1. Task Discrimination
I am sure you've heard of the popular Stephen Covey activity matrix. The classification of every activity into one of the following:
- Not Important - Not Urgent (e.g. playing game on your phone)
- Not Important - Urgent (e.g. the little emergencies that interrupt our days)
- Important - Not Urgent (e.g. Most of the things you do at work. Forget about the asap people tag every request with.)
- Important - Urgent (e.g. Submitting a business proposal which has a deadline of noon, today)
As great and effective this classification is, some of us rarely remember it when we are under pressure and need it most. Especially me. So the trick I use is to do a task discrimination. I run through, in my head, the tasks I have pending and pick the one that will cause me the most pain/regret if I don't get it done. It's more like practicing Brian Tracy's Eat that Frog! It makes me feel better knowing that things could have been worse if I had picked another task.
2. Persistent Consideration
If you give me 20 tasks to complete. Rather than go from one task to the next immediately, I'll study all the tasks and put them in that part of my mind that is persistently considering them. Then I now go from one task to the other.
It helps me switch easily and fast from one task to the other, and it helps me to go through the tasks in an order that ensures that I do related tasks first and unrelated ones last. This is my greatest time and task management skill. It is what makes it easy for me to work till 2:00am and wake up at 5:00am to write a blog post before going about the numerous unrelated projects I have to attend to that day. Because I am persistently thinking about them all in a part of my mind, I am able to get a lot done everyday and not feel too stressed.
3. Distraction Filtering
One of the benefits of studying in FUTA is that you learn to get things done (even things that require focused attention, like reading for tomorrow's paper) under any environment/condition. You can put me in a very noisy place and give me a 300 page technical book to read and make a detailed summary of and I will feel just at ease as I would have been if I was in a quiet room. I can filter out distraction very well and fast. It helps me make the most of every minute I dedicate to a task. And it's part of the reasons I don't notice my phone ringing on some days.
It's a skill that comes with necessity and practice. And it can help you get a mighty lot done when others are busy complaining of lack of a convenient place. I have friends who need a place to read. Me, all I need is a book to read. I can read in any place.
And those are my three quick tips for time management.