Time management is a learnable skill. The OATS Principle gives us a simple process for writing down and planning the things you need to do.
OATS Stands for:
The first step in OATS planning is to decide what you want to be different at the end of tomorrow or next week, or next year. These are your outcomes. Keep the number of outcomes you want to a manageable level. Too many may create more pressure and stress than you need.
Deciding your outcomes can be difficult. There may be competing demands on your time and attention. Effective time management requires you to have an idea of what you are trying to achieve in your life: your goals.
Have a think about these 4 questions:
- How is my life now?
- What is important to me?
- What do I want?
- When do I want them?
This work will form the basis from which you can start planning your time and the value of the outcomes you could set for yourself.
‘To Do’ lists have a habit of growing as fast as we get things done. You can rarely finish them and are often a cause of stress. We are going to talk about a “Today List”. Unlike its harmful cousin it is a closed list and you can complete it and feel good about yourself.
Important or Urgent?
“Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent”
Attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower
This has given rise to an important Time Management tool-the Urgent-Important Quadrants.
Not urgent and important
Urgent and important
Not urgent and not important
Urgent and not important
If you are able to assess what is urgent and what is important you can start to prioritise the demands on your time. You can neglect things that are neither Urgent nor Important. Things that are urgent but not important can also be neglected or you can chose to do them if you wish. Important and urgent things need your attention right now and you can give them all the time they need.
Once you have gained control of your time, you will start to find your days filled with things that are important but not urgent.
Once you have a closed list of activities for the coming day the next step is to estimate how long each one will take. Careful not to underestimate how long these activities will take as this will cause you stress. To prevent unfinished acidities occurring you need to be aware of 3 things to manage this risk:
- Prioritise. Remember everything you are choosing to do is import ant so work out which is the most important and start those early in the day.
- Contingency -add some time to your estimates.
- Breaks- schedule breaks into your day it will give you some added flexibility.
Planning to schedule your activities into your day. Divide your activities into:
- Elephants-Biggest and complex tasks
- Sheep-Significant size
- Mice-small ,quick tasks
Start with the Elephants and do them when you can focus on them. Schedule the sheep into those other times and lastly the mice can go into the gaps you have in your day.
A big source of stress is the inability to get started. We all put things off! Time to eat that FROG!
“Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy is a great book to read. It introduces the concept of eating your frogs each day-your frogs are your tasks you have to do. He talks about taking action immediately and not getting into the habit of procrastinating.
Adapted from Brilliant Stress Management by Mike Clayton