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Time Management Course – Rob Dawson

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From Time Management Course by Rob Rawson ;

Working on a project I found this great series of papers – of course there are (paid) follow-ups to this but here’s enough to interest some folk …

Lesson 1
During this free 10 lesson course you are going to totally change your effectiveness at work or your studies. You will find yourself getting a lot more done, with less stress. And you will have more time to enjoy the things you want to enjoy. It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter and being more effective. Getting more done in less time.Ok, so let’s get started with the first lesson. Let’s get straight to the most effective method of getting more done. It’s really simple.All you need to do is make a list of the things you want to accomplish for the next day, a maximum of 8 things. Then each day you work starting with number 1 on the list, then move to number 2 and further down the list. You’ve probably read this technique already on the website, or somewhere else, but are you doing it?Do it now. Stop. Write down the top 8 things – MAXIMUM of 8! – that you want to do today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this late at night).Finished? Great.Ok now take a look at the top item on your list. What is it? Estimate how long it will take you to complete this item. Is there anything preventing you from working on this item today? If something is preventing you from working on it today, then remove it from your list! Only include items that you can work on today.

Are you immediately clear what you need to do to accomplish this item? Yes? Great, if you’re not clear, take some time to think about it and figure out what is the next step towards your outcome in this area.

Now start working on item 1 on the list! Keep writing this list down every day and working from the list. Make sure always to put the most important item first.

That’s it for the first lesson. Follow the lessons in the e-course and you will be on track to getting more done each day with less effort.

Lesson 2
Each day for the last few days you should have been writing down the top 8 things you want to do for the day, and working from top to the bottom on this list. Have you been doing this?If not, get started now as this is a foundation for the course. If you didn’t do it, let’s make it even more simple. Write down only the top TWO things you want to do today. Two items only. How much easier can it get!Ok, make sure you do this. If you already have your list of 8 items, then select only the top 2 most important items.How do you know if something is important? Will it affect the important outcomes that you want in life in a powerful way? Usually there are only a few things you must do to achieve an important outcome. The other stuff is busy work. So the top items on your list should be really contributing towards your future plans and dreams. Also, if there is something that you are avoiding doing, but is important to you, consider putting that as number one on your list.Now stop and think what are you doing for the rest of today (if you’re reading this email late at night think about what you will do tomorrow). Plan exactly what time you are going to spend on these top 2 items. Think what time (exactly) will you start and for how long will you work on them. Is that enough time to get them done? Now write down the start time (for example 3:40pm) and the length of time you will work on these two items (for example 2 hours). Now go to your mobile phone, watch or computer and set an alarm that will sound at 3:40 pm to remind you to start on these tasks.Ok that’s it for today! You won’t need to do this exercise of setting an alarm every day (unless you want to!) This is just to get started and make sure you have a taste of success.

Rob Rawson


Lesson 3
Now you should be making a list of the top 1 to 8 things you want to do each day and working through this list every day. If you haven’t been doing it, recommit to doing this every day, and make the list right now.

Ok, now, let’s look at how can you have more peace in your life even when you have A LOT to do! The first step to being peaceful is for you to get everything that’s on your mind down on paper.

So, we are going to start now with an exercise where you write down everything that is on your mind, every incomplete task or actually EVERYTHING that you are thinking about. This is part of the methodology of David Allen in Getting Things Done.

Why is this important? You probably have dozens of things that are going through your head that you know you should probably do, but you haven’t properly thought about this list of stuff. Unless you write it down and decide clearly on next steps, it’s going to cause some stress and prevent you from being peaceful.

First let’s set a time to do this. It might take 2 hours to do it properly so you are going to have to set aside some significant time. Think when can you do it? If now, great, if not now, think what day within the next 2 days you can do it, and what specific time?

Have a specific time and day? Ok great. Now write it in your diary and set a reminder on your calendar on your phone to go off at that specific time and date. If you don’t know how to set a reminder, investigate it now. There is for example a way on Gmail to set a reminder of when you should do something and then email you. Or your phone probably has a way to ring at a specific time in the future. Whatever system you have that will make sure you don’t forget to do it at that exact time in the future. Of course if you’re doing it now, you don’t need the reminder!

Now what do you need to do? Simple. Write a list of everything that you need to do.

  • At work. At home. In your garden, in your office.
  • Is there anything you want to organize?
  • Anything you want to clean up or throw away?
  • Any person you need to speak to?
  • Bills to pay?
  • Mails to read or sort through?

Now that you have all those “to dos” off your mind, let’s move to some more difficult stuff. Is there anything you are thinking about a lot.

  • A problem with your relationship?
  • An issue with your boss?
  • Maybe you don’t like your job?
  • You are thinking about going on a holiday next year?
  • You want to move to a different city but haven’t done anything about it?
  • You think you look too big in your jeans and need to lose weight.

When I say write down everything that’s on your mind I mean EVERYTHING. Don’t worry you don’t have to show this list to anyone unless you choose to!

This process is very powerful. Once you have all this stuff off your mind, it’s the first step to being not only more productive, but also more peaceful whilst getting more done. Remember the course is not just about getting more done, it’s also about being more peaceful. If you do this you will be taking the first step to having less stress and worrying less about all the things you need to do.

So keep going until you have everything written down that has been on your mind. When it’s complete, put away your list and get ready for the next lesson.

In the mean time keep writing down each day the top few things (8 or less) that you want to do and continue working from this list.

Lesson 4

So you should have your list of everything that has been on your mind. Now it’s time to start organizing the list so that you can get it off your mind, and start getting to a place of peace and relaxation in your life. One of the funny things that you will notice is that the things you feel most stressed about are usually the things that you are just thinking about a lot but not doing anything about! Once you start taking action, the stress starts to disappear.This organizing process can take some time. It’s best to give yourself 2 hours for this process. So if you don’t have 2 hours right now, think when in the next 2 days you will have time to do this. Write it down in your diary, and set a reminder to go off at the exact time you plan to do this. Make sure to plan the EXACT time that you plan to start on this organizing task.So take a look at the list, and now we will consider each item with the following two questions:
“What outcome do I want here?”
“What is the next action step I need to take towards this outcome?”Sometimes it will be easy. For example you want to write a book but you haven’t started, the outcome is a book you are proud of and the next action step is to go to the library and research on the topic of the book.

So as soon as you come up with the next action step, you can tick off that item on the list and start a new list that is JUST actions steps. We will call this the “action steps” list. These actions should take you less than 1 day to complete usually. If the action will take more than 1 day to finish, please break it down into a smaller action step that will take you less than 1 day to complete.

Now work through your list of everything on your mind and tick off all the items you can as you think of the next action step. Sometimes if it’s something simple, you might not need to change it and can just move it to the “action step” list. For example “read my mail” is really an action step in itself and you don’t need to break it down further.

If you get stuck on an item for more than 2 minutes (you are not sure what is the next action step) then set it aside for a minute and move on to the other items on your list.

Now when you are finished you should have a list of “action steps” and then a few items where you are not sure what the next action step is or maybe not even sure what the outcome is.

Let’s work a bit more on these items where you are “not quite sure”. Consider each item and think, “What is the outcome I would like here?”. Try to write this outcome in positive language. For example, let’s say you wrote down “my partner keeps nagging at me”, then don’t write down the outcome “my partner stops nagging at me”. Instead write down, “I had a wonderful conversation with my partner”.

Now once you have the outcome, think what is the next step you need to take towards this outcome. The next action step should again be something you can do in 1 day or less. If not break it down into smaller steps. Is there anything stopping you from taking this action today? If so there must be another action that comes first, and write that down as the next action step. An action step is obviously something that you can do, and not something that is dependent on another person.

Still stuck with some of these items? The next step is to find someone who can help you to come up with some ideas. You will want to ask a friend who has success in the area that you have the issue with, and see what they recommend. If you can’t find someone who has success in that area, look for a book that is from someone that had the same issue as you and has succeeded in that area of life. In fact that can be your next action step, “Contact my friend” or “Read xyz book”.

The final step! Ok now we are ready with our list of next action steps. Take this list and select the top 4-8 items only to work on tomorrow. Think what is most important to you in your life, and which actions will help you most in this important area of your life.

Now you are ready with your list of things to work on today! (Or tomorrow if you are doing this exercise at the end of the day). Now imagine yourself completing the first action on the list. See exactly what you are doing, are you sitting, reading, talking to someone. Imagine exactly what you are doing to complete this action. If you can’t imagine exactly what you need to do then something is wrong! Think through this action step again and get more specific about what you actually need to do. For example if you’re action step is “find a way to get my book published” … you have a problem! That’s not an action step. It’s too vague, not specific enough. Instead an action step could be, “Spend 30 minutes online researching self publishing methods”. Or, “Check the yellow pages and online and make a list of all publishers that specialize in my niche”.


Lesson 5

Ok, we’re really making some progress! What you have done so far is to every day make a list of the top few things you are focusing for the day and work from this list. We also made a list of everything that is on your mind, and using this complete list organized it into a list of just action steps.You should be continuing to make a list of your top few things you want to do for the day, if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up! Just start doing it (make the list right now).Today is elimination and simplification day.The goal for today is to eliminate unnecessary steps in what you are doing and eliminate whole sections of your life that are not really that important.

So here’s the exercise: Think of something you can eliminate from each of these categories.

First what is something you do many days and you probably could stop doing because it’s not really that important to you. Here are some ideas: watching the news on television, taking unnecessary trips in your car, doing your washing (could someone else do it?). Once you have determined what it is, take a dramatic step that will indicate that you are eliminating this from your life, for example throw out your television! Yes, it’s nice to say “I’m not going to watch so much TV” but the reality is that you probably will keep doing so unless you take some drastic action.

Second is there an entire area of your life that you could eliminate? Is there something that you are kind of doing out of obligation, but you don’t feel that it’s really that important.

Third take a look at all the travel time in your life and look at how to make this time either more efficient or eliminate it. What can you do whilst travelling? (for example can you make business calls or get in contact with your friends). Also, how can you eliminate some of the travel in your life. For example can you visit the supermarket only once per week with a list of everything you need for the week.

Lastly, think what is causing you the most stress in your life right now, and ask yourself what could you eliminate from your life or from your expectations about how life should be that will reduce or eliminate your stress.

Lesson 6

Email! Ahhhhhhh!Do you have an email problem of some kind? If not you’re one of the lucky few. Email addiction and inefficient handling of email some of the most common time management problems.

So let’s get focused on how to handle emails faster, more effectively and basically spend less time reading your emails and achieve the same overall outcome.

Step 1: Filter your email as much as possible. Unsubscribe from anything you don’t need, and the stuff you might read occasionally filter it into a folder “to read later”.

Step 2: Short replies. Reply in 3 sentences wherever possible. This decreases the amount of responses you get and significantly decreases your time in responding to emails. Emails are NOT for conversations. If you need to have a conversation schedule time for a phone call. Email should be treated more like a text message, short, sweet and to the point.

Step 3: Educate your friends and family about sending you less emails and shorter emails! This is a hard one, but using a site like: is very helpful.

Step 4: Handle each email once. This means you look at the email, you decide what to do, you delete it, reply, archive, put it on your to do list, but you don’t go “oh I’ll handle that later”. This time when you procrastinate and think, “Oh yeah do it later” adds up to a significant amount of time.

Step 5: Inbox Zero. Ok this is a really hard one for a lot of people, but it’s basically the best way to accomplish Step 4. In order to make sure you handle your emails only one time, you deal with the email immediately and then you get it OUT of your inbox where it’s not staring at you any more, it’s out of your sight!

Step 6: Batch process your emails. Checking your emails dozens of times each day and handling a few emails each time is a very inefficient way to handle email. Each time you check your emails it interrupts what you were doing previously. Instead batch your emails so that you handle them at one time, perhaps setting aside 20 minutes to review all of them. Get them all completely handled and then move on to your next task.

Ok, that’s enough for today. So the next step is to go through your inbox with all these things in mind, and clear your inbox to zero.

If you’re inbox is in a terrible state (hundreds of emails you haven’t dealt with but think there might be something that need to take action on), then might need to quarantine your current inbox full of stuff you haven’t dealt with. If there really are too many emails in there, take everything out of your inbox and dump it into a “deal with later folder. Now make a commitment that whenever you check your emails, you will process all emails until you are back to zero mails in your inbox

Final Lesson

Are you going with your task list? In this lesson we are going to take a look at your task “lists” and find out how to organize them better so that you have total clarity about what you need to take action on.There are several common mistakes that you can make with your task list. The first is to have a bunch of things on your list that you can’t really action right now. When you have those items on your list, your mind starts to go numb to the list because you look at your list and you don’t have a clear idea of what to actually do about the “task”. In fact it’s not really a task, it’s more of a thought that you wrote down and did not determine what you actually need to do about it. For example you write on your task list “Get more clients”, but you haven’t thought about how exactly you are going to do this. Instead you should think clearly about what is the actual action step for example, “Review my old business cards to see who I could contact about referrals”. Or “Brainstorm 5 ideas of how to get more clients”. These are specific actions that you know that you can take action on. You have clarity about what you actually need to do. This makes your “to do” effective as you have total clarity about what it is that you actually need to do.Another reason you might find that you can’t really take action on an item is that you are waiting for someone else. In this case the item should NOT be in your to do list. Instead, make a separate list of “waiting on” items where you are waiting for the other person to do something before you can take the next action. Then you can review this “waiting on” list and follow up with the relevant person when appropriate.So let’s review your task list right now and see if there are any items that you are not totally clear about. Review each item on your list with the following questions:

  1. What is my outcome? What do I want in this situation?
  2. What is the next action step I need to take?
  3. Is my next action something I can accomplish in less than 1 day? If not break it down into smaller steps. The 1 day figure is not set in stone, you can determine what is right for you, but if you have tasks that take more than 1 day it can start to feel all too hard. Easier to break it down to smaller chunks.
  4. Am I waiting on someone to take action before I can start? If this is something where you are waiting on someone else, put it on your “waiting on” list.
  5. Is this something you want to do generally in the next few weeks or is it something to do later in your life when you can get around to it? If it’s something to do later, create a list for “later” or “someday” and put the item in this list.
  6. Is it something to do on a specific date in the future? If so take it off your to do list and put it on your calendar on that date.

Make sure to review and update all these lists regularly, preferably weekly.

Your to do list should include only items that you are able to work on this week. Anything else should go on another list. Include ONLY items that you actually can do. When you have lists of mixed items, some where you are waiting on another person, some to do later it creates stress and confusion. Every time you look at your to do list you are not quite sure what to do about all the stuff on the list. Instead it’s so much more clear and peaceful to only have “to do” items on your “to do” list.

So that’s it for the time management course but you will now continue receive new time management tips twice per week in your email inbox. Please forward this course to your friends, it’s free after all! And let us know how you this material helped you in your life, and how you applied it, plus any other suggestions you have for improving time management.


About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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