Monday, August 10, 2009

Time Management: A Better Way

Jonathan Mead over at Zen Habits just wrote a post about getting things done without obsessing over time. One of his recommendations is to choose a monthly theme: instead of trying to accomplish various goals at any given moment, he suggests dedicating every month to just one goal.

I’ve tried that before and have found that it doesn’t work. Sometimes you just can’t put goals off for months at a time. Instead, I’ve found a better solution for managing all of your goals at once without stressing over the time each one takes:

The heart of the system is to assign each day of the week to a single project or goal. From hereon out, Mondays will be your day for, say, studying investment strategies. On Thursdays you can put in an extra workout.

There are a few reasons why this system works so well. First, it keeps each one of your projects progressing steadily. You’ll avoid the trap of working on a goal in fits and starts, or doing everything at a rush and then running out of steam. Second, it reassures you each day that all of your goals are taken care of. You can focus on that day’s work without fretting that you’ve fallen behind on something else. Third, it sets you up with a routine that never has to change but provides plenty of variety. And finally, you will know what you’re supposed to be working on each day without checking in on every single one of your projects to see which one needs the most work.

Recently, I found myself getting overwhelmed by a different set of responsibilities. I have multiple projects going on at once—novel-writing, this blog, starting a new side business, etc.—and there just didn’t seem to be enough time. If I focused on one, then I would likely let another one slide. Last week’s hiatus in posting was due to this confusion! Then I adopted this system. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

Sundays: work on Frugal New Yorker, volunteer
Mondays: work on my side business
Tuesdays: write or edit fiction
Wednesdays: work on my side business
Thursdays: Frugal New Yorker
Fridays: write or edit fiction
Saturdays: work on side business, and cook

As you can see, any goal or project that needs a lot of work can be given more than one day—my side business takes up three days in total. And sometimes I can combine two projects in one day—this is easiest to do on the weekends, when I have extra time. Moreover, the system is flexible: each day you can determine your daily goals for that project, depending on how much time you have and what you need to get done.

All in all, this is a great way to fit your goals into your daily routine. For those of you working to get your finances in order, you might assign one day per week to reading a personal finance book or managing your money, or to frugal projects like cooking meals for the week ahead as I do on Saturdays.

It’s also a great way to take on a side business without getting overwhelmed. Whatever you choose to do with it, good luck!


  1. I like this system! I decided a few years back to do the hobbies I wanted to do Every Day or stop altogether and that's worked well, but there are things it doesn't work for at all - individual projects, paperwork, etc. I am going to try this.

  2. Also, I suppose it is equivalent to Monday is washing day, Tuesday is ironing day... etc.

  3. That's exactly it--you're just setting up a regular routine, like housekeeping. Nothing falls behind. I think that's the spirit of those old housekeeping patterns, anyway.

    I'm glad you like this system, and thanks for the comments!