Welcome back to the new school term! I wonder how you used your June holidays? Many times I get students who come and see me after a school holiday and lament that they’ve totally wasted their holiday, that they didn’t get much work done at all even though they had good intentions and a very long to-do list. And now they feel lousy about themselves and overwhelmed that they still have so much to do and so little time to end of year exams!
I’m like that alot as well. I had a 25 item to-do list for my June holidays and I got about 8 of them done and I wonder where all the time went. Over the holidays I did read this interesting article by Peter Bergman on the Harvard Business Review. I was attracted to the title ‘An 18 Minute Plan for Managing your Day’ and though I’m usually cynical about over-promises of sure fire time management techniques, I found his article very interesting. He started with talking about the importance of ritual and how managing our time needs to become a ritual much like how a triathlete would get up at 4am and start his 10 km run, cycle for another 50 km, swim 50 laps and then take a shower and make it to work by 7am and does this day in day out no matter what. He outlined 3 steps to help us accomplish that by just spending 18 minutes a day.
Step 1 (5 minutes), sit down and write down on a blank piece of paper what you want to accomplish in the day that will leave you feeling productive and satisfied at the end of the day and is realistic and ‘do-able’. Take your scheduler (in my case my iPad) and schedule these things into slots in the day and decide when and where you want to do the things on your to-do list. He calls this the most important step because if we have a long to-do list but never decided when and where we’re going to do it then that’s as good as saying we’re not going to anything on the list.
Step 2 (1 minute per hour) is about refocusing. He suggested setting a beeper that goes off every hour so you can refocus and evaluate how productive you used your time in the past hour and recommit to spending your time the way you planned to spend it in the next hour.
Step 3 (5 minutes) comes at the end of the day when you review the way you spent your day and ask yourself questions like what worked? What distracted you? What did you learn about yourself that will help you to plan better the next day?
The JC2 students will know that I like behavioural experiments and I mostly like to experiment them on myself! So of course I tried to put his 18 minute plan to work to see if it’s just a sham and it’s actually working pretty well! Of course I need to qualify by saying that I’m quite a ritualistic person (some would say OCD) to begin with so it’s not difficult for me to plan and schedule things and do them exactly the way I scheduled it. I haven’t been very good at step 2 (refocusing) though mostly because I don’t like things to beep on the hour. But I think it’s worth a try for those of you having a hard time managing your time (no pun intended). And if you want to read his original article on the Harvard Business Review click on this link.