5 Savvy Scheduling Methods To Use When To-Do Lists Aren’t Hacking It

Speed up workflow and save time!

scheduling tips to do list
Image: iStock

There’s nothing like buying a new diary at the start of the year to feel motivated, but when it comes to effective time management and scheduling, sometimes old school scrawls don’t cut it.
With research suggesting we get interrupted (or asked to switch tasks) at least every three minutes and losing a total average of six hours in productivity a day, it’s fair to say when it comes to smashing goals, we need scheduling systems that we can stick to and that actually speed up our workflow.

Cue―the savvy scheduling methods that industry experts swear by. Read on for our curated list of methods to suit your work style.

1.The Time Blocking Method

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Just as it sounds, this method is all about dedicating set chunks of time to set tasks. To be effective, the times are usually pre-planned before you start the day and keep an eye on the time as you go. The key tip here is to pay attention to the ‘proactive’ and ‘reactive’ blocks and prioritise accordingly. Proactive blocks focus on the most timely tasks at hand (think looming deadlines, product development, pressing admin) and reactive blocks are when you carve out time to respond or ‘react’ to things that pop up and are not as urgent (such as emails, staff meetings or requests). Much like a traditional ‘to do’ list, time blocking asks you to write out all your priorities but the key difference is it holds you accountable as time becomes your ruler.

2. MCII Method

Prone to procrastination and overthinking things? Try MCII―Mental Contrasting and Implementing Intentions. This method has a psychological basis and works with the concept that if you imagine your future goals with positive events (like acing a speech) and then visualise what is stopping you (fear of public speaking) it reveals the obstacles and steps that you aren’t taking and helps you refocus on the chief task at hand.

3. The Pomodoro Method

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No, this doesn’t involve eating pasta (unfortunately)… The Pomodoro Technique is a popular technique (turned book) coined by Italian productivity consultant Frandesco Cirillo that involves using an egg (or tomato) timer for short bursts of time. The technique is fairly simple, Cirillo suggests setting a timer and working for 25 minutes without interruption, then taking a 5 minute break―and repeating for four cycles with a 20 minute break in between. The theory being, by working quickly and then allowing short bursts of rest, you stay more focused and manage to get more done, rather than taking long leisurely breaks (and say, ending up on a YouTube vortex…).

4. The Sticky Note Method

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This is one for the visual learners… if you’re more likely motivated by colours, shapes and tangible visuals, try working with a sticky note scheduling system. Modern companies that use Agile (a modern work methodology) or work in creative fields (such as editorial publishing houses) are famous for plastering whole walls in colour-coded sticky notes, both to see tasks, projects, action steps and schedule in a visual manner. If wall space or clutter is not your thing, you can also go digital, with web applications such as Trello, perfect for setting out to-do tasks in separate columns much like a live sticky note board. The beauty of this system is it allows you to see every single task, list, project, client, team member and colour code/track where each has progressed as you move them from column to column.

5.The Ultradian Rhythms Method

Just like the way moon cycles and menstrual cycles are said to direct flow of energy and dictate our moods, the ultradian rhythms method works much the same, cycle wise. Perhaps more one for the yogis (or those connected to their body’s energy dips), the ultradian rhythms method (or the BRAC ―Basic Rest Activity Cycle specifically coined by Nathaniel Kleitman) is based on the understanding our human body operates in cycles and in each one we experience a peak and burst of energy and a trough, where we feel exhausted. In each cycle we have a 90 minute window where our energy allows focus, then a 20-30 minute cycle to rest. The key take-away to be effective here is to work with your body not against it.

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