to Time Management
For all who are trying to make time management work
For a long time I have been trying
to make time management work.
They all worked...
... for a week, maybe two
Until I almost gave up ...
So, I thought well, let me just make only
ONE tip work and take it from there
I thought maybe if one piece is in place,
then everything else will fall into place ....
What sounded like a self-illusion
was probably my best idea ever
The difﬁculty was to ﬁnd one tip that
is really trying to perfect.
Well it is easy to ﬁnd “a” tip. In fact,
that is the problem ... there are too
many of them.
I had read many time management
books, the classics ... so many
One tip always resonated a lot with
Get ONE important
task done each day
and leave the oﬃce happy
Day 1: I walk into the ofﬁce,
just grab a coffee, and get
Well, that means check mails
Ok, next come two meetings.
I haven’t yet started with the
most important task (what
was it again?), but the day is
Well you know how this
goes .... don’t you?
A few meetings, some burning
issues, water cooler chats later,
I found myself going home ...
Loser’s dinner is bitter!
In 8 hours, I have not been able
to spend 2 hours on one
I am not giving up.
So, goal for tomorrow is to
start with the most important
task and work on if for two
hours until it’s ﬁnished.
Pretty determined the next
morning, I start with the most
important task (and I remember it’s
the market analysis).
I ignore the emails ﬂashing up like
a hero. That is until Jane’s mail
comes - it sounds urgent.
A few others talk about it, the
latest burning issue. No doubt, I
It takes most of the day, several
meetings and endless discussions
to realise that it is not as “hot” as
initially thought, phew!
What was this thing again that I
wanted to work on? Darn ....
Another failure and today’s
lesson is clear:
Urgent almost always beats
important - even if the urgent
task is completely
I have a brilliant idea:
First, I will block 2 hours every
morning to work on the most
important task of the day ﬁrst.
Second, I will not check any
mails and ignore all “urgent”
tasks (in those 2 hours).
Block times to work on important tasks, then reserve speciﬁc times to
work on urgent stuff, emails and other tasks that do not require deep
concentration. Put these times in your calendar.
Who would have thought that
to make just this one tip work, I
had do actually change the
way I work and how I organise
But I like my ideas. In fact I feel
more conﬁdent than ever!
It makes sense; the reason why
I never get important things
done is because I always get
distracted with other stuff ...
Anyway, can’t wait for
Winner’s dinner is sweet!
I worked like a clock. Maybe not a
Swiss one, but a good start.
Had difﬁculties to concentrate for
two hours en block, but I ignored
“urgent” stuff until about 10:30
and then jumped onto it and got it
Getting used to this kind of
concentration is like training a
muscle; you have to exercise it for
a few weeks without giving up!
In all these discussions on
urgent vs important I realise: I
am not sure what actually is
That makes it difﬁcult to decide
what to do in that two hour
block in the mornings...
I remember this talk about the
80/20 rule or Pareto’s law ...
Important tasks are those that contribute to your department /
company achieve their objectives. Validate what you think is
important with your boss / your customer. Look at department
scorecards, company goals.
Ask: Is what you are doing really as important as you think.
Schedule to do this at least once every 6 months.
It is surprising how we choose to ignore evidence that doesn’t
align with what we believe.... a huge opportunity!
You can use the Eisenhower method
or just divide tasks into important
and less important.
The key is that you consult the
people that you work with. And think
from the company’s perspective. This
will reduce the biases that we
Seems to all make sense. So
tomorrow’s most important task is
to think and plan what is actually
I look at our company’s objectives.
Well, nothing that I can
inﬂuence .... but where was this
department scorecard again?
Aha, a starting point. I review all
tasks that I do and consider what
is important for our department.
That helps. Will chat to my boss
My boss is somewhat
surprised. He didn’t know I was
even doing half of these tasks.
After some discussion, he can
follow my logic.
I get his buy-in. This is pretty
cool. In fact, as I walk out, he
thanks for my proactiveness!
Review which tasks are non-
essential. Find a way to stop
doing those and focus on the
important tasks (that sounds
“Boss, here is the full list of tasks that I regularly do.
But here are some tasks that I also do that seem to
not connect to any of our department’s objectives...
I suggest I stop doing these and spend more time
on important tasks!”
Encouraged from this event,
next day I talk to my internal
customers about the weekly
report I compile for them.
Turns out the most important
parts are the ones that are
the easiest to do ...
Another Pareto lesson here:
Check which parts of your
tasks are the the most
valuable and ﬁnd a way to
stop doing the rest (e.g. talk
to your customers).
“Joe, this part of the
report takes me 2 hours
“That part of the report
is not essential. It is only
nice to have for us. If it
takes that much eﬀort,
we are happy if you
don’t do it anymore.”
Eliminate as many unimportant tasks as
possible and plan the ones that need to
This is not the time to question your plans.
It is not the time to switch tasks or interrupt
it for other things. It’s the time to actually
The less important a task is, the more
eﬃcient you should get it done
At the end of the day, ask yourself if you
have spent enough time on important
tasks or if you got sidetracked into
“urgent” non-important tasks?
Ask yourself what went well and what you
can do better
Be honest with yourself and see mistakes
as learning opportunities
This is the way I have been working in the last few weeks to get my time
management improved: a little cycle, I called it “improvement cycle,” that I ran
through every day. And every day I have learned and improved one small thing.
Can you see how my story ran through this several times?
Analyse what went well or poorly, is it something in
your planning or how you executed your plans?
Think about the reasons why things went well or
Analyse your dayAnalyse your day
Today, what went ...Today, what went ...
I have been able to spend 2
hours uninterrupted on the most
important task ﬁrst thing in the
I did struggle to concentrate for
2 hours en block
I have blocked the time in my
calendar. I have blocked time for
urgent tasks and emails
Because it was difﬁcult not to
jump onto urgent tasks and cut
out interruption that is going
around in the ofﬁce.
How can IHow can I
do more of it / apply to other
change this in future / do
It helps to separate tasks, plan
conscious time for it. This
principle can be applied on all
tasks & task types.
Continue to be focused. Not get
sidetracked. Continue managing
What can you learn from both the positive and the
negative examples and apply more broadly?
I have used this little tool for 10
minutes at the end of each day. It
really fueled my progress
I had always heard of a not-
to-do list, but never knew
what it means.
With all the changes in the
last weeks, I did one for
- Don’t compile certain chapters
of the report.
- Stop doing tasks that add no
value our department goals.
- Don’t open every new email as it
comes in (check in bulk at
certain times only).
- Stop going to unimportant
I thought time management is about
planning better, but it is actually much
more. I had to stop doing things. It is
hard to stop doing things that you are
used to doing.
And the fear: What if there is not enough
work for me to do? Will I lose my job?
Did I dig myself a hole?
My boss asked if I now have more time
to work on a special project (his pet
project). I took on that project. It was
hard! I had never done this before.
So many changes in little time. That was
the hardest thing....
It was really difﬁcult to
learn new things. It was
a bit frustrating initially.
But as I got better, I
really started enjoying it.
It was exciting to get
better. I got to meet
different people in the
company, work with
them and learn more
about our department
and company. Who
would have thought that
And the coolest thing: my boss asked
me to present the project results to
other senior managers. I was happy
they saw value in what I have done. And
who know where this will lead me :)
Once you stop doing the minutia, you have the time
to focus on the big hitters
Well, I didn’t think it can be that difﬁcult to make
just one tip work.
I had to change the way I plan my days and work
on different types of tasks.
Surprisingly, I had to understand which tasks are
important for my role.
And then I had to have the courage to stop doing
these tasks. This was the most difﬁcult part:
Accept that some of the tasks I was doing are
actually unimportant, stop doing what I am good at
and start doing things that I am not good at.
And I am so glad I did that! It opened new horizons
and new opportunities for me...
“Success is the ability to go
from failure to failure without
losing your enthusiasm” -
At TimeSmartMe.com, we believe that it is better to make ONE great tip
work than failing at 10 tips thrown at you.
Invest all effort to make this ONE tip work. Learn other tips if you need
them to make the ONE tip work. Don’t worry about tips that do not support
the ONE tip.
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