Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | January 3, 2008

How to fit everything in one day

Although it may be impossible to fit everything everything in one day, you can try at least with the three following tools.  I am trying this new system and it seems to be working out pretty well.

So first off, I envision my day as a big jar, where, following Stephen Covey’s metaphor, I have to place big rocks and small pebbles in.  If I put all the pebbles first and then dumped the rocks, it wouldn’t really fit.  The idea is to place the big chunks of work, like the rocks, in your day (that is all the big assignments you have to do, and all the meetings scheduled at fixed times), and to fill the empty space with the little pebbles (activities you have time for in between).

So that’s the big idea, I bet half of you already are aware about this.  So let me combine it with some more interesting organizational things.

Step 1: Place the Rocks in this intelligent agenda
Make yourself or get yourself an agenda where you can fit the work or tasks you must accomplish with due dates and a space for additional after-work activities you must attend to (exercise, meetings, associations, volunteering, etc.)    Each week have a column with the deadlines of the week as well just in case you hadn’t completed something – that way you’re reminded twice of each task, once when you first receive it and another time on the due week, making sure you never overlook a task.

Step 2: Place your pebbles in a memo on your fridge
Combined to this I have a pad which has a column for to do and a column for people to get back to (email and phone) on my fridge.  Many companies make this special stationary.  Mine comes in a mouse pad format which you can tear off the pages if you decide to have it on your fridge.  For those who feel overwhelmed you can also get yourself the special memos that read “today, I will do only one thing : _____________” which you can fill with every activity and then as you go through one per day you can have the satisfaction checking that one memo for your day.  I personally prefer the more long-term lists because I get a better sense of what is coming up in my week.

Step 3:  Putting it all together – aka how to prioritize all this
Now how to I prioritize everything?  I use this simple grid.  I mentally place everything I must do in this grid and then work it out by priorities:

–    Urgent & Important first (until I kill all in this category and then I try not to end up in that zone as much as possible)
–    Important but not urgent (this is where you want to find yourself 95% of your time)
–    Not important but urgent (this is what you want to avoid at all costs – and if you happen to have most of the things in this section, it might mean you are taking on things that don’t really matter to you – so it may be more a question of assertiveness than of time management in that case)
–    Not important and not urgent (these you also want to get rid of as much as possible, and that is actually the first place you can cut activities from without really feeling guilty)

Step 4: But where does all the fun go in?
So I’ve had this argument once with my boyfriend who could not seem to see this system as valid.  And that’s ok – not everyone and not every culture will prioritize things in the same way.  But it made me realize a nuance I hadn’t seen before – the whole reason I am adopting this organization style is so that I can get things done as fast as possible, and so that I can think twice before volunteering for something I don’t really care about – so that I can ultimately have more time to do what I want to do.  All the activities that I like doing are not important nor urgent and although I don’t want to have any work of that nature on my to-do list, I certainly do want to have my hobbies in there!  But I never marked my hobbies down on that grid because that is a working grid.  So in that sense he is right – you may want to shift your priorities if you decide to include your hobbies and fun outings in this grid.


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