Time management through writing tasks down

‘I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.’  Joan Didion

Creating legacy and time management

Creating legacy is often about how you organise your time, so that on top of the daily activities we all need to do to attend to short-term demands, there is some time left to do the things that matter long-term.

Of course, there are many examples of terribly disorganised people creating legacy. But you will often find that this is because these people have someone in their lives to tidy up after them, take care of the short-term stuff, so they can focus on their legacy work. Unless are in this extremely lucky situation, the way to free up enough time for creating legacy is by becoming an expert at time management.

The importance of creating a buffer before stimulus and response

If you are like most people, you often assign more urgency to matters than they really deserve. For example, you may find yourself replying to an email you’ve just received, one that could have easily waited until tomorrow or until more emails had accumulated into your inbox. Or you just think of asking Jane about how she managed to get that stain out of the carpet, and immediately pick up the phone to call her, even though the stain has been in the carpet for a week and could certainly wait until you need to speak to Jane anyway about something else.

This annoying habit most of us have, of taking action on small things straight away instead of scheduling them into our diary, ends up taking a huge chunk out of our day.

If you want to test this out for yourself, try this: every time you end up doing a task, pre-scheduled or not, write it down. Provided you have the discipline to do this for an entire day, you will see just how many little things you ended up doing; and will also see how many of these weren’t really necessary, or even if they needed to be done anyway they were not time-critical. 

So what I’m saying here is that creating a buffer between stimuli related to tasks (‘have to ask Jane about removing stain on carpet’) and action (phoning Jane) will free up a generous chunk in your day, which you can assign to creating legacy. This is because a buffer gives your brain time to consider whether the task you were going to do is really necessary, could be done more efficiently some other way, or how urgent it is. 

Writing tasks down

One of the best ways to give yourself a buffer is to write down what you intend to do. Being a higher-level activity, writing automatically switches you into a rational mode, instead of leaving you at the mercy of your impulses. The act of writing tasks down will help you decide whether the item really does require a quick response or whether it can be left until later without damage.

Here’s another little exercise for you to try out: watch your mind and wait for an impulse to arrive. It could be something like ‘I need to email Peter’ or ‘that link looks interesting’. Then, instead of emailing Peter or clicking on that link, write down what you are going to do.

Observe what happens when you do this. If you then email Peter or investigate the link, you are no longer doing it out of impulse but as a more rational considered decision. More likely you will decide that it’s not worth interrupting your work for, so you will defer it.

Advantages of writing tasks down

You need to make a rule for yourself: whenever something comes up that you think needs a quick response, write it down. Making a habit of this is crucial and will greatly help with managing your time, so you have enough left for creating legacy. Here are just three advantages to writing tasks down:

1. In the act of writing tasks down you are forced to make a conscious decision about whether the action needs to be done at all, so you may end up deciding it isn’t actually necessary.

2. Writing tasks down also forces you to decide when is the most appropriate time to do them, rather than treating them as if they were time-critical if in fact they aren’t. 

3. At the end of the day you can look over the items that you wrote below the line to check that they really justified being done the same day. This means you can gradually become better at deciding whether a task is time-critical or not.

What about you?

What techniques do you use to manage your time? How do you ensure you have enough time in your day for creating legacy? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com