Why this project?
There are literally bookstores full of self-help books and we are all a little bit annoyed talking or thinking about this theme. But let's face it, it's a common challenge for everyone. Time is in the end the most valuable commodity we have and we struggle with the anxiety of having regrets later in life. That's maybe the reason why managing our time is something we will never be perfect in.
Most of the time when I read about time management, I change nothing. Good resolutions but no long term change. So I decided to make it to an official project:
A project I can track, a project I will share with others, a project that will have a lasting impact on me.
In the end it's for me about becoming more confident that I am doing the right things. Nobody can tell you for sure, if whatever you are doing is the right thing. But you can have more confidence in yourself that you did the best you can. You can have the feeling of control about your day and your projects.
Doing extensive research is not the path I want to go here. It's often the first step to procrastination. So I focused on one central resource for the methods I want to experiment with it. It's a talk by Randy Pausch on Time Management from 1998 at the Carnegie Mellon University. (Randy Pausch is famous for another talk he gave in 2007, "The Last Lecture". I embedded it at the end).
Here is the link to the talk. The quality of the recording is not the best, but the audio is ok. I highly recommend to watch the full talk! (There is another talk by Randy about basically the same content from 2007, but I like the old version better. Spoiler: An overhead projector is in action).
I want to keep my methods or process as simple as possible, so I focus just on a few of the ideas in the talk. And I want to make my changes as trackable as possible. If I can't track it, the risk is high to change nothing in the longterm, and you have no confidence in doing better.
Get the basics right.
Sleep is the most important thing. For me this means at least 7 hours a day. Exercise. It's not just about your health, it's about your productivity, too. Doing at least 1 hour exercise daily is the best time investment you can make. You always have time for exercise!
Do the Right Things. Rethink Priorities.
I am basically using the Get Things Done method by David Allen to manage my To Dos. Probably most of you are familiar with this method, so I won't go into it in more detail (if you are not familiar, see the talk below).
Getting Things Done is a great system to be in control of my things, my daily chaos of To Dos, but it doesn't help me in the process of prioritizing my tasks.
My problem: I often subconsciously sort my To Do list like a due-date list. Why is that a problem? Let's sort the tasks in a four- quadrant To Do list:
You've got a quadrant where things are "Important and Due Soon", "Important and Not Due Soon", "Not Important and Due Soon" and "Not Important and Not Due Soon".
It's easy to decide which one you should work on immediately: Upper left. But it's harder to see, which should be the second quadrant. As I mentioned above I make the mistake to work too often on "due soon tasks" from the lower left quadrant. Especially if people are nudging me to do them.
But that's the most crucial thing I learned from Randy Pausch's talk about time management. "When you're done picking off the "Important and Due Soon", that's when you go to the upper right quadrant." It's so obvious: An unimportant task is an unimportant task. Who cares about the due time.
From now on I will prioritize my Getting Things Done task list via the four quadrants. That's easier said then done. It means saying "No" many times.
Set a List of Longterm Goals
There is of course one more question: What's important?
To answer this question, I make a list of five longterm goals. Maybe there are more, but just 5 are in the focus. All tasks that help to reach this goals are in the important quadrants. (I am not sure yet, if 5 is a good number. Still thinking about that.)
Be aware about what you are doing
Ask yourself for every To Do or project.
- Why am I doing this?
- What is the goal?
- Why will I succeed?
- What happens if I choose not to do it?
Keep A Time Journal
For a week, I will keep a time journal. I will track all my actions, up to 15 minutes units. After the week I will do an analysis, and do some adjustments in my planning. Then repeat.
For the tracking I will use Harvest. It's a time tracking tool for companies and freelancers. It has great iPhone and web app, and it's free for single users.
Starting with time journal, setting the 5 longterm goals and prioritizing my Get Things Done To Do list in four quadrants. Updates follow soon.
I am always curious about how others manage their time. I you have any thoughts, let me know!
Here is the "Last Lecture" Talk by Randy Pausch. If you haven't seen the talk, watch it today. Seriously, it will make you think.
A project by:
Susanne Grohmüller (55)
Bio: Kochen, Essen, Schlafen.
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