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Time Management – Saving My First 30 Minutes


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Time Management - Saving My First 30 Minutes Are you up for a challenge? Let’s do quick exercise. It’s a two days exercise. First day is when you will be doing your work as you usually did, no change. By the end of the first day, you will make a note how many things you were able to accomplish. This will be your baseline. During second day you will work a little differently. You will plan to accomplish few more things than in first day. Ready?

Day 1 – Work as Usual

You have hundreds of emails in your inbox, many of them unread. You skim through them routinely to pick some and process them without any particular order in mind – may be it was on top of the pile, may be you have got a relevant call, or may be the title of email draw your attention.

Keep working that way for today. By the end of the day notice what you were able to accomplish. Make a list of things you accomplished, not those you did rather accomplished. For example:

  • Created project plan and shared with the team.
  • Created new version of a web page and published it online.
  • Submitted expenses report.
  • Reviewed design document and submitted remarks for improvement.
  • Got my manager’s commitment for my promotion.

Not so good example:

  • Read through all emails.
  • Answered phones.
  • Worked hard.
  • Worked late.
  • Had a conversation with my manager.

In the examples above you should see clear distinction between accomplishing vs. doing. Do you see it? So how many things you were able to accomplish today? Is it 3, 5, may be 10? Make a note. You will be using it as a baseline tomorrow.

Day 2 – Backlog and Time Boxing

The following exercise should take about 30 minutes or less, it’s necessary investment upfront for improved performance throughout the day. You will get these 30 minutes back and more. This time let’s work backward. How many things you were able to accomplish yesterday? Add few more to the list for today, also group them under shared projects. For example:

  • Release management – Create project plan and shared with the team.
  • Release management – Solicit feedback from reviewers.
  • Marketing – Create new version of a web page and publish it online.
  • Marketing – Review design document and submit remarks for improvement.
  • Administration – Submit expenses report.
  • Administration – Resolve scheduling conflict
  • Career – Get my manager’s commitment for my promotion.

Now you have 4 projects to tackle today – Release management, Marketing, Administration, Career – with specific outcomes for each. Next, block time in your calendar for each project, just set meetings in your calendar with yourself and put project names as a subject for the meetings. Make sure your Inbox configured to sort items by Categories and it is also configured to Show in Groups. Skim through your inbox and find all Release Management related emails and tag them with Release Management category. Do the same for the Marketing, Administration, and Career. By now you should see all project related items grouped and you can easily expand and collapse them seeing all relevant items in one place. Next, trim dead wood from each project, just delete or file items that are not relevant any more for your current outcomes. 30 minutes are up. Now start tackling each project as long as you blocked it in your calendar while keeping the prize in front of you, the list you created this morning.

By the end of the workday compare how much you were able to accomplish. If not everything was completed as planned, then at least you weren’t wasting your time on skimming through your Inbox multiple times looking at your emails anxiously. You invested 30 minutes this morning to organize your day and you prepared focused backlog of work items that served specific goals. How much time do you think you saved by that? I bet you are tired just like yesterday but your emotional level is way much higher since you are happy by the results you were able to achieve.

Related

image by Victor1558

28 August 2012

4 Comments »

  • J.D. Meier said:

    > at least you weren’t wasting your time on skimming through your Inbox multiple times
    This can’t be emphasized enough.

    Paper shuffling is one of the top productivity killers when it comes to knowledge workers and information work.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    JD,
    Paper shuffling is a good metaphor. I imagine someone pulls junk mail from his mailbox and keeps it on his kitchen countertop daily reshuffling it. Looks ridiculous, eh? Yet so many do exactly that with the digital equivalent.

  • Shilpan said:

    Alik,

    Few other tips –

    1. Check mails max three times a day — in the morning, right after lunch and at the end of the day.

    2. Request your teammates to schedule a meeting ONLY if the issue or topic can’t get resolved via email.

    3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

    Great article.

  • Alik Levin (author) said:

    Shilpan,
    Thank you. Agree, fewer times you look into the inbox more time you save.

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