Simple Time Management Productivity Hack

I love free hacks. YAS.

Let’s be honest – when you pay twenty bucks here and thirty bucks there for all of these little apps, it can make you feel like your money is coming right in the window and then out the door.

As a business coach and accountant, I’m not a fan of non-essential repetitive cost, and so I have a penchant for looking for just the right of freemium features to make my day more efficient.

If, and only if, there is a real ROI to a purchase that I cannot reproduce without expense, I will go ahead and buy the full version.

Full disclosure: If you want to buy a planner to have a paper calendar to go with my duct tape time and task management system, that will cost you. You don’t have to have it, though! (PS – bullet journals are cool, but really are a bit over complicated for what I’m trying to achieve, and if I am going to doodle it is going to be in my Snarky Mom coloring book while I wait on an eternal QuickBooks hold).

What you need:

  • Asana, the project management app.
  • Word or Google Sheets
  • A desk planner of your choice, and/or
  • Google Calendar (or another digital calendar where you accept invitations)

To start, if you are memory-impaired and have a tendency to squirrel in the morning, make a post it or word doc and tape it to your planner to remind yourself to use your new system. Habit is the name of the game, and as busy as you are, trying to remember to use your new system each day can easily go awry quickly. Then your system is abandoned. And it cries. And you complain it didn’t work.

My note says: Katie, do your morning routine and use your list after you start work for the day. Follow steps: 1. Morning routine. 2. Review Daily Sheet. 3. After work, complete the Daily Sheet for tomorrow. Don’t forget to review sources – Desk Planner, Asana Daily Plan, Nutshell (our CRM, which I do pay for, but you probably won’t need), and GApps (mainly, my email and calendar).

Obvi, creativity can come into play. Make it fun and relevant to you. The objective is to start a new routine of prioritizing your tasks, remembering what tasks you need to work on, and making real progress through the day.

Set up an Asana project called “Daily Plan.” Yes, you can set up Asana for free. There are paid features, but you can decide if you need them. You don’t need them for this. Bonus… you can cross-link your Daily Tasks to your other Asana Projects if you want. I keep mine pretty simple, but if you have a lot of mind-mapping or project notes, this is an option. Use the LIST format, not the board.

In the Asana project I then set up Sections:

  1. Customer (because these are usually of the most importance during the work day, and are how I get paid). If you are going to cross reference anything, the customer items can be cross referenced to customer projects in Asana, if you so choose.
  2. Internal (stuff to do for the business, such as run payroll, look over networking events, complete sales tax, etc.)
  3. Team Member Stuff: Things that I need to help the team on, such as project reviews, etc.
  4. Personal: I know I know, they are last because I have hopefully completed them before I sat down, and if I haven’t they need to wait until after work or during a break.

You can customize this list to your hearts desire, and the sections as well.

Next, do a brain dump. Collect random post-its and vague notes such as “milk today or else”, and start compiling them into your Asana list. Tasks that repeat – click on the Due Date button in Asana, and set them up to recur.

Once you have everything neat, organized into sections, and ready to go, print your list. You will have things you remember after you hit the print button – I’m 99% sure print also acts as a memory jolt, so you get to curse the fact that you remembered twenty more to dos right after you actually printed the dang list. Feel free to hand write, and to add them also to the digital version. If your list is huge and has a lot of reoccurring items that are not due yet, you can filter by due date – make sure that every item has a due date listed so that this will work!

Make sure Asana is on your phone or device, so you can check off items when you are not in front of your computer.

Once you have your list, make sure that any important meetings have a to do to prep for (I have a personal rule that I always try to prepare for meetings a day in advance, because life.)

Your paper planner is your main point of truth. Google calendar may not have another outage for years, but one was enough for me! Not to mention that someone in this office is deleting appointments from my calendar on occasion, so having a static backup is critical for me. Do you feel lucky?

Next, I compile my calendar meetings into my paper planner and block off enough time to prepare, and I think through my day visually, through my planner. Highlight the most critical items to complete this day – if you get those done, go through the remainder and start picking things off. It feels great!

I had a three page list the first time I did this. Seriously. I’m now down to two, and shrinking.

The bonus of this exercise is that it forces you to think in terms of time available. By highlighting the most crucial items of the day, you can then block off time in your paper planner to complete them. If you are like me, you may not have enough time to do everything in your list – do the highlighted items first, and tonight when you create your new list the items not completed today will fall forward to tomorrow.

Easy! And it is great to manage overwhelming workloads, and turn them into manageable bite size pieces.

Make your planner your main resource of truth for your day to day. Obviously, if you are going to a meeting or are in a place where carrying a big planner is less than ideal, use your Asana list + Google Calendar. Still works! I encourage using the planner, though. Science has a hand in it. When we write stuff down it helps us remember things better – no kidding!

In fact, I figure you may not believe me on this one, so here is an article that actually explains why this happens.

Let me know how you work out with this system! Let’s compare notes. Talk soon! (Also, watch for my Facebook Live where I will discuss this topic on Monday!)

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