Working with a time management chart is a great way to begin when you're looking to improve your time management skills. The heavy lifting has been done for you — other people have thought about what you should do to get a handle on your priorities and how you use your time.
The kinds of time management chart I've shared below are some of the best examples of the different ways people use a time management chart as part of their time management practice. You can use them as inspiration to develop your own charts.
When you've found a time management chart that suits the way you like to work, print some off and get going.
Alternatively, if you prefer to deploy technology to help you, you can read my review of time management software here.
1. Audit Your Use of Time
A good starting place is to conduct an audit of how you currently use your time. You could use a time management chart like the one below to monitor your activities for a week or two.
You can download a copy here.
Each hour, make a note of the tasks that you're engaged in. You can keep the chart on your desk as you work through your day. If you can collect this consistently for a week or two you'll get a really clear idea of what you're currently spending your time doing.
You can then compare this with your goals and ask whether or not you're committing sufficient time each day to them.
I find using large categories helps. For example, work and home are two distinct areas of my life. So if I'm working on a project at work, I prepend the task with 'Work'. I might write an entry like the one below.
Tuesday: 9.00-10.00 Work: Facility opening project.
2. Planning Daily Tasks
Planning ahead is a crucial skill to develop. Depending on your particular needs, select a time management chart you like that you can then use help you plan ahead successfully.
I've included a selection below to help get you started.
It does make a difference when you proactively plan your time and although I use technology for most of my time management activities, using a time management chart is still a good idea when you're getting into new habits. Paper and pen can for some people be more 'sticky' than using technology. Experiment and see whether analogue works for you.
3. Weekly Scheduling
Thinking ahead one week at a time is a good time management discipline. You can allocate the time you need to stay focus on your main goals, as well as ensuring you have sufficient downtime.
One of the biggest time management mistakes is to fail to plan adequate free time for thinking and reflection. Although an all-action week can create a sense of purpose, it's all too easy to get buried in just doing. Make sure you've got an opportunity to come up for air.
The following are examples of the different kinds of time management chart which people use to plan their week successfully.
4. Monthly Scheduling
Monthly scheduling can help map out your year. If you have defined goals then using a monthly planner can help you to focus on specific goals at different times of the year. I find it helps to allocate timings by month at the start of the year.
This annual framework allows me to build a plan which I can work from month to month.
4. Priority Setting
The above examples show a time management chart can help you get a handle on how you want to use your time. However, a big challenge for most people arises when you are forced to make choices between different possible actions.
Every time you make a decision you are saying 'yes' to one thing and 'no' to another.
It really pays to have a way of properly evaluating choices. The best models for doing this are simple to use. I personally use an adapted Eisenhower Matrix.
This matrix, developed by President Dwight Eisenhower, places choices on a four-box matrix with urgency and importance as the vertical and horizontal axes. This is a very intuitive way to look at things and is a quick way to make a choice between two or more competing priorities.
Alternatively, you can get a lot more granular when you very complex decisions to make. There's an example of a more complex time management chart below.
5. Take Action
There's no reason why you shouldn't start to improve your time management today. Take a look at the Board I've collecting below for some further examples of the way that a time management chart can be used to plan your use of time more effectively.
There is no right way to do this. Spend a few minutes reviewing the different styles of time management chart and go with the ones which you respond to. You can easily build your version by using Google Sheets, Excel of Numbers.
What time management chart would you recommend?