We face this decision many times each day. What should you do when you come to the end of your allotted time, but you’re not quite done with your task? This problem may occur early in the morning, when it’s time to leave for work or school, but you’re in the midst of a non-essential task. Or when you’re in mid-task at work, but it’s time to go to a meeting or class. You begin to bargain with yourself. I'd really like to get this done. It won't matter if I'm a few minutes late.... And then 5 minutes becomes 20 minutes, and you're late again.
What’s the best thing to do when you’re out of time but have not yet completed the task at hand? Sticking to your task may seem like the best decision at the time. Just a couple more minutes, and you can have the satisfaction of checking that task off your mental to-do list. But you’re probably making your decision with a very short-term view rather than thinking about your larger plan for the day.
Working overtime on one task has a cascading negative effect on your schedule as well as the schedules of others. You may need to make multiple emails or phone calls to explain why you can’t meet other commitments on time. And then there's the negative message to your colleagues that your agenda is more important than commitments you've made to them. Not to mention the need to reschedule the tasks that go undone because you spent more time on earlier tasks. Unless your task is truly urgent, it’s usually best to stick to your schedule rather than stick to your task. Learn to tear yourself away on time, and reschedule the final steps of your incomplete task. You'll find that your days are less stressful, and your new on-time policy will be welcomed by everyone you kept waiting in the past!
The Skoach Approach
If you rarely complete a task when it’s time to move to the next one, you are probably underestimating task duration. When you schedule tasks in Skoach, try increasing the time you estimate for each task by 15 minutes until you see a pattern of on-time task completion.
Another Skoach approach is to leave a little “wiggle room” between scheduled tasks. For example, try leaving 15 minutes of unscheduled time between each scheduled task during your day. The Auto Plan tool can be configured to “space out” tasks by a specified amount of time. Just click on “Preferences” to set a comfortable between-tasks buffer.
Alternatively, schedule regular "catch-up" time as a recurring task on your schedule. For example, try scheduling a half-hour of "catch-up" time at the end of the morning, before lunch, and again at the end of the day. You will find that your day runs more smoothly, and you’ll finish the day feeling more accomplished!
So, change your mantra from "Always late, but worth the wait," to "On time and feeling fine!"
Time Management Questions
Do you have a pressing life management question? Send it to KNadeau@skoach.com.