What this post is about
- Set priorities and stick to them
- Achieve goals with focus and without distraction
- Understand and apply time management methods
- Avoid self-created pressure
- Learning to value working time
Those who are well organized get through the day better. Time management methods give structure to work and help to cushion stressful phases and high project pressure, as well as question useless meetings already at the announcement stage. Break the vicious circle of lack of planning, decision-making difficulties, and sudden chaos. And start with clarity and foresight.
Developed by German advice author Lothar J. Seiwert, the ALPEN method aims to structure each task of the day in such a way that it effectively fills the available working time. Idle periods or phases in which one gets bogged down in trivialities are to be avoided.
Behind the acronym is the following definition:
A = Define tasks
L = estimate length of tasks
P = Plan buffer time
E = Make decisions
N = Follow up
The advantage of this approach is that planning, including time estimation, is the path to the goal. At the start of the day, make a note of all the pending tasks and realistically estimate how long it will take you to process each to-do. Only then decide based on the factors effort and priority in which order the tasks will be processed.
According to US President and Allied General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the method does not use a list to classify priorities but relies on a matrix classification. To do this, simply draw a square and divide it into four sectors, moving along the axes of importance (from left-low to right-high) & urgency (from bottom-low to top-high).
In the first quadrant on the upper right, record everything that has the highest urgency and priority. In the second quadrant at the bottom-right, follow tasks with a high priority but no urgency. These include long-term projects that are not due today. The third quadrant on the top left includes everything that has the highest time pressure but hardly any priority for you. In the last quadrant at the bottom left, write down the to-dos with no urgency and no relevance. You should delegate the tasks from the left side if possible.
The goal of the classification is to use delegating tasks consciously. People often underestimate how time-consuming little things are that are "just done quickly by yourself". Give these time eaters to colleagues or employees who can relieve you.
Do you have the feeling that you put too much input into your tasks and receive too little output? This is the basis of the Pareto Principle, which was developed by Vilfredo Pareto at the beginning of the 20th century. In many guidebooks, the method is also referred to as the "80-20 rule".
Pareto assumes that 80% of the result can be accomplished in 20% of the total effort. Long brooding, making drafts, or thinking about solutions often costs more time than the implementation itself. Reverse this flawed logic and invest less time in the shortest path to the smallest possible result.
Employees and colleagues in Sales are familiar with this way of thinking. After all, the analysis can also be applied to 20% of the customers who generate 80% of the sales (and who should therefore be focused on the most). Less profitable customers can therefore be prioritized in support without scaring them away. What sounds like an unfair selection process is a way to a balanced productivity formula.
Defining goals clearly and unambiguously is becoming increasingly difficult in both private and professional contexts. What do I want to achieve? How do I get there? And when is enough enough?
Do not doubt yourself, but proceed methodically. The SMART principle starts at this point and sharpens the focus for individual work steps, breaks them down into small parts, and makes them measurable. The individual letters stand for:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attractive
R = Realistic
T = Scheduled
By looking in detail, you can see the effort behind each intermediate step. Tip: Always think in terms of concrete tasks, not abstract project results. The smaller the to-dos, the less the complexity of the task will paralyze you.
Some things can be so simple: Former student Francesco Cirillo developed the simple time management method "Pomodoro" in the late 1980s with his kitchen clock. There he recognized the half-hour as the best unit of time for focused work.
The idea is to devote 25 minutes at a time to one task (or several related tasks) without distraction, and then take a five-minute break. This clearly defined work phase helps to maintain concentration and to block out everything else for a short time.
Leave the cell phone, and ignore calls. When the clock is ticking, your attention is on your project. Secondary activities can be taken care of afterward. It is important not to interrupt the flow of your thoughts, as it may only take longer to get back to work than the task itself.
Try these methods once and find out what you work best with! Feel free to pick your favorite elements from the methods presented and combine them. The motto here is: what helps is good. Use all the adjusting screws to become a productivity high-flyer! With a short planning process and focused work, you get everything out of your time at your desk. The more comfortable you feel the more effective and goal-oriented your projects will be.