Time Management Updates from a Scheduling Challenged Individual
In August I posted about several things for time management that I was starting in order to help plan out and run my days – something to keep my focus on my daily tasks such that they align with my long term goals.
I have found that, with some comments about my own recommendations from the original post, these are what work for me. While that isn’t always something that everyone can relate to, this was a good exercise in taking several different recommendations and seeing what worked best for me.
Multi-tasking, while it does still occur, has become much more manageable due to limiting and planning around working within boundaries. This goes hand in hand with Email, as that tends to be a distraction as different emails and popup alerts grab my attention. Often these little distractions that seem so quick to respond to, slip through and I find working on them distracts me from my task at hand; this is something I still work on, as are the escalations that still need to be tended to. More often than not, I find that something sent in an email (a bad tool to use for an immediate response) resolve themselves in an hour or two once I circle back to checking emails in the time I’ve allotted myself.
Here’s some reflection, and comments, on what I originally attempted for planning my day:
Planning your day is key. The three items above tend to be distractors for me, but all of that leads back to a good plan for the day. I have recently gotten into the habit of doing this nightly for the next day to ensure I know what I need to do and that I’m prepared for the day. I follow these guidelines:
Map out your scheduled events (meetings, etc).
- Do this daily and do so before starting your day. I have found that going in with the intention that I’ll do this once I get into the office is a recipe for disaster and it just doesn’t happen.
Add time to work email – a few times a day is more than adequate. Email is not instantaneous gratification.
- Extend this to other communication tools. Instant Messaging platforms are similar; though require a more tactful solution than ignoring them for hours. I have started asking for time to follow up and put a reminder for myself to handle during the ‘escalation’ time I allotted in my daily plan.
Add time for escalations.
- This goes without saying, but on some days this never feels like enough time, while on others it has been ample. At the end of the week, when I conduct a self-review to guage success/failure of sticking to my plans and accomplishments, I find the overall time spent on this tends to average out.
Make a note of THREE goals you have for the day, no more, no less. Plan time on your calendar to tackle them. Be realistic with your expectation of time to complete them.
- Setting fewer goals, while it seems like low performance, is reasonable if they are labor intensive goals. Setting a few more goals has yet to help me in any way; I end up splitting my focus and distracting myself in trying to manage them.
Make a note of a few other tasks for the day in a list (I try to limit that to 5 other things). Complete these as you can during the day in any gaps – i.e. meetings are short, email/escalations require less time, etc.
- These can serve as great fillers for when the entire time dedicated to managing escalations isn’t needed.
Take notes throughout the day (that you can later reference) of any items that were distractions (including emails or escalations so you can see trends and eventually resolve root causes.)
- This has been the best takeaway I can recommend. With no other planning you will at least begin to understand where your time is spent. Comprehension of this has allowed me to better accommodate these variety of things. This has helped me to delegate, ignore and prioritize, based on knowing how/what to expect from a week.
Plan the hardest work earlier – the day throws curveballs and as it progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to focus & commit to tasks. Low hanging fruit can be completed easily, but starting that two hour task at the end of the day may not be the best time to tackle it, assuming you have the energy left to start it.
- For me, this has proven to be sound. By the end of the day actively engaging on the more challenging items becomes challenging in itself, not to mention that some escalations or other ‘unforeseen’ things that come up take a bit of energy to deal with and often leave me with less enthusiasm to start my more challenging tasks.
All in all, this has been a very educational experience and I have become more aware of how and where I spend my time; it has helped immensely. I still have many days when chaos ensues, but when I am able to stick to these plans, I consistently have more productive days than before starting this personal self-evaluation.
Duane servers as ABS’ Director of Solutions Architecture. In addition to staying ahead of the technology curve and working to ensure ABS is constantly providing clients with best in breed technology offerings, Duane manages a team of architects to design infrastructures to support a variety of complementary technologies.