Sad, but true.
You can weep with me as I confess to time and money spent with DayTimer, Franklin Covey, Getting Things Done, Achieve, Basecamp, Outlook, Google tasks and calendars, Zen to Done and Todoodlist. (And, that’s just a few of the time management tools I have toyed with).
I’ve read time management books, ebooks and blogs by Mark Forster, Dave Navarro, Eben Pagan and others, always searching for a better way to self organise, make better use of time and be more productive.
Every time management system has merits. Every expert has sound advice. Make no mistake, these are all good guys who know their stuff, the weak link in the chain is me.
Late last year I came across some deceptively simple paper planners produced by a really nice guy – Charlie Gilkey. I downloaded the freebies, printed off the instructions to read in bed and have to tell you that I promptly forgot about them.
Now, this is no reflection on Charlie, I bare my soul in this way simply to paint an accurate picture.
I am suffused with good intentions and blessed with an abundance of good ideas. The former has truly taken me to time management hell, as the old adage promises. The latter has simply put me in a state of overwhelm induced stasis.
New Year came along with the reality to be faced that there would be significant changes in my life occurring within months. These changes had been on the horizon for two, almost three years and could no longer be ignored. I had to also face facts – part and parcel of having my life turned upside down was the need to get a grip, to begin to self manage rather than drift.
Something had to be done – about me.
Shortly after I faced some harsh and unpalatable truths about myself Charlie announced he was making his planners available in a premium pack. That caught my attention.
Nothing like a bright shiny new thing to distract one’s self from her woes.
There is actually no difference between the free and the paid versions of the planners except that in return for what is nothing more than a micro payment the paid planner sets provide everything you need for the whole year whereas the free versions are issued monthly.
If, like me, you feel the need to plan more than one month ahead the paid versions make sense.
Charlie has two versions of his (free and paid) planners, one is specifically designed for freelancers (like me) and I want to tell you that using them has been nothing short of transformational. They have wrought changes in me and my way of working that I wouldn’t have thought possible just three short months ago. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
Over the Easter weekend I sat down to review Q1 of this year before assessing the feasibility of the plan for Q2. I really didn’t want to do this. It’s bad enough when other people disappoint you but to disappoint yourself is soul destroying.
I have my plan for the year broken down into quarterly plans and from those I plan each month and day. (Yes, it was hard for me to settle on the yearly plan, and I only completed it in pencil as I knew there would be changes, but now it is done it is so easy for me to know what I need to do next. The previous sense of overwhelm caused by too much choice has gone away.)
Now, such is the nature of the beast that is my untamed mind, I cannot micromanage and plan on a daily basis. To do that causes revolt and rebellion. A petulant ‘Shan’t and Won’t’ puts a stop to any attempt I make to control the independent spirit that resides within. But, that’s OK. The planners allow me to distil down a realistic and limited list of options for the week from which I can choose. Suddenly I have a balance between my need to get things done and my need for freedom and choice. Good time management (actually self management) has been achieved. A result!
I circled my planning sheets for a whole weekend before I knuckled under and did my review. I moved them to the kitchen table so they couldn’t be ignored and the cat took my side and instantly commandeered them as a makeshift bed. In the end, the pain of not looking became greater than the fear of what I might find. I sat down to review progress.
Suffice to say I have actually done stuff. Things have been completed, jobs done, paperwork filed, invoices issued and money banked. It’s probably been my best quarter for 3 years. I cannot tell you how much of a boost it has given me to see, clearly, what I have actually achieved. Yes, before you ask, there’s stuff that fell through the cracks – there probably always will be with me. I persist in overestimating how much one person can do in a day. But don’t let that detract from what has been done. It’s a quantum improvement and I am so grateful.
Of course, it could be that I am the only ditzy mare around. The only one who struggles so much with making best use of her time, who has struggled with time management. If so, I’m sorry for wasting your time with this stuff.
But, if you have any problems with scheduling, with overcommitting, with an unrealistic to-do list, with an over-optimistic view of what you can achieve in an hour of your time – you might like to take a look at Charlie’s planners. Try the free versions or go mad and splash out on the premium set (they will not break the bank) – I truly believe they have the potential to help you provided of course you don’t just print them off, take them to bed to read and then forget about them.