Time Management: Avoid The Trap (And Finally Achieve Your Goals)

Do you ever feel that time management is a trap? I’ve been feeling this over the past few months. With 2020 such a disaster, I had hoped that I’d catch up and make progress this year.

We discussed time management in a recent writers’ group meeting. It turned out that many members felt the same way: as if they’d never catch up with themselves, while their To Do lists grew longer and longer.

One writer mentioned the PARA method of organization and common misunderstandings of time management.

After I looked into the PARA method, I decided that from now on, my sole method of time management would be Projects. (With a capital “P”, because each Project is a discrete item, with a deadline.)

Time management: a focus on Projects and deadlines

PARA is an acronym for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives.

The PARA method repays study, but what intrigued our group was our member’s assertion that To Do lists not only don’t work, but also lead to wasting time, rather than any form of time management.

When you focus on Projects, time management begins to make sense.

A Project has:

… a goal to be achieved — a discrete event that will happen, allowing this item to be completely checked off and struck from the list… It has a deadline or timeframe…

After the meeting, I came home intrigued. I read and reread Forte Labs’ information on the PARA method.

Although I’m no expert on the method, here’s the thing: once I started focusing solely on Projects and deadlines, I achieved more. I could point to a Project and know it was done.

DONE meant that a flock of tangentially-related Project tasks and To Do lists were eliminated.

If the thought of trashing your To Do list appeals, here’s what I did to implement part of the PARA method: Projects and Areas of Responsibility.

You may find PARA useful too.

1. Start by listing Projects and deadlines

I listed Projects at work and at home.

Here’s what shocked me: how few real Projects I had, both at work and at home. Projects always have deadlines. Although I had lots to do, I resisted assigning deadlines. This guaranteed I’d never feel a real sense of achievement.

At work, I had lots of Areas of Responsibility, but few Projects.

In PARA terms, Areas are: “spheres of influence with a standard to be maintained over time.” My areas included account development and management, editing, advertising, client interactions, etc.

Since Areas of Responsibility are always there, each sprouts its own To Do lists. Slogging through the lists is overwhelming—the lists never get smaller. It’s a perfect recipe to create misery and kill motivation.

2. Check your Areas of Responsibility: develop Projects

I decided that I’d create Projects in each of my Areas. Then I gave each Project a deadline.

Once I did that, I could forget my old To Do lists and focus only on those tasks which would ensure that I completed each Project by its deadline.

Time management: Projects and deadlines are essential

It’s only been a short time since I implemented a small part of the PARA method, but it’s made a huge difference.

If you’re struggling with time management, create a couple of Projects with deadlines. You may start experiencing a real sense of achievement too.


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