It’s always interesting when things start to get a bit crazy. Here’s a couple of principals I use I manage my tasks and time for when things get a little hectic (and for when it’s normal too… time management helps getting things done regardless of your load.)
Find a task management system that works for you. We use Toodledo which is free for single users, and quite cheap for collaborative use. Main reason we went with Toodledo was it’s layout, the fact that you can nest tasks under projects, the options for sharing, the fact that its web based and accessible from anywhere, and the nifty iPhone app that lets you do it all on the hop.
Organize your tasks into the different responsibilities you have WITH YOUR TIME. So for me personally, when I am on a job that is paying by the hour I only want to see tasks for that job. This is more of an integrity thing than anything else, I want to maximize what my clients are getting for my time.
When the load is really one, take time to visit the list a re-prioritize if necessary. I find that this is good to do before things get really hectic – if you are flustered with a workload you’ll tend to be a bit reckless with the priority you give other tasks.
I prioritize based on one question – “which tasks get me closest to my main goal (which is to be able to invoice a client and get paid… i.e. cashflow)”.
- This is where some theory comes in. I like to use what’s called the Merrill Covey Matrix, discussed in Steve Covey’s book First Things First. The tasks which contribute the best and the most quickly to my main goal are the “urgent/important” tasks, and they always get my attention first. The “non-urgent/important” tasks, which are the ones that are still focused towards the main goal but may take longer actually contribute, are the ones where I like to spend the majority of my time – but they will always take a back seat to the urgent tasks.
MerrillCoveyMatrix.png Time management matrix as described in Merrill and Covey 1994 book “First Things First,” showing “quadrant two” items that are important but not urgent and so require greater attention for effective time management
- If you find that the urgent/important tasks are getting all of your attention, and not enough time is going towards tasks with a strategic and longer term goal, then it’s time to look at either a) the efficiency of your processes (i.e. are there things you could do more efficiently?), b) looking into partnerships to share the work, or c) looking into getting a Virtual Assistant or something similar so you can delegate out the tasks that are repeatable, easy, or otherwise don’t really need YOU to be the one who does them.
I hope this is helpful… It’s not a perfect system, but sticking to it seems to always make the difference between sinking and swimming when things get a little busy.