Have you ever come home from the office with the feeling that you didn’t accomplish any of the things you wanted to get done that day? We all have days like that, spent entirely in putting out brushfires. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but if it’s happening to you regularly, part of the problem may be your own lack of time management or because you don’t make use of a task management technique.
Task Management Technique: Smaller Segments
The following approach to time management has worked wonders for a successful nonfiction author. Let’s hear it in his own words:
“When I first started writing seriously about ten years ago, I’d set a goal of writing a full chapter every week, yet the entire week would go by without my having written a single line. The reason was my perception of needing to block out many hours for a chapter. Nothing was happening. Then I decided to use a new task management technique, break my goal down into smaller segments. The goal became to write two pages each day. Occasionally, I’d miss a day; then I’d set a goal of four pages for the next day. If for some unforeseen reason I missed more than two days, I did not make the goal a cumulative one, or I’d be right back to the block I had with the entire chapter.”
“As a result of setting more reasonable goals, I started getting material written, even though other demands on my time remained unchanged. The only change was my attitude toward, and approach to, the problem. Sometimes I would sit down to write my two pages and ended up writing much more, ten or fifteen. If I had established a goal for that day of fifteen pages, I would not have begun to write.”
Task Management Technique: The List
You’ve probably heard of the late U.S. industrialist Henry Kaiser. Among his many achievements was establishing a company that built cargo vessels called Liberty ships during world war II. These ships were fully constructed in a matter of days—truly a spectacular accomplishment.
He made use of a very simple task management technique, so the very first thing Kaiser did on entering the office in the morning was to sit at his desk with a legal-size pad on which he listed the items he wished to accomplish that day, with the items in priority order. During the day, the list remained on top of his desk. As a goal was accomplished, he drew a line through it. Goals that didn’t get accomplished that day would be put on the next day’s list. Kaiser always tried to work on his priority items first.
Try this simple approach to organizing your day and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more you are able to accomplish. You’re forced to plan the day’s activities as you write down the day’s objectives. That’s probably the greatest value of this task management technique.
Choose the Right Task Management Technique
There are many tools we have today that were not available to Mr. Kaiser that make keeping your to-do list even easier.
- You may choose to keep your list on your laptop or desktop computer, and there are applications solely for this purpose.
- A web search for “goal management software” shows pages of results.
- Perhaps a simple document in your word processing application that you update regularly is sufficient. As computer screens keep getting larger and cheaper, you may choose to keep your list always posted in the corner of your screen.
- Smartphones have lots of list-keeping capability and specific goal and task listing applications. A search for “goal list” in Apple Store, Google Play or Windows Store will yields dozens of apps.
- You may prefer to use a simple small notepad you can keep in your pocket and always have with you. Use the tool that works best for you, but use one.