5 years ago, I was taking a full course load at college, working full-time, raising a family, and volunteering at a non-profit. I constantly felt disorganized, frustrated, and behind on my commitments.
I knew that I needed help, but every system I found for getting things done was costly, cumbersome, or complex.
After a lot of testing, tinkering, and frustrated nights, I developed a simple 3-step process that I still use to this day in order to succeed in my various roles.
STEP ONE: ASSESS
The first step is to assess what I need to get done for the upcoming week, which primarily occurs through checking my email and looking at my long-term project list.
Practically, this meant that I asked my team and co-workers (even my wife) that if they wanted me to get something done (or commit to a scheduling request) that they would need to send me an email. No phone calls, no texts, no dropping by my office, no notes on scrap paper. I need an email.
It took a little bit of work on the front end, but clearly setting boundaries with the people in my life and asking that all work or time requirements be sent via email means that 95% of the time I only have one funnel where I have to assess everything that I need to get done.
STEP TWO: MAP
The second step is to map out my tasks.
I've explained this step at length in another post, but I have every day of the week written on an Evernote document and, underneath those day headings, I write the tasks that I need to complete on each day of the week. This allows me to evaluate how full my day is in advance and make changes, if necessary, so that I can accomplish all of my tasks on a given day.
It isn't motivating to write a to-do list. It's motivating to get it done.
STEP THREE: EXECUTE
The third step is to schedule the following week's tasks on my calendar so that I can execute throughout the week.
I prefer to use Google Calendar because it syncs across my phone, computer, and other devices. Practically, this means that I look at the tasks that I need to complete on Monday (from Evernote) and then schedule Monday on my calendar, based on the time necessary to complete those tasks. I do this for every day of the week, estimating how much time each task will need to complete.
For example, on my calendar for Monday, I may have two meetings with team leaders blocked out, a two-hours scheduled to complete a project, one hour scheduled to write an article, and three hours scheduled to work on a long-term project.
WHY IT WORKS
Putting my tasks into my calendar every Sunday ensures that I can fully commit to each task, person, and project by ensuring that I have enough time. It also allows me to wake up each morning with a plan. All I need to do is honor my "boss," the calendar, and get it done. I've found that this system allows me to get a lot of things done, while still allowing time for emergencies or random tasks that may pop up throughout the week.