Time Management Fundamentals

Here are some random concepts/frameworks for great time management:

  1. Build your own personal productivity system so that you keep track of action items/tasks/to dos/ongoing responsibilities/etc.
    1. Consider investing time in reading books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which walks through some great practices and recommendations in this vein, on how to get things out of your head and into a system (e.g. organized notebook, an app, etc.) — the tool is less important than how you identify, capture, groom/refine, and monitor these things
  2. Intentionally consider how you structure/plan your days, how you schedule meetings, etc. to optimize your effectiveness – read this great essay by Paul Graham, Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule about how individual contributors and leaders should have very different looking Outlook calendars
  3. One of the great points in David Allen’s Getting Things Done (see above) is that you’ve got to get your todo list out of your head and into a system (such as a pad of paper, weekly Top 5 emails, notes apps (e.g. Evernote, OneNote, Notion), wiki platforms, and/or task tracking tools (e.g. Monday.com, Jira)) – one of the reasons this is so valuable is that people are much, much faster at finishing things in small batches (start and finish something) instead of trying to juggle/multi-task several different things.  Be intentional with your weekly and daily priorities — consider making yourself a daily top 1-3, and think about concepts like:
    1. Context Switching– (switching between lots of different tasks) is really ‘expensive’ (people are bad/inefficient at this)
    2. There’s a lot of value, when you can, in carving out big blocks of time to work on the big, important things in your priority list – see Cal Newport’s (Georgetown professor) great writings on “Deep Work”
    3. Kanban has a concept of limiting “Work In Progress (WIP)” – they recommend you create hard maximum limits for people or teams that say something like “This team of people can only have 4 tasks (e.g. ticket) in the status of “In Progress” at any time –  nothing else can be added to In Progress until something is done so that people stop “starting new things” and focus on finishing (deliver value!)
  4. There’s a powerful story about a professor who fills a jar with rocks and asks his students if it’s full.  Then he adds some pebbles and asks if it’s full.  Then sand.  Then water.  His point is that if you put the important things (big rocks) into your life (prioritize/invest time in doing them), then you can fit the other stuff in, but if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles, you can’t fit the big rocks.  This is very valuable to consider – don’t keep answering the most recent emails and ignore the complex/important ones from a few weeks ago you haven’t gotten to yet.  Don’t knock out all the quick 5-minute tasks and not advance what’s actually really important.  (See the Eisenhower Matrix (below in 6b) and consider what’s important vs. urgent in your priority/to do list).
  5. Learn about the Pomodoro Technique, which is a powerful, simple concept of working super-intensely for 25 minutes on one task, taking a break, and repeat
  6. Realize that we can’t do it all – as a leader, you need to act like Product Owner for your team’s workload, and ruthlessly review/groom/prioritize the work for your team
    1. Consider what needs to get to the top of the list (Remember to prioritize capacity towards what is important, not just what is urgent Eisenhower Matrix; and remember to make reasonable/conservative time estimates (see Planning Fallacy)
    2. Consider what you should recommend being removed as no longer important

Invest time in learning about time management and productivity best practices (e.g. https://www.audible.com/pd/Execution-Audiobook/B002UUFTUO).

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