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Hi all,

I listened to the time management podcast at the end of last week. It was a tough week, back to back meetings and nothing usual getting done. Well, so I thought! Friday, I did a quick tally of just how many meetings I had - 20 hours! So where did the other 17 (plus!) hours go? I don't know. But it did incentivise me to block out some time for my number 1 priority this week - hidden in my diary subtly marked MH!

This morning when I got in, I tried to ignore my email and start immediately on my priority. I dithered a bit but started about 10 minutes late. 45 minutes later, the document I've been trying to start/finish for weeks was done. Cool! I thought. That was so important, what shall I do now.. and for the next 3 hours, when i had uninterupted time that I never get, I faffed and dithered and didn't achieve anything.

I'm still trying to work out what I learnt from this.. but going to try again tommorrow - the FRPlan is about to be ticked off!

Wendii

Mark's picture

Wendii-

You ROCK!!! I think what you learned is that you think first about your priorities, and get them down, you'll get them done.

Hey, that sounds good:

"Get them down, get them done."

The document got done because you decided to do it in the time you had set aside. The more you know what your second, third and fourth priorities are, the more you'll WORK and the less you'll dither (great word, by the way).

Have you read Getting Things Done yet? I recommend it.

Mark

Peter.westley's picture

Wendii,

I'm in awe of you that you had the guts to talk about your "dithering" on this forum. Well done. And just so you know you're not alone...

I'm looking for a job right now and it's very easy to dither and faff (what does faff mean?) away the day without making what seems to be any real progress to my cause.

--
Peter

Mark's picture

Peter-

First of all, faff is Brit slang for fuss.

Second, I TOTALLY agree with you about Wendii's candor. Well done, Wendii! As I was reading it, I was saying, this is exactly what people do. And it fits my thoughts exactly when I say to folks, "You know, it's not like everyone else knows exactly what they're doing, but it's just you that doesn't. Most managers struggle everyday with these choices."

More CANDID communication is better.

Wendii, send me a private message with your address, and I'll send you a copy of GTD, gratis.

Peter, thanks for applauding another member's effort. Let me know what book you want from our list, and send an address, and we'll send it off to you.

Well done!

Mark

wendii's picture

Thanks guys for the kudos! I was in two minds about posting when I couldn't see what the lesson was, but I'm glad if it helps people feel less alone. Writing it out, and talking to other people helps it make sense in my head, and makes changes in behaviour easier and more solid. (That's an encouragement to all those lurkers!)

And thanks Mark for the definition of faff - it's one of those words we use, and we know what we mean, but describing it for someone else is harder! And thank you for the book offer, I'll certainly PM you.

Now the thanks is over - today's progress. I sat down to my flexible recruitment plan today, in the oh so subtle MH slot, and wrote about 3 pages before struggling for about 10 minutes with total boredom. However, the wandering mind did help, because I suddenly realised I was about to end up with a 20 page document, which would be really interesting, and would blow my manager away, but actually, only about 8 pages were directly relevant to what he asked for, and although I would use the document in the future, I wasn't sure who else would use the 12 pages that my manager hadn't asked for.

My thinking allowed me to refocus on what the actual objective was, and the next session should see it completed. This is a big change for me, as I'm very inclined to go off on interesting tangents and not focus on what's useful or productive. I'm not sure what's made that change - but I'm quite sure it relates to Horstman's law of have it said 7 times, hear it once!

As for GTD, I do two minute actions and I have an empty inbox, but I'm dreadful at having stuff written down on lists. I keep far far to much stuff in my head, partly because I don't want to do the work of turning 'do something about such and such' and 'think about so and so' into actual actions! Hmm, think that harbingers implementation 3006!

Wendii

Mark's picture

Here's another word Brits use that doesn't translate perfectly to American, but is nonetheless spot on here:

BRILLIANT!

You are experiencing personal growth. It's like in the movies where somebody gets turned into something else - the transition is always shown as PAINFUL.

That's just "The Horstman Curve" in action. ;-)

And if it were easy, everybody would be doing it, and the pay would be less appealing.

Mark

GlennR's picture

I gotta laugh. I'm on my lunch break at my desk and decided to check your blog. What do I find, but a reference to the book, Getting Things Done. I've spend an hour this morning reconfiguring my work space based upon suggestions from the book. I expect to be finished by tomorrow (I hope.)

As Stephen Wright said, "It's a small world, but I'd hate to paint it!" :)

Mark's picture

:wink:

Mr Wright also said, "I've got a great seashell collection. Maybe you've seen it. I've scattered it up and down the East Coast."

Mark

davidlowe's picture

I, a David Allen fan, often tell my kids, 10 & 12, “Get things done, then have fun” to help them to overcome procrastination. Now I have the “writing down” part to make the slogan even better. Thanks, Mark. :D

Peter.westley's picture

[quote="davidlowe"]I, a David Allen fan, often tell my kids, 10 & 12, “Get things done, then have fun” to help them to overcome procrastination. Now I have the “writing down” part to make the slogan even better.[/quote]

That's brilliant! I have kids (11 and 13) and come up against exactly the same issue. I love that slogan! I'll start using it tonight...

[i][b]Get it down, get it done,
get it done, then have fun![/b][/i]

Mark's picture

Peter-

Nice! Good connection.

Mark

garthk's picture

I'm trying out David "Printable CEO" Seah's [url=http://davidseah.com/archives/2006/04/18/the-printable-ceo-iii-emergent-... Task Timing[/url] system.

If your calendar is a forward-looking tool used plan how your day will go, the ETT is a diagnostic tool used to see how your day actually went. Every fifteen minutes, a bell goes off: fill in a box next to whatever you thought you spent the most of that fifteen minutes on, and then get back to it. There's a little more to it, but not that much.

The system is available both in printable PDF form ([url=http://davidseah.com/pub/downloads/2006/PrintableCEO-ETT01-Standard.pdf]..., [url=http://davidseah.com/pub/downloads/2006/PrintableCEO-ETT02-Wide.pdf]wide...), and as an [url=http://davidseah.com/tools/ett/alpha/]online Flash application[/url].

Mark's picture

Garth-

I've used it. It's quite close to the random number based system that statsiticians prefer, but that is really overkill when you consider the narrow range of behaviors anyway.

Let us know what you discover, and then I'll share my results!

Mark

michaelcummings's picture

I listened to the Time Management podcast (which I think should be title Time Prioritizing Podcast) and I had one question. Many manager I know use checklists to hit all the things they need to do instead of dividing their day into hour by hour blocks of what to do. Would this fit in with the advice on time management as the number one task everyday would be "spend an hour on your top priority?" then make the rest of your tasks and have the calendar for the meetings you have?

Michael Cummings
2LT, IN

Mark's picture

Michael-

Infantry Leads The Way.

But Artillery is the King of Battle, and lends dignity to what otherwise would be a vulgar brawl.

Yes, what you're suggesting works fine... [b]as long as the list reflects top priorities.[/b]

And many folks' lists DON'T.

Mark

jlyons360's picture

Ever since I listened to the Time Management episode I've zealously guarded my time. I took the time to create the job description and that gave me the incentive to begin to delegate everything I was doing that my direct reports should be doing. So, of course, I get to concentrate on my three key priorities.

I listened to the cast four weeks ago and my personal productivity has increased five hundred percent.

Mark's picture

There you go! Nice work. Put a reminder on your calendar 90 days from now to ask if you're still doing it...it's easy to slip back into old ways.

Mark

JimArgeropoulos's picture

TimeSnapper at http://www.timesnapper.com, can be a tool to record what you have been doing for those who spend a lot of time on the computer.

davidmould's picture

Mark-

I am really on a high after woking through the podcast back catalogue. I really appreciate te time and effort you both put into the planning and delivery but also see the need to balance the learnings with how I work.

In response to garthk I have stumbled upon David Seah's Printable CEO Series. One tool I am finding really useful is the [url=http://davidseah.com/archives/2006/04/18/the-printable-ceo-iii-emergent-... Task Planner[/url].

The reason I am finding it useful has parallels with why I am a keen listener of the MT series. I on a learning curve and one the key development oportunities for me is getting better at estimating how long tasks will take, and therefore by extension how much time I should allow for them.

David's sheet makes this really easy for me with the 15 minute bubble estimate block and the real effort after the fact.

The main success for me is that I am a very visual learner and the layout of the form really makes it easy for me to "put the big rocks in the jar" and then quickly "pack the sand around the rocks". Obvioulsy some of the sand won't fit but that's where your advice pays dividends.

There are some subtle improvents I would benefit from but that's for the discussion on [url=http://davidseah.com/]David's site[/url].

poncho_57's picture

It only hurts because it is true.

Before p-cast
Time spent on tasks each week - 35 hours
Time spent on priority weekly - 2 hours... that's stretching it.

After p-cast
Time spent on tasks each week - 20 hours
Time spent on priority weekly - 10 hours

The question that changed my perspective

My Boss
Hey [i]poncho_57[/i] I see here on your calendar that you are extremely busy.

Me
That's right boss.

My Boss
Why is it that your Number One priority has less than one hour per week on your calender?

Me
Um... I do other stuff good. Right?

So, I suppose the truth hurts.

Better to learn here than in the workplace.

Many thanks,
- poncho_57

Mark's picture

Sweet. Keep it up. You're welcome.

Mark

sashaf's picture

Hi,

Seems the time management topic is always actual. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's really helpful. Hope I'll find many more interesting management staff on this site.

Alexander.

alewis95's picture

I was listening through the archives and this was a great cast. What manager can't use some points on Time Management?

Also, while going through the related discussions, found the link to the free time tracking sheets posted by David Mould (Thanks). Thought I would repost the link from his post as it was a little buried.

http://www.davidseah.com/

Also, the January 14th "The Juggling Koan" cast fell right in line with Time Management as well.

Thanks always for the great casts.

mapletree's picture

Although the original post was from 2006 i was just reading in in search of suggestions on improving time management. I am currently a manager of an IT support group which does both production support and project support for various systems. The issue I am having is that even if I can organize my own projects and priorites within a day my plan always get's thrown out the window when a production issue comes in, a PM wants an update on one of the 9000 projects he has me or my team working on or at worst a system goes down. Do you have any suggestions and\or tools for time management in this type of environment?

jhack's picture

Delegation is key. But it's part of a larger picture.

The M-T methods of One on Ones, coaching, feedback, delegation, etc, all build on one another and make you more effective and efficient. Delegation is a key part of that, so you're not doing the work your directs could do.

Short term: make sure you know what your priorities really are. If they're providing strong support, maybe you're already doing it! Focus on setting aside time for those priorities. Set aside 4 hours a day for "events" (in one hour chunks). If something moves, it moves, but don't cancel.

and let us know what you figure out - many of us struggle with just that issue and would like to learn...

Greenest's picture

How strange. The TM podcast was downloaded automatically this week on my iPod (even though it goes back about a year) then I stumbled on this thread.

AS a result my assistant will be following me for 2 days making the diary of my activivties every 10 minutes. I already know what she will say - that I try doing too much and don't use her enough! I am sure she will volunteer for items to be delegated - and in my heart of hearts I know full well that even if she only does 10% of each task thats 10% more than I would have achieved as I dart from taask to task and fail to do most (I am bad at spotting the small rocks!)

Lets see how I get on....I have just called her to warn her that her diary is now strangely empty for 2 days!

Mark's picture

Sure!

Every day, someone in your role leaves 2-3 hours unscheduled for just such occurences to fill up. The other time, you put in what you want to work on.

We call this the "urgent operations support/more slack" rule.

Mark

rthibode's picture

[b]How do you adapt the recommendations from the Time Management (Priority Management) podcasts when your responsibilities change dramatically at different times of year?
[/b]
Confession time -- I am just now beginning to actually implement the recommendations in this podcast. I've been doing GTD (sort of) for about a year. I anticipate significant changes/additions to my duties in the coming year, and I want to get smarter about how I use my time.

The challenge I'm having is that my duties change dramatically at different times of year because I'm in an academic setting. I imagine folks in the business world experience shifting priorities too. How do you handle that?

Should I repeat the whole time & priority analysis for different times of year?

Thanks so much for your input.