I’m going to explain how you can master your time in ten minutes or less per day using a combination of two systems: Michael Linenberger’s Master Your Workday Now technique and the amazing Remember the Milk application.
This mash-up can transform you into a Master of Time and Space, guaranteed*.
*: All warranties and guarantees of transformation into a Master of Time and Space are purely hyperbole. However, I promise that you will become much more successful in managing your time by employing this technique.
The first step to mastering your time is to realize where it all goes. One of the best resources I have struck upon so far is Everett Bogue’s Indespensible Guide to Timejacking Your Way to Success over at Far Beyond the Stars. Self awareness begins by being present in a moment and learning how you spend those moments.
Once you’ve read that, keep reading this article, watch the video (in HD is better if your connection can handle it) below or for you over achievers, tackle both!
After focusing on time management mastery for years with no luck, I’ve finally struck upon a method that works for both the lazy and the productivity nuts out there.
My Time Management Odyssey of Pain
Growing up, I didn’t need to keep a paper planner; all my deadlines fit comfortably inside my head, and I found it pointless to write it all down.
In college, my involvement grew and I stopped being able to remember everything I needed to do. In order to stop forgetting tasks and deadlines, I resentfully purchased a paper planner and attempted to force myself to use it. I hated it.
I spent four years becoming a master at finding time management methods that do not work for me. I tried GTD, hacking moleskines, paper planners, Google Calendars, a gaggle of iPhone applications, calendars, lists of all shapes and sizes, writing notes on my hand, and probably a few more painfully frustrating methods that I have forgotten.
I gave up when nothing worked.
Maybe my problem wasn’t systems or lists, just that my implementations sucked.
When Steve Pavlina posted a review strongly endorsing Michael Linenberger’s new book, Master Your Workday Now, my interest in finding a workable task management system was rekindled. I trusted Steve’s review and bought the book immediately.
I was initially skeptical of the primary control methods in the book: lists. When I talk about the things I’ve got to do I say, “I have four things on my to-do for the day.” I have had such a great distaste for the word that I subconsciously edit out the word “list” whenever possible.
Task Management Nirvana
I found a solution. I have achieved my own little task management nirvana, and it can work for you in less than ten minutes a day.
I read Master Your Workday Now! [affiliate link] recently. Overall, I’d give the book a 6/10 for readability, but a 10/10 for usability. His Now List setup is extremely simple, easily managed, and most of all: convenient.
The system consists of three sections: Critical Now, Opportunity Now, and Over the Horizon.
Critical Now is a list of tasks that you absolutely must accomplish today. I find it helpful to keep this between 5 and 15 items, depending on how large or small the tasks are.
Opportunity Now is a list of things you need to accomplish in the next 10 to 12 days, but not today. If you finish your Critical now list or have some down time, your Opportunity Now list is where you should look for your next task. Keep this list to twenty items or less.
Over the Horizon is anything that is farther out than two weeks that you need to do. Keep this list to twenty items or less as well.
I tried using this system, but I ran into the same thing I had with every other list system in the past: tedium. I was continually re-adding things to my Critical Now list that I did every day.
Enter stage left, Remember the Milk.
RTM integrates seamlessly with MYWN, is highly customizable, extremely well for repeated tasks, and is available just about everywhere: website, apps for iPhone or Android, usable on mobile phone browsers, Gmail, Google Calendar, and more.
Still not convinced? It will even send reminders to your devices, phone, email or instant messages if you want.
If you have EVER struggled with getting your time and task management control, I can not recommend this potent combination enough.
How I Set It Up
Sign up at Remember the Milk. If you just want to use the website, it is free, but if you want it on your iPhone or Android for more than two weeks, you need to buy in. They ask an insane rate, but I find it is worth it: $2 per month. Extortionists I know, but that is the price of convenience everywhere (</sarcasm>).
I wasn’t really happy with the default lists at RTM. They make sense as default application settings, but I wanted to use the site to manage my Now Lists. I deleted the default lists, and added Critical Now, Opportunity Now and Over the Horizon.
Next, I looked at my paper Now List, went through and added every item, then crumpled it up and haven’t looked back.
I mentioned earlier that the beauty of MYWN + RTM is the ability to repeat tasks on a schedule. Are there things that you do frequently? If so, this is an amazing feature to practically make your list for you.
Set up any repeating tasks, and never worry about forgetting to put them on a list again.
Example: My deadlines for posting on Grokkery show up every Monday, Thursday and Saturday without fail.
During the day, I check my Critical Now list three to four times throughout the day to make sure I’m on task, and take a peek at my Opportunity Now list to see if I can get ahead.
Every night I look at my Critical Now list for the next day, take two minutes and add any tasks that are not automated, see if anything from Opportunity Now needs to be moved up, and then sign off.
I check the Over the Horizon list once a week to see if things are coming up that need my attention. I find that things that sit on the Over the Horizon list for more than two or three weeks tend to get deleted because they are no longer important.
Setting Them Up, Knocking Them Down
Once your lists are up, log in and start checking things off (who doesn’t like seeing dwindling to do lists?). Doesn’t matter where you are, you can log in from anywhere with almost any device.
While this system doesn’t check itself for you, the global availability goes a long way to help. There isn’t anything new to carry around to use this list. By far, this is the best combination I’ve ever come across. I owe a massive hug of gratitude to Michael Linenberger and the helpful folks over at Remember the Milk.
They have seriously changed my life. I’ve gone from throwing task management gutter balls to task management strikes. Turkey anybody?
What do you think? Could this system work for you? What is your task management system?
If you enjoy the content on Grokkery or if it helps you in any way, would you please consider subscribing? If you prefer a shorter dose of awareness, check me out on Twitter. Every post on Grokkery is made with love, awareness and a slight seasoning of nerdiness.