GET STUFF DONE.

Oops :3 Image source.

Hey friends! Pat here. We are now on week 6 here at seminary and boy, are we feeling the burn. We're halfway through the first trimester and our calendars are getting a bit more colorful (unless you only use one ink color). Having said that, I'd like to share a few time management tools--methods and apps--that have worked for me in the past. With the exception of Google Calendar, I admit that I'm yet to apply/use them while I'm in grad school so this post is also partly for me. It's high time for me to come up with a game plan.

So let's look at the list, shall we?

4 TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS:

#1 "TOUCH IT ONCE" RULE
I call it a rule but it's not hard and fast. This "rule" has helped me combat procrastination lots of times in the past and even now (especially when it comes to house work). The rule goes something like this: when you're faced with a task, there has to be an immediate decision with what to do with it. Does it mean you have to finish it? Unless it's a simple task like responding to an important email or tidying up the house, finishing it right away might not always be the case. But if it requires various levels of activity (like writing a paper, for example), "touching it once" means deciding that you will not put this off but that you will face the project head-on, setting goals and delegating if needed.

#2 THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE (my favorite!)

Image from PomodoroTechnique.com

Pomodoro is the Italian word for "tomato." Francesco Cirillo developed this technique in the early 90s and he used a kitchen timer to track his work while in university (hence, the tomato kitchen timer in the picture). Here's another picture to explain what this is all about:

Image from Google Images
This method was incredibly useful for me when I was still working. It helped me get reports done with less distraction and reminded me to stand up once in a while. You can do simple exercises during each break or do something else that will let your brain rest. You'd be surprised at how much you can do if you take breaks. It may seem counter intuitive to pause from work but your brain needs it. Pray, read something that interests you, take a walk...and come back refreshed and ready to work again.

There are many free Pomodoro apps for iOS + Mac and Android users. If you want to learn more, visit the Pomodoro Technique website.


Image from 3030.binaryhammer.com


For those of you who value design, 30/30 might work for you. It's a highly customizable (free) app that works similarly to the Pomodoro technique, where you get a visual time and task tracker. You decide how much time you want to spend on a particular task and it helps you stick to it.Visit the developer website for more info.

If you're not keen on using an app, an old school alarm or your phone's timer might do the trick.

#3 GOOGLE CALENDAR
This is probably the most straightforward (digital) tool that you can use to stay organized. Use it on your desktop, sync it with your other mobile devices, easily input tasks and events. It's simple and it does the job. For some people (like myself) physical calendars and planners are also effective. What I like about Google Calendar is that it's 1) free, 2) easy to sync, and 3) gives you reminders. Your mobile device most likely has reminder/alarm features as well so it might help to tinker with it a little.

#4 THE BULLET JOURNAL
This is a recent discovery for me. Apart from the Pomodoro timer, I've installed and uninstalled a lot of productivity apps on my tablet. Somehow they just don't help me as much in the long run and  I always keep coming back to good old pen and paper. This is why Ryder Carroll's method intrigued me; he calls it the "analog system for the digital age."

Here's a short video to give you an overview of the Bullet Journal:


Bullet Journal operates on what Carroll calls Rapid Logging and provides a simple system to keep written tasks, events, and notes organized. The way I organize my thoughts and to-do's are similar to Rapid Logging so I find his technique easy to follow. The method may seem tedious to some because it requires re-writing of tasks, events, and notes from one month (or day) to another page. But according to Carroll, this forces you to think through everything you consider to be worthy of your time. All you need is your favorite notebook and a pen to get organized.

So there you have it. My brief list of productivity tools to help you stay on track. For more tools that organize specific tasks (e.g., social media posts, copywriting, email management, etc.) check out this blog post.

But app or no app, using one technique or multiple ones, there will always be distractions clamoring for your attention. Distractions abound in our digital age but I hope that we would always choose to work smarter, not just harder. I believe God values our work and he wants us to be wise with our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). Don't forget to take breaks and have fun :)

 " Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
"...whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) 
How do you keep track of your tasks and stay focused? -P

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