Friday, September 20, 2013

Time management: The Cat Wrangling Method

A common theme with the “gurus,” those self-proclaimed experts in business, real estate, fianance, or what-have-you, is time management. Some of it’s great, some of it is horrible or too horribly complicated to apply to your own unique situation. Having digested a lot of it, I’ve settled on a system that’s working very, very well for me:

I call it cat wrangling.

Quick background: I’m in a somewhat unique situation that seems like it’s going to be the reality for several more months. I’m a homebound dad taking care of my pregnant wife, three kids, and running a business based forty miles from my house. (Well, technically I run two businesses, but Jimmy at Rent Our Boxes is ably doing EVERYTHING on that front. If I made any money with that business, it would be a perfect situation.) My time is extremely limited. I’m unaware of any book, tape, MP3 or DVD series entitled “Running a moving business for a stay-at-home dad with three hyperactive children.” So, I have to do my own thing.

I’ve tried numerous things to keep on top of it all. For a while I’d take Sunday night to schedule every single thing on my To Do list. I had a spreadsheet with three columns: Ideas, Projects and To Dos. I dumped every random thought into the Ideas column. Later, if it was a big, multi-faceted idea, I’d put it on the Projects list. Then I’d break down all the apparent components and put those in the To Do column. When it was time to move on them, I’d put the To Dos on the calendar.

As things got busier, that system transmogrified into one where I’d just block out hours of time for things like “Content creation,” “Administrative catch-up,” “Email” or “Marketing.”

The problem with both systems was that if just one crisis or fire broke out, the whole week was off schedule, which, after a few weeks of that, could really destroy motivation. And every single day, there’s a crisis.

After several months of that frustrating system, I tried video games. Whenever I had a crushing workload with no discernable light at the end of the tunnel, I’d just play Angry Birds. That worked out AWESOME for a while, if the standard is “stress reduction and finding all the golden eggs,” but the downer is that not a hell of a lot got done.

Which brings me to cat wrangling. It’s a lot like the video game time management system, except I don’t play video games, but I don’t schedule anything either. Or, very, very little. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a “project-based” system. That is, instead of trying to herd all these cats (To Do’s) at once, which is frustratingly slow and inefficient, I just grab that one calico and force him into the cage until we’re both bleeding and weeping. It hurts, and the other cats are afraid and confused and go into hiding, but you know what? The project gets done.

You have to be a certain level of crazy to try to get an uncooperative cat into a cage. Or, your love for the little critter’s health and/or safety has to be strong enough to disregard his “concerns” about incarceration in a little plastic box. I care deeply for the projects and mission of My Truck Buddy, so I don’t mind a few scratches. And I’m going to ever get this thing to a point where I can say “We did it. We’ve arrived,” it’s not going to be by trying to do 100 things at the same freaking time.

One cat at a time. The rest will get their turn. This new time management system is, for me, the best yet. I’m a horrible multitasker but a great procrastinator. I’m basically just using my natural skills. Hah.

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