Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time Management for Manic Moms - Week 4: Become the Mistress of your Own Time

Time Truth 4: Take Control of your time or time will take control of you

Turning your dreams and to-dos into reality

Something to think about... Answer agree, disagree, or partly agree.

  • I get things done each day that are really important to me
  • I have one diary where I keep track of everything
  • I spend little bit of time each day planning my day
  • I have a note of all the things I need to do and I know they will get done
  • I know how to cope when things come up that prevent me from doing what I set out to
  • I always know which job to tackle first
  • I manage to get high-value, important things done each day
  • When I make a plan I can easily focus on it
  • I have a strategy for getting all my tasks done
  • I always turn up on time to events with everything I need
Help, where do I start? -- Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management
Steps in transforming your PEP goals into actionable items, which you will get done.
  1. Assemble the key ingredients:
    • a wine carafe (or a plastic jug, will do)
    • an open bottle of wine (full of wine)
    • a bag of apples
    • a carton of blueberries
    • a bag of caster sugar

    • Imagine that your day is the jug. All the empty spaces represents the hours, minutes and seconds of your day. The object of the exercise is to squeeze as much as you can into the jug.
    • The apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine represent all the tasks you have to do. Your challenge is to fill the jug to the brim with them. Faced with an empty jug, how do you get the maximum amount in? What do you put first, the apples, blueberries, caster sugar or wine?
  2. Put as many apples as you can into the jug so it's full to the top with just apples and there is no room for any more. The jug is full - or is it?
  3. Put as many blueberries as you can in the jug. They should fit in around the apples, filling up the smaller gaps. Do this until the jug looks full and there is no room for any more blueberries. The jug is full - or is it?
  4. Take the caster sugar and pour in as much as you can, until, once again, the jug looks full and there is no room for any more. The jug is completely and utterly full to the top - or is it?
  5. Take your bottle of wine and pour some in. Unbelievably, as it trickles into the jug there will still be some very small spaces that the liquid is able to fill. You may even be surprised by how much wine the jug is able to take. Keep going until the jug is full to capacity and to get any more in you would need another jug, or a new day.
  6. Stand back and look in amazement at how much you've been able to fit easily into the jug. 
  7. Ponder for a moment how this little exercise might revolutionize your life. For most of us, the jug that represents our day gets too full, too quickly. We often find ourselves at the end of the day with a pile of leftover ingredients sitting next to the jug. Without exception I find this to be the case. Whether you're a working mum or a stay-at-home mum, the complaint is always the same: my jug gets too full, too quickly with things that aren't what I really want. Why is this?

Apples First
Apples represent the most important things that you have to do in your day. If you don't do these, then your world will fall apart. They have to be tackled right there and then. 

Bring on your blueberries second
Blueberries represent the tasks that are your lesser priorities that day. These can fit in around the apples. They're the items you want to appear in your near focus, but you always endeavour to find a way of tackling your apple tasks first.

Don't get caught up with caster sugar
Caster sugar represents those tasks that you want in your far focus until you are ready for them, i.e. when you've done the more important things.

Be a wine-NO
Wine represents the most low-grade tasks you have on your list, the fluff, the filler, the things you do only when everything else has been completed. But more often, we always go for the wine - the one that instantly gratifies us rather than the one that doesn't instantly appeal but provides us with the longer-term benefit. 

What makes your apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine?

Imagine that you are grocery shopping and your basket only has four compartments - apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine. 

Which compartment of your basket you place these goods in will depend very much on how urgently you really need them, and on how valuable they are to your life. 


Life Value - the further up the basket an item is placed, the more valuable it is to you.

Life Urgency - how quickly you might want to put it into your jug of life when you get home. Represented by the parallel lines at the top and bottom of the basket. Left-hand side represents low-urgency products, and the right-hand side represents high-urgency products.

A is for Apple - Near Focus
  • Top right-hand corner = most valuable and most urgent things to be done = Apples
  • Number 1 priorities, the things we will tackle first
  • Sometimes these are items we have no control over
  • Apples have to be done, but try to prevent them building up in your basket. If you've too many apples in your cart, it only takes one to go rotten and life can start getting a bit stressful. 
  • If you want to keep the doctor away, just try one apple a day, or even better, stick to blueberries.
B is for Blueberries - Medium Focus
  • Top left-hand corner = high-value, low-urgency items
  • Number 2 priorities. Because they are not urgent, these are the tasks we often put off.
  • By tackling blueberry tasks as a priority when they are not urgent, it prevents them from ever moving into the apple category. 
  • Being proactive about doing these tasks saves you from the stress of living in reaction and having to fire-fight at a later date.
Children, Your Biggest Blueberries
  • For most of us our precious angels are undoubtedly the most highly valued things in our lives. Yet how many of us believe that we don't spend as much time with them as we want to?
  • Most of us only spend time paying attention to our children when they turn themselves into highly important and highly urgent items. They make us deal with them behaving badly.
  • By recognizing our children as valuable and giving time to them when it's needed, not just when it becomes urgent, we can live our lives in a less stressful way.
Benefits of Blueberries
  • "super food" - you want to be consuming as many of these in a day as you can
  • tackle these and for once you'll be doing the most important things in your life first
  • non-urgent but important tasks have a way of creeping up on you if yo don't deal with them early on
  • The moral of this tale: get your apples out of the way, then quickly crack on with your blueberries.
  • Make sure you're attending to your blueberries as the priority, before they become your urgencies.
C is for Caster Sugar - Far Focus
  • bottom right-hand corner = low-value, high-urgency items
  • number 3 priorities - they should stay in our far focus until all our As and Bs are complete
  • Often they are easy to do, so very tempting to tackle
  • Often we are tempted to bring these tasks into our near focus first, because they are urgent. They demand our attention.
D is for Wine - Peripheral Vision
  • bottom left-hand corner = low-value, low-urgency items
  • they should be in our peripheral vision, only coming into near focus when all other tasks have been tackled
  • these are the things that would make no difference whatsoever to our lives if we didn't do them

Value + Urgency = Priority

  • high-value items are those things that we do because they make a huge difference to our life and will most probably reflect the things we value most
  • most often that not, there is no sense of urgency associated with them
  • when you understand the Wine Bottle Theory, you can decide what to bring into your near focus first. It helps you decide where things will sit on your Eye of Time at any given moment. Your Eye of Time is a dynamic tool.
  • when you begin to take control over the traffic coming in and out of your near focus, you too will start to feel more in control of your life
  • by using the Wine Bottle Theory and Shopping basket methods you will always know what to tackle first when faced with a million things to do. You'll be calling the shots.

The importance of Daily Diary and a Destiny Diary

  • a method for capturing and keeping track of everything that has to be done
  • a planner or diary is as crucial to time management as water is to fish

Get a daily diary today
  • it can be electronic or paper-based
  • with enough space to put a list of your tasks each day and to write a few notes in it
  • with enough space to keep track of the schedules of your whole family

A typical to-do list
  • classic tool for keeping track of all your tasks
  • most of them don't work because people don't know what to tackle first 

Turn your to-dos into an "Action List" that works
  • have a "Master List" - all the things that you want to do, need to do and have to do, right now. When you're done with this, notice how good it feels to have everything in one place.
  • the Master List represents our daily to-dos

Making minced meat of your Master List
  • take each task in your Master List in turn and shepherd it to its correct home. This would be a place in your Daily Diary
  • ask yourself the following questions:
    • Is this something I can do today? If it is, write it in your today's Daily Diary page. If it isn't, ask yourself,
    • If I can't do it today, when would it make sense to do this? Write the task on the appropriate day in your Daily Diary.
  • once you've distributed your to-dos around your diary, you can close it and cross the tasks off your Master List.

Keeping on top of your Action List
  • you must remember to open your diary each day and take a look at what you planned to do
  • plan each day before it happens - this is the key to keeping on top of your "Action"
  • at the beginning or end of each day, sit down with your Daily Diary and plan for the day ahead

The "Daily Dozen" Minutes
  • 12 minutes each day for planning
  • limit yourself to 12 and you will become more discipline about knowing how long 12 minutes actually is. In reality most of us have a very poor sense of time.
  • get to know what 12 minutes feels like and stick with it.
  • in 12 minutes:
    1. Write all your tasks down
      • open your Daily Diary at tomorrow
      • as you look at the list, think about what else you would like to achieve tomorrow and write those things down, too
    2. What do I do first?
      • think about what order you need to attack your tasks
      • decide which items are your apples. What are the urgent and valuable things you have to complete tomorrow? Put an A to everything that falls into this category
      • do the same with your blueberries, mark them with a B (valuable +non urgent)
      • next identify the caster sugar items, mark them with a C (non valuable + urgent)
      • and finally, the wine items, mark them with a D (non valuable + non urgent)
      • remember:
        • A - action this before anything else
        • B - be doing this only after the A's are done
        • C - careful not to do this first or second
        • D - don't do it until everything else is finished!
      • once you've assigned every item with an A, B, C or D, return to each category and prioritize what needs to be done first. Put 1, 2, 3 and so on by the side of the items according to priority.
      • better to do this at night as it gives you a head-start on things you need to do

Execution of Action List
  • the next morning, go straight to A1, that's what you do
  • the new you will have the commitment and resolve to do A1 first, then A2 and then A3. D7 comes last. 
Keeping track of what you've done
  • Completed Action  (check) - as you complete each action, tick it off
  • Waiting Action (W) - task you started but can't finish. To remind you that it still needs to be attended to
  • Delegated Action (D) - if you've delegated an activity to somebody
  • Forwarded Action (F) - unable to complete on a specific day, moved forward to another day
  • Deleted Action (X) - something you have decided no longer needs to be done
  • Action Notes - things that happen that require action.
        • triangle without bottom line - to remind yourself to look at this later
        • draw the bottom line of the triangle - to indicate action is complete

Other ways to group and prioritize your list logically
  • things you can't do until later (L) 
  • phone calls (P)
  • emails (E)
  • shoppings items (S)

Make your dreams a part of your destiny
  • once a week, make time to sit down with your Destiny Diary
  • if any Destiny Dates from your Diary fall in the coming week, transfer them to your Daily Diary
  • ask yourself, "are there any more actions I can take this week to move me towards my desired destiny?"
  • when you undertake your "Daily Dozen" minutes of planning, prioritize these destiny actions as A, B, C or D, along with all the other tasks on that day. Then, just do them
  • remember to have fun with your Destiny Diary. It's a living document. Amend it as your dreams change. If you're feeling creative, put drawings, images from magazines or inspirational words to motivate you further into taking action.
  • as you achieve a goal or take a significant step forwards, celebrate.

Actions for Week Four
  • Create a prioritized Daily Action List. (12mins per day)
  • Give the goals in your Destiny Diary some Destiny Deadlines. (10mins to 2hrs) Dedicate as much time to it as you can, or do it in 10-minute daily chunks - the important thing is to keep updating it, even if you only do a little at a time.
  • Move actions from your Destiny Diary into your Daily Diary for the coming week. (10mins)
  • Follow through on your plan each day.

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • Use the Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management to work out what's going into your jug of life.
  • Prioritize your tasks based on what value they have in your life and how urgent they are.
  • Tackle your A and B tasks (apples and blueberries) first.
  • Keep all your Daily Actions in your Daily Diary.
  • Keep your longer-term goals in your Destiny Diary.
  • Produce a prioritized Action List every evening (or first thing in the morning if this works for you).
  • Use a tracking system to keep on top of what you have done.
  • Incorporate the longer-term goals from your Destiny Diary into your Daily Diary on a weekly basis.

  1. If you are taking small children swimming first thing in the morning, take them in their pyjamas and get them dressed after their swim. If you are taking them at the end of the day, get them ready for bed before bringing them home.
  2. Take yourself off junkmail lists.
  3. Work out which part of the day you are at your best, and plan your work accordingly.
  4. Always add buffer time: plan to be there with time to spare.
  5. Always look at the label before you buy anything. Is it going to be tricky to wash or iron?
  6. Jot down ideas on paper or in a journal - don't rely on your memory.
  7. Use washing tablets - no measuring required.
  8. Invest 12 minutes every day working out what you want to achieve tomorrow.
  9. Make a job-lot of sandwiches and put them in the freezer for packed lunches.
  10. Always have a Plan B - especially when it comes to childcare arrangements.
  11. Book your holidays well in advance to ensure you get what you want and avoid stress.

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