Time management systems

The pleasure and pain of time management

In this post I'll review some time management systems to get the most out of your workday. Of course, keep in mind that you also should have rest time.

Start strong

Start your day doing some work for at least half an hour straight. You can do this at home, before leaving yo your office (if you usually spend at least 1h between getting up and leaving) or just on arriving to your office. This is by far what has helped me the most. Don't read your mail, or idle browse the net until at least one hour of work. I will talk more about this later, as it has been the best for me.

Set mail time, browsing time

Set a minimum work time before checking e-mail. I work for an hour before opening my mail account (unless I am waiting for some urgent thing, I just open, look for answer and read NO MAIL unrelated to it) in the morning and in the afternoon. Also try to avoid idle-browsing but you can set some time for it. I use to do it at night before going to sleep, or when I have just a small chunk of time between appointments and no small tasks ahead.

The (10+2)·5 method

Write on a list your tasks for the day. Our goal is to work exclusively and with our full attention on one of the items of our today list, for 10 minutes, and then do whatever you want for 2 minutes. Now repeat, taking the next item in your list. When we are starting it is better not to skip breaks, but soon you will be so immersed in your work that you won't be able to stop. And work will get done.

Found in 43Folders.

Periodic alarms

Set a periodic alarm (a soft bell, a gong, or something not really disturbing) to start after 15 or 20 minutes. Each time it sounds we must consider what we are doing (is it work? is it wasting time?) and then center ourselves in work. I don't really recommend this, as can be disturbing when you are "flowing" with what you are doing, but if you are a bad case of "concentration problems", you may consider this.

Can't avoid enjoyment?

If we need so much enjoyment and playing, one solution may be to make a weekly schedule (Sunday afternoon is a good moment) and set time for every pleasing, playful and enjoyable thing you can do. Set also time for doing "nothing". After one day, or maybe less we will feel like we don't have time to work, and strangely enough, we will be craving for work. And will enjoy a day of nothing doing.

The "Don't stop me now"

This is definitely the best (but hardest) way to be the most productive. Without paying attention to what you want to do go like "never stop". Be prepared with a heavy to-do list, with a lot of things to be done.

The list should have at least 20 items to be done in the same place (your office, probably) without errands or meetings. Just pure work. To get this list, break big projects into small projects, and small into tiny.

When you have this list (the best is to prepare it the night before), as you enter your office just keep doing things in that list for your whole work time. Don't ever stop, work as if you were to finish the most important project ever today afternoon. At the end of the day you will feel exhausted, but also will have the feeling of a really successful day.

This solution, as good as it is has some drawbacks. Doing this is very tiresome, and getting a really big to-do list is hard. One way to solve this is keep always a notebook (small one) with you, with different pages, corresponding to different times. As an example, the 10 minute page,
the 30 minute page. In each one you write down the tasks you seriously think you can accomplish in this amount of time. Now, every time you run out of work, consider what amount of time do you have, take the corresponding (or closest) page and do one thing from the list. Just
never, ever stop. Clean the room, organize your mail, do phone calls. Anything but don't stop.

What has worked best (for me) so far

To start strong in the morning at home, plan what you will be doing today. Take a piece of paper, your agenda, your PDA and write everything work-related and leisure related. You may write "Correct pages 1 and 2 of X" and "Play one game of Y". It is better to write clearly what you will do, do not write "Correct some pages of X", be precise of what your aim is. Do not under or over estimate what you can do in a day. Also, keep time for mail and browsing, but keep them from eating your day.

Also, setting one don't stop me day, helps when you seem to be unable to start. Make a huge list and the next available day crush it.

Meditating is a great help... athough it doesn't seem so while you are doing it. Meditating every day helps to be focused all day long, keeping your mind centered in what you want to do, and improves your overall focus every time.

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Written by Ruben Berenguel