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The ALPEN method: organise working time better

You can plan your day efficiently with the ALPEN method. Buffer time helps you achieve more and celebrate successes.

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It is the peak of efficiency: with the ALPEN method, you can make more efficient use of your work time with minimal effort. Careful prioritisation and additional buffer time reduce strain.

Definition: what is the ALPEN method?

Its name is reminiscent of the range of high mountains in Europe and for some it is in fact the peak of self-organisation: the ALPEN method. That term describes a simple technique that has become very popular and helps you with your time management – or in other words: to optimally structure your self-management.

The approach was developed by the economist and time management expert Prof. Lothar J. Seiwert. ‘The ALPEN method is as simple as it is effective’, says the successful author of numerous self-help books. ‘It focuses the user on pragmatic daily planning and consistent setting of priorities. And it only requires around five minutes of planning each day.’ Along with the Eisenhower Matrix and the SMART method, Prof. Seiwert’s method is one of the most popular approaches in time management today.

Approach: how does the ALPEN method work?

These new skills are about the efficient organisation of your daily work, step by step. The ideal approach is to take a bit of time the evening before or first thing on a work day. The acronym A-L-P-E-N stands for the German terms for five set activities:

  • A – to-do list of all planned Activities, tasks and meetings
    Write down all upcoming activities, from meetings to urgent e-mails and customer appointments.
  • L – estimating Length of time

In the next step, you assign an estimated duration to all upcoming tasks. 30 minutes for meetings, 15 minutes for e-mails, for example. In this way, you use your time efficiently and productivity noticeably increases.

  • P – Planning buffer time

The new element in Prof. Seiwert’s approach: you expect unpredictable time losses. After all, there is always the chance of interruption, be it a colleague off sick or longer phone calls. 20% is buffer time, and another 20% is planned in for social activities such as coffee breaks and conversations with colleagues.

  • E – Establishing prioritised decisions

Take a good look at your plan again. Is it at all possible to manage your workload with 60% of your time? Which tasks are urgent and what could be postponed until tomorrow? What could be delegated? The Eisenhower Principle can help with prioritisation.

  • N – Noting down level of success

After work, check if your estimates worked out. This method lives off experience values; make any adjustments that are required. And while you’re at it, you can already create the plan for the next working day.

In comparison: the Eisenhower Principle, named after the former general and US president, prioritises tasks on the basis of the criteria importance and urgency. The SMART formula, on the other hand, combines five criteria that apply to well-formulated target setting: they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

What advantages does the ALPEN method offer?

  • A to-do list illustrates your productivity.
  • Limits and deadlines tend to increase motivation: you waste less time and get more done.
  • The buffer times are a big help, especially in times of agility and flexibility.
  • You achieve what you realistically take on. That also means: more successful experiences, less stress and more relaxed work.

Download the ALPEN method plan now

ALPEN method daily plan

What should you be aware of when using the ALPEN method?

Teamwork can be an obstacle. The approach is more applicable to self-management. In addition, 40% buffer time sounds good, but is sometimes purely theoretical. There are occasions when things are just non-stop. Furthermore, buffer time varies depending on sector and occupational category. Above all, self-discipline is required. That also applies to prioritisation: not everyone is a good decision maker – but without clear guidelines, even the best method has its limits.

Infographic of the performance power during a working day

Average performance cycle over a day

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