Time management

12 Mar

Time management

Great article about managing your time, staying on schedule and learning to stay no!

My fav:

Here are some of the techniques I regularly used to remain within the confines of my fixed schedule:

  • I’m ruthlessly results oriented. What’s the ultimate goal of a graduate student? To produce good research that answers important questions. Nothing else really matters. For some of my peers, however, their answer to this metaphysical prompt was: “work really long hours to prove that you belong.” It was as if some future arbiter of their future was going to look back at their time clock punch card and declare whether they sufficiently paid their dues. Nonsense! I wanted to produce a few good papers a year. Anything that got in the way of this goal was treated with suspicion. This results-oriented vision made it easy to keep the middling crap from crowding my schedule.
  • I’m ultra-clear about when to expect results from me. And it’s not always soon. If someone slips something onto my queue, I make an honest evaluation of when it will percolate to the top. I communicate this date. Then I make it happen when the time comes. You can get away with telling people to expect a result a long time in the future, if — and this is a big if — you actually deliver when promised. Long lead times allow to you to side step the pile-ups (which will bust a fixed-schedule) that accrue when you insist on an immature, “do things only when the deadline looms” attitude.
  • I refuse. If my queue is too crowded for a potential project to get done in time, I turn it down.
  • I drop projects and quit. If a project gets out of control and starts to sap too much time from my schedule, or strays from my results-oriented vision: I drop it. If something demonstrably more important comes along, and it conflicts with something else in my queue, I drop the less important project. Here’s a secret: no one really cares what you do on the small scale, or what things you quit. In the end you’re judged on your results. If something is hindering your production of the important results in your field, you have to ask why you’re keeping it around.
  • I’m not available. I often work in hidden nooks of the various libraries on campus, or from my apartment. I check and respond to work e-mail only a couple times a day, and never at night or on weekends. People have to wait for responses from me. It’s often hard to find me. Sometimes people get upset when they send me something urgent on Friday night that need done by Saturday morning. But eventually they get over it. Just as important, I’m not a jerk about it. I don’t have sanctimonious auto-responders about my e-mail habits. I just do what I do, and people adapt.
  • I batch and habitatize. Any regularly occurring work gets turned into a habit — something I do at a fixed time on a fixed date. For example, I work on my blog in the afternoon after lunch. I write first thing in the morning. When I was taking classes, I had reoccuring blocks set aside during the week for tackling their assignments. Habit-based schedules for regular work makes it easier to tackle the non-regular projects. It also prevents schedule-busting pile-ups.
  • I start early. Sometimes real early. On certain projects that I know are important, I don’t tolerate procrastination. It doesn’t interest me. If I need to start something 2 or 3 weeks in advance so that my queue proceeds as needed, I do so.
  • I don’t ask permission. I think it’s wrong to assume that you automatically have the right to work whatever schedule you want. It’s a valuable prize that most be earned. And results are the currency you must spend to buy it. So long as I’m actually accomplishing the big picture goals I’m paid to accomplish, I feel comfortable to handle my schedule my own way. If I was producing mediocre crap, people would have a right to demand more access.

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