Time management strategies. Seaway NExT Workshop April 23, 2010. Setting the stage. “Why is it that as we develop more things to save us time, we end up with less time to do things?” – Geico junk mail “Time? What time do you think we have?”
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Seaway NExT Workshop
April 23, 2010
“Why is it that as we develop more things to save us time, we end up with less time to do things?”
– Geico junk mail
“Time? What time do you think we have?”
– Saruman, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Primary reference: Getting Things Done by David Allen
It’s harder to know when we’re done with a task now.
Eg. Chopping wood
When are you done ...preparing a lecture?
...with a service commitment?
Do these statements apply to math professors?
How can I keep email under control?
How do I process and track all the items coming to my attention?
How can I avoid distractions?
Can time-management systems really work? Or do they just make me feel better?
Are the systems designed in a way that will work for math professors?
Should I manage work and personal life separately?
Doesn’t time management take a lot of time?
Why should I care? Is time management worth the effort?
Should I make a to-do list?
(What if I do and it has hundreds of items?)
Is it important to prioritize tasks?
Should I make a daily/weekly schedule?
What if I’m a perfectionist? How can I finish anything?
What kind of goals should I make?
How can I get motivated to stay on track with time management?
What is the philosophy behind time management?
How can I overcome procrastination?
“Control your time. If you’re working off your in-box, you’re working off the priorities of others.”
—Donald Rumsfeld(RUMSFELD’S RULE #57)
One huge issue is the amount of information 1) being presented to us and 2) available for us to use.
“How much available data could be relevant to doing those projects `better’? The answer is, an infinite amount, easily accessible,... through the Web.” —Allen
“Not emptying your in-basket is like having garbage cans that nobody ever dumps—you just have to keep buying new ones to hold all your trash.”
“The in-basket ... is the best that many people can do in terms of organization—at least they know that somewhere in there is a reminder of something they still have to do. Unfortunately, that safety net gets lost when ... the inventory of e-mails gets to extensive to be viewed on one screen.” —David Allen
The inbox is just to hold emails until you can process them.
Process all emails in your inbox regularly.
“Process” does not mean “finish” what’s in each email, but decide what to do with it and route it accordingly.
I have a number of subfolders in my inbox.
Whatever I can’t deal with right away, I route to one of these.
This has been really helpful!
It’s much easier to manage my email and find important items.
But—I usually don’t quite get “in” empty.
Problem: This approach to email does not really work as intended unless the inbox is regularly emptied all the way.
Def. Any place where a person receives work or other information is an inbox.
Inboxes are crucial in the Getting Things Done system.
Shoebox on Grandpa Wehrenberg stand
Pile on ledge in dining room
Filing tray on island in kitchen
SUNY Fredonia email inbox
Yahoo email inbox
Math dept. mailbox
Home desk list
Paper in wallet
Front door mail slot
Big box in dining room
Problem: To be part of an effective system, these inboxes all need to be processed and emptied regularly.
I empty some of mine, but others I don’t empty all the way, and on some I don’t even come close.
This points to an even more fundamental question about time management.
Close your email program!
Also, beware of instant messaging and the like.
Good news: There are time management systems that do seem to help quite a bit in using time efficiently.
Larger problem: Some of the systems don’t work very well unless you apply them carefully and fully, exactly as specified.
“Most people don’t have a really complete system, and they get no real payoff...” —D. Allen
Problem: Time management takes time!
David Allen calls for a Next actions list, a Projects list, a Maybe/Someday list, and a Waiting for list.
When going through an inbox, if an item will take less than two minutes to complete, he advises to do it right away because keeping track of the item on an action list would take about 2 minutes.
What if you have hundreds of such items?
“This is the problem of perfectionism. We stop ourselves from engaging in those tasks that move us forward in our abilities because we spend too much time focusing on the small decisions instead of the big decisions.”
—Peg Boyle Single, Demystifying the Dissertation
Sometimes... but I can also spend too much time focusing on the big decisions!
The process by which you look at the time you have, and plan how you will use it to achieve the goals you have identified.
By using a schedule effectively, you can:
Scheduling is most effective if done on a regular basis – i.e. at the beginning of each week. The following steps from www.mindtools.com can help you in preparing your schedule:
1. Start by identifying the time you want to make available for your work. This will depend on the design of your job and on your personal goals in life.
2. Next, block in the actions you absolutely must take to do a good job. These will often be the things you are assessed against. For example, if you manage people, then you must make time available for coaching, supervision, and dealing with issues that arise. Similarly, you must allow time to communicate with your boss and key people around you. (While people may let you get away with 'neglecting them' in the short-term, your best time management efforts will surely be derailed if you do not set aside time for those who are important in your life.)
3. Review your To Do List, and schedule in the high-priority, urgent activities, as well as the essential maintenance tasks that cannot be delegated and cannot be avoided.
4. Next, block in appropriate contingency time. You will learn how much of this you need by experience. Normally, the more unpredictable your job, the more contingency time you need. The reality of many people's work is of constant interruption: Studies show some managers getting an average of as little as six minutes uninterrupted work done at a time. Obviously, you cannot tell when interruptions will occur. However, by leaving space in your schedule, you give yourself the flexibility to rearrange your schedule to react effectively to urgent issues.
5. What you now have left is your "discretionary time": the time available to deliver your priorities and achieve your goals. Review your Prioritized To Do List and personal goals, evaluate the time needed to achieve these actions, and schedule them in.
What happens if you get to Step 5 and have no discretionary time left over?
David Allen argues that scheduling of this type is completely impractical in today’s workplace.
“ ‘Setting priorities’ in the traditional sense of focusing on your long-term goals and values, ... Does not provide a practical framework of a vast majority of the decisions and tasks you must engage in day to day.”
Prop. Perfectionism is the #1 enemy of effective time management.
(for me anyway!)
Any other candidates for #1 enemy?
Theorem. It’s impossible for anyone to manage his or her time perfectly.
Proof. We’re human!
Lemma. You can’t finish something if you don’t start it.
If you want to finish a task, start it NOW!
Furthermore, do a sloppy job!
(You can always revise and improve it later.)
“The challenge is to lower our standards. We need to put words on the page so that we can revise and raise our writing up to our standards.”
—Peg Boyle Single, Demystifying the Dissertation
“At the heart of time management is an important shift in focus:
Concentrate on results, not on being busy
Many people spend their days in a frenzy of
activity, but achieve very little, because they’re
not concentrating their effort on the things that
matter the most.”
Example of small tasks…
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
—Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring