Are things you need to get done falling between the cracks? Does taking an entire day off seem impossible?
Maybe you need a time-management system.
Many readers seem to think they do, based on the email response to my recent column on the importance of taking time off. Dozens asked me to recommend a time-management method that would help them get on top of their work and home duties. In response, I asked a half-dozen executive coaches to help me pick the most widely used time-management systems-not just software tools or high-tech to-do lists, but behavioral-change techniques that help people get organized, clarify thinking and increase output. Then, I tried out for a week each of the three methods they mentioned most often-including one that involved a ticking plastic tomato.
Of course, a week isn’t long enough to reap the full benefits of these methods. Still, I learned a lot from this experiment. Like many people, I am often my own worst enemy in managing my time, distracting myself from the task at hand, or setting myself up for failure by starting each day with an unrealistically long to-do list. Second, the key to getting more important stuff done is often doing less of everything else. And finally, getting control of your time requires a significant up-front investment of mental effort-and, well, time.
Here, in no particular order, are the methods I tried:
• Getting Things Done: The reigning gorilla of time management, “GTD,” as its followers call it, was created in the 1980s by David Allen, an Ojai, Calif., consultant whose coaching, training materials and seminars can be found at davidco.com. Mr. Allen has since sold more than one million books about GTD and attracted 1.2 million followers on Twitter. GTD’s aim is to corral all the projects and tasks floating around in your head into an organizing system you update weekly. No matter what chaos erupts, the system in theory enables you to quickly identify the next step to take on every front to keep all your projects moving forward, while keeping your mind clear to relax, think and be creative.