AGL 042: Time


I get asked about time management more than I do any other question.  People ask, how is it that you have time with your family, work a full-time job, teach part-time, build apps, host a podcast, and do side hustles regularly?  Well, its all about time management.  We all have the same finite amount of time.  24 hours in a day.  We choose to spend it differently. One thing I recommend before changing the way you spend your time, is to document it.  Use this link to download a template for time tracking. I actually make my DIFD 321 students do this as a learning tool… and a little secret, I do it too.  I find that its important to track your time regularly because your schedules and responsibilities change over time.  I think once a year is good for me. Do what works for you. Once you’ve tracked and documented your time over a typical week (be sure to do 15-30 minute intervals) you’ll have a baseline to move forward.

The first time I did this, I was shocked at the amount of time I spent in my car doing nothing.  I was also shocked at the time I spent watching TV.  So I made some changes.  I started using the car trips to learn.  I got a subscription to Audible and committed to reading (listening) to one leadership book per month.  I also listen to a number of podcast that keep me informed on things I’m interested in.  I cut back the TV watching significantly.  I also started scheduling time to spend with the family and kids.  When I get home from work, usually 5:30pm or 6pm, until the kids go to bed is their time.  No work emails, no work calls, to podcasts, not side hustles.  Just family time.

I used the time chart to find time when I had no other obligations and I was wasting the time.  One of the big holes I found was lunch.  I started writing and recording podcast episodes during lunch. This freed up my evenings (when I used to do my recording).  Now I could watch movies or shows with the wife after the kids go to bed, or build a website for a client, update an app, etc.  I also set time limits on the work that I do.  I won’t spend more than 4 hours per week doing side hustle work.  Once I exhaust the 4 hours, I’m done until the next week. It could all happen in one evening, but usually its an hour here or there during lunch, in the morning or late at night.

Some of my tips for time management are as follows:

  1. Equate time to money.  Create time budgets and stick to them.
  2. Understand the the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s Law).
  3. Create daily todo lists.  For this I use the reminder app and I add 3 things I “must” do before lunch to it.  Checking them off gives me that dopamine hit I’ve talked about so many times before.
  4. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
    1. Step Goals – small goals you can complete in less than a day.
    2. Sprint Goals – medium goals, made up fo step goals, that you can complete in less than a sprint (2 weeks).
    3. Stretch Goals – larger goals, made up of sprint goals, that you can complete in a quarter or a year.
  5. Tackle the most uncomfortable tasks first (not usually the ones that take the longest, just the ones you don’t want to do).  If you have to eat 3 frogs, eat the biggest, ugliest one first.
  6. Batch requests and tasks.
  7. Email, only after you’ve got your 3 tasks done.  Opening outlook in the morning is the fastest way to get derailed from your planned activities. Your inbox is full of distractions.
  8. Understand Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
  9. Don’t Procrastinate – Parkinson’s law.
    1. Understand that doing things at the last minute is expensive.
  10. When it comes to things that matter, exchange money for time.  We can earn more money, but the time we have on this earth is limited and once its gone, we can never get it back.  

Below is one of my favorite talks.  Randy Pausch’s Time Management talk.  Randy was a computer science professor that is no longer with us, but his talks and wisdom live on.

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