The Cycle is the evolution of a system that has worked for me for over 10 years. It's relatively lightweight, yet it includes all the pieces a system administrator needs.
Figure 4-1. FranklinCovey, Filofax, and others sell "one page per day" sheets where you record your to do list and daily time schedule
There are four parts in our organizer:
365 to do lists per year. We're going to have one to do list for each day of the year. Today's to do list records the tasks you need to do today. If you know something needs to be done on a particular day, write it on that to do list. Items left over at the end of the day will be moved to the next day's list. (If you use a PAA, you'll only need to keep the next month's worth of sheets with you. Otherwise, it will be difficult to carry!)
Today's schedule. Each day we'll plan our day in one-hour increments.
An appointment calendar. This will be used to record all of our appointments, meetings, social plans, and so on. Events that are further in the future than the current month are written on the calendar until they can be transferred to a particular day's schedule .
Notes. Our organizer will also be used to store other notes and lists. For example, in Chapter 7, we'll create lists of short- and long-term plans.
Create today's schedule. On today's schedule I block out time for all my meetings and appointments. All these events should already be listed on my calendar (I cover how this happens in Chapter 6). I count how many hours are remaining. Those are my work hours for the day.
Create today's to do list . On today's to do list, I have a list of all the to do items I have on my plate for that day. These to do items are culled from phone calls, meetings, my calendar, our request-tracking system, and the previous day's to do list.
Prioritize and reschedule. For each item, I estimate how much time the item will take to accomplish. I total the time estimates. If the total time is more than my total work hours, I move individual items to the next day's list. We'll talk about techniques for selecting what to move later.
Work the plan. I spend the day working on the tasks in my list and attending meetings/appointments. I stay focused. When something is complete, I mark it with an X.
Finish the day. At the end of the day, I move all the unfinished tasks to the next day's list. I mark the items that were moved with a hyphen.
Leave the office. Now I can leave the office. I am happy with the knowledge that every item on my list was managed—it was either done or moved to the next day. Nothing was forgotten.
Repeat. The next day The Cycle starts over again. Each day's to do list comes prepopulated with items moved from previous days.
By having a new list each day, we will get that good feeling of accomplishment when we have managed every item on today's list. When we finish our list early, we can reward ourselves by working on a "fun" project, or go home early if we have that kind of flexibility. When we have more work than can be completed today, we can feel good that we have a way to manage overflow.
We can do long- and medium-term planning instead of the constant scramble to keep our heads above water. We can break a task into smaller parts and schedule each part for a particular day. We can schedule time across the next month, or even year, to achieve a long-term goal by writing down reminders on various pages.
We also have a calendar to keep all of our appointments. Use one calendar for both work and social life because one calendar is easier to track than two. A combined calendar ensures that we don't miss something fun because we didn't check our social calendar and decided to work late.
Sound too mechanical? Too inflexible? You'll see how flexible it can be. This entire planning process will take about 10 minutes each day and save you hours of frustration. Does planning your entire day sound unrealistic? What about when new tasks are added to your to do list throughout the day? I promise we'll cover that in Chapter 5. You have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk.