Sunday, December 2, 2007

Time Managment for the class and career.

One student wrote with some an excellent questions and concerns about time management.

My most immediatly helpful response to this students was to let her know I don't expect you to read and comment on every paper produced by every student. Instead, just get a coterie of a few students whom you read regularly and who are willing to add you as collaborators on their papers. You'll get valuable additional experience working as an editor for their work. You'll learn some skills as a team member and collaborator, and they can return the favor by helping you with your work. The only person who should read every essay is me.

As to learning time management skills, one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, has the simplest system I've seen for time management. Other blogs you might want to check out and put in your RSS feed are Lifehacker, Lifehack, and Web Worker Daily. Each of these blogs has some great information on writing. Each of these blogs have threads in the archives about time management, and they tend to base their ideas on David Allen's _Getting Things Done_. GTD can get to complicated, but it's flexible enough to allow you to develop your own system using its basic principles. As I said, I think _Zen Habits_ has presented the simplest, one size fits all GTD implementation out there.

However, given all the limitations under which you work, you may not have time right now to read and think about implementing a complete time management system just to help you with school and finding the time for this class. Luckily, there's Kaizen, and I'm trying to get you looking at small, high impact changes you can make right now in the processes which impact on your writing and communication. Here are a few hints for getting more done: 1) if a task can be done in two minutes or less, do it; 2) don't worry with a long to do list; 3) list the three main tasks you need to accomplish any one day, and do them; 4) do your work in bursts of activity (I've found a timer on the computer can help here. I set mine for 15-20 minutes of directed activity.), and, 5) find time to work and defend this time.

Time management is always a headache, both for students, web workers, and--you should know---spouse, parents and significant others. I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but it's a constant struggle between priorities. A system helps, but any working process takes time to devleop. The main way I've seen successful writers pull of the combination of getting things done, having an avocation--like being a writer, and having a life is to: 1) develop a system to keep track of tasks; 2) find an couple of hours a day which are devoted to your avocation; 3) defend this time like a mother bear; 4) try to get the help of a spouse, coworker, or friend in defending this time and to act as support. Another thing which might help is to think about the physical space in which you work. Is there a place to which you can retreat to work at home? If not, have you thought about working at the library or even Starbucks? One of the biggest, high impact changes you can make in terms of time management is finding a space of time and a physical space where you don't loose valuable work time in handling distractions, shifting focus, and having to pick up the thread of work again. There's a host of work out there showing that unitasking is much more productive than multitasking. In any event, the blog, jkontherun has some great information on how to pull off the whole mobile office thing.

I hope this helps, and--as always--write with questions.



Robert Newbry said...

Time management is something it seems we all possess the knowledge of, but never exercise. The most immediate that comes to mind is washing dishes while food cooks in an oven. Time management has always meant to me: no time to waste, no time to wait. There's always something to do, time is wasting away.

The famous commercial: "Why wait, grab a snickers." Where the act of doing something is relaxing, and most view the act of doing nothing is relaxing.

Steve Brandon said...

I like the notion that time management isn't about some great system. Instead, it's one of changing the process and ideas surrounding work. Robert, thanks for the insight.