A great article over at Lifehack.org, called “8 Ways To Be Ruthless With Your Time”, had some great tips on how to get more control over your time. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but rather than comment on the post, I decided to take it up here.
Points of Agreement
There are some points I agree with on the article:
Say No. This has been the biggest help when it comes to managing my time. By cutting out the things that are not important, I leave more time for the things I want to do. By cutting back on extraneous outside commitments, I found time for writing more. By putting away certain hobbies I didn’t enjoy, I made more time for those I did.
Stop Hitting Snooze. This is a bad habit, and can lead to too much extra time snoozing. The quality of sleep you get during that 9 minutes between alarms isn’t good, anyway.
Put Big Tasks First. I agree with this in part; I try to tackle the big tasks first within context. Obviously, if the thing I consider the big task in my life conflicts with what my employer considers the big task, and I am at work, I should probably do what the employer wants. When I am paid to produce code, it isn’t good to be working on my novel.
Leave Early. This point makes use of the extra time before you get somewhere to do small tasks. I think it has an added benefit: if you arrive early, or leave with plenty of time, you avoid the self-inflicted stress of a last-minute rush.
Ignore Irrelevancies. Easier said than done, this consists of not letting yourself get distracted. I find that this does allow more time by cutting down on the unimportant; however, in some cases I have had to resort to technological means to limit distractions (turning off IM and email, installing software to keep me on track)
Plan Your Day. To me this is the most important way to control my time. If I know what is going to happen the next day, I am more prepared for it. A day with few tasks will mean a more relaxed pace; one with a lot means I need to move a little faster.
Points of Disagreement
Some of the points in the article I disagree with:
Stop Hitting Snooze. Yes, this appeared in the Agree section as well. But I think that my hitting snooze is simply because I don’t want to get out of bed for one of two reasons: it is too cold, or I am too tired. I set the thermostat to warm up the house so it isn’t cold, and make it a priority to get enough sleep, and this is more important than not hitting snooze.
Procrastinate. The article’s author stated that she procrastinates because some of her work gets cancelled after she has already done part of it. My answer to that is to make sure you bill hourly, rather than fixed price. It is good business not to start the work until it has been agreed upon (final product and specifications hashed out), but at that point, the more you get done, the more you can bill.
Put Big Tasks First. The part I disagree with on this is that if I have little tasks that can be knocked out quickly, it gives me a morale boost to see those done. I also find that getting several quick “wins” under my belt first thing in the morning allows me to keep up the momentum.
Stay Aware. I don’t think that being aware is a good method of managing time other than for realizing what is draining your time.
My Own Points
Manage Your Energy. Fueling your body with junk causes the finely tuned machine to not work at peak performance. This in turn leads to less efficiency in tasks, or possibly a total shutdown as you go to take a carb-induced nap. Feed your body nutrition, and you will have better control over time.
Trim Back. Lower your expectations of what you need to get done, so you have time for recreation. Recreation is time to re-create yourself. This also applies to the pace you may apply to your tasks at hand. Slow down and enjoy.
User A Timer. A timer can be used to stay on track and keep you moving forward when you might otherwise give into irrelevancies.
Resurface and Check Coordinates. From time to time, bring your head up from what you are doing, take a deep breath, and ask, “Am I still using my time in the best way?” This mini-check will allow you to see if you have gotten sidetracked and get you back on track.
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