How to plan your schedule effectively



Once you have prioritized your Lists 1 and 2 based on Quadrants 1 and 2, you need to plan your schedule for the forthcoming day, week, month and so on, rather than simply working down your lists; in other words you need to decide when you will work on the tasks, allowing of course for shifting priorities

Start with a realistic appraisal of how long each of the tasks on Lists 1 and 2 (tasks from Quadrants 1 and 2) will take

Start with List 1 and make a note of any deadlines that you have today, this week, this month and so on

Referring to your estimated time frames and working backwards from these deadlines block off sufficient time to complete the tasks allowing for contingencies. You may want to use colour to block off the time on your schedule / in your diary. If you are using hard copy Post It notes can be easily be should priorities shift.

Should it transpire that today’s urgent tasks from List 1 will take 16 hours to complete for example, then DELEGATE! Ideally make sure that you have some time during the day to work on some of your important tasks from List 2.

Now turn to List 2 and slot in the tasks which you have identified as being important. Again, if it transpires that this week’s urgent items and important items together would take 120 hours to complete, then DELEGATE!



The Rocks in the Bucket Time Management Story


Prioritizing and Planning are key to managing ‘time’ effectively.

Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.

Put the big rocks in the bucket – is it full?

Put the small stones in around the big rocks – is it full?

Put the sand in and give it a shake – is it full?

Put the water in. Now it’s full.

The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in at all.

In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won’t fit the big issues in (a big issue doesn’t necessarily have to be a work task – it could be your child’s sports-day, or a holiday).

Thriving in a fast paced, challenging environment (2)

b) Taking Control of Your Time at Work

In his Time Management lecture Randy Pausch suggests that failing to prioritise and plan is the same as planning to fail; he then helpfully points out that you can always change your plan, but only once you have one! He recommends that you set both long term and short term goals and plan accordingly for each day, week, month and three month period.

It is also important to remember to set aside an appropriate amount of time to attend to life issues that are not work related. Time spent with your family, for instance would fall into this category. When prioritizing, you must remember to place sufficient value on activities that give life greater meaning. These real priorities are often inadvertently overlooked when we focus on maintaining our professional lives – often with negative consequences.

The decisions you make about which tasks should come first will probably be the most important part of managing your time. These decisions can be difficult and frustrating but are the key to effective self-management. In this section we introduce a number of tools to help you do this effectively.

Time management experts argue strongly that you must learn to judge the relative importance of each task to help in your scheduling.

To Do Lists

We recommend that you create and then update a To Do list on a daily basis. You will find it invaluable in helping you decide where your priorities lie.

You can then use your To Do list to keep you focused on what really needs to be done, and keep you away from un-important tasks that have no value.


Write down all your outstanding tasks on a sheet of paper

Categorize the tasks using Covey’s four-quadrant matrix for importance and urgency. The matrix classifies tasks as urgent and non-urgent on one axis, and important or non-important on the other axis. Using this framework will ensure that you prioritize work that is aimed at long-term goals (Quadrant 2), rather than tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important (Quadrant 4).

The four-quadrant matrix for importance and urgency

Carefully go through deciding if an item is to be graded as:-

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important

Quadrant 2: Important not Urgent

Quadrant 3: Not important, Not Urgent

Quadrant 4: Urgent not Important

Some people prefer to write the lists for each Quadrant on separate sheets of paper.

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important – DO IT NOW

Urgent items are those with an immediate or soon-to-arrive deadline. These tasks will not always measure up in importance to some tasks, but their urgency gives them a higher level of priority. Recognizing that you need to push time-sensitive projects to the top can reduce panic situations.

Quadrant 2: Important not Urgent – DECIDE WHEN AND DIARIZE

Quadrant 2 has the items that are not urgent, but important.

These are the tasks Covey believes we are likely to neglect but should focus on in order to be effective.

Important items are identified by focusing on a few key priorities and life roles which will vary from person to person, then identifying small goals for each role each week, in order to maintain a holistic life balance. One tool for this is a worksheet that lists up to seven key life roles, with three weekly goals per role, to be evaluated and scheduled into each week before other appointments occupy all available time with things that seem urgent but are not important (Quadrant 4).

Place the tasks in both Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 in priority order, so the most urgent task becomes 1a), then the next becomes 1b) etc.

Priority will be decided on three factors:

  1. Time – which tasks are urgent and which can wait until later.
  2. People – tasks require the input of others, should be given priority so others also have ample time to complete their part.
  3. Magnitude – this means considering the consequences of completing a task later.

Quadrant 3: Not important, Not Urgent – DUMP IT

Delete all items you decide are not worth doing.

Quadrant 4: Urgent not Important – DELEGATE IT

If you have staff, then delegate – if not, decide if you are going to complete these tasks or not. We will be covering ‘When and how to delegate’ in more detail later.

The Challenge of Prioritising

The Challenge of Prioritising

“Being successful doesn’t make you manage your time well.                                        Managing your time well makes you successful.”

Randy Pausch, Time Management Lecture

Do you identify with the following behaviours?

Do you

  • Live in crisis mode, reacting to the demands of circumstance?
  • Tend to “squeeze it in” rather than eliminate items from a crowded      agenda?
  • Think that everything belongs on your urgent list of daily to-dos?
  • Rarely step back to consider what really matters?
  • Let others set your priorities for you?

It is only when we take stock that we can prioritise, asking ourselves questions like

  • Is this really necessary?
  • If I am going to take this on, what am I going to have to give up?
  • Am I really living my life according to my deepest values, or just reacting to whatever pops up?

Prioritising is difficult for everyone, especially in a fast paced, challenging work environment and instead of prioritizing “first things first”, many people make choices according to other rules

  • Whatever’s on top. Paper shuffling.
  • Whatever’s the easiest. Easy does it.
  • Knock-knock. Responding to whomever asks me first.
  • False progress. The more I can tick off my list the more productive I feel.
  • Proximity. Might as well do it while I am passing by.
  • You decide. I don’t want the responsibility.
  • Conflict avoidance. If you yell loudly about something, it will go to the top of my list.
  • Whatever I am in the mood for. I’ll do it if I feel like it.
  • Save the worst for last. Anything but that!
  • Go with the flow. Doing whatever my colleagues do.
  • Habit. Just doing the usual.

All of these ways of prioritising aren’t really prioritising at all. In fact, they are ways to avoid prioritizing, letting habit, circumstance, or the priorities of others determine how you spend your time. When you prioritise according to these rules you are unlikely to fulfill your potential at work.

Thriving in a fast paced, challenging environment

Your Call to Action







a) Time Journals

“You don’t find time for important things, you make it”

Randy Pausch, Time Management Lecture

If you find yourself rushing around often, and you are not sure how you actually spend your time, we strongly recommend that you keep a Time Journal. As Randy Pausch points out, it’s amazing what you learn! Awareness is the first step; knowing how you are spending your time will enable you to eliminate or reduce the time pressure you feel.


Track all of your time in 15 minute increments for between 3 days and two weeks.

Update every ½ hour:  not at end of day

Be honest!


Ask yourself the following questions

  • Are you happy with the amount of time you spend engaging in activities that are NOT moving you towards your goals and/or are not aligned with your values such as watching TV, for example?

However, please remember that it is also important that you take some time out to relax!

  • What doesn’t need to be done?

If you have a tendency to over commit learn to say NO; learn to recognise when someone is making a request of you and remember that you have a choice: you can either say yes, and the point is at what cost, no, or negotiate. You could perhaps exercise a ‘gentle no’. This is when you tell the person who has made the request “I’ll do it if nobody else steps forward” or “I’ll be your fall back, but you have to keep searching”.

  • How am I wasting other people’s time?

In the same way that other people can waste our time, we may be guilty of wasting other peoples. Be respectful and make time to consider the data from this perspective. Adjust your behaviours accordingly.

  • What can I do more efficiently?

Think about how you can save time by limiting interruptions, for example.

  • What can someone else do?

Learn to delegate! We will be covering ‘When and how to delegate’ in more detail later.

Exploring Your Relationship with Time (3)

How do you want to spend the time you have left?

With every minute of every day, we are choosing how to spend our time. By saying yes to one activity, we are, by definition, saying no to another. By being present in this room, for example, you have chosen to devote time to personal and professional growth, learning, community and enjoyment.  There are many ways you could spend this morning. But here you are.

What values are you honouring by being in this room?

In general, how do your choices about how you spend your time reflect your highest values?

NLP Concept: Cause > Effect

 Which side of the equation are you on?

When you are on the Cause side of the equation you are aware of what is important to you (your Values) and you make conscious choices about how you spend your time that serve you in the long term (Deferred Gratification). When you are at Cause you remember to ask yourself:

“What is it that I am not doing while I am choosing to lie in, watch TV, have a coffee and so on, and what are the consequences of choosing NOT to do y and z, and what does it cost me?

When you make choices about how to spend your time it’s important to recognise that an infinite number of possibilities are not chosen. You need to be constantly aware of the choices you are making; remember to ask yourself ‘What are the consequences of doing x?’, AND ‘What are the consequences of choosing NOT to do y and z?’

Conversely, when you are on the Effect side of the equation you lack control; you do not make conscious choices about how to spend your time based on what is important to you. You may not even appreciate that you are able to choose / that you have a choice. Choices are made unconsciously and usually serve you in the short term (Spontaneous Gratification).

Typically when people are ‘at Effect’ they make excuses for their behaviour and will often blame others for their lack of achievement. Their language is typified by statements such as

  • I didn’t have time
  • Time just passes me by
  • There’s not enough time
  • Time escapes me

Often the consequences of the choices you make are not immediately obvious. As an example of how increments add up, studies show that the average American spends 40% of his/her free time watching television. Over an average lifetime, that amounts to ten years. One decade. Is this choice consciously made?

What have you learned so far about how you spend your time?

Exploring Your Relationship with Time (2)

How much time do you have left?

How much time do you have left? (1 year = 8760 hours)

“Time is all we have. And you may find one day that you have less time than you think.

Randy Pausch, Time Management Lecture

Randolph Frederick “Randy” Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) was an American professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pausch learned that he had pancreatic cancer in September 2006, and in August 2007 he was given a terminal diagnosis: “3 to 6 months of good health left”. He gave an upbeat lecture titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, on September 18, 2007, at Carnegie Mellon, which became a popular YouTube video and led to other media appearances. He then co-authored a book called The Last Lecture on the same theme, which became a New York Times best-seller.

In November 2007, Pausch delivered a further lecture on Time Management. Pausch focuses heavily on specific skills you can use to get the most out of the time you do have left and we have relied, to some extent, on his wisdom in preparing today’s Workshop.

Pausch died of complications from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008.

Randy Pausch Resources

Randy Pausch Wikipedia

Time Management

The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Hyperion, 2008

Exploring Your Relationship with Time (1)

During one of our Workshops we heard a story about a man who wanted to live more fully and become more sensitive to the passage of time. He went around his home town and bought thousands of marbles. Each marble represented a day. When he had collected enough marbles to more than last for the rest of his life, he put them in a large glass container. Each evening he would take out one of the marbles and throw it as far as he could out into his garden. There were days when he would look at his marble and think how beautiful it was and didn’t want to throw it away.

How much time do you need? 

How often do you find yourself rushing around?

What is the cost of that behaviour?

As we have already stated, there are only twenty four given hours in a day. You need to sleep, eat, bathe and perform any number of other activities. No matter how you approach time management, there will always be some limitations. There will always be more things that you would like to do than there is time to do them.

Calculate how many hours per day / week you require to complete the activities listed below. You may add other regular activities not listed. To calculate the Hours per Week multiply the Hours per Day by the # of days per Week. Finally, add your scores and calculate your Totals.


Hours per Day

# of Days per Week

Hours per Week


Personal Care (including bathing, dressing, hair   and make–up)




Grocery Shopping – include travelling time




Shopping – include travelling time




Food Preparation








Washing Up
























School Run




(Quality) Time with Partner




(Quality) Time with Family




(Quality) Time with Friends












Personal / Family Admin (including handling   finances, correspondence)




Other Activities: eg. watching TV




Other Activities:




Other Activities:








 There are only 168 hours in a week

 Do your weekly total exceeds 168 Hours!

This exercise is valuable because it demonstrates why it is you find yourself rushing around – because you do not have enough time to do everything – and that the only way to manage your time therefore is to make better choices about how you spend it.