Just because I retired doesn’t mean my management days are done. I read, write, submit my writing for publication, take classes, attend workshops, participate in a critique group, serve on a board of directors, take piano lessons, volunteer at church, travel, and truly enjoy my husband and family. Cramming all of this within 24 hours makes me wonder how I found time to work.
I no longer use a planner to schedule my activities. Nor do I maintain a to do list–except when I have numerous small tasks to accomplish in one day, in which case I take great pleasure in scratching off accomplished tasks, like housework. But my primary means of getting things done are a quarterly plan for a calendar year and a priority chart.
My quarterly plan focuses on the craft of writing and personal enhancement. Each quarter has one main project or theme and specific tasks that I wish to accomplish. I get carried away with free on-line courses that detract from my quarterly goals. These courses now fall under the realm of leisure, which is scheduled for a few evenings and one day each week. Leisure also includes reading and anything electronic other than email and research for my main goal.
I refer to my plan when I seem to tread water instead of getting things done. At the end of each quarter, I assess what I’ve accomplished and what didn’t get done and why. If items not done are important, a status that changes over time, they are prioritized for the next quarter. I then review my next quarter’s theme and tasks to insure that they remain critical. I’ve seen significant progress in getting things done through this system.
I’ve adopted the precept that I can only have one priority at any one point in time. So simple, yet so easy to forget. My priority chart is an in-my-face means to stay tuned to one goal. The chart stays on my desk. It is a file folder used in landscape orientation with four columns labeled Priority 1, 2, 3, and 4. Sticky notes with the next ten to fifteen items I wish to accomplish are stuck in each column. But only one may be in the Priority 1 column. That task gets some type of action each day even if it is only planning or brainstorming. The Priority 2 column can have no more than 3 notes, and only one can move up when the Priority 1 task is moved. When a task is completed, I annotate the date of completion and tape the note to the reverse side of the folder.
I may revise a Priority 1 task or move it to another column to upgrade another for action, which is rare. At any time, a note may be discarded should it be considered unnecessary. And when it seems I’m not making progress, I turn the file over and bask in what I’ve accomplished. At the end of each quarter, a new file is started after I’ve assessed my plan for that quarter.
I’m always looking for a better way to get things done, but for now, a quarterly plan and a priority chart are my management tools.