Cycling through your day

A day. The default unit for our time and priority management closely followed by the breakdown hours and sometimes minutes. We need to harness this correctly.

In the time and priority management world a day progresses through a number of cycles that you must be aware of and deal with to effectively manage your time and complete what you need to complete. The difference between having a structured prioritised list with an action plan to complete your tasks at the start of a day is very different to the chaos that occurs during the day throwing the best laid plans aside, barraging you with more and more tasks, distractions, unexpected events and sometimes just noise. Even the best time management system, while good in theory have to be flexible to work in the heat of daily battle.

To process a day effectively we need to look at it like a sequence of small stages or baselines with a change in between. To explain, when you do you pre-planning (See A Typical Day) ready to start the day, you have effectively created a baseline (a baseline being a starting point or foundation used for comparisons or measurement). If our day did not change from this you would have a prioritised list with allocated time and an almost 100% chance of getting your tasks completed, but alas that is not the case.

To look at the change to this baseline, we have two main protagonists. Firstly incoming or new tasks and secondly, tasks that we complete. At some point we need to “re-baseline” the day and this is the process we need to learn. If we just started from the initial baseline and worked on a continuing basis of new task and completed tasks and trying to re-plan, re-prioritise and complete on a continuing basis at every event it becomes not only time consuming but you are re-baselining against something that may change the next minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes.

One of the key principles of Red Urchin is the notion of “channels“. The basic concept is being 100% focussed on the tasks at hand and not allowing distractions to de-focus you and in fact scheduling these distractions (checking email, Facebook, phone calls etc) is the best course of action. Not only does this behaviour allow you to 100% focus on the task at hand, which is awesome for time management, but it allows you to break way from this continual cycle of interruptions and hence continual incoming tasks, urgent requests and changes. We actually suggest checking your email only 2-5 times a day, checking your voicemail/texts the same amounts.

If we follow this process this gives you the perfect chance to assess the change and re-baseline your day. If we take our initial morning baseline and in the morning we complete 4 of our tasks, have 2 meetings and at 11am we have a allocated an hour to check emails, voicemail and texts. Over that hour, we process each incoming tasks with the 4-D’s and at the end of this time we can re-baseline our day as we have drawn a line in the sand, we have a full picture (so far) of what lies ahead and what needs to be completed and we can start again with a new, revised and accurate baseline.

Fast forward to 3pm, we have completed 6 more tasks (3 that came in during the 11am window) and we have allocated a 30 minute window to check email/voicemail/texts. We process the incoming information as per our established processes, re-baseline and off we go to complete our day. You may want, 2, 3 or 4 of these during your day in addition to you pre-planning the next day. It requires good planning, and strict process but the rewards are unmatched particularly when you use it in conjunction with some of the other key Red Urchin foundations (See Deciding When is the Key, Urgent vs Important Tasks).

We know from years of experience and user feedback that this is the best (and really only way) to succeed particularly in high workload, high stress situations. Remember, set your baseline for the start of the day, process the delta, re-baseline, process the delta, re-baseline…get what you need to complete, completed.

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