Time management is always tough, and lots of people have written some great things on the topic, such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done. A connection I made recently that I found fascinating was the intersection of agile software development practices (Ken Schwaber’s books Agile Project Management with Scrum is excellent, recommended to me by Derek Huether) and personal productivity. Agile concepts are based on trying to accelerate progress by relying on short sprints of productivity broken up by planning periods. This is the best approach I’ve found to management my own to-do list — by frequently assessing my top priorities, both short-term and long-term, and working in bursts to make appreciable progress towards them. It’s very similar to the productivity concept of putting the “big rocks” on the top of our priority list (see big rock explanation here). But it’s more than just focusing on the big stuff, it’s also essential to focus on frequently reassessing what’s the top priority, to avoid working on something that isn’t key anymore. It’s that key of working on what’s important, which can be hard when we want to close things out — something very tempting when you want to feel progress by removing things from your to-do list by closing something almost done when it’s not the most important thing, or just knocking out the easy things (this concept of closure seems to be especially relevant to men, see Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti).
So what I’ve been trying to do is:
- Examine my priorities daily, to make sure I’m focused on the right things
- Spend a little time (about an hour) knocking out the quick actions and delegating what should be delegated
- Focus big, solid blocks of time on making progress on the biggest, most important, most time-sensitive things