Time Management from a Scheduling Challenged Individual
If you’re anything like me, time management is always the most difficult thing I deal with in both my business and personal life. I can wake up early and wind up being late to anything, with no real idea of where that time is spent. Or I spend my time multitasking to the extent that nothing actually gets accomplished. In light of how this impacts my work life, which carries over to my personal life, I’ve made some changes I’d like to share from various sources that have helped tremendously. The irony here is that nothing in this is “new” it’s just not often given much thought, but when you do find the time to actually follow just some of these little tidbits, I suspect, that like me, you’ll find some level of improvement in your daily routines.
Multi-tasking is challenging. Everyone talks about this as a key element to a successful day, but jumping from one thing to the next often presents more challenges than you may be aware of. This is the root of (at least for me) a lot of my issues – albeit not all of them. The key to successful multi-tasking is dedicating time to focus on one of these tasks, and tackling the next task with another focused timeframe. The end result is that I have completed an item before moving on to the next, so at the end of the day, there is some semblance of satisfaction that something on my lengthy to-do list is completed.
Email is another pain point. I used to leave this open all the time, and like a dog seeing a squirrel, I’d lose all focus when the next email popped in and alerted me. I now plan my day with specific blocks of time to dedicate to email, once that time has passed, I move on to the next thing. This also encourages using email for the right communications – if something is urgent, I get a phone call more frequently now and can address it that way (which requires some balance to avoid disruption.) This gives me more focused time to spend on my tasks at hand and leads to more completed activities throughout the day.
Escalations, fire drills, emergencies – whatever you want to call them – will happen. Plan time to allow for this proactively so you’re not over-extending yourself when they do arise. If they do not – congratulations, you have some extra time to devote to other tasks.
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 7 guidelines:
- Map out your scheduled events (meetings, etc.)
- Add time to work email; a few times a day is more than adequate. E-mail is not instantaneous gratification.
- Add time for escalations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
With a little bit of extra effort geared towards focus, effective prioritization and building time in for disruptions or fire drill, it’s been possible (even for me) to get a healthy grip on time. After all, time is going to pass anyway.
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.