Extreme Time Management - The Windows Mobile Solution

Time Management. In a busy world, we hear about time management quite often. We hear business people saying they need to do it better. We hear experts telling us they will teach it to us. We hear it from the boss, and we hear it from out employees. It's everywhere, yet so few really do it well. How can something so important to peoples heavy laden schedules, seem to be so elusive? Where can I get more time, and what do I do with it when I do get it? What the heck does time management mean?

I remember the first day that I truly realized I had a problem with time management. Ironically, it was the same day I bought my first mobile device to help me find a solution. I had left a meeting at work and returned to my desk to find a voicemail message waiting for me. When I checked my message I was told I was late to another meeting that I had scheduled some weeks before. As I was leaving my office, someone approached me and asked when I would be able to handle an issue they needed help to resolve. Of course, by the end of the meeting I had forgotten who I had spoken to, and what problem required resolution. I was a time management train wreck.

I had come from a job in which time management was not such a critical skill. I had served as a police officer for many years, and typically our day was not scheduled since we simply handled calls as they come in. Sometimes it was pedal to the metal, and sometimes we might be bored to tears. That was the nature of the business, and as long as your reports were finished in a timely manner, you really had nothing stacking up too much.

A Tough Transition

I have a degree in education, but after several years on the street, on the Special Response Team, K-9 officer and serving as a police firearms instructor, I decided to transition to a corporate job that would put my education to some use. I took a position as the Employee Development Manager for a logistics technology company in which I was responsible for not only delivering the training content, but also developing the training classes from scratch. Up to that point, the company had no training development at all.

It seemed a monumental task, and it quickly started to spiraled out of control due to my lack of time management skills. I had never handled numerous activities on several simultaneous fronts before, and I became very conscious of my shortcomings in this skill area. I needed to find a solution to my immediate needs, while also developing the requisite skills in time management. I turned to some of the business world's time management experts who, although offering a multitude of conflicting advice, seemed to agree that one huge step toward a time management solution was in gathering and processing information.

Most of us gather information as we go through our day. The information that is critical to our job is jumbled in with a great deal of other items, which is then processed and filtered by our mind. We attempt to filter out what we need, what we will need later, what we do not need, what we do not need now, but may need later in the day or week, what we do not need at work, but may need at home and the list goes on. In other words, it all gets mixed up and by the time all is said and done, we have forgotten all but a couple of items that were on our mental "to do" list. This is what often happens when we go to the grocery store to pick up a specific item, but we end up buying all kinds of other stuff just to realize we forgot the one thing we needed to buy in the first place.

A Trusted System

So the first step in managing your time well is to remember all the information that you need to efficiently do your job. We accomplish this by forgetting all of it! Yes, you heard correctly, we have to forget everything if we are going to remember it. How? We accomplish this by putting, what one time management expert calls, our trusted system, into play. This "trusted system" is simply some type of system for managing all our information. Whether it is a notebook, day planner, PDA or laptop, it is a system in which we immediately dump any information that we may have to process at a later time. The reason we refer to it as a trusted system, is because it must be a system that works, that you refer to on a fairly regular basis, and one that you can rely upon because you know ALL relevant information is contained within. This system will not work if you only put some information in it, and it will not work if you frequently forget to refer back to it. The more this system is used, the more efficient it becomes.

As I said earlier, I bought my first mobile device with this solution in mind. It took some getting used to, but I quickly discovered how well it worked when I no longer tried to mentally recall what I needed to do, when, or how much. If it was not an immediate, "do it and get it done" type of task, it went into my device. I learned that the more detail was put into the device, the easier it was to accomplish the task when it came time to get it done.

Further Help

Another area of difficulty in time management, is tackling large tasks. Initially, almost any large task, assignment or project seems like a monumental undertaking. We immediately begin thinking of all the things we need to do, the information we need to gather, and the people with whom we need to coordinate, and pretty soon we wonder where we should even start. Any large task will seem like too much if we step back so far that we can see the whole picture. Instead, we have to break down the large task into smaller, more manageable, individual tasks.

Again, the Windows Mobile device excels in this area. In developing my training program I broke down each class into individual pieces that I could manage a step at a time. I separated the tasks into areas such as employee surveys, survey processing, information gathering, organization, presentation building, handouts and so forth. Each task was assigned a commensurate time to finish and I used my WM device to schedule exactly when I would work on a task, how long, and what I would do during that work period. I always knew what to do, and when. As I said before, the more details, the better your will be able to manage time.

I also used my device to coordinate and organize information via "mind mapping" applications. This is a way to process and organize information so that an individual is doing what is important, when it is important and especially in the order of importance. I could use my device to completely gather all relevant information in one place, but unlike a desktop computer (or even a laptop), I had the information with me at all times.

I also used my WM device to record my progress so that I could report where I was in my various projects at a moment's notice. Needless to say, I was much more efficient using these methods. I found I tended to be less stressed as well, because I no longer had to mentally maintain piles of information or recall specific items unexpectedly. I always knew where to get the information I needed.

Software Solutions

If you find that time management is an area in which you need to improve, there are some excellent applications for Windows Mobile you can use. The general idea with this type of software is the ability to instantly access information about tasks you need to accomplish. Most of these solutions will be very familiar to the readers of Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine, as each has been reviewed in the "Annual Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine Best Software Awards" and in our "Experts Online" blogs. If you are interested in looking up some of these applications, feel free to follow the links below. Each program is well worth the price and can truly bring a hectic schedule under some semblance of control. Good luck!

Agenda One

Agendus Professional

SBSH Pocketbreeze


Pocket MindMap

Thanks Dale. For related

Thanks Dale.

For related ideas folks might check out my description of David Allen's Getting Things Done and how I try to apply it.  A key is the "Trusted System" that both of us discuss. That is where my system often breaks down. I have a depository of todo's but I don't check it on a regular basis.


Hal Goldstein Publisher Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine hal [at] thaddeus [dot] com www.thaddeus.com

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