Lee Cockerell retired EVP of Disney World, walks around with a pocket calendar and day planner in his pocket and has been for years. You could find him in corporate meetings jotting down notes and then later in the day out in the parks referencing what was up next and cataloging reminders on items to follow up on. His work ethic has obviously paid off for him and his habit is a shining example of old-school systems continuing to meet the need in a technology-focused world.
When I took our very own Mike Floyd through our time management class, he was the exact opposite of Lee; fully focused on leveraging the latest apps and technology out there to help him conquer his time. Guess what? He did it too.
As for me, I use a bit of both, leveraging technology for my calendar and on-the-go notes, while using old-school methods to track my daily to-dos and longer-term goals for the year.
No matter your preference, one of the most important aspects of time management, is a good system in place that works for you.
Decide your path: Paper or electronic (or both)
As you think about your system you need to decide what vehicle you are using to help you get into the right habits.
Paper/physical: Day planners and calendars and calendar books are your resources here. You can find many versions of these online, at office supply stores, and even at your local bookstore and art stores. Some are open-ended, meaning you fill in the months and days, while others have that information already filled in in increments of 6 – 18 months. They also vary on the amount of extra paper and notes sections that are included.
The good thing about paper & physical products is that they are highly likely to fit your need, no matter how specific it is.
Electronic: The other route to consider is electronic. This leverages a combination of apps and online calendars. Do a search for online note-taking and calendars and you’ll pull up a number of options on the main platforms that people use.
The plus side of electronic options is can always be with you and takes up no additional space. They also often transfer your data across devices and can easily set up reminders and alarms that accompany your tasks.
Regardless of your choice of physical or electronic, you’ll want to leverage a calendar to keep track of things. I keep track of my work, personal, church, and volunteer life on my calendar. Items that have a deadline are listed by time and items that just need to be done that day at some point are at the top of the day.
Tips for a successful calendar:
- Add dates as soon as you become aware of tasks and events. This helps you not worry about remembering to add it at a later date.
- Put everything on the calendar. Family, church, work, and personal. If you are using an electronic calendar and are worried about others seeing your full life, you can manage access.
- Sync your calendar to your phone and get notifications if going that route.
- You can also customize the calendar with colors. Different events can be different colors to make them stand out. Ex. Red for family, blue for work, and green for other activities. (This is an optional piece, but helps quickly see what you’ve got going on)
If you need more help staying accountable, put more detail in there. It’s best to start with more detail and work off of that to a good balance, than starting very generic and vague.
This approach is exactly the same one that is used in the weekly/monthly section of a day planner.
Think of your calendar as your vital (and sometimes urgent) items.
The dry-erase board/notes function
In addition to your calendar system, you’ll also want something to keep your lists and to-dos for the day and even big-picture goals for the year. I use a combination of a dry-erase board and a notepad. My dry-erase board tracks big-ticket items as well as my few goals for the year. It keeps those things front of mind for me on a daily basis so I don’t lose sight of them.
I use a notepad to track my to-dos for the day and week. Think of this as your Urgent and Important list. The day portion of the day planner works in this same concept as the notepad.
If you use the dry-erase board in an office environment, be sure to include your leadership team to actively use the board as well.
- They will learn to pick things off the board to take a load off of you.
- They will identify things that need to be added to the board
- It will give them a larger sense of ownership in execution.
- The board is flexible to add things for specific people as needed.
The dry-erase board/notes function
- What kind of things would you add to your board?
- What are some things that you need to put on your calendar that you are not?
- How can you leverage your calendar to build in new habits that you’ve been meaning to get started?
Homework before the next segment
- Work on picking out your time management system.
- Begin adding dates, to-dos, and commitments to your calendar for the next 6-12 months.
- Begin using daily to-do lists using the method of your choosing.
Now that you’ve got a good understanding of what you need to prioritize, and de-prioritize, leverage your new time management system to boost your success and get things done. Next time, we’ll discuss time stealers and other considerations.
Make a better tomorrow.