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.