In the world of time management tips, you’re likely familiar with the “Eat the Frog” concept. American humorist Mark Twain is often credited with the origin of this saying, paraphrased as if you eat a live frog every morning, nothing worse will happen the rest of the day. In other words, if you get your most unpleasant task out of the way first, the rest of your day will be easier and smoother. The trouble is, it’s hard for all of us to actually eat the frog.
Here are some other ways to organize your tasks to improve your time management:
Triage according to Must Do / Should Do / Nice to Do
Obviously your most important tasks get put into the Must Do column. Things you’d like to do go into the Should Do category. Everything else is in the “wishes and dreams” category of Nice to Do. I like this system when considering something like a software purchase … the software MUST do these things, there are a bunch of features that you basically expect to be there, and there are some things that would be amazing if they existed, but are not a deal-breaker if they don’t. When it comes to prioritizing work, it’s not as helpful for me. “Should” is a squishy word – somewhere between required and optional, and often tinged with guilt. Nice to Do, for me, really means optional … I don’t think many of us feel like we have “optional” work.
Use the Eisenhower Method of Urgency/Importance
With this method, tasks are applied to one of four quadrants: Important and Urgent, Important and Not Urgent, Urgent But Not Important, and Not Urgent OR Important. This is another commonly-cited option when researching time management tips. I have tended to use this most often, but sometimes have difficulty separating urgency and importance. I have a lot of calendar-driven activities that create urgency, and those can sometimes get in the way of more important tasks.
And a Bonus Variation
After eating a frog earlier this week, I stumbled upon a variation of the Eisenhower Method that I am going to start using. This uses the same four quadrants, but labels them a bit differently: Things You Don’t Want to Do But Need to Do, Things You Want AND Need to Do, Things You Want to Do but Don’t Need to Do, and Things You Don’t Want OR Need to Do. These words definitely resonate with me. They’re not squishy. They’re not cute. They don’t make it hard to know which tasks belong in which categories. And honestly, I kind of like how they call it like it is … because the frog I ate earlier this week was SQUARELY a thing I did not want to do, but which needed doing. Why pretend it’s something else?
Ultimately, the best time management tips are the ones you will use. The right system is the one that meshes with your style and the kinds of tasks you have. What is your best tip? Do any of these work for you?