Tuesday, 8 December 2015

My Organised Life Series - Time Management

Welcome to 'My Organised Life Series', a feature where we will be looking at various ways to organise yourself and streamline your life.  By the time January 1st rolls around, you will be ready and raring to take on the New Year.

Week 2: Time Management

(You can read the first article HERE – Creating a Home Workspace)

One of the topics I cover in my Motivate Me workshops is ‘Time Management’.  We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, but it’s what we do with them that matter.  I often refer to Stephen Covey’s approach, using the Time Matrix.  This is the process of putting your tasks or to-do list into one of four boxes.
  • Important and urgent
  • Important and not urgent
  • Not important and urgent
  • Not important and not urgent
Here’s an example for you:

Writing my newsletter is important because it keeps the line of communication open between my readers and me, however, it’s not an urgent task as I have three weeks until my scheduled publication date – important but not urgent. 

As much as I would enjoy seeing an empty inbox, I know that organising my emails isn’t vital to my day or week – not important and not urgent.

As my daughter sprinted out of the door this morning she shouted over her shoulder, ‘I’ve just finished the toothpaste!’ buy toothpaste suddenly became - important and urgent.

My incredible proofreader and editor works hard to ensure that my books and projects are the best they can be before I publish.  Having to work with my grammar blunders she deserves a medal, but for today, I will be paying the invoice she sent me – important and urgent.

At this time of year the hairdressing salon is a bustling place to be, and appointments are scarce.  So when I realised I wouldn’t be able to make my next appointment I added a quick call to cancel on my to-do list.  The salon I visit has a 24-hour cancellation policy, so if I forget to cancel or don’t turn up, then I get charged – important and urgent.

I like using this process when I have a to-do list longer than my arm.  It helps me to streamline what I need to do and push those urgent and important tasks to the top.  At Christmas time, our to-do list may be crammed with a variety of work, family and social tasks.  There is more to do at this time of year, and taking a minute to write out a time matrix plan may just tip you over the edge.  Don’t panic!  I have a simpler process for you that will keep you organised and calm.

The three D’s!
  • Do It
  • Delegate It
  • Defer It
Run out of toilet paper and your mother-in-law is due in an hour?  That’s in the ‘do it’ category.

Forgotten to buy five selection boxes for little Katie’s school friends?  Delegate that to your partner, he/she can grab them from the Shop & Save on the way home from work.

Need to book your six months check up with the dentist?  Defer it until the New Year and jot a note to yourself in your diary to make the call when everyone returns to work.

The three D approach allows you to plough through your to-do list quickly and efficiently.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I’m a single mum and therefore don’t have a partner to call on or delegate to – but I do have family and friends.  If my mum is heading to Tesco I could ask her to pick up a forgotten item, or if a friend is taking their children to an event I could ask them to take my children too so I’m free to do another task on my to-do list.

How do you organise your time during the festive holidays?  Share your tips in the comments below, or join the conversation on my Facebook page.


  1. What a good idea to categorise my to-do list without which I wouldn't survive. Thanks for that Shelley xx

  2. I've used the 3Ds and the important/urgent methods and they definintely work. I also use an old-fashioned cooker time to divide my time into half-hour chunks. This helps me to concentrate. Loving this series, btw.

    1. What a great idea, Julia. I was thinking of setting an alarm on my phone to get me off social media! ;-)

  3. I've always taken this as the 'important but not urgent' tasks are the ones we need to prioritise. ie, writing your novel will never be urgent (especially in anyone else's eyes), but it could be the most important thing you ever do. 'Me time' is also important but easy to put to the back of the queue because it's seldom 'urgent,' but we neglect it at our peril.
    On the other hand, the 'urgent but not important' things are the ones to avoid like the plague. These are usually 'urgent' because someone else is demanding you do them... but do you want or need to do them? If not, do your best to get these time-eaters out of your day so you can do something 'important but not urgent.'
    'Urgent and important' things obviously need attending, but they're often fire fighting jobs and could be avoided with better planning. Some disasters are beyond our control but if our day is putting out one fire after another, then it's a sign we need to step back and have a rethink about why things are so chaotic.
    As for running out of loo paper when mum-in-law's coming over, I think I'd put that in the Delegate box: call her and tell her to bring a roll and lob it through the bathroom window! :)

  4. Thanks, Douglas. Great to hear from you and thanks for commenting. Your insightful input is always welcome, as is your humour (lob it through the bathroom window!) haha. I hope you are keeping well. Any new books on the horizon that I need to add to my must-read 2016 list? :-)