Time Management – A Collaborative Piece
Last week, Andrew Wilt and I were working side-by-side. During a break in the daily grind, we decided to discuss time management. Time management seems to be one of those things we all have to deal with, and I had recently swapped tips and tricks with my peers. So, I thought I would share what I heard. One person suggested he documented all of the roles or contexts he switched to during the day. Once he had that information, he looked at the percentage of time spent in each. He used that insight to determine if he was spending time in appropriate chunks and to be clear about what context he was working in. Since both of us have previously written blog posts about time management, we felt like this idea was a step in the right direct, but it could benefit from some revision. So, Andrew and I had that discussion.
We started with me describing what I heard and providing examples of roles or context. In my case, I exercise daily, am a husband, father, worker bee, manager, closet coder, and handyman. I took the hours in a week (168) and broke the time into percentages for each. We both agreed that trying to manage time across 7-8 different roles was a lot of work with little return. We then took the 168 hours in a week and started subtracting blocks of time by what we were doing. We started with the largest and worked to the smallest. This yielded some good information, but we took our problem of 7-8 roles and turned it into 168 units we had to think about. From there, we broke the problem into four quadrants. Using that approach, we found we were getting close to something manageable, but we didn’t feel we had the right definitions for our quadrants.
Trying to manage seven or eight roles is a task in itself. If we pull out each of our personas, "we" are too many people to think about. Most of the time, we transition from one persona into another without thinking or we wear multiple persona "hats" simultaneously. This got Andy and I thinking in terms of location and duties instead of roles or personas.
We came up with three ways to look at your schedule: Planning & Budgeting, Work/Life, and Location. Each of these methods gives you tools and insights to structure your day. Feel free to use them all in tandem or pick the one that matches your productivity goals.
Planning & Budgeting
The planning & budgeting model is based on the idea that success is derived from budgeting hours, like how money is budgeted. The difference is, everyone gets 168 hours per week and there’s no making more of it. In that time, we have to budget time for sleeping, eating, exercising, spending time with family, going to work, and all the other hats we wear (taking classes, pursuing a hobby, relaxing, home repair, community events, etc.). Here's an example of how one might work.
Once you lay out all the activities you want to engage in and record the hours you need to budget to each activity, you can shave a few hours off one activity and add it to another. For example, if I want to spend two extra hours learning a new programming skill, I will have to take it away from another activity, such as social media or reading.
One way to manipulate the system is to find activities you can pair. You are not limited to one task per unit of time because some activities can be combined. If you budget two hours a day for your daily commute, you can also spend those same two hours composing emails on your laptop or catching up on your reading. Additionally, while you exercising, you can also be listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Doubling your activities in the same amount of time will maximize your output—and this concept will be useful as you think about your time in the next two models.
The work/life model is based on your personas. Like we said above, having multiple personas becomes a management task in itself, so we are going to limit it to three--four if you count sleep. This model works building on top of the planning & budgeting model by delegating time. In this case, instead of partitioning time by specific "activity", you doling out time by persona.
Here is an example:
Each box represents a "piece of the pie". It is one way for you to visualize the roles you play and the tasks you need to accomplish. If you make the "sleep" box smaller, you can make one of the other boxes bigger, and vice versa.
The Location model is a combination of the first two, with an additional focus on location. Instead of thinking about time management as something you separate by task, think about it as tasks you can divide by location. Separate the tasks you need to do in a specific location and the tasks you can do anywhere. The location-dependent tasks, such as meetings, classroom time, and events, will put a harness or constrain how some hours in your week will need to be used. Everything else, the tasks that are not location-dependent, are things you can work on remotely.
Time is our most precious asset. Without knowing where and how we use our time, we might waste it. A few key takeaways:
- Do plan and budget your time twice yearly, or each time you have a significant change to your schedule and workload
- Do budget your time to balance between work and personal time, and between different items in each
- Do categorize your tasks by location and determine what tasks can be combined with other tasks
Andrew J. Wilt