Special thanks to Tony Eldridge for today’s post in the Market My Novel Time Management series!
It seems that Things To Do are never-ending tasks that find a way of dominating our time. I know that with me, I have to juggle watching 3 year old twin boys during the day, creating videos, blogging, writing, contacting and scheduling guest bloggers, attending offline meetings and working a job that I choose to work during the 3rd shift so that I can find time to do everything else. Somehow, my wife and I try to find some time to spend with each other.
Yeah, I know… cry me a river, right? The truth is, we all have tasks that we have to find a way to get done consistently and accurately. Well, I had so many things happening that I started to turn reactive with my time management. I let my tasks dictate to me how I was spending my time rather than mastering my tasks and ultimately finding peace of mind and more time to do the things I wanted to do. My wife said to me, "Maybe you ought to examine how you are spending your time." By then, I was living (barely) on three hours of sleep a night.
I finally decided to take a proactive stand and get a hold of my time management practices. I found a way to use tools available to us all that effectively turned my computer into a virtual personal assistance. The results: I now sleep about six hours a night, spend more time with the twins and I get more things done. It’s a great feeling to know that things are done (or will be) and not have to constantly be worrying about what I am missing.
Here are some simple ways that I found to take charge of my time and how they act as my own personal assistant:
Find a calendar and use it– I use MS Outlook, but Google and Yahoo have calendars that have many of the same powerful time-saving features. These calendars also allow you to sync with Outlook and your iPod Touch or PDA. I will be talking about the things I do in Outlook, but know that you can recreate the same things in these free online calendars. (Sir, you have three appointments today at 9:00am, 11:00am and 3:00PM- Bring your PowerPoint to the 11:00 meeting.)
Task List– I love these tasks list. Sometimes you don’t need to create an appointment (which takes place at a specific time on a specific date), you just need to have a task that needs to get done. You can set up these tasks for a one-time job or for reoccurring activities. You can set these reoccurring tasks to take place with no end or for a specific number of occurrences. One thing I love about Outlook is that it allows me to flag an e-mail to automatically assign a task to it. This is a great way to make sure no e-mails fall through the cracks. There is also a physiological benefit associated with tasks: Your body releases endorphins when you check off a completed task and it feels sooo good! (Sir, here is a list of your tasks for the day.)
Alerts– Appointments and tasks can be programmed to send you an alert before they are due. You can schedule these alerts to take place anytime before they are due. So, if you set an appointment 2 months out, you can set up an alert to remind you about it the day before. Alerts are great ways to serve as a back-up to scheduled events (Sir, don’t forget you have an appointment tomorrow with Mr. X at 2:00 PM.)
Schedule E-mails– This is a nifty little trick that I just learned how to do in Outlook (I’m not sure if Gmail or Yahoo mail allows this or not). When there is an e-mail that needs to go out later, I write it, schedule it to go out at a specific future date and time, and it sits in my outbox until the time arrives I have scheduled it to go out. I love this and it bypasses the need to create a task to send the e-mail out and allows me to take care of it immediately. I use this when I schedule new guest authors on my blog. Since I schedule them months out, it’s nice to be able to send a friendly reminder a few days before I need the post. Now I can schedule that reminder the moment I confirm the date they will be a guest on my blog. (Sir, I will remind Ms. Doe about her guest post six days before you need it.)
Sync with my iPod Touch– There are settings and apps available that allow me to sync all of these things with my iPod touch (Thanks to my wonderful wife for this unexpected and awesome 40th birthday gift last month!) Not only can I sync my appointments, tasks and e-mails so I can have them with me when I am away from my computer, I can create new ones on my iPod Touch and sync them back on my computer when I get home. (Sir, here is list of all your appointments, tasks and e-mails for you to have access to on your trip today. I will update your calendar with your new appointments and tasks.)
I know that I haven’t shared anything earth-shattering here today, but sometimes the most effective things we can do are often right under our noses. You want to know what the great thing is about setting up a time management routine using these tools? Multi-billion dollar corporations use these same tools effectively because they work. They are simple, free, and powerful. The more you use them, the more ways you can see how they can help you. The built-in functions are deep and actually pretty amazing.
To get started on these tools, start to play around with them. The help menus do a pretty good job at teaching you how to use the features, but I find that video tutorials found on YouTube are wonderful at showing me shortcuts and time-management applications I may need. Also do a Google Blog search for people who share their tips on how to get the most of these tools. Once you get started and really rely on these tools to help you with your time management activities, you will be thrilled at how they can help you master your schedule and not let your schedule master you.
About the author:
Tony Eldridge is the author of the award winning action/adventure novel, The Samson Effect, which Clive Cussler calls a "first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure." He is also the creator of Marketing Tips for Authors, a site the publishes free tips and videos to help authors learn marketing techniques for their books. You can read the serial release of The Samson Effect at http://samsoneffect.marketingtipsforauthors.com/0