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3 time management systems for grown ups!

Slowness breeds to do lists!

I hate it when I have a slow day.  Sitting around in dull meetings, getting dehydrated and eating at the wrong times, I fill the the time by making to do lists.

When I get back to my office, I see, laid out in front of me, all the things I could and should be doing.  And can’t settle to any.

When I was a youngster, I loved a to-do list labelled with A’s B’s and C’s.  I liked making calls and crossing things off.  I hate it now.  I like dealing with larger chunks of work and  I like working towards a goal that has some meaning.  “Getting things done” no longer does it for me.

My rationale now is to figure out one or two things that are very important and just do those.  As long as something important is being done, and getting finished and getting shipped, a list adds no further value.

But in times when I have a long list, these are the methods that I have found useful.

#1 Yellow stickies

I use an ordinary A5 diary.  For every little task that I have to do, I add a yellow stickie, upside down. The stickies go down the page in columns, overlapping each other. That’s why it is important they are upside down.  The top line gives the title of the task and the details are covered by the next sticky though visible by lifting up the sticky below.

As I complete a task, I rip off  the sticky with glee, and put it on the corner of my desk.  At the end of the day, I have a pile of completed stickies and hopefully a clear diary. If not, I can move the stickies to another page.

And when I need to record my actions, I record what I have done on the page itself.

#2 Access data base

Access databases are pretty handy for projects which have many detailed steps, each of which must be completed precisely and in a particular order.  Anything which needs a PERT analysis is suitable for a database.

Each sub project is put in a table with tasks, expected dates, actual dates and costs.  The report function can be used to list all the tasks that need to be done in the next day, week or month and of course to check that everything has been done.

#3 Google Wiki

I’ve recently discovered Google’s Project Wiki, on Google Sites.  It is not really a wiki – linkages from page-to-page are limited.  It’s more like an electronic filoax!  It is  a full project template where you can add to do lists, time sheets, blogs, documents and pretty much anything else except perhaps a GANTT shart and a PERT analysis.

That’s what I am using now.  I’ll store away every zany idea in my Google Wiki and add a column for priorities.  My personal kanban will become the top items that I’ve resolved to start and finish. The choice is start and finish, or start and dump.  What’s not allowed is more than two or three open tasks.

What’s more, I can add dates that I completed work so I can review my progress at the end of each month.

The front page in the wiki is also useful because it prompts you to put in a strategic plan, which after all you can do for the next quarter!

My only reservation is all the information that I am giving to Google.

Here are you then – three time management systems for grown-ups!

1.  Yellow stickies for bitty projects and a physical reward for knocking off tasks

2. Data bases for precise projects where tasks must be done in order and on time.

3.  Google Project Wiki for messy jobs where it’s not really possible to tell priorities ahead of time but it important to work on on chunk at a time, finish and ship!

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Who’ll help me build a wiki of positive vocabulary?

Male Rottweiler, 1½ years old

Image via Wikipedia

Once I got bitten by a dog. I have got some wonderful scars on my back to prove it. It was my own fault though. I know about dogs. I like dogs. And I am a psychologist after all.

What happened was this. I went to see a man, not about a dog, but to get some currency for an obscure country I was visiting. He wasn’t in and his wife, who didn’t know me came to the door. She had a one year old male Rottweiler, who after all was still a puppy. The dog happy to be out the house, bounded down the drive to the gate and barked away merrily. As I left, without the currency, and pondering where to get some, I was walking away from the woman towards the dog.

Mistake: I was between a one year old male dog of an aggressive breed and its female owner AND my mind was elsewhere. Before I knew it, the dog had attacked me from behind. I was used to dogs, so despite the pain, I swung round, got him by the neck and clouted him. A little too ferociously. The dog whined, caught my hand, and bit me gently this time.

The dog was clearly signaling to me

  • you are hurting me and I will have to protect myself
  • I get the message that I hurt you.

Life hurts

When people whine – grown ups or children – in the first instance, that is what they are saying. Life hurts! Some sympathy and action to relieve the hurt, if possible, is due so they catch their breath, take stock, and get themselves together.

Now I am tough as the next guy. I was walloping the dog after all with blood pouring out my back. I certainly think in life when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up again. There is a time for tears and a time for drying tears.

The same rules apply for celebrations. There is a time to be pleased by success and flattery. There is a time to put the success aside and set new challenges.

So what is the point of this post?

I find a lot of reports in the press that happiness makes you miserable. What a silly argument, by definition! In their determination to prove the point, they don’t stop to understand the view they are trying to dispute.

  • Positive psychologists stress there is no point going over negative events over and over again. Apart from the fact you are likely to embroider what happened, all you are doing is rehearsing what went wrong. Your golf swing gets better with mental rehearsal – so does your capacity to be miserable!
  • Positive psychologists also stress that there “is a time for everything” – tears have their place. So does sensitivity. Positive psychology should not be equated with ‘therapy culture’ which assumes that there is something wrong with us when we experience shock, disappointment, rejection, bereavement etc. We may need company; we may need consolation; we may benefit from reflection; we may value the wisdom of others – but there is nothing wrong with us – this is a normal process of life.

Vocabulary of positive psychology

But we don’t necessarily use a positive and poetic vocabulary – in fact as psychologists-in-training, we are encouraged to be dry, detached, unemotional and possibly, boring.


I have opened a little positive psychology wiki.

Will you help me to build a dictionary of positive, active, lively vital language that everyone can share?

There is no password.  Just follow the link, and add an entry when the mood takes you!

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Vocabulary of positive psychology

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Image by foghornleg90 via Flickr

A good article here on savoring and a list of actions and the corresponding emotion we feel.

  1. What did we take the time to marvel at today and did we feel awe?
  2. What did we stop to give thanks for and did we feel gratitude?
  3. Did we have five minutes to bask in a task well done, or a compliment, and feel pride?
  4. Did we luxuriate in the bath, or the park, or some where else and feel pleasure?

It would be good to extend the list. I’ve just started a little public wiki for anyone who wants to join in.

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