I am not supposedly suited for planning. I am a right-brained person so I usually see the forest and not the trees. Planning where you delve into the minuscule details would have driven me nuts. However, as I got used to planning I soon fell in love with it.
One tool that helped me immensely was a time map. This was one of the most useful techniques I got from Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management from the Inside Out. It’s like a chart where you allocate the major areas of your life (work, personal, social, family, etc.) for the week as your guide in planning your time. I’ve been using it for some years until I modified it to suit my needs.
I am not good at estimating time. In fact, I suck at it. My old method was to jam as many tasks in a week as possible. You can imagine how many important projects got shoved aside. The way I modified Morgenstern’s Time Map was to make it very detailed meaning each time slot was alloted with a specific task so I could more or less get a rough estimate of how many things I could accomplish in a week thereby saving myself a lot of time and frustration.
a vague pic of what my detailed time map looks like
After much practice, I was finally able to utilize this tool to its advantage. Now I can’t plan without it. It allows me to:
1.) see my whole layout for the week –where I spend most of my time, see if I’m doing more C priority tasks than A or B.
2.) view the whole picture and the details at the same time.
3.) be flexible. If a meeting was cancelled and moved to Wednesday, I can immediately see what task has to be transferred. If a project took more time than I estimated, I would make the appropriate accommodation for it and move the less urgent tasks to next week without sacrificing commitments with the same urgency.
4.) customize it any way I can. I prefer to do my detailed time map with paper and pencil (I’m a paper person). Others might want to use some software programs or build a wooden board model where the tasks fit into individual removable slots where you could manipulate and swap them easily
5.) not make daily to-do lists. What for? Your entire schedule for the week is already plotted.
Best of all, it’s totally free.
Here are some tips in making your Detailed Time Map:
1.) Always make it a week in advance.
2.) Don’t let the thought of planning your detailed schedule for the whole week in one day overwhelm you. At first it would be tedious but with practice, it becomes easier. I used to make my time map for an hour and a half. Now it’s shortened to 37 minutes.
3.) Leave a ten minute interval (less or more depending on the user) between every time slot. Be realistic. You may need to move around, sometimes pick things up, get a glass of water, etc.
4.) If you’re in a job that abounds in interruptions, you need to plan only 65% or less for each day. Since I do my work at home with less interruptions, I plan 75% (or something like that) of my time. Always leave room for the unexpected.
5.) This would depend on other people’s preference but I find listening to music while planning my detailed time map helps me relax and focus. I actually enjoy making it while tuning in to jazz. Whether you prefer this or want to do create it in silence, if it works go for it.
6.) Always spare a big chunk of time in a week for leisure time. The ideal is a whole day but since I’ve got no weekends off because of classes, I’ve settled for half a day.
Here is a downloadable detailed time map sample of one of my days as well as a blank time map template.