Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: to-do lists

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to to-do lists.

Getting Started If You’re Overwhelmed & Disorganised

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on August 25th, 2016

Getting Started If You are Overwhelmed and DisorganisedMany people find themselves in this situation … overwhelmed and unsure about how to dig out from under the pile!

I could talk all day about good time management practices but when you are in this position you just need some help.

“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”  William Penn

  1. Make something happen.  Inertia is addictive, and the more you become paralyzed by your situation the worse it gets.  So pick something that is important and just get it done!  Focus entirely on getting that one thing done and ignore the other things on your plate.
  2. Once you have one thing off your plate … remind yourself that you did it!  You had a success.  Do NOT get overwhelmed again … pick another thing. and get that done.
  3. Choosing the things to get done can also be paralyzing … so don’t overthink it.  Remember you were getting nothing done before, so this is significant progress.
  4. Complex tasks can be tiring, and completing them one after the other can be draining.  Mix things up a bit by adding in smaller (still important tasks) in between the larger ones.

Completing work gives a sense of accomplishment, and provides a little relief to that “overwhelmed” feeling.  However, it is only by taking control of your day that you will feel in control, and relieve that stress.

“Procrastination is the foundation of all disasters.”  Pandora Poikilos

So … the long term solution is to get organised!

  1. Create  a To Do List (or several To Do lists … all the tasks you NEED to do.
  2. Prioritise your work … what is important and what is urgent!
  3. Organise your calendar so that you have time set aside for the work to be done.  Create meetings with yourself so you won’t be interrupted.
  4. Delegate what you can … if possible.
  5. Ignore what you can … not everything is important.
  6. Be very focused on getting stuff done … rather than worrying about how you will get it ALL done..
  7. Use the triage method of organising  your work, just like the hospital.  The most urgent (and important) items get done first.
  8. Get help!  Whether it could be advice and guidance from your management, ideas and tips from your colleagues, or training on time management from wherever you can get it!

Life is too short to be living under such stress.  If you apply your skills in an organised manner you may well surprise yourself at how much you can achieve AND how good you feel about those achievements.

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”  George Patton

Good time management practices could probably reduce workplace stress significantly!

Take a Breather, Take Account

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

To-do listI like to do lists.  I like to measure my progress.  And I especially enjoy crossing out tasks that get done.  Besides forcing me to be organized, building a proper to do list forces me to slow down for a few minutes to think and reflect on projects and priorities.

It is easy to fall into the habit of just doing — being reactive — and, in this way, remaining busy.  But busy does not directly translate into productive. A few minutes set aside without interruption provides an opportunity to get a handle on what’s really important.

This appears to be self-evident, certainly not rocket science; but I am surprised at how few people do this regularly.  Even I, who am sold on this practice, sometimes struggle to make the time for this.  A quiet space in which to be alone with your own thoughts is a rarity these days and needs to be sought out, the time planned for.

Sherlock Holmes had his “Sanctum Santorum”, Superman his “Fortress of Solitude” – whatever you call it, it is necessary to have the place/space where you can go to do some deep thinking, even if it is just a back corner table at your local Starbucks. Most times it doesn’t need to be more than sitting down for a few minutes with a pen and a notebook.  Bill Gates, however, is famous for his yearly retreat used to decompress and complete some long-term strategy and planning.

Have a look at some of these past posts in the Talent Development Centre for a few extra tips and tools:

If you’d like a tool specifically for your iPhone or Android device, check out one of these two articles:

What works best for you? I encourage you to share any tips or tricks you use to remain on task and productive.  Please share by commenting on this post.

Those Critical “To Dos”

If you have a busy job, there are always a ton of tasks to be completed. You can just arrive at your desk first thing in the morning, go like crazy all day and still have tons of stuff to do when you leave at night. Most people operate in that manner. No real thought, no real system, respond to the emergency in front of them and “just doing the best I can!”

If you want to be successful though, that strategy is not good enough.  In this crazy world To-do listyou MUST focus on the RIGHT TASKS in order to be productive.  If you let your day drive you then you will:

(a)    miss critical task deadlines;

(b)   waste your time (and your client’s money) on non-critical tasks;

(c)    lose all sense of control of your job.

The solution to fixing this is easy: Take charge of your day! To-do lists are extremely helpful and should be your first step, but they can also grow to the point where you have no way of identifying the “high return”, “must do”, critical tasks.  Here are a few different ways you keep on track of the most important tasks:

  • Highlight the important tasks on your to-do list with a marker
  • Plug your critical “To Do” items directly into your calendar
  • Use your large to-do list to create a smaller daily to-do list.  Once it’s created, focus only on the tasks you plan to do that day
  • Put a reminder in your calendar twice daily to check your list. It’s easy to stray off course putting out fires or doing less important tasks that are more comfortable.

If you take control of your day and prioritize your tasks, you get a chance at winning the battle. Being more efficient on projects means you’re getting projects done on time (or faster), saving your client money, creating time for more contracts, and securing valuable references. There are no losing factors!

How do you take control of your day?  Share your suggestions in the comments below.

Where Did Your Day Go?

Burned out business personAre you getting the most out of your day?  Here are a few important questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re getting the most out of your day and providing the best value to your clients:

  • Do you have a To Do list?
  • Do you assign priorities to the tasks you need to complete?
  • Do you get sidetracked by other things?
  • Are you so busy that you can’t take time to help yourself?
  • When you look back on your day do you typically feel good about your accomplishments or wonder where the time went?

We are all busy and it is not atypical for you to be running full speed through the day, but are you spending your time on the right things? Manage Your Time — don’t just let the days happen!

If you REALLY want to get control of your days then DO SOMETHING about it!   For starters, refresh yourself on these past posts about To Do Lists and Calendars.  If you have any more tips, we’d love to hear them.  Leave a message below!

6 Signs Your Day is Driving You

Everybody is busy these days… maybe even crazy busy!

The question is – are you being busy doing the right things or do you let your day drive you?

Some signs that you might be driven by your day include:Business person multi-tasking

  1. You let emails and phone calls interrupt your flow.
  2. You don’t have a To Do list, or you don’t use it effectively keeping it current and prioritizing tasks.
  3. You don’t focus your time on high return activities.
  4. You just “do your job”… without thinking about it.
  5. You constantly checking the news or getting updates on the news.  (Applies to sports scores etc.)
  6. You chat/text with your friends while doing your work tasks.

If you really want to be successful then avoid the pitfalls and make your working hours count!  What do you do to stay focused and on task?  Share your tips in the comments section.

The Magical “To Do” List and Why You Need One!

Time management and personal productivity are important topics in business and especially critical for the independent contractor.  Why? The simple answer is that if you can make the best use of the time available to you, then you are going to achieve more.

To-do listHere are 10 thoughts on one of the most powerful tools to help you get your business under control — the To Do List.

  1. If you have a list of things to do you can just do them!  If you don’t have a list of things to do then you need to think of the things that need doing and then do them.  Nobody has a perfect memory.
  2. If you have a list of things to do then you can prioritize them. Many independent contractors, especially in IT, are working on multiple projects for multiple clients.  When you create a list with all of your deliverables, you have all of the facts and it’s easy to know what needs the most attention.  It could be in order of due date or client (or anything else).  It doesn’t need to be fancy but if you don’t have the list then you only work on what comes to mind and risk forgetting something.
  3. The more complex your business becomes the more useful this tool is.
  4. There are many theories about single list versus multiple lists; about prioritizing using A,B,C or percentage ROI or other scoring systems; about having deadline dates etc.  The truth is, if you have a to do list, you are already ahead of the game.
  5. You can refine your list(s) to suit you over time.
  6. It can be electronic (there are a million apps), it could be on paper — whatever works for you.
  7. Update it as you go. If a new project or task comes along (big or small), add it right away.  If you knock off a task then cross it off the list.
  8. Review/renew your list on a regular basis to suit you. It could be weekly or monthly, it could be every second day or once a quarter.  Just as long as it keeps you on top of what needs doing!
  9. Delegating tasks requires a whole blog entry.   Create a list specifically for this and it will remind you of who owes you what!
  10. Start or end each day with a review. You would be surprised how good it feels to cross off a few items!  You will be all set to “go” in the new day and not have to think about what needs doing.

That’s only 10 reasons why you should be using at least one to do list today.  There are probably 10,000 more reasons.  Share your favourites in the comments below.