Quick Tip: Beat the Clock Timeline

Only thing missing are the tasks and timeline. Today's tip is something that I used to do daily when I was on summer break from high school.

Tuck this away in the "We should have seen this business coming" files.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I would have ever thought to share this as a tip. It's a *touch* embarrassing to reveal just how OCD I was at a young age and I never even really thought of it as a really great tip. This was just something I did to pass the time while I was home alone. However, I told a client about this as an off-handed anecdote during a work session. She later tells me that she started applying it, it really helped and I should share it with everyone.

So what is this random tip/slightly embarrassing personality tic I'm about to drop in your lap?

As I said, I was home alone during summer breaks and needed something to pass the days. This is all pre-interwebs and we didn't have cable. So I would not only plan, but timeline my day. (Timelines - also my lifeline when I was an event planner.) I started by creating a list of everything I wanted to do that day in the order I wanted to do it. Then in the margins of my notebook paper - pre-computer days too - I'd write out the estimated timeline of when each task would take place.  As I estimated the amount of time a task would take, I gave myself a nice amount of buffer time as well. If I thought a  task would take 15 minutes, I'd allot 30. So on and so forth.

Then, armed with my tasks on a timeline, I'd work to beat the clock. Often, the timeline had my day ending at 4ish - just before Dad got home. I then worked to have everything done by around lunchtime so I could be lazy for the rest of the day and not feel bad about it.

(I've been known to be super-productive in the morning so I can kick off for the rest of the afternoon occasionally in my current life as well.)

I was usually successful with this trick.

So what are the take-aways for you?

  • If you don't have a to-do list going, create a to-do list to get all that out of your head. I like to keep my personal and professional list together with like tasks grouped together. You may prefer to keep these as two, separate lists. 
  • Look at the list and choose the items that need to be done that day.
  • Line out tasks in the order they will be done. Make sure to do the most important item first.
  • Estimate how much time it will take you to perform each task. Whatever your time estimate is, pad it. Too often tasks take longer than we think.
  • Create your timeline of the times each task will be done - either on paper or in your calendar or list management tool of choice.
  • Try to beat your timeline. Of course, if you don't beat your timeline that's OK. Don't beat yourself up over it.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat the process again tomorrow.

The main benefit of this tactic is it makes us aware of how long it actually takes to accomplish something. We can then be realistic when we plan our day. We so often overestimate the amount of things we can get done in a day/week. This shows us the real time we need to accomplish our activities and also what we are doing with our time. With practice of this awareness, you'll get better at estimating the real time it takes to get different tasks done so your daily to-do list becomes manageable. You may even get to the point where you don't need to utilize this trick any more.

At times I still play "beat the clock" but my to-do list is no longer in timeline form. Now, I maintain a master to-do list and then the daily to-do list with tasks listed in the order that I'll do them. How do you plan your days?