Getting in to a good place with how I organise my time has really helped me in recent years, so I thought it might be a good topic to write about (although a little dull 🌨😄). I’d love to hear from anyone who has a similar way of working and who has maybe taken this to the next level, or from anyone who ends up trying this approach!
A couple of years ago I was in a bad habit of leaving everything at work to the last minute. I’d be rushing to get things done to meet deadlines, forgetting about some things completely, and heading into the weekend feeling stressed. The inevitable evening and weekend working started to creep in, so I decided to get on top of things and do some research in to better organising my time.
I came up with a method of prioritising and organising my time mainly from reading David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’. A combination of this, some more general reading around working effectively, and a lot of trial and error have led me to a way of working that is doing well for me right now.
I started using this method when working in a previous company, and it’s transferred really well with me across various roles; so something is working! For anyone struggling with keeping on top of their to-do list at the moment, hopefully this might help inspire you to get back in control and start to prioritise more clearly 📝
I’m not doing anything unique here, and it’s worth calling out that I don’t use any fancy tools to keep on top of things; a simple Google Keep page as a pinned tab in Chrome does the job.
At the start of the week I define three things I
want need to achieve for the week. 3 things feels achievable, so I’m not at risk of feeling overwhelmed. I also know I can pull more things into my priority list to work on if I manage to get through everything before Friday. These three things are the things I need to achieve to know that I’ve had a successful week, and they’re the things I’ll prioritise over everything else; with the exception of something urgent that anyone I manage needs from me, and any emergencies (such as incidents 🧑🏻🚒). If something does crop up, something else drops out of my top three, and I can manage expectations accordingly.
I regularly check in against these three top priorities to make sure they’re still correct, and I dedicate some time each day to work on at least one of them. It’s worth noting these priorities sometimes span multiple weeks, and sometimes months, depending on the type of goal it is.
This is where all my day-to-day actions and non-urgent things get recorded. I go to this list when I have time, and I pull my top three priorities for the week out from this list. I get a great sense of satisfaction when I can get to the end of the week and I’ve completed my priorities, and also put a big dent in my tasks and actions list. I aim to keep Friday completely meeting free, and this is the day when I tend to tackle a good chunk of what’s on there.
Having a list like this means that I keep track of things I’ve said I’ll do throughout the week, and not feel stressed that I can’t get to them immediately. Anything that is time sensitive gets a due-by date that I use to help me prioritise this list properly, and then this influences what goes into my top three.
Sometimes I need to delegate things for others to work on; maybe to create development opportunities, or maybe because they’re better placed to do something than I am. This section helps me remember what I’ve asked someone to work on, and when we agreed it would be done by. I’ll glance over this section every couple of days or so to see if there’s anything I need to follow up on.
I (occasionally 😆) have ideas of things I / others can work on. When I have one of those moments where I think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had this thing’ or ‘this thing isn’t quite working as well as I’d like it to’, I record it here. Things go here when it’s not a well-formed action yet, but intended as food for thought, and I review them when I have the headspace.
This is where I capture my personal goals for the quarter / half / year. I find it useful having them in the place that I go to every day to set and review my priorities, as they’re there as a reminder when I’m deciding about the most impactful thing to work on next. Just glancing over them a couple of times a week helps me consciously stay focused on the things I want to achieve and the skills I want to develop.
So there you go. 3 top priorities, a method to capture lower urgency / lower priority things through the week, and a way to keep your personal goals in mind. As I mentioned, it is a bit of a dry topic; but something that can really help reduce stress and increase control of how you’re spending your time at work. Thanks for reading!