What is the ALPEN Method? (With Examples and Pictures)


The best way to prevent overwhelm and stress is to have an organizational strategy to plan your day, and most importantly, stick to it.

The ALPEN method is a time management organization method that assigns time-specific duration to each task and organizes them in a manner that prioritizes important and urgent tasks. This method also factors in buffer time to include interruptions and distractions.

If this sounds like a method you are interested in, then keep on reading for examples and pictures of how to apply it yourself.

What is the ALPEN Method?

The ALPEN method was developed by Professor Lothar J. Seiwert, who is a leading expert in the field of time and life management, and an author from Germany.

The method is designed to help organize your daily tasks to achieve your goals while leaving you feeling accomplished and less stressed throughout the day. Instead of having a list of things to do and trying to get everything done, essentially the ALPEN method estimates how long each task will take, and then organize it accordingly, but leaving enough room between each task for unexpected events, interruptions and distractions. Finally, at the end of each day, you have a review of the day and would plan for the next day accordingly.

What does ALPEN Stand for?

The ALPEN Method Acronym and Definition
The ALPEN Method Acronym

Believe it or not, the name ALPEN is not about the high mountains in Europe, but it’s actually an acronym. Developed by a German economist, it makes sense that the acronym makes better sense in German, but it does still translate well in English.

A – (Aufgaben)Activities, all your tasks and to-do’s including meetings, appointments, etc.

L – (Lange schatzen)Length of Time, estimate the amount of time each task will take

P – (Pufferzeiten einplanen)Plan Buffer Time, add in time for over or underestimating the time it takes to complete a task, distractions, interruptions, unexpected events, typically accounts for about 40% of work time

E – (Entscheidungen treffen)Establish Priorities, decide which tasks are important and urgent, which aligns with your goals

N – (Nachkontrolle)Note Level of Success, review your day at the end of each day, evaluate buffer times, reassign tasks if needed, plan for the next day, see how you did overall

How to Apply the ALPEN Method

Now that you get the idea, let’s go over some examples. This will look different for everybody because everyone has a different outlet for planning, some use pen and paper and others use digital, both will work for this method. Digital might be a little easier because you have the option of dragging and dropping each task, but overall, the one you stick to is most important.

A – Activities

The first step, A, is writing down all your task in a master list. Write down everything, from appointments, meetings, lunches, everything you are going to do and need to do. A master list is helpful because you can add in any task throughout the day or week, whenever you think of something, you have a place to put it.

L – Length of Time

Next, estimate the amount of time it will take you to do each task. This will seem a little daunting at first, but your best estimate will work, don’t worry about being exact because that’s what the buffer time (next step) is for. The more you apply this method the better you will become at this.

P – Plan Buffer Time

The buffer time sets this method apart from a lot of the other methods, things don’t always go as we plan, so planning for the unexpected can help reduce stress from completing everything. Meetings, phone calls or lunches can run a lot longer than anticipated, your child gets sick from school, you end up scrolling on social media for too long, what ever the unexpected distraction or interruption is, it will be accounted for already in the plan for the day.

According to this method, buffer times should be about 40% of the work time. For example, if you plan an 8 hour work day, 40% is 4.8 hours, we can round to 5 hours to make it easier. So now you would go back and review your list and plan to where about 5 hours gets scheduled.

E – Establish Priorities

Now that you have your list of tasks along with how long it takes to complete them, how do you know which task to do first? The most important thing to remember is assigning and prioritizing the task that aligns with your goals and will help you achieve it. If you are still unsure, there are two methods that can help you with this.

Keep in mind, if you use a digital planner, dragging and dropping into categories can be a lot easier, but even if you use paper and pen, you can still achieve the same results, you would just have to write it again in the separate categories.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix has 4 categories:

  • Important and Urgent (Do)
  • Important and Not Urgent (Decide)
  • Not Important but Urgent (Delegate)
  • Not Important Not Urgent (Delete)

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool to help categorize the 4 D’s of Time Management. You will have to make the executive decision and decide which category each task falls into and assign accordingly.

The Moscow Method

The MoSCoW method is another acronym method for organization.

M – Must Have – Non-negotiable and mandatory

S – Should Have – Important that are not vital, but still adds significant value

C – Could Have – Nice to have, desirable but not necessary

W – Won’t Have – Not a priority and insignificant

Putting it Together

Now that your task list is organized, you can clearly see the overview of what’s important, what’s not and how long each will take. The next step is simply scheduling the tasks, this will look differently for everyone since there are many apps, websites, and planners you can use.

This is a great time-blocking visual you can use to schedule your tasks
This is another idea to have your tasks lined up

N – Note Level of Success

Finally, at the end of the day, the most important part, the review. This part should not be skipped because it’s about improving. When you feel like you’re overworked but still not where you want to be, best practice is to review what happened during the day and evaluate what to improve upon. Look and see where all your time is spent. Over time you’ll have more data to collect and start noticing patterns, some even unexpected. Here are some questions you can include in your review:

  • Overall, how did your day go?
  • Did you underestimate time or overestimate?
  • Did you plan too much buffer time or not enough?
  • Were you able to stay on track?
  • What distracted you?
  • Did anything unexpected come up that you didn’t plan for?
  • How can you improve for tomorrow?

This part of the plan is very personal, you know yourself better than anyone so be honest with yourself and really jot down what you like or dislike about your habits.

This part of the method is also the best time to plan for the next day. Keep adding tasks to your master list and assign them accordingly, reassign tasks that you couldn’t get to. Plan everything a day in advance, a couple days in advance or even plan for the whole week. The idea is always having a plan ready when you start your day, that way you can hit the ground running and not waste time or energy planning in the morning.

Conclusion

This is a great method for getting a better visual of how important each task is and how long it will take to complete. Time blocking and reviewing your day to know where all your time and energy is spent will help you be more productive and achieve your goals faster than aimlessly trying to check things off your list with no plan. At the end of the day however, the best plan is the one you will stick to.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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