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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

How-to Friday: Rethink your time management

I'm not a list-junky. In college, I picked a book off my roommate's shelf, and it changed my life. It's not the kind of book you expect to do that, but I gave away clothes and bought a calendar.

Out of college, I bought my first Franklin Day planner. It was gluttonous, all that paper and all my scribbling. But oh, the delicious pleasure of feeling like life was pencilled in and managed.

And then dawned the era of the diaper bag. By necessity, I opted for something slimmer and electronic. (And p.s., nothing felt neatly managed anymore.)

Almost eleven years later, managing our calendars, shopping lists, menus and budget demands a fair amount of my time and attention. I like to be practical and efficient, and it's become a sort of a game I play, this managing the primordial details of life and yet creating time and energy for something more.

David Allen wrote a fantastic book, and I'm sure he intended that  executives in cushy, leather chairs read it. But even in this no-income, predictable kind of life I lead, I've found his advice about time management and list-keeping unbelievably helpful.

I want you read the book, but in the event that reading a book on time management sounds about as much fun as having a tooth extracted, I'll preview some of his best ideas.

First, you're stressed because you're plagued by the nagging fear that you're forgetting something. You have an unreliable system for keeping track of your appointments and to-dos. Your brain plays host to a million, untethered ideas, and they're running amok up there. Sound familiar anyone?

Second, you haven't spent the time evaluating what needs to be done when. When do you work best? What tasks need to be prioritized? How much time will they demand from you? I'm chronically failing here. I can write the list.  But looking at it or prioritizing it feels akin to donating my kidney.

Third, you don't build time into your week to reflect on your priorities, to evaluate whether your to-dos are moving you closer to those priorities, and to plan your calendar. Plain and simple, your desk is a mess, you play constant catch-up, and the thought of doing anything about it feels overwhelming.

OK, so I'm no miracle worker. And no one system is right, no one method foolproof. But in the weeks to come (on Fridays) I'll open up my books, so to speak, and give a peek as to how I keep track of life.

Stay tuned.