Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time Management

I have always found time to be a very interesting thing. It is something we have very little control of, but rather we only know how to use it. And as many of you know, I am often one to very easily over commit myself and stretch myself too thin. I've learned quite a bit about time management. Especially when you have more things than you could ever possibly do. Hopefully these tips are helpful.

  1. Prioritize all of your commitments. Literally, write all of the things you spend your time on down on a list and sort it based on "Importance". Spend your time top down, cross the things out on the bottom.
  2. Do things that are "very" important regardless of when they are due. A lot of times you work on that "unimportant" homework assignment worth 2% of your grade that is due in 2 hours, when instead you should be working on that big project worth 60% of your grade that's due in a week. It's painful and hard, but the wisest thing to do when you've over committed is to cut the things that aren't as important and just don't waste any time on them at all.
  3. Practice and get good at "saying no." If you are skillful, people will find out and ask you to be part of lots of things. You can't do everything in life. In fact, you don't want to. So get comfortable saying no. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.
  4. Break down large tasks into small reasonably sized ones. You waste a lot of time sitting figuring out (or procrastinating by reading Facebook) what the best way is to approach a large problem. The most talented professionals are not good at doing anything big. They are just better at breaking big hard problems down into smaller ones. Practice breaking everything apart.
  5. Know and figure out how much your time is worth ($/hr). If you are paid by the hour, that makes this easy. If you’re a consultant or information worker this computation could be a little more difficult, especially if your brain can only handle about 3-4 hours of true productive time a day. When you know how much your time is worth, it makes some decisions really easy. I could buy this for $50 or I could spend 10 hours on it. If your time is worth more then $5/hr maybe you should just buy it.
  6. Front load work before play when you can emotionally afford it. Try to use playing as a carrot and treat yourself when you get your work done.
  7. Interruptions are expensive. Let things queue up and process them all at once.
  8. Remove clutter in life, in relationships, in paperwork. It just slows you down when you need to run.
  9. Ensure you have large continuous chunks of time.Some tasks fundamentally take large chunks of time to work on. Programming or artwork is one of them. If your day is sliced into pieces, it is almost impossible to spend large chunks of time coding or working on a project. Try to group all of your "interruptions" into one day to give yourself large chucks of unallocated time the rest of the days.
  10. In the morning, go right to work. Don't check your email. Don't open Facebook. Don't read online. Start right on a task. Use email, Facebook, and online reading to give your brain a break later when you need it.
  11. Sometimes you just need to grind. Put on some good music and just "Get'r done."
  12. 20% of the things you do will have 80% of impact. Focus on doing this 20% the best.

I wish you luck on taking responsibility on how you manage your time. You will be happier, more at peace, and more content with life.