System Admin Time Management: The Cycle System

8496 2018-12-21 16:35

A brief recap of previous lessons we learned from Thomas Limoncelli:

  1. Time Management Principles tells us not to trust our brains for remembering things; our brain power should be conserved for doing things.
  2. Keep Focus and Handle Interruptions identifies the archenemy of productivity - interruptions. Fortunately, we can handle them with certain techniques.
  3. Radical Automation with Routines let us know that the best way of not thinking is to develop good mantras, routines, habits. The so-called radical automation.
  4. Introducing the Cycle System is unveiling his secret sauce to the “perfect-through” by using the cycle system that contains to-do list, schedule, calendar, and life goals.

Today, let us focus on how to operate the cycle system.

To Do Lists and Schedule

Everyday, repeat the following process.

  1. Start a new day with planning.

  2. Create a schedule. Fill in with meetings and appointments. So we can estimate the time left for working on tasks.

    1. Schedule one hour per day for interruptions
  3. Create to-do list. Remember to count the hours in those tasks because this helps you estimate the workload.

  4. Prioritize and Reschedule.

    1. Too often people are too optimistic about the tasks they can finish in one day, so please deal with overflow carefully.
      1. move low priority tasks to the next day
      2. break up a large chunk into small pieces
      3. reduce the task’s scope
      4. delegate
      5. your boss might feel impressed by your to-do list (wow, it’s full!), and they will be glad to help you prioritize those tasks. (Let bosses feel in control.)
      6. postpone the meeting if you really have to present yourself
      7. do not work late
  5. Work the plan

    1. Work on the tasks in order from high-to-low-priority tasks
    2. Take the momentum to finish tasks one by one.
    3. Once in a while, pause to stretch or take a quick walk around the building with your laptop, which makes you look on your way to something important
  6. Finish the day with a review and reschedule

    1. Ensure unfinished tasks receive sufficient attention, which means they are managed and not forgotten.

How to deal with new tasks during the day?

  • reshuffle and reschedule accordingly

Calendar Management

Never miss a meeting and show up on time. It demonstrates your responsibility reliability. And the secret is to always use your calendar and don’t trust your brain to agree an appointment without checking your calendar. If you are going to be late or miss an appointment, always call.

The calendar is the place to put events fixed to happen in a certain time range. They can be:

  1. Appointments and meetings
  2. Milestones
  3. Future to do items
  4. Repeating tasks

Adjust yourself according to your personal rhythms and your company’s rhythms. Most important (high-impact) work should be scheduled to peak hours you can focus with the highest energy level.

Balance is important. Work, family life, social life, volunteer work, personal projects, sleep are all important and can be scheduled well with a centralized calendar.

Life Goals

You will achieve more if you set goals. And setting a goal without working toward it is better than having no goals at all. If you haven’t determined what your goals are, you cannot spot the few opportunities that do cross your path by chance.

The secret lies in writing down your goals. Apply the SMART principles during the goal-setting. (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant, Time-based). However, stretching the goals and challenging yourself is very important to boost personal growth. Keep those goals in two dimensions:

  1. Time. In 1 month, 1 year, or 5 years?
  2. Roles. Personal or Professional Goals?

Then develop strategies for those goals -

  1. Diagnose the current status and identify the major challenges
  2. Find guiding policies that will derive new advantages over time
  3. Act coherently. All the actions and resources should be aligned to follow the guiding policies to fulfill the goals.

When working on those goals over time, be sure to keep up with the system. Periodically review them per month, quarter, and year, which includes:

  1. Goal review
  2. Step review

Finally, use your calendar for this repeated “Goal & Next Step Review.”


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