Time Management Systems





What is a time management system? If you run a Google search, you'll get a lot of different answers, but the essence of it is that your time management system ties everything else together. The system is the "bridge" that takes tasks out of your project planning and puts them on your to-do list; that helps you sit down in the morning and decide which tasks to do today.

Should I look at this first?

That depends on you. This page is going to discuss the high-level aspects of time management, and some people may find it too abstract and theoretical without a concrete anchor. If that sounds like you, then start by figuring out which projects need organization and picking out a calendar. Once you've got some things on your task list, come back here and I'll tell you what to do with them.

Some people, on the other hand (I'm one of them) find it very difficult to make decisions on a lower level without having the high-level theoretical basis. If that sounds like you, then read on -- just remember that nothing on this page will do you much good if you don't have a calendar and task list for implementation and a project to which to apply it.

Common Time-management Systems

Any system that accomplishes the above -- tells you how to use your task list and calendar to accomplish your projects' goals -- is a time-management system. So you're perfectly welcome to make one up and accomplish that end with any means you choose. But if you'd like a little guidance, several people have put together time-management systems for you.

Getting Things Done (GTD)
Getting Things Done is the name of a book by David Allen that outlines a time management system for, well, getting things done. It's what most people think of when they imagine a time-management system, complete with sorted task lists, weekly reviews, and project lists. It's fantastic for keeping track of massively complex projects where you need to track everything in minute detail lest you lose track of it all. But it can be overwhelming to set up and implement.

Zen-to-Done (ZTD)
Zen-to-Done is a time-management system from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits , written in admiration of GTD and all it accomplishes, but with recognition of GTD's flaws. In congruence with Zen principles of simplicity and minimalism, ZTD is made as simple as possible (but no simpler), and asks you to set up habits one at a time instead of all at once. It may not track details closely enough for hugely complicated projects, but is easier to implement for most projects.

Juggling Elephants
Jugging Elephants is the title of a book by Jones Loflin and Todd Musig, and asks if your life feels like a circus. If so, why not run it like one? Of all the pre-constructed time-management systems I've met, Juggling Elephants does the best job of helping you achieve work-life balance, asking you to put as much effort into yourself and your relationships as you do into your career. It also isn't as detail-oriented as GTD, but has joy and whimsy to recommend it, and does a great job of helping you stay focused.

I already have a time-management System and I like it, but…

Sometimes you don't need a whole new system, you just need a few tweaks. So I've included a list of "time-management hacks" ("Hack" is taken from computer technology, where it means "a trivially-sized program to accomplish a small, specific task.") that you may find helpful. They're sorted by problem, so scroll down the list until you find the difficulty you're having, and then look through the possible solutions for one that appeals to you.

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