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14 Time Management Templates to Help You Get Organised

14 Time Management Templates to Help You Get Organised

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’.

1. Key Result Areas Time Management Template

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.

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2. Daily To Do List Time Management Template

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.

3. Projects List Time Management Template

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.

4. Meeting Actions Time Management Template

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.

5. Waiting for List Time Management Template

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.

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Action: Complete a Waiting For using time management template #5 so that you are in control of what you have delegated – Waiting For List.

6. Distraction List Time Management Template

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.

7. Weekly Goals Time Management Template

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.

8. Weekly Evaluation Time Management Template

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.

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9. Monthly Goals Time Management Template

Similar to ‘Weekly Goals’. This template prompts you to write the big things that you want to achieve that month.

10. Monthly Evaluation Time Management Template

The ‘Monthly Evaluation’ time management template asks you to evaluate the goals that you wrote on the ‘Monthly Goals’ template.

11. Annual Goals Time Management 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.

12. Annual Evaluation Time Management Template

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.

13. Some Day Maybe List Time Management Template

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.

14. Project Time Management Template

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.

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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

Download these 14 Time Management Templates to use with a pen and paper.

Download these 14 Time Management Templates to complete on-screen.

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

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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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