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Time Management and Organization: Commitment Mapping

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 26th 2016

In order to get a grip on your many commitments, you need to map them all out, and then monitor how much time you spend on each one. With this data in hand, you'll be able to figure out what you are spending too much time on and what needs more of your time. Prioritize your tasks in order of importance, feeling free to delete those that aren't important or won't get you ahead in life, and adding those that will help you advance your agenda. Be sure to leave yourself adequate time in between commitments so that you can get from one to another.

People typically have many commitments, and only one tiny brain. In order to keep all of your commitments in memory at any given moment, it is absolutely essential that you write them down in a day planner (nice!) or on index cards (cheap!), or record them into an electronic Personal Data Assistant (or PDA) such as a Palm Pilot or Windows® CE device or a Smartphone. Electronic options have many nice features, not the least of which is that you can set alarms on commitments you record therein so that you'll have a warning before they start.

Once you meet a commitment (e.g., attend that class, make that telephone call, pay that bill) check it off your list of commitments. Reschedule any commitments you weren't able to make on a given day for the next day, so that you don't miss any entirely.

As you go through your days, opportunities will come up that you'll want to take advantage of. Some things can't be planned. You will also find that ideas come to you for things you'd like to do. If you can write down your idea and then act on it later, when you can make time for it, then do so (don't engage it at the expense of your regular commitments!). Otherwise, take advantage of the new opportunity and rearrange your schedule so that it fits your new priorities.

As much as time management is about regimenting your life and sticking to that regimen, it is also about finding ways to make your life simpler and less complex. The more commitments you can throw out, the more time you have to devote to what is important. So time management also includes things like:

  • Learning to say assertively say "no" to people who ask you to take on inconvenient non-emergency responsibilities. Click here for more detail on being assertive. 
  • Altering cherished family roles as necessary to meet goals. For example, if you usually prepare a family meal, don't feel obligated to do so on nights when you have to study - use a prepared salad instead or some take out, or ask your spouse to do the honors that evening.
  • Learning to let go of "status" and "highest quality" in favor of "convenient" to the extent that doing this does not compromise your values! There really are good reasons to go out of your way for quality sometimes (for instance, organic and whole grain foods really are better for your health than conventionally grown and refined foods). Sometimes you will decide that it it is worth the extra time or expense it might cost to meet a commitment in a quality way, and sometimes you will note that nothing serious is compromised if you do a little less (for instance, it's okay to shop at the local grocery rather than the one across town, because even though you might pay more at the local grocery, it takes less time).

Because any rearrangement of your commitments will affect the people you live with and who depend upon you, you should make it a point to coordinate any changes you make with them, and see if you can't get everyone's buy-in for those changes. Making room for new commitments and rearranging old ones generally feels like a sacrifice to other people involved who will be getting less of your attention then they are used to. Don't try to hide this fact, but instead talk about the benefits of what you will be doing; how going back to school will make it easier for you to get a better job which will improve everyone's lives, for instance.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Planner - Mala - May 2nd 2007

I have been fiddling with different planners to organize my time vs. tasks galore. Your planner, Shaw, seems to be really good. Where did you find it? Let us know.

Time management and priorities - Rania - Mar 4th 2007

Going through the site was quite exciting, it is very true that we are all busy, if we are left on our own, we would not be able to achieve 20% of what we might be achieving if we set define our priorities, devise and break them down into action plans. I guess this is the only way through, which enables us to discard some less important stuff to focus on the important

It was amazingly interesting the way, the article help you through, the wide range of excuse one may think of and have in real life. It is all about prioritization and to get it you have to have a clear vision of where you want to go and what to do about it.

Thanks for the help - Amy - Oct 25th 2006

Thank you for the information on procrastination. It helped me identify exactly what my lifelong problem and how to begin fixing it. Although sometimes the pressure of the tasks (schoolwork) make it harder to start them, in fear of doing poorly. What can you do to decrease that pressure or stress (like getting in a good college) and just get the work done?!?!

Editor's Note: The two most important things are: 1) keeping up with your work on a daily basis, and 2) breaking large projects down into small, managable chunks. Large projects are anxiety provoking, but small ones are do-able. Likewise, getting a little done every day makes it so you have time to get things done. If you wait to the last minute, you don't have the time you need, and will be more likely to panic.

- Tina - Oct 4th 2006
Response to Shaw where did you find this planner. It seems very helpful do you know wherei can ge the same planner?

Time Planning - Shaw - Sep 26th 2006
I really enjoyed your article on day planning and the tips you mentioned. Thank you. I came across a planner where there are separate sections to plan for work and one for personal tasks like health, family and career. That way I am focused on what I need to do for those important areas of my life. There is a way of working out how well I did today compared to say yesterday and I score myself and refer to it. A small box says Todays Goal where I write what I must do today without a compromise. Something that makes me feel good about myself. There are templates to identify what is the most important goal I must focus on and a system to identify what are the triggers to get me to reach the goal and what are the drainers or negatives. Its called Power drainers. That way I am conscious of what drainers I need to slowly remove so that I can come out of the hole. Please look into the planner and others like me can benefit from it too.

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