If you are new to time management

If you have never used any form of time management system before this guide is for you. If you are familiar with using a time management system, jump to A Typical Day.

The tutorial will take you through a step by step approach to familiarise yourself with the concepts and best practice so you can use Red Urchin to its full capability and get everything you want to complete…completed!

Step 1 : Apply your D’s and Write Stuff Down

Once you have loaded Red Urchin onto your iPad, the first principle you need to make a habit is to write things down! When a new task comes in write it down in Red Urchin. A task can come to you in many many ways so you will need to have your tablet with you in situations when tasks arise so you can record them. This may be meetings, at your desk, near your phone etc. When a task comes in, you need to quickly assess how you are going to action it. Introducing the 4D’s

The 4D Decision

  • 1st D – Do It – Do it now and move on
  • 2nd D – Decide When – Decide when I am going to do this task. Is it today, is it tomorrow, is it a week Thursday?
  • 3rd D – Delegate – Delegate this to someone else but make sure you track it in your “Due from Others” section
  • 4th D – Delete – Its not a task it is just noise…delete it and move on

You can practice with the list of outstanding tasks you made. Ask yourself the following questions to see which of the 4 D’s you need to apply.

  1. Does this task actually need to be done? If no, delete it and move on (the 4th D)
  2. If yes, Do you personally need to do this task? If yes, then when am I going to or when do I need to do it. Either do it right then and there (the 1st D) and move on or schedule at some point in the future (The 2nd D)
  3. If you personally do not need to complete the task, then delegate it (the 3rd D).

When you write tasks down you get them out of your head (see our Writing things down! NOW! Tip) so the first step in good time management is to do a first level filter on your incoming tasks and that is the function the 4 D’s serves.

If you Delete or Do It Now you can remove the task fro your visibility, but if you Decide or Delegate you may need to access the information about that task to complete it or monitor it. This is where the Reference field comes in an using holding folders/trays etc. If you take your email inbox as an example, your inbox serves as your dumping ground for everything that comes to you (although advanced features in Gmail like Priority Inbox and Tabs greatly help this). As you process a task it is good practice to move it away to a holding sub-folder or similar to remove it from your inbox. To do this, record the task in Red Urchin, move the email to your PENDING email folder, set the Reference in Red Urchin to E/P (Email Pending) or something that makes sense and then you know exactly where to find the information you need when you complete the task and you have removed it from the clutter (See Using a container system).

What is left after that first filter is a number of tasks that you firstly have written down in Red Urchin and secondly are not in a singular sequential list but are listed on your best estimation of when you need to complete that task. This is one of the key distinctions between Red Urchin and a to-do list. So get in the habit of thinking about the best day/time to do a task, don’t get in the habit of just writing them down on the day they come in.

The last step in Step 1 is to include any ‘other’ tasks that you have that may not come in through traditional channels. Going to the gym, making sales calls, picking the kids up, reading time etc. These also should be entered in Red Urchin so you have a complete picture for any day of what you need to complete (remember you can also use the Red Urchin recurring task function to enter tasks).

Step 2 : Allocate Real Time

Once you can can successfully apply Step 1 above, the first level filtering and recording of incoming tasks what you end up with on any given day is a list of tasks that you need to complete. Now this list could be 42 tasks of which you have no chance of completing in your day so we need to apply some simple rules to make sure that we get what we need to complete…completed.

By looking at your calendar (where you have diligently entered any appointments, meetings etc) you can see what time you have available to complete your tasks (be sure to take into account travel time or other time that may be required between commitments). Back to your activities list of Red Urchin. Review your activities for the day and initially put them into two piles. First the tasks that absolutely have to be done today and the second tasks that you would like to do today but it is not the end of the world if you do not complete them. Mark the first tasks and Priority A and the second as Priority B in the main Red Urchin screen. Now take the A tasks and put them i the order that you need to complete them using the Red Urchin Priority function. You now should have A1, A2, A3 etc for your A tasks.

Make an entry or entries in your calendar to do your A tasks (there is advanced ways of doing this by allocating time in the time field etc). Now its time to get on the right channel (yes like a TV channel). The second key principle of Red Urchin time management is focusing a singular “thing” 100% at any point in time. For our time management needs, if you are focussing on doing your A tasks from 9:30am – 11am then that is what you do. You turn your email and facebook notifications off and even divert your phone (advanced users will set time in their calendar to check email, return calls etc) and focus on your A tasks only. You may only have an hour and only complete 30% of the days tasks in that hour but you will hopefully have another time block to continue to complete them. Complete your A1 task, set it to completed, do your A2 task, set it to completed etc.

Over the course of the day this will get you on track to complete at least your A tasks in order with no distractions. Be diligent, filter your tasks, prioritise your tasks, complete your tasks and as new tasks come in during the course of the day apply the same process but in blocks of time. Process your email, phone 2 or 3 times a day, filter your new tasks, prioritise your new task, complete your revised task list and repeat again. It is important particularly during busy day that you do this in cycles and not continually through out the day. By cycling you apply the process but if you do it continually there is no focus and no process and you will not get what you need completed in the shortest possible time.

Step 3 : Refine Your Process

Take a few weeks to practice the first two steps and see what works for you in your environment with your personality. Then start adding to and refining the Red Urchin process.

  1. Use more and more Red Urchin fields. Set the priority (letter and numbers), the reference, the time, the delegate as much as you can on every task.
  2. Colour code, bold highlight tasks as required
  3. Set your time in blocks. Other than appointments and A and B completion time set travel time, reading time, email checking time, gym time, kids time
  4. Use containers to keep your inbox/intray/voicemail etc zeroed out (See Using a container system)

Step 4 : Start Using Sub-Pages

Once you have good process and habits using the ‘To Do Today’ Page on Red Urchin, move to using the subpages and feeding the tasks into the ‘To Do Today’ page. Start with the Communications Page and the n move to the other start pages. There is extensive tutorials on the Communications Page, Goal Page, Meeting Page and Notes Page.

NEXT – A Typical Day