Time Management Magic: How To Get More Done Every Day

Time Management Magic: How To Get More Done Every Day and Move From Surviving to Thriving is written by Lee Cockerell, retired Senior Operating Executive of Walt Disney World Resorts. In his book, he shares the time management lessons he learned in his executive career and now teaches in his Time/Life Management seminars. It’s a short book but full of useful tips.

We're always looking for ways to improve our time management skills so that we have more white space in our lives. Today, I'm sharing three lessons I learned from reading Time Management Magic.

Time management magic. How to get more done.

Lesson 1—Schedule Your Priorities

If your priorities have become habits and get done without reminders, you’re in great shape. But if you are not keeping up with your priorities, you need to put them into your schedule. For example, exercise is something we know we need to do. And if you regularly work out at 6:00 am every day, you don’t need to schedule your workout time; you already do it. But if exercise is a priority and you are not making time for it, you need to block it out on your schedule—just like any other appointment. Every day there should be a specific time slot for you to go to the gym, go for a run, whatever your workout routine is. Making an appointment for yourself and writing it down will keep you accountable. And scheduling your priorities can work for any area of your life—date night with your partner, one-on-one time with your children, time with friends. In the book, Cockerell uses an example of scheduling a weekly phone call to his mother.

Lesson 2—Use checklists, systems, and procedures

“…You can’t have a successful organization if you are plagued by disorganization and lack of consistent performance.”

Whether you are running a one-person side hustle, maintaining a household, or are the CEO of a major organization, checklists and procedures can make life less complicated. If you are doing a home renovation project, you don’t have the drywall guy come out to hang drywall if the plumber hasn’t finished with the pipes. There’s a procedure you follow when doing home renovations. If you are launching a new product in your business, you likely have a checklist of all the tasks involved. That checklist keeps you organized so you can have a successful launch. There’s even a system for skincare. You don’t put on night time moisturizer until you wash off the day’s makeup. Checklists, systems, procedures—they keep you organized so life runs a bit more smoothly. 

{Read my post 12 Checklists That Will Make Life Easier here.}

Lesson 3—Use Signifiers On Your To Do List

Am I the only one who will make a list to make a list? I’ll write down all the things I need to get done and then rewrite the list so that the number one thing is on the top and the last task is on the bottom. It works, but I’m writing the list twice which it’s not a good use of my time.

Instead what I should be doing is making a list and then using signifiers to show me what is urgent vs. what is necessary vs. what can wait. The following what a list might look like using Lee’s signifiers. (You could use different signifiers.)

A-2 write post
*draft sequence
B-1 send email
B-4 book flight
A-1 design opt-in
B-2 order math
B-3 make appointment
C-1 pick up dry-cleaning 

Things marked by an asterisk are urgent and must get done. Things designated by an A are necessary, A-1 being more vital than A-4. Tasks denoted with a B are important, again B-1 being of higher importance than B-4, but all Bs are less urgent than the As. The Cs are of limited value. They can be put off or even handled by someone else. 

What I love about this idea is that it eliminates the need to write your list in a specific order. You write down what needs to be done and get it out of your head. Then you add signifiers to show what should be done first, second, and so on. 

The key will be not to let it overwhelm you. If you spend five minutes trying to decide if a task should be an A-1 or an A-2, you’re going to exasperate yourself. And you’re not saving any time. Just pick one and move on. Or maybe it would be easier for you not to use signifiers. Any time management system should be helpful, not a hindrance. 

Other Key Ideas From Time Management Magic:

“Plan each day as diligently as you plan your vacations…Think of it [your plan] as a GPS or a map: without it, you will not get to where you want to go.”

“Efficient is being able to get things done. Effective is doing the right things in the right order, and making sure you address everything that is urgent, vital, and important, in every part of your life.”

“Time/life management is probably the most crucial skill a person needs to be successful and happy.”

While I usually suggest you buy the books I talk about, I feel like Time Management Magic is a little pricey for its content. Brand new, it’s $15.99 for 137 pages. If you are interested in reading it, try getting it through your library or inter-library loan. The Kindle edition is $7.39 which is more reasonable, but I am partial to owning physical books. (Prices at the time of this posting.)

What are your favorite time management tricks? Or what is your favorite book about time management? Please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.

12 Checklists That Will Make Life Easier

I recently read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The book is an argument for the value of checklists. We have so much knowledge today about how things work, and procedures are often so complex, that it’s impossible to hold that much information in our heads. 

One of the examples Gawande uses is surgery. Multiple steps need to be taken by different people before an operation begins. If even one of the steps is forgotten, it can be fatal for the patient. In the experiment Gawande conducted in eight hospitals across the world, post-op complications and deaths were reduced by one-third! All because of a simple checklist. 

You don’t have to be a surgeon or an airline pilot or an engineer to benefit from using a checklist. Using checklists at home can make your life easier because you’re not trying to keep everything in your head. It can you save you time and money and reduce stress because everything is written down. 

12 Checklists That Will Make Your Life Easier

Here are 12 checklists you can implement at home that might make your life run more smoothly.

  1. A Workday Setup—This idea comes from Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. The idea is that the Workday Setup gets you into work mode. I recently read of someone who signals the start of her workday by lighting a candle at her desk. Your setup might involve queuing up a particular playlist. Perhaps you shut down the internet to avoid distractions or use a specific notebook or pen. Over time, these actions signal the brain that it is time to start working.

  2. A Workday Shutdown—Similarly, the Workday Shutdown helps your brain make the switch out of work mode while tying up loose ends. Maybe you write out tasks for the next day. Maybe you review the current day’s activities and make a note of what went well. Maybe you make a final check of email.

  3. Common grocery items— I do a bi-weekly shopping trip to Costco and there are certain items I only buy from Costco. If I remember, via my checklist, to check and see if we need more dog treats, for example, it prevents me from standing in the aisles at Costco thinking, “Are we running low? Do I need to buy another box?” Murphy’s Law dictates that if I don’t buy it, we definitely need it and if I do buy it, we already have 46,735 boxes at home. This has happened with toilet paper. Multiple times.

  4. Morning Routine—I first learned of morning and evening routines years ago from FlyLady. What are the steps you would like to go through each morning to make it most enjoyable or run more smoothly? Would you like to begin dinner preparations? Do yoga? Bible study? Some continuing education for yourself? Make a list so that you can follow it.

  5. Evening Routine—Similarly, creating and writing down your evening routine can help you get out of the house on time the next morning. Do you know what you want to wear the next day? Is it clean? Does it need ironing? Do you have the book/report/file you need for the next day? Is it in your bag/by the door/ready to go? Do you need to stop for gas on the way to work? Thinking through these things the night before will help you have a more peaceful morning start. Additionally, it’s good to include anything that will help you wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Hot bath? Stretching routine? Yoga? Reading? Reminder to have lights out at a specific time?

  6. Bills Due—No more trying to remember if you paid the electric bill. Pay it and then check it off on the list.

  7. Want to buy—Have you ever used your fun money to purchase something and then thought later, “I shouldn’t have spent the money on XYZ because I want ABC more.” Keeping a list of things you want will allow you to prioritize your purchases.

  8. Books to Read/Books You’ve Read/Movies or TV Shows to Watch/Video Games to Try—Keep track of your entertainment. This checklist will assure you that you always have something to read/watch/listen to. And it will also serve as a reminder of things you might want to share with family and friends.

  9. School Interview Checklist—Are you looking for preschools for your children? Brainstorm a list of things you want in the school your child attends. Turn it into a list of questions that you will ask during the interview process. Encourage your child to do the same when it comes time for college visits. What are the things that are important to them in a school? Having a checklist of questions to ask will help with the decision-making process.

  10. Communication Checklist—Do you have family members or friends with whom you want to keep in touch on a regular basis? Whether you do so by phone calls, email, snail mail, or text, having a checklist of those people will ensure that you stay in contact and too much doesn’t go by without saying hello.

  11. Cleaning checklist—Creating a cleaning checklist for each room in your house will help you remember when things get cleaned. When is the last time you washed the windows? How long has it been since you cleaned behind the refrigerator? Is it time to wash your comforter? Should you make an appointment to get your carpets cleaned?

  12. Household maintenance—Speaking of cleaning, when is the last time you changed the heating/ac filter? Do the windows need new caulk? Have you checked for cracks in your home’s foundation recently? How long has it been since the roof was replaced? Tracking these things will help you budget for household repairs.

You can create a checklist for any process or any area of your life. What are some of the checklists you use? Please share your ideas in the comments.