Time Management is the skill that unlocks all other skills. Plus, if you want to get ahead better, time management will help. If you want a better work or life balance, time management is the answer. If you want to feel less overwhelmed and more in control, managing your time better is the answer. At the heart of more effective time management is a time management system and supporting that is a set of lists. These time management templates can help you to create those lists.
If your best friend were to use your time management system, what would she/he say?
Reading this article you are likely to fall into one of 3 groups;
- Those in Denial – ‘I am so busy there’s no way I’ve got time to improve my time management.’
- Those in Ignorance – ‘My time management system has been working fine for 15 years.’
- Those in Need – ‘If this can help I’ll give it a go because I’m sure I can make some improvements.’
Appealing to the ‘Those in Need’ group, these time management templates will help. They are simple, practical and you can use them straight away. If you had the time you would have created similar templates. It’s hard when you are in the trenches.
My passion is to help others and being an avid student and trainer of time management for 14 years I wanted to share some of what I had learnt. Learnt the hard way so you don’t need to.
How to Use Each of The 14 Time Management Templates
The templates are designed in order of how they need to be used. The first is the toughest, Key Result Areas (KRA) and then they get progressively easier. For example, the ‘Daily To Do List’, the ‘Projects List’ and the ‘Weekly Evaluation’.
Imagine the football team you support, or if you don’t have one, a team that a friend supports, or just one that you’ve heard of. Mine is Oxford United (Cue the gentle abuse!). Oxford United’s KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is likely to be to win the league. This a team target that everyone in the team aims to achieve. This target is not for an individual. Oxford United might win the league, but did every player ‘pull their weight’? This is where KRA’s are important. A Key Result Area (KRA) is an individual target. The idea is that if each person works towards achieving their KRA, the team should achieve their KPI. Coming back to our football team, the goalie’s KRA might be a ‘clean sheet’. The Striker’s KRA is to score one goal per game, and the Defender’s KRA is to win 80% of they tackles. What is your KRA?
Action: Complete your KRA’s using time management template #1 so that you now why you are on the payroll – KRA’s.
This time management template is the easiest to understand because it just requires a list of what you are going to do each day. The challenge is that many people write a continuous to do list and not a to do list for each day. Having a to do list each day focuses the mind. If you don’t have a to do list each day two things tend to happen. First, you’ll be stuck in your email inbox because that makes us think that we are working hard and therefore ‘busy’. Second, someone else will fill your day with tasks if you haven’t chosen the tasks yourself. These tasks might come in the form of emails, a bosses’ request, or actions that you receive in a meeting. ‘Have a plan each day or someone will have one for you’. A Daily To Do List is the foundation of every time management system. Use this template each day.
Action: Complete a list of what you will do tomorrow using time management template #2 so that you have your plan – The Daily To Do List.
Very few people have a ‘living and breathing’ Projects List. Some have one, but it was written once and has not been updated since. A Projects List is a means of knowing what the big stuff is. Those things that will make the biggest positive impact on our KRA’s. It is the connection between the Daily To Do List and the reason that you are on the payroll, which is the Key Result Areas. By having a Projects List you have transparency of the big and important stuff. Research tells us that each person has between 50 and 70 projects on the go at any one time (Home and work). This template just asks for 14.
Action: Complete a list of projects that you are working on by using time management template #3 to keep track of the ‘big stuff’ – The Projects List.
Meetings are the necessary evil of any knowledge worker. We cannot get away from them. They seem to be where the hours are lost and nothing is achieved. One of the key reasons for this is that the actions are either not captured, or not captured well enough to make anything substantial happen. Of course meeting objectives, the right attendees, focus, etc., are all valid reasons too. This template starts with getting the actions captured. This is because by having clear actions captured, people will have no room to wriggle by saying, ‘I thought he was doing that’, ‘Or what did that action mean?’, or ‘I only got the actions yesterday. The meeting 2 weeks ago’.
Action: Complete time management template #4 so that you can increase the likelihood of actions being completed – Meeting Actions.
You delegate to people. People above. People Below. People to the side. How do you keep track of who you have asked to do what by when? A Waiting For List helps you to keep track. This template provides a place to park what you have asked to be done so that you don’t keep hounding the person and so that they were clear when you wanted the task completed by. And so that, of course, you don’t forget. The key to a successful Waiting For List is to assess it. This might be every day whilst it is a new piece in your time management system. ‘Further down the road’ it might only be at the start and at the end of the week as you become comfortable using this template.
Action: Complete a Waiting For using time management template #5 so that you are in control of what you have delegated – Waiting For List.
One of the biggest challenges of time management, and especially in an open plan office, is starting a task and completing it. Learners on our time management training course tell us that this is the reason that they feel like they get nothing done. Part of the reason for this is that knowledge workers have to juggle so many balls. Partly it is because we procrastinate because we don’t ‘like a task’. Mainly it is because they do not having a structured way of deal with wandering thoughts. A ‘Distraction List’ is a simple template that you would keep on your desk. Then, as you focus on one task and then thoughts come into your mind you write them down, get them out of your head, enabling you to get back to the task in hand. Over 50% time is added to a task by not starting and completing it in one go. Print and keep this template on your desk or keep it open on your screen.
Action: Complete Distraction List time management template #6 so that you can stay focused on completing one task from start to finish – Distraction List.
Imagine a sales team with no sales target, or Oxford United’s football team going out to play each Saturday ‘just for a kick about’. It’s the same with time management. You probably have targets (KPI’s and KRA’s) for the year or the quarter. These templates challenge you to have goals for the week. At the start of the week this templates asks, ‘If you were to look back at this week, what would you be pleased to have achieved?’. By writing down our goals for the week it helps us to focus on what is important as we get ‘stuck in the trenches’ of emails, phone calls, and meetings. Ideally the weekly goals would make a positive impact on the priority projects, which in turn make an impact on your KRA’s, which make an impact on the KPI’s. If this happens you have a steel chain of links running right through your time management keeping it connected and strong.
Action: Complete your Weekly Goals for this week so that you have identified what you want to achieve using time management template #7 – Weekly Goals.
At the start of the week you have completed the ‘Weekly Goals’ template with the 7 things that you want to achieve that week. At the end of the week it makes sense to see how you did. The Weekly Evaluation template asks whether you achieved those weekly goals with a simple tool called, ‘PMI’ – Positive, Minus, and Interesting. At the end of the week you write 3 things that were positive about the week, 3 things that were minus, or not so good about the week, and 3 things that were interesting about the week. For example, ‘P: Great meeting with new client ABC’, ‘M: Only achieved 4 out of 7 goals’, and ‘I: Two of my team off sick’. The last box asks you to then take one time management action having evaluated your week, e.g. ‘I will schedule into my diary 1 hour per week for the XYZ project.’
Action: Complete the Weekly Evaluation so that you know if you achieved your Weekly Goals using time management template #8 – Weekly Evaluation.
Similar to ‘Weekly Goals’. This template prompts you to write the big things that you want to achieve that month.
The ‘Monthly Evaluation’ time management template asks you to evaluate the goals that you wrote on the ‘Monthly Goals’ template.
The ‘Annual Goals’ template completes the series of Goals; Weekly, Monthly, and then Annual. The challenge with setting annual goals is to make them big enough to warrant being an annual goal, yet not too big that they might be ‘life goals’. Life goals are not discussed within these templates.
Completed in January, the ‘Annual Evaluation’ is about looking back at the year gone. Identifying what worked, what didn’t work, and the lesson learnt for writing the next year’s annual goals.
This template is essential to achieve one of the key mindsets of an effective time manager. The mindset is summed up best by the phrase, ‘The most successful people are the ones with the empties heads’. The Daily To Do List and the Projects List are great templates for managing our immediate and big tasks. The Some Day May Be List is a place to put all those things that you want to do, but they’re just not urgent or important now. Some examples might be, ‘Filing all the home documents’, ‘Get a pension’, ‘Write a succession plan for the company’.
Action: Complete the Some Day Maybe List so that you have a place to put ‘everything else’ using time management template #13 – Some Day Maybe List.
The average knowledge worker manages projects and if they are honest with themselves their experience of managing projects is just what they have self-taught. They may have heard of big IT projects managed with Gantt charts or qualifications like Prince2. Yet, they yearn for something simple that gives them control without being too cumbersome to use. This one page template helps you to manage your important projects better by preparing better and avoiding the main reasons why projects fail.
Action: Complete the Project Time Management Template #14 to prepare better for important projects and to keep them on track – Project Template.
Download and Use These Time Management Templates
Begin by incorporating one of these templates into your time management system. Then another a week later, until you are using the template habitually. It takes 21 times to form a habit. You can now get more organised. Good luck!
Featured photo credit: Sonovate via sonovate.com