Effective Time Management for High Achievers, Part 4

For this step you must have successfully scheduled all
tasks and labeled them with dated sticky notes.
You are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious
at this point. It can be frightening to realize how
much time is needed to complete all your scheduled
tasks at a quality level and incorporate family time and
personal time as well. Most people discover that there
seems to be far too many tasks to complete, appointments
to attend, and personal obligations to attend to;
and much too little time to complete them. However,
now that all your tasks are scheduled with appropriate
time to complete them, and at the time of day that you
will be more efficient, you can feel confident that they
will be completed more quickly than they would have
been without your time management effort. While
your scheduled tasks may be completed late, they will
eventually be finished and future tasks will not suffer
the consequence of delays, inaction, and procrastination.
Because you are now scheduled, it is an excellent
time to notify your coworkers, supervisors, friends,
and family of the anticipated completion date of your
tasks and promised appointments. A word of warning,
not everyone will be happy to find out that his or her
expectations will not be met. If this happens, kindly
remind them that you are not inclined to sacrifice quality
for timelines, and if they need the task completed
earlier than scheduled you will need additional resources.
This type of communication is foreign to the high
achiever, as high achievers rarely ask for help or understanding
when it comes to their own needs. Therefore
you can rely on the comments being well received
by others, and not interpreted as an excuse, because
when the comments are coming from you they will
be acknowledged as truth. If you tell your coworkers,
family and friends that you are too busy to handle everything
at once, they may not like hearing it, but they
will believe you and respect you for being honest with them.
Your coworkers, supervisors, friends, and family
are just as aware of your high achiever attitude as you
are; they will not think you are making excuses for poor
performance or lack of interest.

Now that all the tasks are scheduled, it would be
convenient to be able to locate those tasks easily and
efficiently. This chapter will describe an tremendously
effective method of organizing tasks, projects, documents,
and correspondence.

Supplies Needed

• File cabinet within reach of your workspace
(electronic or physical)
• Hanging files with label tabs
(or electronic folders)
• File folders
• Felt pen

Process

Continue using the four to six hour
time period commitment
made for scheduling. You will
need about one hour in order to
set up an organization system
and file away the stack of tasks
you have from the prior chapter.

1. A filing system must be set
up to accommodate the new
level of document organization.
If you are primarily
using electronic folders, it is
still recommended that you
use the guidelines communicated
herein. Depending on how much paperwork
you must process in an average day, you may wish
to have an individual ‘To Do’ folder for each day of
the calendar, or have an individual “To Do’ folder
for each week of the month. This is a decision that
you will need to make for yourself. For example, if
you need to process 20 pages of new material each
day, a separate ‘To Do’ hanging folder for each day
would be appropriate. However, if you process 5 or
10 pages of new material each day, a ‘To Do’ hanging
folder for each week would likely be appropriate.

Make labeled ‘To Do’ hanging folders to identify
the day, or the week, of the month. Also include
a labeled ‘To Do’ file folder, which will slide into the
identically labeled ‘To Do’ hanging folder, for each
day, or week, of the month. This ‘To Do’ file folder
can accommodate single pages or small documents
that do not justify their own file folder. Install all of
your empty ‘To Do’ hanging folders and file folders
into a filing cabinet that is located within reach of
your workspace.

To Do Files

2. If you have many tasks that are bounded by some
commonality, it may be helpful to split these tasks
into their own subsection within the filing system.

Using differently colored file folders can easily
create specialized filing sections that can be used
for routinely processed paperwork such as invoices,
quotations, or requisitions, or keep track of personal
training efforts, weight loss charts, or theatre
and sporting tickets. If you use this method of
sectioning tasks, be sure to keep the ‘To Do’ folders
in addition to any new specialized folder generated.
The new specialized folders should be labeled with
the title of the common task, such as ‘Quotes 1st –
7th’ or something similar.

3. Once all the empty hanging files and file folders
have been labeled and installed into the filing cabinet,
take the top task from the filing stack and file
it away in the appropriate file. You can tear off the
sticky note at this time and throw it away. Continue
with all of the tasks until there is nothing left outside
of an organizational file.

4. Now close the drawer to your file cabinet and relax
for a moment. Close your eyes and take a deep
breath, then open your eyes and realize that there
is nothing left for you to do, except for the things
that you have already scheduled and organized for
your undivided attention at a later date. Isn’t that
a tremendous feeling of relief? Your workspace is
clear of clutter, and all of your responsibilities are
scheduled with a time of day that you will be able
to accomplish the tasks most efficiently. Remember
this feeling; for if you can stick with this time
management program you will feel this way all the
time. If you do not have the feeling of relief, and instead
feel as if you cannot possibly get all the tasks
done, please go back and start to schedule your
tasks again, this time focusing on being specific
and honest about your ability to complete the tasks
at hand.

All of your tasks should now be scheduled and organized
and there should be nothing remaining that
needs to be attended to in any way until your first task
that is scheduled in your calendar. This is critical to
your success in this time management program. Do
not proceed without first scheduling and organizing all
tasks in your filing system.

Chapter 7: Staying Current

For this step you must have successfully scheduled and
filed all tasks; there should be nothing remaining that
needs to be attended in any way.

Staying current is the most difficult thing to do for the
high achiever. The natural tendency is to attempt to
please everyone all the time, which means taking care
of a coworker or supervisor issue immediately regardless
of the consequences, or committing to help out a
friend when family time has already been promised. In
reality, this type of behavior does nothing but reduce
your overall performance by creating a haphazard
schedule in which everything gets started and very little
gets finished. This is tantamount to you being managed
by your demands, rather that you managing your
own demands. This fire-fighting behavior must stop
now. Although there will undoubtedly be a period of
adjustment for yourself and your peers, the net benefit
will far outweigh the minor short-term inconveniences
realized as a result of your behavior modification effort.

Supplies Needed

• Commitment
• In box
• Support by way of accountability

Process

1. Review your time management action plan to
refresh your commitment to the behavior modification
program. The change process will benefit you
and those around you to an immense degree, but
you must stick with the program. Because you are
a high achiever, you can stick with this program; but
only if you want to.

2. At work, put an in box on your desk. Make sure to
label the in box so your coworkers know its purpose.
Position the in box near the corner of the
desk that is closest to the path that your coworkers
travel to see you or drop things by. If your coworkers
have to reach across your desk to put something
in the in box, they will probably drop the item
on your desk instead: that defeats the purpose of
having an in box in the first place. Your in box will
be the only route by which any task or paperwork
will enter your schedule, it is important that it is
used effectively.

3. At home, designate an area in the home as the
place where all new plans, requests, tickets, and
documents will be placed. Inform your family that
anything that needs your attention must be placed
there to insure it receives your consideration.

4. Schedule a fifteen-minute meeting with your
action plan supporters. At the meeting let them
know of your progress with the day plan, your
scheduling and your organization. If you are enthusiastic
about the progress, they will be too. Once
they are in the encouraging and supportive mindset,
let them know that you will need their help
for the next several weeks in order to successfully
accomplish the next step in your time management
effort. Ask them to support you by delivering
all tasks and paperwork to your in box. Let them
know that you will be concentrating on effectively
handling your scheduled tasks, and you will be
working on avoiding distractions. Ask them to help
you avoid distractions by letting you know if they
see someone interrupting you with a non-critical
item. Ask them to help you by communicating
with you through notes, voicemails, emails, and
scheduling brief appointments rather than communicating
when passing in the office hallways. Ask
for their cooperation in understanding that you
will be doing everything possible to avoid dealing
with any item that is not written down or formally
communicated. They will understand when you
explain that the simple action of their taking a few
seconds to write a simple note will ensure that you
give their important issue your undivided attention
rather than forgetting what it was they had asked.
Most importantly, ask them to hold you accountable
for your time management effort. Ask them
to get involved and make sure you are scheduling
your tasks according to your day plan. Ask them to
check in with you every day to find out if you are
following your time management program. More
than anything else, this process makes your participants
a part of the process and eases their concerns
with your new behaviors. A similar meeting can be
held with family and close friends.

5. Accept no tasks unless you receive it in writing, on a
voicemail, or in an Email. If it is not an official form
of communication or delegation, the task is not
important. If someone insists on communicating
only verbally, ask him or her if this is a formal request
for you to take action, and then write down
the request while you are standing there in front of
him or her. In other words, take their time to write
down the task, and then have them confirm that
the task you wrote down is correct. Over time, this
method will help them to change their behavior
when dealing with you.

6. Use your in box for every item being brought to
your attention. All the tasks, notes, mail, magazines,
paperwork – everything! Picture the in box as
a gateway to your world: all must pass through the
gateway or it does not belong to you and does not
deserve any of your attention.

7. Schedule ten minutes or so, two or three times
a day, when you will go through the in box and
schedule all of the tasks. Avoid the temptation to
schedule things as they arrive in your in box. Handle
things only once, that means if you pull an item
out of the in box, you will handle it, throw it away,
delegate it, or schedule it. Depending on your job
description, it may be necessary to glance at the
new items in the in box to make sure there is nothing
extremely urgent and important. However, if
nothing fits that description, do not pull anything
out until the prescribed scheduled time to go
through the in box items.

8. Stick with the program. It will be extremely difficult
at first, but it will become easier as time goes on
and as you are able to handle your tasks with much
greater efficiency and far less anxiety. Handle the
tasks in your schedule at the prescribed times.
Fight the urge to handle something else first: you
will be happy once you have completed that difficult
task that has been scheduled for a few days.
Resist the urge to take on the easy tasks first and
commit to strict compliance with your schedule.

9. Once your task is completed – delete it in your
schedule! Close the book on the task. This feels
wonderful! Get rid of the reminder that it needs to
be done, because it has been done!

10. Fight the temptation to relax your time management
efforts as things go smoothly. It is common place for
high achievers to begin to relax their
efforts as they find they have more free time each
day. The time management system is the reason
for the free time: to relax your efforts now would
mean starting all over again, with the time management
effort, once things fall apart. Do not relax
your efforts. Stay committed and you will succeed
in building new and improved time management
habits.

At this point you should have an in box with all
tasks, paperwork and inbound items being delivered
through it. You should also be scheduling tasks according
to your day plan two or three times per day. The
support of your coworkers and family should also be
holding you accountable for your time management
efforts. If any of these things are not in place, go back
and review the process until all factors are working for
you.