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When Tasks Start Overwhelming You?

There is talk of morning larks or night owls - a certain dependence on our individual rhythm of activity in which our body feels more productive. But is it really so...

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The saying goes, "morning larks" or "night owls" - referring to a certain dependency of our individual rhythm of activity in which our body feels more productive. But is it really so? Scientists have proven that the highest cognitive performance in most populations usually occurs in the late morning hours between 9:00 and 12:00, as well as in the late afternoon from 16:30 to 18:00. They called it the "golden time", the moment when our brain activity is heightened, leading to more efficient reactions in our actions. It is during these golden periods that it is worth planning our most important tasks.

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Let's remember that our brain is not a computer, it also needs proper regeneration and rest, so let's try not to overextend our work. At certain moments of exhaustion, any processes of learning and memorization become impossible for our body. Therefore, it is worth considering our own rhythm and also carrying out tasks in accordance with it.

The process of planning is meant to help us accurately predict our process of what and how we want to accomplish. Planning itself is a challenging field, but it is always worth making an effort to avoid future time crises that can cause constant rush and disorientation in our lives. Remember that time crises are stressful not only for you but also have an impact on your surroundings, such as family, friends, or coworkers. Have you experienced this on your own skin before and still think that planning is not necessary for you? Think again, as everyone has their limits of endurance. Remember that planning your day down to the minute is also not a good idea. So, how do you approach it?

The best technique seems to be planning based on time blocks in which individual tasks will be performed. At the start, you can set up three time blocks: morning block, noon block, and evening block. This method will help you avoid minute-by-minute planning.

Scientists have shown that we usually assume that completing a more important task takes less time. However, practice shows something else - it is difficult to accurately estimate the time for completing specific tasks down to the minute, especially if we have several tasks to complete during the day. But if such a situation does occur in our lives, let's try to plan it in one of our time blocks.

Structuring the daily action plan is a challenging task, but thanks to it, you won't wander aimlessly throughout the day. Remember that there will always be priority matters that are worth accomplishing first. A well-developed plan will motivate us and engage us in pursuing our goals. In the meantime, there will surely be satisfaction in checking off items from our to-do list. Below, I have presented you with a few interesting methods that are useful for planning.

ALPEN Method

This technique is one of the simpler yet effective methods for long-term time planning. The name of the technique is an acronym derived from the German words: Aufgaben, Länge schätzen, Pufferzeiten einplanen, Entscheidungen treffen, and Nachkontrolle, where each of these words corresponds to one stage of planning.

  1. Create a task list (AUFGABEN) — in the first step, you develop your own task list which should include goals from your weekly or monthly plan, tasks not completed from the previous day, tasks that have arisen today and need to be done tomorrow, and routine tasks.
  2. Estimate the duration (LÄNGE SCHÄTZEN) — the second step involves estimating the duration of all the activities listed in the first step. Remember to estimate the time realistically based on your experience.
  3. Consider the 60:40 rule (PUFFERZEITEN EINPLANEN) — it is important to plan an internal buffer time, which involves planning only 60% of your available time. The remaining 40% of time is treated as a buffer for unexpected events that you cannot predict.
  4. Set priorities (ENTSCHEIDUNGEN TREFFEN) — at this stage, you assign separate priorities to each task. You can use techniques such as the Eisenhower matrix or the Pareto principle.
  5. Monitor task completion (NACHKONTROLLE) — this is the final step of the ALPEN method. At this stage, you monitor the progress of task completion and your overall work. You check off tasks that have been completed and at the end of your work day, you review tasks that were not completed to prioritize them for the next day.

The main advantage of the ALPEN method is its significant impact on organizing our next day by providing appropriate structure to our future tasks. This helps us eliminate chaos and better manage all the tasks we need to accomplish in a specific day, thus avoiding disruptions in our work rhythm. By using this method, you work on self-control.

The ABC Method

You may have noticed that when using task lists, you usually tackle tasks in order, crossing them off as you go. And often, you might find that there are tasks you didn't complete on a given day, so you transfer them to the next day. The cycle repeats, and your list keeps growing longer each day, leading to increasing frustration and discouragement.

The remedy for this issue is the ABC method. By implementing this approach, you can bring order to your planning process, assigning one of three priorities (A, B, or C) to each task. This way, you will know which tasks will have the greatest impact on achieving your goals.

The letter A signifies your top priorities, which make up about 15% of all tasks. However, by completing these tasks, you will achieve a whopping 65% of results. B denotes moderately important tasks that account for 20% of the outcomes. Lastly, tasks labeled as C are the least important, but they consume 65% of our time, and only yield 15% of results. This analysis works best when you start with tasks that will bring you the most results.

Remember that you can establish your own rules. Just follow a few steps:

  • Record your results — make sure to write down your tasks in a way that they are achievable (it's best to base it on the KAIZEN methodology - small steps). Regular completion of tasks will motivate you to keep going.
  • Plan tomorrow — try to remember the upcoming days, don't just live for today. Try to even make a short list of things to accomplish. It will help you get a sense of what needs to be done.
  • Analyze — after planning your tasks, consider which ones are important and which ones are urgent. Allocate time for their completion. Then prioritize them based on their importance (the ABC method).
  • Realism — try to match your capabilities with your goals, don't plan too many tasks. During your planning, aim for around 7 tasks per day. Completing an unrealistic list in the long run will lower your self-esteem. You don't want to become a machine, do you?
  • Monitor progress — frequent analysis and verification of your progress will allow you to manage your activities proactively, keeping future delays at bay.

If you still want to deepen your knowledge of time management, I recommend reading the book "Time Management" by Brian Tracy (2006) published by Muza.

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Leszek W. Król

Leszek W. Król

On a daily basis, I accompany companies and institutions in designing strategies and developing new products and services.

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