the Search field at the top of the application, will enter Bill (or Bill Smith) and select the corresponding Communications Page from the list. This will open the Communications Page for Bill Smith which we can use to track the discussions and outcomes of our meeting. You can learn more about how to use the Communications Page.

Working through your day…effectively and efficiently!

To get what you need to complete, completed… follow some basic rules…

  1. plan ahead;
  2. follow your schedule;
  3. and minimise distractions

Finalising your day

As your day winds to a close, you may have completed all, some or none of your activities that you planned or that you need to complete for the day. You may have done all of your A’s and all, some or none or your B’s. Whatever the outcome, you need to reschedule your uncompleted activities and plan tomorrow today also.

To reschedule activities, simply drag and drop the activity to a new new date tab (or click the * icon and change the Move to Date field) which will move the activity to the new date. As you take 5 minutes to plan tomorrow, learn your lessons from the day, be realistic with your completion expectations and time management, put in time for not only A activity and B activity completion but block out sections in your schedule for checking email, personal activities and family or reading time.

Last but not least Red Urchin has a Notes/Thoughts section at the bottom of the ‘To Do Today’ page where you can record anything you want. Some users use it to diarise there day, provide feedback and thoughts to themselves or anything else that makes sense to you.

Done!