The Condo Concept of Time Management
Thursday, June 18, 2015 27 Comments
A better way to structure
the TIME of your LIFE
Lost in Time?
When we are driving around lost and our GPS seems to be stuck on, “RECALCULATING!” a map of the territory provides a quick hit of the structure we need to reorient, even if we’ve been driving in circles for some time.
We can still choose to take any of the roads on the map to get us where we are going from where we are NOW, but at least, with a map, we can tell the roads from the driveways!
Likewise, when life itself feels like it is spiraling out of control, nothing is more helpful than a quick glance at something with structure – like a TIME map.
Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your seemingly “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that, together, create each of the days of our lives.
It can be adapted to your very own personal style — even if you prefer spontaneity and variety. It even works for those of us who have less than complete control over our days, as well as for those of us who seem to have too much control and are overwhelmed deciding what to do when and what to do next.
A quick review
In an earlier article, Time Mapping Your Universe, I went into detail about how to set up a TimeMap (using my own, at the time, as an example of the concept). More importantly, in that earlier article I went into detail about the advantages of having and using a Time Map
WHY a Time Map?
- Having a visible representation of how you believe the elements of your life would be best-scheduled reduces the number of decisions-in-the-moment.
- That, in turn, increases cognitive bandwidth in the moment — so that you are able to actually accomplish something beyond planning, list-making and beating yourself up for getting off-task again.
- In addition, it serves as a double-check to make sure that you aren’t saying yes to demands for your time and attention, when you really need to be saying NO or “Not right now.”
- It also gives you somewhere to go to locate a quick answer for the inevitable question, “Well, when will you have time?”
In the absence of a schedule imposed by another (like work or school), it is waaaaay too easy to get caught in the flexibility trap.
Entrepreneurs and service-professionals in particular, frequently get caught in the flexibility trap, inadvertently flying stand-by in our own lives in service to our businesses and the needs of others.
- Just because a certain hour is not already taken by another client, or another client project, doesn’t mean it’s “free time” we can book on the fly any time someone wants to use our services (or needs a favor). That’s a recipe for burnout!
- A TimeMap is a reminder that certain hours are “booked solid” already – with other items that are necessary to keep YOUR life on track and worth living.
- ESPECIALLY if you love what you do, you need to schedule non-work time or you’ll quickly notice that there isn’t any. Even if your long hot soak or reading time can’t be accomplished without family interruptions, it’s still more “you” time than not. MAP IT IN!
(This is doubly important if you are a Mom or Dad who works his or her fingers to the bone inside the home rather than at a job at a different location.)
Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that, together, create each of the days of our lives.
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ABOUT Time Maps and Time Mapping
In Time Management from the Inside Out, author, Professional Organizer and time-management guru Julie Morgenstern explains the time mapping concept beautifully:
“The Time Map is simply a visual diagram of your
daily, weekly, and monthly schedule
. . . as well as . . .
a powerful tool for helping you be proactive amid
the swirl of demands that come your way.”
NOT the same as other structures
It’s a mistake to think of your TimeMap as a different way to do a To-Do List.
A TimeMap is more like a when-do list: set by you to reflect your functional temperature, your sleep/wake schedule, and how you choose to spend the minutes of YOUR life.
Like a coach on paper, your TimeMap reminds you what you’ve decided – broadly. You’ll still need your calendar for specific appointments, but scheduling them will be much easier.
You can shuffle things around any way you like in the moment, but your TimeMap provides a structure to help you make those shuffling decisions — without having to use a whole lot of cognitive bandwidth figuring out what you might be dropping out (or will need to take time to reschedule) every time you are tempted to say yes to a sudden request for time and attention.
So What’s The Condo Concept?
She cautions against scheduling every waking hour and minute of every day so that you maintain flexibility in your schedule.
I personally find it works best to ignore that piece of her advice on my own TimeMap, however, because ignoring it helps me best to be able to remain flexible in my life.
I prefer to think of the bins of my life – and the boxes on my TimeMap –
sort-of like I’m the manager of a time-share condominium.
I can’t see any reason NOT to fill the vacancies, especially since I KNOW they won’t all be occupied all the time. But I certainly don’t want to have to take the time to check for occupancy on every floor every single time I want to do something spur of the moment, or every time I add a client or class.
That’s why I fill up my map – to be able to see at-a-glance where I can stick a new arrival who won’t be staying long, even though that particular “condo” is reserved for another occupant most of the time.
Even though I don’t let clients move into condos designed for non-client activities, I frequently decide to use some of my “mgh personal” slots and unfilled “client” or “class” condo spaces to read, since I rarely watch television, and then only via Hulu.
I don’t even own a television set, and haven’t for decades now, since I tend toward television hypnosis. At the end of my life, I prefer to have spent the minutes of my life DOING, rather than tractor-beamed into mindless watching.
But I’m an avid reader. I am usually in the middle of several books at the same time, with a stack of magazines the likes of New Scientist, Psychology Today, or Scientific American Mind waiting for me on both coffee and bedside tables (not to mention my “cookie mags“).
I doubt that’s going to change at this point in my life. Life-long learning is one of my core values, and wall-to-wall bookcases are all the reminder I need to, ad hoc, fill some of my condos with reading time.
Whenever I find myself with a string of empty condos, I might decide to “open up the connecting doors” and use the space created to take myself on a spur of the moment field trip — maybe a little retail therapy, or a cup of java and some live conversation at my local coffee shop (or a drink at a local watering hole).
Confused? This might help.
Think back to the time when your schedule was set FOR you: school days.
In High School, for example, you knew what time school started and what time it ended – but what you were supposed to do with each individual time period probably varied from semester to semester and year to year.
Your English class, for example, might be the first thing in the morning one semester, and your last class before the day was over in another.
- Regardless, you were able to develop a “map” of your time at school, because individual classes were generally the same length, even though which subject went where could change.
- Without some way to track the structure, you’d never be able to keep track of which books you needed when, or where you were supposed to go next.
- If you wanted to meet up with your friends for lunch, you certainly needed to know which “block” of time to use (unless you planned to skip class, that is, which probably got you into as much hot water as dropping out an important element does today).
Still, you didn’t have “unscheduled time” built into your structure just so you’d have the flexibility to spend the occasional lunch with your friends, right?
Most of us also knew when we were expected home, and about how long it took us to get there.
If your home was at all like mine, if you weren’t planning to show up when scheduled, you had to call to let somebody know – but having that get-home-time “scheduled” didn’t automatically mean you lacked the flexibility to call home with a change in plans. Right?
- It simply helped you know what was pre-decided as a schedule you could plan around without having to stop and think with every new opportunity.
- HAVING a structure, decided on in advance, is what tends to work best for those of us with alphabet disorders.
- An effective TimeMap is not a minute-by-minute accounting of your time. You paint with broad strokes – guestimates, really – broad categories that fit the way you do things best at the times you are best suited to do them.
- Your TimeMap helps you focus with intentionality. Get the deciding out of the way early!
Hitting the Highlights
The important thing, just like it was set up for you in High School, is to develop a realistic structure with specific times chunks for the BASICS – putting the big rocks in first, as Steven Covey says.
Those of us with Executive Functioning disorders and challenges need to make sure we count the basics as BIG ROCKS, or we’re likely to drop them out entirely!
Consider “condos” for:
- when you wake up (and how long it takes the clouds to part)
- what time you need to start work (with time for breakfast, dressing, and getting there)
- what time you need to STOP work in order to have some time for that life you’re working to support (considering transition and travel time)
- when you go to bed (with a “condo” for the time you require to do everything you need to do before you inadvertently overshoot your sleep window)
- and enough time to handle the important activities of the rest of your life, in an ongoing manner, in reasonable chunks.
How’s YOUR Schedule working for you?
If you’ve been spinning your wheels, struggling to get it all done, or watching your long-term goals drift into a longer term than you ever thought possible, give TimeMapping a try.
It’s an especially useful technique to try if you are one of those people who says yes to every “Do you have a minute?” request, simply because it seems easier than figuring out when else you can realistically accommodate those who need your time and attention.
That’s my tendency, by the way, unless I guard against it.
Add in transition time, and it doesn’t take very many of those yes-es before we are scrambling to keep up with everything we have to do, working late into the night, and carrying things over to tomorrow’s to-do list.
When our long-term goals fall off that particular cliff, we beat ourselves up for our lack of follow-though, rarely thinking about the need to schedule time for things besides working on the short-term projects and taking care of the daily to-dos.
A TimeMap is a powerful tool for remaining proactive, controlling how you spend the minutes of YOUR life amid the swirl of demands that come your way.
If this sounds like something you might want to investigate further, click over to the longer article, Time Mapping Your Universe, followed by TimeKiss™ – Tips for Time Mapping (Part two of the Getting Things Done articles FINALE). There you will find more detailed explanations of how to put together a TimeMap that might work for YOU.
You might also benefit from taking a look at a few sample TimeMaps in the Related Content links below, for more information from others who use this technique to stay on track — and a graphic illustration of Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks first” concept below.
As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Time Management or TaskMaster™ Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy.
HOWEVER YOU DO IT, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come.
Get it now, while it’s still free for the taking.
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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(Lists of article links each open in a new window/tab – don’t forget to close them when you’re done)
- The LinkList of the articles of the TaskMaster™ Series
- The LinkList of the articles of the Time & Time Management Series
- The Executive Functioning Series LinkList
Other Related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed the links above)
- Yes Means No
- ABOUT Alphabet Disorders
- The Trouble with Transitions
- Taking your Functional Temperature
- Virtue is not its own Reward
- Executive Functioning Disorders: not just kid stuff
Other sites with Time Map Examples
- Map it Out (shrinkingjeans.net)
- Organizational Challenge: Time Map (totstoteensmagazine.com)
- Home D*I*Y Planner (diyplanner.com)
- Julie Morgenstern’s TimeMapping Newsletter Article
Time-management related articles ’round the ‘net
- 20 Quick Tips for Better Time Management (blisstree.com)
- Timerrr, An Online Countdown Timer Based on Traditional Kitchen Timer (laughingsquid.com)
- Before the Sands Run Out (embraceyourchangingself.blogspot.com)
BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen Site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.