How to use the ALPEN Method

by Gabriella Martin

What is the ALPEN Method ?

The idea is to prepare a timed to-do list including only selected tasks that should take priority. The ALPEN method also encourages you to work during scheduled time blocks and take pre-scheduled breaks.

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.

What does the ALPEN method stand for?

A: Writing down tasks, appointments, and planned activities (Aufgaben) L: Estimating length (Länge schätzen) P: Planning buffer time (Pufferzeiten einplanen) E: Making decisions (Entscheidungen treffen)

Origins :

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.

How to use the ALPEN method:

1) Write down your assignments and activities:

Ideally, when following the ALPEN method, you should do this on the evening before the next day. Prepare a to-do list with all the tasks and activities you need to get done and all your appointments and breaks for the following day. If necessary, you can also add any pending work left over from the day before the to-do list. It is not necessary to follow any particular order when writing down these items.

Make a list of everything you need to do

The first stage of this time management plan is for you or your team members to write down every single task you have to complete at the start of the day. It doesn’t matter how large or significant these tasks are, writing everything down; goals and objectives is the point of departure.

2) Estimate how long the work will take:

Now estimate roughly how much time you will need for each item. Please keep in mind:
• Be realistic in your time estimates and base them on your experience
• Don’t make your time schedule too tight
• Set a time limit
• For appointments, also write down the exact times

Estimate the length of each task

The next step is to make a note of how long you think each task is going to take. This will help you to divide your time effectively when it comes to planning how you are going to spend your day.

3) Plan buffer time:

(Buffer time, in project management, is the extra time added into a time estimate to keep a project on track. It allows project managers to be able to account for unforeseen situations without having to change the coordination of a project in a major way.)

It’s impossible to rule out delays, so you should include buffer times in your plans, based on the
following approximations:
• Use 60% of your time to plan specific work and activities
• Set aside 40% of your time as a buffer (reserve 50% of your total time buffer for unexpected
and spontaneous activities)
Even if you follow this 60:40 rule closely, you may not always be able to get everything done. Among
other things, this may be due to your personal performance curve (take breaks!).

Add buffer time

After you’ve got a rough idea of how long each of your tasks will take, add a bit of buffer time onto the end of these. That way you won’t get behind schedule even if you underestimate how long something will take and ensure that your plan doesn’t get derailed by an unreasonable expectation.

The APLEN Method suggests that 40% of your day should be allocated to this extra buffer time. If you finish a task before the estimated end time then you give yourself more time to complete the next or can take a break until it’s time to begin your next task.

4) Make decisions:

Set priorities: What do you need to get done first? What is more, what is less important? What can
be delegated? Is there anything that’s not necessary and can be dropped?

Edit your list

After you’ve added times to all the tasks on your list, edit it. Identify which items are a priority and which you can leave until another day and strike from your list for the moment.

Once you’ve edited, you can then put together a schedule of everything you need to get done and how long you have given yourself to complete it. This removes the need to make decisions based on what to do next and allows you to be much more creative and productive.

5) Review:

In this review, you should check if you managed to complete your tasks and if your planning was
accurate. You should pay particular attention to the quality of your planning and use the insights and
experience gained to improve your planning in the future. Check if you completed the items on your
to-do list to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything and that nothing remains unfinished. Any
work that you didn’t get done or left incomplete should be included in your plan for the next day.

Reflect on the process

Once you have followed your ALPEN time management plan and hopefully been successful, go back to your list and reflect on it. Were your estimates accurate for how long tasks would take? Do you get everything done that you wanted or do you need to reevaluate your efficiency? This process gives you the chance to highlight what tasks you are going to do tomorrow, which will make your life easier when you come to following this method again.

Team work with the ALPEN method:

The ALPEN method is great for individuals looking to revamp their to-do list, but can the same be said for using it to organize your team’s tasks? Absolutely! Here are some adjustments you may need to make for total-team efficiency:

  • Consider adding in buffer time to meetings and tasks on calendars to make up for daily unpredictability, which can topple a carefully planned day. It also helps to create a daily 30-minute slot for working on urgent (read: unplanned) work requests.

  • Work jointly over lists to plan time for collaboration. This is an opportunity to create to-do lists together or share them with colleagues so they are mindful of when teammates are working on something important and shouldn’t be interrupted. Planning your task list together also allows team members to go on breaks together.

  • With the steps of the ALPENEncourage the team to create their to-do list for the following day before wrapping up the workday. This way, everyone has a structured day waiting for them and can dive into their high-priority tasks first thing in the morning.


Work management can be easy; with the ALPEN method: the time management method that demands you work with carefully drafted to-do lists, buffer time, and scheduled breaks to plan your day in a productive way.

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