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Managing Multiple Commitments

Personal productivity is another of my favourite topics … I blog about it relatively often, the most recent was called On the Brink of Out of Control.

When I was a programmer the time management skills that I needed were fairly simple. I had specific tasks to accomplish, there may be a few different “bugs” to fix, some development work, some meetings etc. Perhaps I would have to fit in some ancillary meetings for the social committee, or charitable involvement. It wasn’t too hard to do.

When I was a salesperson life was a little more complicated. I had multiple accounts with multiple contacts in each account. There were multiple sales campaigns to run, and depending upon where they were in the selling cycle I might be involved in a few proposals. Again I might have some ancillary commitments.

Today I am CEO of my own company and life gets quite complicated. I have multiple commitments for various parts of my business. I have client relationships to manage. I have staff to manage. I am heavily involved in two industry associations, which demands a lot of my time. I am active in several charities which again requires a lot of time. As a business owner I have commitments with the company’s external advisors, banks, accountants etc and I have relationships to maintain within the industry.

As a job gets more complicated so too does the “job” of staying organized.

I am probably an anomaly but I don’t have a personal assistant … I have tried it and I drive them nuts! I’m an ex techie and very comfortable doing my own organizing etc … and maybe it makes me a little busier but I also think it gives me a comfort level that I am in control. (oops a little “control freak” thing happening maybe).

So here is a glimpse into MY system for staying on top of all these commitments.

I take lots of notes and my notebook becomes my bible. This becomes a record of what I have done … not necessarily what I have to do!

I have an electronic calendar to keep track of my schedule. This is a record of my past and future time commitments.

I “drive” my activity ( and that is a critical part of personal productivity … you MUST DRIVE the activity and not let IT drive you) with “To Do” lists … and after much experimentation with electronic solutions and paper solutions, I have a hybrid system.

I use my technology to force me to work on specific tasks that I know I need to get done. For these I set up a meeting with myself and block time off.

I have two types of To Do lists … the master list is just a list of the “Projects” on my plate. I may have multiple “projects” for each “hat” that I wear … for instance with one industry association I am driving a survey which is one project requiring lots of tasks to be completed. For my united Way major gifts campaign I have about 20 people to contact … each of them becomes a “task”.

I end up with multiple tasks for each of the multiple projects for each of my multiple roles. One of those roles is my “Personal” role … and I may have projects related to our cars, our home, our family etc.

I try to keep all of my projects “moving” in the right direction and if I’m honest, I’ll let urgency decide when a task just MUST be done.

Each day I scan my “project” lists and determine if there are any urgent items and try to keep all the projects moving along … some days I can do that, others I can’t.

Overall I think I get a lot done this way … there are more automated systems, there are more complicated systems but this seems to be working for me right now. As always, I will continue to refine my “time management methodology” and tweak it to get even better in time.