Photo by vitamina poleznova
Time management is so easy to talk about and so hard to do well. There are lots of tools around to help with this. Pebbles in a jar and the Eisenhower Box are two that I use a lot, to help people recognise that they need to make sure they make time for whats important to them and then get clear on what action they need to be taking versus delegating to other people.
The key starting point for time management is to get very clear on your priorities. Our lives are the sum of what we prioritise and sometimes we inadvertently focus on life’s squeaky wheels. Bronnie Ware’s The Top Five Regrets of the Dying is a sobering reminder that life marches on and its up to us to use the time we have as well as we can. According to the book, these are the top 5:
Pebbles in a Jar
With that in mind, using the Pebbles in a Jar approach, we would look at your life (the jar) and what needs to fit into it. If you fillet with sand and pebbles, the rock cannot be squeezed in.
The Eisenhower box
Once we know what is truly important, we can apply an approach like the Eisenhower Box, invented by the 34th president of the USA. He’s famous for saying “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” And his matrix helped him separate the important from the unimportant and the urgent from the not urgent. As you can see, if its not important and its not urgent, you just get rid of it!
Want to live a life with no regrets? You’ll need to make sure you are prioritising whats most important to you and just let go of the unimportant things. Simple but not always so easy!
3 tools to help you decide what’s best for you right now
You are in a job you’ve had for a while. Some things are going well, you might love your team or the work that you do or the location, but something isn’t quite right. You try to ignore the niggles because there is so much that you like about the job that it seems ungrateful to even think about the downsides. Every so often, especially in the middle of the night, you try to weigh up your options and make a decision only to flip back into uncertainty minutes/hours/days later. Sound familiar?
I have a few tools that can help you make up your mind:
1. Pros and cons
This is an old favourite but don’t let that put you off because it works. List out what is great and what is not good about each option. Try and be as thorough as you can be, so that you tease out all the genuinely good and bad things about your current place of work versus going elsewhere.
2. Ask your future self for advice
Imagine you could speak to your older, wiser self and ask their advice on this dilemma. What would he/she say? Sit down in a nice quiet spot, take a few slow deep breaths and imagine travelling in time to visit yourself in your later years. Take your time and enjoy the journey and try to take note of the detail of your future life. Ask your elder self to advise you on what you should do now. You may be surprised with the advice you get!
3. Cartesian questions
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. Aside from his famous pronouncement “I think, therefore I am” he also invented a method of deductive reasoning that consists of four rules: (1) accept nothing as true that is not self-evident, (2) divide problems into their simplest parts, (3) solve problems by proceeding from simple to complex, and (4) recheck the reasoning.
You can use that logic to ask yourself the following questions about each side of your dilemma:
The questions are designed to go from straightforward to totally confounding, which helps flip a mental switch and moves people into a much more creative state of mind.
I hope you find these tools useful. I often use them myself or with clients. I'd love to hear your experiences of using them!
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues find their happy path at work