A Master List is updated at the end of each day. Fifteen minutes before you plan to leave work, stop responding to e-mails, phone calls, requests from others, and your work. This is your time. With your calendar open and your Master List in front of you, let your mind wander. Brainstorm: write down whatever pops into your head in particular order. Why do it at the end of every day? Here are some reasons:
- Closure (the mind wants to be in control at the end of the day)
- Mental separation between work and home
- Time and a place for everything. Organizational skills don’t take a lot of energy. They’re perfect at the end of the day. When you’re fresh first thing each day you shouldn’t be organizing.
- How can you have a quality personal life when you’re taking work home mentally? We need to turn the lights off mentally when we leave work.
- To increase productivity first thing each day, you should be “fresh” because you “recharged” the night before. If you are tired first thing in the morning you have a high probability of getting “bogged” down in e-mail or “relationship building.”
- When you are fresh and focused first thing in the morning, you don’t want to spend that time organizing. You want to spend it working on the most difficult task on your list.
- People are more confident and look forward to coming to work when they have a “plan” from the night before.
When you get to work the next day add new tasks to the end of your existing Master List, pick the most important one and get started.
Review your Master List throughout the day: Each time you complete a task, come back and look at your Master List to decide on the next task to work on. Before you commit to doing a new request, make sure it doesn’t conflict with something already on your list.
Not everything will get crossed off your list: Accept the reality that you won’t be crossing off every item on your Master List by the end of the day. Reduce the pressure. Don’t work late: there’s no correlation in productivity between the length of the day and the amount of work accomplished.
Use Friday afternoons to improve: When you rewrite your Master List each Friday, you can evaluate your performance. When you transfer an item not yet completed to a new Master List, ask yourself.
- What was the priority of the task?
- Why didn’t I get it done?
- What am I going to do different next week to get it done?
Keep your list handy at all times: With your Master List in hand, you’re less likely to try to handle the request immediately. Look at your list and schedule the request appropriately. That’s how you develop discipline in your time management.
Be sure you add personal balance to your list: If you don’t balance your work with your personal life, it will affect your productivity. Try not to have separate lists for each. I didn’t get a personal life until I started writing it down and could see check marks next to personal tasks and/or activities.
“People ask me how I got good at managing my time. One week at a time. Each Friday afternoon I look over what I’ve accomplished for the week and consider what I could do better the next week and where I could save time.”