This article by Eric Barker is my new time management guide. It is brilliant in its simplicity. I am not going to summarize it. It is a fast read and I highly recommend it.
We can all use tips and it is always interesting to see how others manage their time. So what did I take away from this article?
1: scheduling backwards is the way forwards
Check for a specific break in your day that repeats itself. For Barker, it is getting out of the office at 530 pm. He schedules everything working back from 530 pm.
For example, every weekday you must attend physical therapy at 1 pm. That is your specific break. Now try to find out if your most productive time is before or after that break. Look at quietness to think, office hours, regularly scheduled meetings, etc.
If you are most productive before the break than that is the time you block for your deep end of the pool projects. After the break you work on shallow end projects, see below.
2: the deep end of the pool
The deep end of the pool is a metaphor for projects that have bigger value long-term. You may not immediately see results and progress may be slow. However, if you look at the project as a whole you know that this one matters. Take for example writing a book. You may not write 5000 words every day. On some days the plot layers just do not seem to work together. But every day that you work on your manuscript makes it better. A well-written manuscript has a better chance of being accepted for publication. That’s your deep end project.
3: the shallow end of the pool
The shallow end of the pool has all those activities that zap time and energy. They are useful, fun, but take away time from in our example, the manuscript. Examples of shallow end tasks are answering email, deleting spam, returning calls, keeping up social media accounts, etc. These activities can all be done in small parts (you can answer one email at a time, etc.) and though it is fun to see what everyone is doing on Twitter or YouTube, it takes time. If you save these tasks for the time period you are least productive you can pace yourself and still get things done. You may even feel better now about these chores because you do them in a designated time slot where they do not interfere with writing.
4: interact with your interruptions
You most likely have days when you always volunteer for a few hours or always have meetings. Those days are interrupted days. Why not use those days for small tasks to keep the rest of the week free for the deep end projects? For example, on the day that you always volunteer schedule that you also do the groceries and pick up the dry cleaning. Keep those errands away from days that you should be spending on the big projects such as writing your book. Mark your interrupted days in your calendar. Just highlight that day’s date. Should you then need to schedule a dentist appointment use those clearly marked already interrupted days. That leaves the rest of the week free for uninterrupted work in the deep end.
5: block some me time.
You need time just for you. Block an hour every morning to go to the gym or some time after lunch to paint, journal, or read. You need time to take a deep breath and be alone with your thoughts. Even if it is just for 10 min.
Let me know what you think of this article by Barker and if you have time management tips, please share them.