You've heard of time management before, but have you ever heard of time slot management? I am borrowing the phrase from the delivery industry. But it can be useful for management of your own time. The concepts are similar.
When a delivery company makes a delivery, say a grocery store, they put customers into time slots. Then deliverer loads up his truck and goes through each house with the delivery. Much of this is managed via GPS. So all of the houses can be programmed.
But the same concept can be applied to our own time management situations. Many people write a task list for everything that they want to get accomplished for the day. This is certainly a great start, but believe it or not more is needed. Essentially, time slot management can help us get more done.
You start of with the same list that you have been doing, i.e., a list of tasks. Then, you write an estimate of how long you think each task will take. In some tasks, that will be easy because they are tasks that you have performed before and know roughly how long they will take. For tasks that you have never tackled, that can be a bit more challenging. But the answer is take a guess and add 15 minutes to it.
The next step is to have a timer/schedule program. You could use anyone you want but for the purpose of this example (and because it's the one that I use), I am going to be using The Action Machine. With the Action Machine, you can schedule your tasks and each of them will contain a timer on top. When the timer is complete, you get alerted to start the next task. You just keep working on which ever task the Action Machine tells you to.
Why This is Better Than Just a Task List
- It takes more of an effort to delete or change priorities within the program. It still can be done but not as easily as a standalone list.
- A report is generated of the tasks that were performed, and any actions that were taken on the list, including adding deleting, switching tasks.
- Tasks are "set in stone" so to speak and this allows for back burner items to be tackled along with higher priority. You actually get more done when doing this.
- When you get tasks done ahead of time, it can be marked so it shows that you did better than planned. Of course, if this is happening too frequently, it may be worth it to reevaluate your time estimates.
Is This For Everybody?
Potentially. But there are people who are naturally great with their time management. These are the people the rest of us love to hate :) So this system isn't going to do much for those people. Still, the program comes with the ability to report on the day's activities so you can see where you are getting the most done and why. So even people with natural time management skills can benefit from that (like when asking for a raise :)
If you find that you aren't getting enough of your tasks done in your workday, why not give the time slot management technique a try. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain in that you will be more productive. It does take some getting used to. But when you do, you'll wonder how you ever got along with this technique.
Give Yourself Some Down Time
We're not robots. So part of your tasks that you include in The Action Machine is some you time or down time. This could be used to stretch, take a walk, get a cup of coffee, etc. Don't underestimate this down time. It really can help refresh you. Trust me, when you start this system you are going to be uber-focused so you need to make sure you take a well deserved break.
My Experience With Time Slot Management
I find myself staying focus when adhering to this system. When I think about other things, I am reminded that the "clock is ticking" and that I had better complete the current task that is being counted down. In contrast, when I was trying to work solely from a sheet, I would lose track of time and the alloted times that I would mentally set were always surpassed. When we get caught up in things, we get a kind of tunnel vision and this prevents us from knowing when time has elapsed.
Are You Actually Performing The Right Tasks?
The one area that Time Slot Management nor The Action Master software can't help you out with is whether you are performing the appropriate tasks in the first place. If you work for a manager than hopefully she will work with you to set goals and this will drive what needs to be done on a micro level.
But if you work for yourself, say a home based business, there is no one but yourself setting those goals and the tasks that you are performing may not lead you to where you truly want to be. There is help for that which I will let you know about later.
The Action Master
When you start to work with The Action Master, you too will find that it helps you stay focused on the tasks at hand. You will find that it is extremely intuitive and very easy to work with. Plus there is training on the software. There are a few flaws with the program that you should be aware of. They are:
- When deleting a task, it deletes it with no warning. So if you accidently chose the wrong task, you'd have to add it back in.
- The pause button is dangerously close to the delete button. I have on a couple of occasions hit the delete button by accident.
- The reports take a bit to get used to reading them.
- Moving the tasks around is a bit cumbersome.
- There are no provisions that allow for intermediate breaks such as going to the bathroom or if the phone rings. However, you can set up tasks that you call miscellaneous.
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