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How to use your Day Planner correctly to be more effective

Don’t rely on a “Things to Do” list

If you start work with a list of ten items to do and stop at night with a list of fifteen, including the original ten, you may be a victim of the “To Do” list fallacy. A list of things to do provides no commitment to get things done. In this article Harold Taylor will show you how to use your day planner to turn intentions into commitment and commitment into achievement.

Instead, separate the priority, high-payback activities from the items of lesser importance and schedule these must do items directly into your planner along with your meetings. For instance, the development of a policy manual should never remain on a “To Do” list. Block out the time needed in your planner, let’s say between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. and treat it as though it were a meeting with the boss. Close your door, engage the voice mail, and ignore email and turn off your BlackBerry if that”s what you would do if it were a meeting with a major client. But allow a little extra time for those unavoidable interruptions that are bound to occur. If you schedule several of these meetings with yourself during the week, you will accomplish those priority jobs and increase your effectiveness.

“To Do” lists are fine for grocery shopping; but if you’re a results-oriented person, a scheduled commitment is a must. Don’t be discouraged if some of your scheduled activities have to be changed. A schedule is a guideline and must be flexible. But resist changing your schedule simply to accommodate tasks of no greater importance than your originally planned activity. If a visitor shows up unexpectedly, for instance, don’t abandon your priorities in favor of an impromptu meeting. But don’t stop scheduling even if your plans are periodically interrupted. Doctors don’t stop scheduling office appointments simply because they are may be called out on emergencies.

Give priority to priorities. Use your 2016 Day Planner to prioritize 

The first thing you should schedule into your planner is blocks of time to work on your goal-related activities. This will ensure that you are working on the 20 percent of the activities that will produce 80 percent of your results.

The Taylor Planner, available from Harold Taylor Time Consultants Ltd., is designed to enable its user to focus on your important goals throughout the year. There is a single page near the front of the planner for the current year’s goals. List here those priority projects that you want to accomplish during the year. Not the routine jobs. Not those obligations that do little to further your organization’s priorities. Only those key goals. They could be the ones you have been putting off year after year because you simply haven’t had the time. These goals could be personal as well as professional. They could include the writing of a book, the redecorating of a home, or the design of a new website.

In order to determine the target date (recorded in the column to the right of the goal,) estimate how many hours it would take to complete the task. In some cases, this is impossible to determine accurately. If so, simply guess, and then add up to 50% more time to allow for interruptions. For example, if you feel it could take 100 hours of solid writing to finish a book, make it 150 hours. Then divide this figure by the number of weeks you plan to work that year. For example, if you work 50 weeks, then the number of hours each week that you will have to work on your goal-related activity should be three. Since it is difficult to work steadily for three hours on any activity, break this into two sessions of one-and-a-half hours each. To accomplish your goal of writing a book, you would have to spend one and-a-half hours twice per week in order to complete it by the end of the year. If his amount of time is unrealistic, set the goal for the end of the following year and work half as long each week. Don’t be impatient; be realistic.

Let’s assume you have set a goal, recorded the target date, and have estimated that you would have to spend two blocks of time (of one-and-a-half hours) each week throughout the year. Turning to the planner pages, you will find a section to the left headed “This Week’s Priority”. Here you record the goal you plan to work toward that week. For instance, “Write book” or “Paint house” or “Organize office.” Your priority, goal-oriented “To Do” list is always kept separate from those routine and urgent items that pop out of the woodwork daily. There is a “Action Items” column below the “Priority” section on the planning pages to record other things that you would like to do.

The continual recording of your major goals on each weekly page keeps your original intentions in mind.Each week you must now schedule an actual time in your weekly planner to work on that particular task. Treat these blocks of time as though they were appointments with important people (in fact they are, appointments with yourself). By now you will already have appointments, meetings, etc., scheduled in your planner. You will have to work around these. But once your priority, goal-related activities have been scheduled; resist any temptation to use this time for less important spur of the moment things. Pretend they are appointments with your surgeon. Few people would delay life-saving surgery.

This method of actually determining the amount of time it will take to accomplish a goal forces you to be realistic. If you had ten goals, for instance, all requiring two hours each week to accomplish, it is unlikely you would be able to steal 20 hours each week to work on those special projects. You would have no time for your regular jobs (or for family time if you planned to work on them in the evening.)But there’s always next year. Boil those goals down to the few really meaningful accomplishments which would give you the greatest return on invested time. Be realistic. Leave spaces to accommodate the unexpected and to allow time for those items on the “Action Items” section. If you don’t want to use a Taylor Planner, don’t let that stop you. Use a separate piece of paper for your goals, glue it into your planner, and schedule blocks of time each week to work on those goals. (You must have a planner that breaks each day into time segments, however, and includes evenings and weekends.) Little blank squares for the days will not work.) Your planner is your most important time management tool, so choose it carefully. Get into the habit of referring to it every morning. Follow it like a road map. Look at it again in the evening and make any necessary changes to the next day’s plan.

If you use a Taylor Planner, be sure to refer to the section on how to use the planner that appears near the front. It provides useful suggestions for getting the most out of this important time management tool.

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