A Simple Time Management System in Six Easy Steps

For some time, I looked for a time management system that’s easy to implement and will help me do more without becoming a sleep-deprived zombie. So far, I’ve covered David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and the Pomodoro Technique. We go back to basics with this simple time management system developed by Chet Holmes, who is the author of the best-selling book “The Ultimate Sales Machine.” He is also a top karate martial artist, corporate trainer and business consultant.

Chet Holmes’ basic time management system is built on the mindset that time management should be simple and uncomplicated. It’s funny, how he wrote about a time management seminar he attended where the speaker told them to track how they use their time for three months! He couldn’t believe his ears! He just rolled his eyes, gathered his things and left the seminar! Since then, he went on to devise a simple time management system that he could use in managing his businesses.

  1.  Touch it once.
  2. Make lists.
  3. Plan how much time you will allocate to each task.
  4. Plan the day.
  5. Prioritize.
  6. Ask yourself, “will it hurt me to throw this away?”
image credit: Westend61 via GettyImages

1. Touch it once.

Do not begin a task if you are not yet ready to deal with it. A concrete example is email. Once you open and read your emails, prepare to do the action items you find right there and then. With the widespread use of emails in our communication, we tend to just read the email, try to remember what it said and decide to go back to it later in the day.

That is a waste of time! If you could just allot 3-5 minutes to do what is asked by the email, you can discard that email right away and then move on with your other tasks. The lesson here is simple: once you touch it, deal with it!

2. Make lists.

Lists are a great way to organize your tasks for the day, for the week, and for the month. You can prepare as many lists as you can, store them on your planner or your computer. Be careful though. If you list down too many things, you will end up not finishing them all by the end of the day. That will also have a negative psychological effect on you. You may feel as if you’re doing everything you can and still it is not enough. Or that you may end up feeling that lists are nonsense!

Chet Holmes suggests listing down only 6 items that you must absolutely do for the day. No more. No less. This way, you could look back at the day and be satisfied that you have done your best.

3. Plan how much time you will allocate to each task.

After creating a list, you need to estimate the number of hours (or minutes, perhaps) you need to allocate for each task. Ideally, each task should only take you up to an hour. Six tasks would then be done within 6 hours. That leaves you with extra time for checking your emails, going to meetings and other routine tasks in your office. If the number of hours exceeds ten hours, then perhaps, you need to reassess your work habits. Perhaps, you are not working as efficiently as possible!

4. Plan the Day.

Now that you have your list and you know how much time you need to allocate for each task, you need to plot your tasks according to the time period that you want them work on them. You will need your scheduling skills for this. Do this in the morning for 5-10 minutes at the start of your day. Consider this time as your planning time so you can be more effective and more efficient throughout the day. Keep in mind though, that you have to stick to your schedule no matter what!

If an officemate stops by for a small talk, try to be polite and say that you are working on something. If that can’t be helped, then give him 3-5 minutes and when that time is up, go back to your desk and start working again.

5. Prioritize!

At the end of the day, look at your list and your schedule again. Plan for the next day and put the most important task first. When you have surmounted the biggest and most important challenge for the day, you can certainly move on with ease to the easier ones. Chet Holmes also recommends that business owners should spend at least 2.5 hours a day in growing the business! Not bad! Once you got that going in your daily working habit, it becomes easier!

6. Ask yourself, “will it hurt for me to throw this away?”

We are inundated with emails and other forms of communication daily. No doubt, you also have lots of reports, reference materials and other documents on your desk, on your drawer, on your inbox and on your computer file folders. Most of these things add up to clutter. Clutter will make your life more difficult by slowing down your machine or by making it difficult for you to look for the more important files.

De-clutter! If you don’t need a particular file or document, get rid of it. If you’re a supervisor or a boss, most likely, you can still have those files when you need them.

For sure, there will be interruptions to your schedule. That can’t be avoided. When there are interruptions, just deal with it and then go back to your sked. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to your list at the end of the day and cross out all six items off your list?

I recommend Chet Holmes’ time management system for people who are really swamped. It is straightforward and simple. And it does not require any special tools, timer or equipment. But this is built on an important concept that Chet Holmes also put forward: what he called “pigheaded discipline and determination!” Don’t stop doing, don’t stop practicing until you can say that you are already an expert at what you’re doing—time management system and practices included!

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