Thursday 1 March 2018

Time Management Tools

Regular readers will remember that I wrote about Toggl a while ago.  Toggl helps you track how you are spending your time, including providing you with the ability to categorise and group items, so you can get an overview of the proportion of time spent on different projects, types of activity etc.

I found it very interesting, as it made clear to me quite how much time I spend travelling; and how well (or not) I use that time.  Also the discipline of recording made me more likely to stick to the task I had started, and less likely to goof off an play on social media, walk the dog, or have a coffee - at least until I had finished the task.

 It also revealed how much time I spend on client projects which I never record (liaising, briefing guest speakers, preparing handout material etc). All of which is fine - and rather lays to rest my image of myself as lazy, which is partly historic, and partly because I don't really count the time sat at home on my laptop as work - but this has revealed that a lot of it really is.

But perhaps this is the moment to confess that I am not using Toggl assiduously (or indeed at all) any more. I think that there are a few reasons for that. One is that I took a break for a couple of days in January when I was particularly busy and didn't re-start.  A second is that I wasn't sure of the best ways of categorising some things (is coaching preparation and review best seen as part of coaching? Or separate? And if separate, is review (which is in part CPD) separate again?) and so on.  I saw the risks of wasting time on the tool rather than doing more productive activities.  So that's a risk with Toggl.  But I think I will continue to use it, periodically, to keep an eye on the balance of my time.

And then, just the other day (as I was preparing for a coaching session, with the chap who had introduced me to Toggl) I found the Eisenhower app. This is simply the famous Urgency/Importance grid, online. Where Toggl helps track what you spend time on, this helps you to focus on what you should be spending time on - and what you should not.

I find the in-built advice less helpful (eg for Urgent but not Important, they simply say 'delegate' but that is not always possible or even appropriate).  For the best online explanation of the grid (he says modestly) see my video:

But the tool itself is useful. You can use it as a to-do list, by adding things you need to do to the appropriate quadrant.  They can be dragged to another quadrant if things (eg the deadlines) change; and once done, deleted (but are still available to read or even re-instate or re-cycle).  And as with Toggl, once you have decreed that something is urgent and important, there is quite an incentive to do it: and then to do the next thing; and then to move on and do something Important before it becomes urgent.  And likewise to contain the urgent but not important activities so that they don't swamp the important ones.  

All common sense, and what one tries to do anyway - but this brings it back into sharp focus.  So as with Toggl, I'll try it for a while; then probably pause and take stock and even take a break from it (perhaps that's when I'll pick up Toggl again).  

As with so many skills, there's something about paying sustained attention for a while, and then making a few tweaks, that is hugely helpful.  And as usual, I will report back on this blog if any learning of note arises.

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