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Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

I have taught time management for over 14 years. I could argue my training is great. In earnest, it is probably just equal to other good trainers, the main difference being that I teach people to build their own system and to not use mine or the time-management gurus’, because we are all individuals. This led to a breakthrough for me on time management.

Making a Breakthrough in Time Management After Time-Management Training for 14 Years

Recently, I have stumbled on something that is a game changer in time management. It’s not mine. It’s not anyone’s. It feels a bit like how the internet grew: one piece at a time until it all came together.

This information just needed to be brought together. Most time-management tips, lessons and tricks, are about discipline, focus, or small pieces, like writing a daily to-do list, but at the heart of an effective time-management system are seven fundamental game-changing pieces. Get these right and the whole system just works, like the story of the internet.

If you can master these seven pieces, you will significantly upgrade your time-management system. Let’s be positive and call them hurdles, because when you start to jump them, the race to be a better time manager has begun. Find out more about each hurdle below.

Time Management Hurdles

    To Jump Each Hurdle Is Only One Exercise per Week for 30 Minutes

    Jumping these seven hurdles will significantly upgrade your time-management system.

    You can’t do part of it. You can’t do one hurdle. You can’t do a bit and come back to it. It’s take the challenge, do the race, or don’t.

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    My advice? Decide why you are going to spend 30 minutes per week doing these exercises. This is because when you need to “choose left or right” (deciding to do this or do something else), you need a compelling reason why. The answer cannot be “to be a better time manager.” To achieve that goal, find one easy and simple time-management tip on the web, e.g. start each task on your to do list with a verb. Job done. We know from Edwin Locke’s work on goal setting that challenging and specific goals work best.

    This goal setting requires some reflection. Decide why. What problem will it solve? Will it help you get home one night on time? Is the goal to be more calm, more in control?

    Then the goal is to hear people in the office unprompted saying, “He’s more calm/She seems much more in control.” Write your reason, your goal, on a sheet of paper and keep this close to you. Remember goals need to pack the three Ps, as Muhammad Ali did — “I am the Greatest” — Present, Positive, and Personal. For example, “I am much more in control. People have said so unprompted,” or “I am working on my big projects and my boss has noticed and commented positively to me.”

    Now it’s time to take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

    Week 1 — Jumping the Capturing Hurdle

    How much do you capture of what comes into your world, and into your head?

    Jumping the “Capturing” hurdle is about being able to grab any time demand that comes into your world. The more obvious is your email inbox. The less obvious is capturing stuff that you think of when you are driving.

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    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write ALL the capture points (entry points) of your time-management system that you currently have. For example, email inbox, phone calls, and meetings.
    • If you have too many, delete one. For example, you have multiple notepads doing a similar job.
    • If you don’t have enough, for example, you are still relying on your memory in the car, in meetings, in corridor conversations, add one.

    Week 2 — Jumping the Listing Hurdle

    How well do you get things out of your head and onto a list?

    Jumping the “Listing” hurdle is about getting stuff out of your head and onto a list. “The most successful people are the ones with the emptiest heads.” Leaving room for thinking, decision making, and problem solving, not for remembering (storage).

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the lists that you currently have. For example a daily to-do list.
    • If you have too many lists remove one. Particularly the lists that you do not trust. For example, the Outlook reminders list.
    • If you don’t have all of the following lists, add one; particularly the daily to do list (not a stream of actions), or the call list, project list, waiting for list, weekly list, monthly list, or a some day maybe list.

    Week 3 — Jumping the Emptying Hurdle

    How good you are at emptying those capture points?

    Jumping the “Emptying” hurdle is a little like emptying the dishwasher. If you don’t, then it just builds up until you cannot see the dishes for the kitchen sink and then you have to load the dishwasher and wash-up what’s left. Emptying frequently and appropriately is key.

    • Using your list of “Capture Points” that you created in Week 1 decide when you will empty each one of your capture points. Add a column two. For example your email inbox will be assessed once an hour for 15 minutes, or after each major piece of work. Not continuously.
    • Add a column three and identify a trigger for each capture points that will help you to create the habit. The best way to form a habit is to “piggy back” another habit. For example, when I broke my foot, I had to do exercises everyday for 5 minutes. I piggybacked brushing my teeth. Your example might be emptying your in-tray once a day as you log off from work or with each cup of coffee.
    • Read this short post to help you, “Say Yes Wisely” because most people struggle to say ‘No’, which drains their time hugely. Use this learning to say, “No” to at least one task this week and each week from here on in.

    Week 4 — Jumping the Deleting Hurdle

    How much you ask yourself the right question: “What is the impact if I don’t do this?”

    Jumping the “Deleting” hurdle is about getting rid of more of the time demands that enter our world. Plus, it is about not accepting every time demand. Being clear on what we are here to achieve and eliminating more of what does not achieve that.

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    • Understanding how to use advanced search is the key to finding emails quickly. Learn how to use advanced search.
    • Unsubscribe from a minimum of four external email lists that you are on and that you do not use. And unsubscribe from a minimum of three internal distribution lists that you are on.
    • Commit from this week to dealing with copied-in emails more quickly. Do this with the ABC tool: A. A CC email?, B. Briefly read it, and C. Clear it. Delete, unless you reply, but this must be by exception.

    Week 5 — Jumping the Storing Hurdle

    How effective you at storing the right information in the right places for later?

    Jumping the “Storing” hurdle is about having the right information where you need it, when you need it, and keeping it easily accessible, a little like the documents at home. For example, the house insurance: is it in a big pile of important stuff? Or the next business trip tickets — where are they kept?

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the storage points that you currently have. For example, the wall by your desk is a storage point and your “day notebook” and your desk.
    • If you have too many storage points remove one. Maybe you don’t use or rely on the reading pile storage point. Decide how you will manage now that this storage point has been removed (Combine with another storage point?). If you don’t have all of the following storage points, add one; especially for physical documents (e.g tickets), and then consider books to read, websites to refer back to, or papers to read, book shelf, reference folder, tickets, or tickler file.
    • Identify for each storage point the frequency and the trigger and add these in as columns to your list of storage points above.

    Week 6 — Jumping the Scheduling Hurdle

    How great do you schedule, beyond using your diary just for meetings?

    Jumping the “Scheduling” hurdle is about having one diary and using it for more than just booking meetings. Scheduling important work on big tasks that we shy away from because they are big frogs.

    This is the toughest hurdle. Maybe the highest. Some fail here.

    • Identify why you are on the payroll. This is your “Key Result Area (KRA).” Here’s some help — it is not the long list of stuff, from managing clients, to meetings, to presenting, dealing with queries, managing your team, etc. It is one to three things. In a commercial company, your reason for being on the payroll will be to increase sales and profit. For sales people, it is easier; they have a budget. This is their KRA. For others, it will take a little thought to identify a few measurable things that you do that proves that you are worth your salary. For example, for a waiter it might be the TripAdvisor scores.
    • Identify the three projects/large chunks of work that will have the biggest impact on the reason you are on the payroll/KRA’s.
    • Get “stealth mode.” Find a way to get away. Book a meeting room, work from home, or close the door. Whatever you can do to be in stealth. Schedule into your diary 90 minutes next week, and a recurring appointment where you will do only those projects in that time.

    Week 7 — Jumping the Acting Hurdle

    How awesome you are at choosing left or right?

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    Jumping the “Acting” hurdle is the key one. It is why you are paid to do what you do. This is where decisions are made: choosing left or right a thousand times a day, knowing what you are worth. Divide your salary by 2,000. This is your hourly worth. Don’t do stuff that is worth less than this value per hour.

    • Decide on the length of your “short amount of time.” The “Do It Now!” piece of time. It might be 5 minutes, 4 minutes, or 3 minutes. The difference might not be much, but you decide what it is. For every time demand/task that comes into your system, do it now if it can be done in less than your short amount of time. Commit to this. Do not kid yourself that you can do a task in the short amount of time and still be doing it 20 minutes later. This is because your brain will soon know what you are doing and stop you doing it.
    • For longer amounts of “doing” time, learn the Pomodoro technique (2.2 minute video) to help you focus and use it once per week. Maybe during your scheduled project work.
    • Place the reason you decided that you are on the payroll (KRA/’s) in Week 6 in a place that will disrupt your behavior. For example, a post-it note on your laptop/screensaver/desktop image. Not on the wall because we go blind to what is on the wall — “Corporate wallpaper.”

    Pulling It All Together

    This is how the seven pieces of an effective time management system fit together:

    Time Management Hurdles Overview
      Finished the Race? Congratulations!

      Excellent news. You did it. You jumped all seven hurdles and nailed the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

      You now have a significantly upgraded time-management system. To download the whitepaper, “Take the 7 Week Time-Management Challenge,” with tables to complete and more advanced exercises, check out my bio.

      Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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      Darren A. Smith

      Founder of Making Business Matter - Training Provider to the UK Grocery Industry

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      Last Updated on August 16, 2019

      10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

      10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

      The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

      Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

      Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

      In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

      1. Cal Calendar

        Cal Calendar has recently appeared on the market of mobile applications (Android, iOS). It is the brainchild of the development team of Any.do that features impressive functionality and well-thought-out design.

        The application comes with many great features, including support for Exchange and Google Calendar, widgets, voice recording, and many more.

        Cal Calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

        Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

        What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

        Cal Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

        Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

        Available for iOS and Android

        2. Google Calendar

          Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

          Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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          Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

          The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

          Available for iOS and Android

          3. Jorte Calendar

            Jorte Calendar is one of the most popular calendar applications in the Google Play store.

            The program features a wide range of configuration options, with many design alternatives. You can adjust display mode to your needs and view calendar entries sorted by month, week, or day (by hours). It is convenient for quickly picking the desired date, using task bars, and setting reminders.

            Apart from its ordinary information storing function, this application can be a special cloud service, Jorte Cloud, allowing you to synchronize calendars, schedules, and task lists on multiple devices. The application also supports data importing from Google Calendar.

            For those paying attention to the program design, there is also Jorte Store, where you can buy styles and icons to personalize the calendar. This feature makes Jorte is one of the brightest calendar applications.

            A basic version of the app is free of charge, so if you do not want to spend money on a calendar application, it is a good option.

            Available for iOS and Android

            4. Business Calendar

              Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

              The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

              You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

              The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

              Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

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              Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

              Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

              A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

              Available for Android

              5. aCalendar

                aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

                Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

                Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

                When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

                Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

                The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

                The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

                Available for Android

                6. DigiCal Calendar

                  DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

                  With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

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                  Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

                  The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

                  Available for Android

                  7. SolCalendar

                    SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

                    The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                    Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                    Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                    Available for Android

                    8. Calendar

                      Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

                      A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

                      Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

                      Available for Desktop, iOS and Android

                      9. Today Calendar

                        Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

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                        The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                        If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                        Available for Android

                        10. Calendar Widget: Month

                          Sometimes people do not need a heap of calendar applications. They would prefer to have one efficient calendar widget.

                          Calendar Widget: Month perfectly fills this niche and meets all the needs of a modern user. It has some features of an ordinary calendar, but the real great thing about this software is that it has 80 or more themes in its library.

                          The design of the application is great; the themes are perfectly tuned. There are options for almost any theme of your smartphone. The only drawback is the fact that the widget memory is not too large, and you should be ready for it.

                          This simple calendar widget was created in the image and semblance of widgets from Yahoo. The widget window displays one calendar month with the ability to go to the previous and move to the next one.

                          If you need a simple and affordable calendar to plan your tasks and affairs for one month, this widget is ideal for you. Calendar Widget: Month is so simple that it does not even have Google Calendar support.

                          At the moment, it does not have the function of connecting any third-party calendars and services. Developers allow the possibility of introducing support for Google service as an addition to the widget, if users request to have this opportunity.

                          Available for Android

                          Our Verdict

                          Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                          Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                          Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                          The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

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                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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