Friday, November 15, 2013

Time Management

Managing time is one of the most critical aspects of one’s life. To achieve goals, to progress as human beings in general this forms itself as a basic parameter. Most of the times juggling work with family commitments results in lot of friction in either of the two places. My personal experience has been that unless a clear focus is present on what needs to done for that particular day or time, the chances of wasting the time would be very high. Thus the main challenge for me has always been as to how to productively manage the time in such a way that I’m satisfied at the end of the day.
I have read many books on self-help for managing one’s time in an effective manner. Many of them refer to tools/checklists to keep oneself on track but these exercises are only effective if one applies oneself to such tools diligently. I have tried some of these and out of which a few of them have stayed on with me for years now. These techniques have helped me in setting up a self-feedback mechanism to know whether what I had set out to do at the beginning of the day has been accomplished or not and so on. I will briefly talk about some of these techniques but I would like to put a disclaimer here that following these techniques should not lead to an obsession.
The first tool is a daily plan. List of items that needs to be accomplished at the end of the day. If I have 8 hours of working day, then these tasks are allotted appropriate times within this 8 hours window.  For each of these tasks, I rate it on three metrics after the task is completed. One of the metric is timespent on the task, the second one is the outcome and the final one is based on the disturbances faced during the task. The first two metrics are rated on a scale of 1 to 30 whereas the last one is rated on a scale from 1 to 10. The first metric which is “timespent” indicates the concentration levels or attention that I have paid to the task, so for example during a task if I had been thinking about the movie that I had seen during the weekend, I will be forced to give a low score. If my attention was not at all diverted from the task then it will propel itself to a high rating. The second metric indicates whether the task is accomplished successfully, whether what you had set out to do has been accomplished or not, if not, the score will depend on how much or what percentage has been accomplished. Finally in an office environment a lot of disturbances will be usually present, be it talking to your colleagues about the weekend or your manager asking for some inputs and so on. This is captured in the disturbance section, a high score would indicate a low disturbance.  You can clearly see that the first two metrics are pretty subjective and the second metric has some objective elements to it if it is known that what needs to be achieved. An example table for a work day will look something like this

So at the end of the day averaging the scores for 8 hours, you will get a score. The higher the score, the more productive the day has been.
One of the most important aspects about mastery in any field be it writing, music, studies etc is to follow a process. A disciplined way of doing the tasks on a daily basis even if you are actually unwilling to do it, helps in keeping you aligned to your goals. For me some important goals that I wish to pursue on a daily basis has been constant exercise, meditation, reading, writing and positive thinking. Now at times exercise would really seem as a very cumbersome thing to do or for that matter some of the other tasks as well. To keep oneself motivated to follow the process I came across this technique in one of the blogs. Maintain a record of all the activities that you wish to perform on a daily basis. The record will just contain whether you have performed the task or not, the task needs to be performed for a minimum of 10 minutes and it doesn’t matter how well the task has been accomplished. What is more important is that whether the task was done or not. Also maintain the continuous set of days or the maximum run of days in which the task was accomplished. So ideally the goal would be to beat the maximum run that you had accomplished previously with the current run. The incentive to break the current run would continuously go down as the count continues to accumulate. This method has proved to be pretty effective for me. One important thing is you need to have the motivation to take out a couple of minutes to update the records on a daily basis.
Finally, the techniques mentioned above requires a larger goal. Setting yourself a target will in turn subconsciously define the way in which you will set your daily goals for work and set of activities that you want to achieve personally.  Let me know if any of you have been using techniques which you have found really helpful.

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