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By Ifeoluwapo – Author, Musings of an Analytical Mind.
We were watching a movie at a program for teenagers when she came and sat next to me. Apart from a few comments I made about the movie, we didn’t really say much to each other. Not until she brought out a small notepad (or diary if you wish). My eyes caught a lot of text on the notepad, so I assumed she was keeping a diary.

‘So you also keep a diary’ I asked her, expecting a yes.
‘No.’ she smiled. ‘It’s my list of activities for the day’
My eyes widened. I then asked her if I could see the notepad. And truly, it had a list of activities for that day, from 12 midnight till 11.59 pm.
‘Wow!’ was all I managed to say.

I mean, it’s one thing to outline your list of to-do activities for the day, it’s another thing to assign specific times and duration to each task. Now, that’s accountability.
It’s been six months since that encounter and though I’m yet to fully implement her version of daily tasking (I list out tasks but don’t assign times and duration to them), I have made it a habit to outline my activities for the day on a small notepad.

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This brings me to the point of this write up – the importance of timetables. I know many people dislike the idea of timetables – it brings to memory those days in primary and secondary school when we would rather have fun than go to boring classes. However, I’ve realized over the past two years that to be an effective person requires you doing the right thing at the right time (called First Things First in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey).

In my last post, I highlighted the importance of putting a date to our goals. However, the tool that makes it possible to achieve these goals by the set date is none other than the timetable. Before you start loading up to fire missiles in my direction, let me quickly walk you through the reason why I’m confident that timetables are the way to go.

If you are like me, you probably have a lot to do at any given time. And if you’re not like me, you probably have tasks that you should accomplish by a set time or date. Now, what usually happens, at least with me, is that I get so fixated on the first task or activity I pick up that I wouldn’t drop it until I have completed it. That activity could be anything from reading a book to typing a blog post and could take as much as 4 hours to complete, after which I move on to the next task on my list. The challenge with this approach is that I end up accomplishing only one or two things by the time the day is over. To give you a better picture, imagine if your secondary school teachers made you to finish the Maths syllabus before moving over to English and then the rest of the subjects. That would have been a complete disaster right? That’s exactly how my approach to accomplishing tasks looked like. While it may seem like common sense to finish one task before moving to another irrespective of the time consumed, it actually is an ineffective approach, considering that there are 3 benefits to using timetables as I highlight below.

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1. Equal rights: Using a timetable, as the name implies, forces you to keep to time on individual tasks and gives the other tasks a fair chance at being accomplished.

2. Discipline: The unintended benefit of this approach is that you begin to develop an all-time important quality – Discipline. The mere fact that you can close that book as soon as you cross the one-hour mark or go to bed at a set time irrespective of the interesting match helps build up the discipline required to succeed in more challenging circumstances. After all, if you’re not disciplined in little matters, what’s the guarantee that you will be disciplined in bigger matters e.g. marriage.

3. Efficiency: The discipline of stopping a task at a set time and moving on to the next item on the agenda helps you become efficient at accomplishing tasks. Here’s what I mean. Suppose, you’re reading a 500-paged book that would normally take you 5 hours and you decide to stop reading after two hours in order to attend to other activities on your list. Because you have a limited time to spend on the book and have developed an awareness of the existence of other tasks, what happens is that you start looking for or developing ways to read faster than you currently do. For example, you could sign up for an online speed-reading course. The point here is that you begin to find and develop efficient ways of doing things, which is the ultimate benefit of the timetable approach.

That said, I do intend to start fully using timetables this year onward and I invite you to do the same. While I’m not saying, it’s the all-purpose solution to all your challenges, I believe it is a small adjustment that will help reap large benefits.

You’re welcome to state your opinions on this.

What to do: Start by assigning a time-duration to each of your tasks for the day and make sure you stop each task when the time is up. Then move on to the next. Warning: you won’t find this easy at first but persist at it and it will become easier.

 

You may also want to read about The Power of Deadlines.

About The Author:

Ifeoluwapo is a Medical Doctor, Brand Strategist, Blogger and Author of several hundred quotes (Daily Insights).

He believes aesthetics and quality are not mutually exclusive and does his utmost to get the best of both. He is the author of Musings of An Analytical Mind and tweets from @hypoxia13

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