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Where Has The Time Gone?: Time Management

Time Management and Prioritization in Library Jobs

Manipulate What You Can 

  • Can you close your door?
  • Can you dim/turn off lights?
  • Can you put up a DO NOT DISTURB sign?
  • Will music help you to focus?
  • Can you move somewhere else in the building when working on high-focus projects?
  • Can you turn off email notifications?
  • Is the task best addressed by working straight through as much as possible or by spreading out the work into smaller chunks interspersed with other work?


The Pomodoro Technique:  Pick a task you would like to get done.  Set a timer for 25 minutes - and for 25 solid minutes work on that task and only that task - no multitasking allowed.  When the timer goes off, take a short break.  Continue as needed - taking a longer break after the timer has gone off four times in a row.  


18-Minutes:  First thing in the morning, spend 5 minutes thinking about what needs to be done in your day to make your day successful. (+ 5 minutes)  During your work day, spend one minute each hour of your eight-hour workday reconnecting to your list and reviewing how productive you have been during the previous hour (+8 minutes).  At the end of the workday, spend 5 minutes answering the following questions. (+5 minutes)

  1. How did the day go?  What success did I experience?  What challenges did I endure?
  2. What did I learn today?  About myself?  About others?  What do I plan to do - differently or the same - tomorrow?
  3. Whom did I interact with?  Anyone I need to update?  Thank?  Ask a question of?  Share feedback with?


C-O-P-E:  Created by Peggy Duncan, the COPE method stands for Clear-Organized-Productive-Efficient. You follow this method by first reviewing how you currently spend your day - don't change anything, simply log your activities.  Then look over your list and decide what activities you do that are time-wasters.  Once those activities have been identified and eliminated, you next organize your surroundings, prioritize your tasks, and work on them one at a time without multitasking. 


Getting Things Done (GTD):  David Allen's immensely popular method of productivity.  There is a wealth of information, training, seminars, videos, and for-purchase resources to allow anyone to dive deeply into this particular organizational method.  GTD has five basic steps:

  1. Capture - what has your attention.
  2. Clarify - process what it means.
  3. Organize - put it where it belongs.
  4. Reflect - review frequently.
  5. Engage - simply do.  


Important-Urgent Matrix:  Popularized by Dr. Stephen Covey, this four-quadrant time-management technique asks you to divide your to-do items into the following categories:  

  • In Quadrant 1 list your most important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
  • In Quadrant 2 list your important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for.  This quadrant is considered to be of particular importance, because Dr. Covey emphasizes this is the quadrant that needs to be focused on for long term achievement of goals.
  • In Quadrant 3 list urgent, but unimportant items –  items which should be minimized or eliminated. 
  • In Quadrant 4 list unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and should ultimately be minimized or eliminated.  


Rapid Planning Method (RPM):  A method popularized by Tony Robbins, RPM stands for Results-driven, Purpose-driven, Massive-action-plan.  This method asks the following questions for each item or designated task:

  1. What do I really want?
  2. What's my purpose?
  3. What's my massive action plan?


168 Hours:  Author Laura Vanderkam posits the idea that in one week, everyone - be they rich, famous, poor, young, or old - all have the same number of hours at their disposal.  How is it, then, that some people are productive and accomplished using the same number of available hours as others who accomplish far less?  Vanderkam's answer is to track your life for several days, noting what you do, how long it takes, and how often you do it.  Then once you are aware of how you currently are spending your time, decide based on four categories - core competencies, goals, values, and happiness - how you would actually like to be spending your time, and scheduling large time blocks for each category, change your habits accordingly.  


Do It Now:  The idea, popularized by Wes Saad, that if you have something that needs doing, do it now.  Don't wait until later, don't put it off until tomorrow, simply jump on the task, and accomplish it quickly then move on to the next thing.  


Do It Tomorrow:  Mark Forster's time management concept that you cannot prioritize everything at once, because once you agree to take on a task or a project, everything needs to be done related to that project and that project alone.  He turns the 'Do It Now' idea on its head by proposing that people create "closed" and "will do" lists.  


Eat that Frog:  Mark Twain is credited with having come up with a pithy saying about someone who eats a live frog every morning will spend the rest of the day with the satisfaction that they have gotten through the worst thing they could possibly have to do that day.  Based on that principal, Brian Tracy has created a time management concept where every morning you tackle the biggest, most difficult task that is on your to-do list first thing, and that you see that task through to completion before you move on to something else.  He claims that by doing so, you will waste the least possible amount of time procrastinating and thinking about your task - you will instead simply accomplish it. 


24me:  A virtual assistant app that helps you combine your calendar features with a to-do list and note-taking capabilities.  Notifications can be added in to many of the major calendar services, and voice controls let you add in notes or appointments through Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Apple watch.  


Agenda: Agenda is a date-focused note taking app for iOS and macOS, which helps you plan and document your projects. Agenda gives you a complete picture of past, present and future, driving your projects forward.  The notes in Agenda are beautifully styled, and include powerful features like images, file attachments, tags, lists, and links. You can even connect your notes to events in your calendar, and add due reminders to your tasks.  Locating your notes also couldn't be easier, with powerful search, a project jump bar, and related notes list. And when you find what you're looking for, simply click back in the history to where you were.  Keep your schedule on track with an app that includes to-do lists, reminders, notes, and a share feature where you can share your lists and tasks with others. will also integrate with your current calendar system for an even higher level of functionality.  You can also use cross-platform support for sub-tasks, notes, and file attachments.  


Evernote:  Photos, screenshots, links, notes, websites - everything can be added to your Evernote account in a 'note', along with daily or weekly to-do lists - and from there can be organized by Notebooks and shared with others.  Email alerts can also be added, along with reminders.  All notes and Notebooks are synced across multiple devices and platforms for seamless access.  


Habitica:  An open-source project, Habitica is an online task management platform/application that takes on the form of a role-playing game that helps you to keep track of and remain motivated to achieve your goals.   


ToDoist: Considered by many to be the ultimate "to-do" list app.  Write down what you need to get done, and then the software categorizes the tasks for you based on your entries into categories like "meetings" or "appointments" - and even includes schedule reminders.  


Toggl:  A time-tracker app that is multi-device compatible, Toggl helps you to track your time, and to see where you are getting bogged down on tasks while other action items truly need your focus.  For people with multiple demands on their time, or with more than one supervisor, Toggl allows you to better understand how your time is being spent, and how you need to adjust your work to be more productive or more equitable in the future.  


Trello:  Trello is a highly-visual project management app that uses a "card" feature to break down large tasks into smaller pieces.  Cards can be arranged and re-arranged into different columns, which represent the various phases of a project.  As tasks are finished, the cards can be moved to different locations to signify their completion or advancement to a different phase of the project.  


Wunderlist:  Create to-do list items directly from the web, by forwarding emails, or by direct entry.  Move items into folders, add due dates and/or attachments, and get notifications and reminders via in-app messages and emails.  To-do items can be easily shared with others, and tasks can also be assigned to others for group projects.