Time Management

This is a hot topic, enough to give bread and butter for a lot of people teaching the same, but a professor from CMU, Randy Pausch gives the same old nuggets with some humor and emphasis.

  • He starts out with saying that Time is money. To get a perspective on this, he asks – “would you be willing to help somebody(say arrange something) do something (by spending your time) or would you be willing to give money to somebody just like that?”. I can see that a lot of people really go for the former, but not the latter. May be, even I do that. That is a mistake. People value money more than time. Time is a primary, natural resource while money is a secondary, artificial resource. Time should be given priority.
  • He says, “Realize now that time is important, or you will realize later”.
  • He suggests two books, One Minute Manager and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Part of the stress that we suffer from is because of bad time management. The relationship is a bit indirect – you want to do a lot of things, you don’t manage yourself properly, you cant do a lot of things, you are unhappy, you are stressed.
  • I have heard about prioritizing the work items long before, but it never has rung a bell in me. But it did this time. To annotate, he says, “Doing things right is not important when compated to doing right things. Whenever you are about to do something, do a cost-benefit analysis.” Atleast in the algebraic sense, time is money. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Some questions to ask when you are about to do something is:
    • Why am I doing this?
    • What is my goal?
    • Why will I succeed?
    • What happens if I choose not to do this?
  • 80-20 rule. Again, this never did ring a bell in me. But this time it did, when he said: “critical few, trivial many.” When I read it, I felt – “Oh yes, indeed!!”. There are a lot of trivial things in life which are not worth the time. Also, it is not possible toย  find in advance what is that 20%. That is why he says, “Experience matters”. But how are you going to find the critical things through experience is a topic in itself (for me, at least).
  • Big things are always scary. Mankind has conquered it by dividing a big task into smaller tasks. This is, it comes to my mind again and again, the most fundamental thing in the advancement of human civilization. We also know it in the name of abstraction.
  • He, next, asks not to keep a drop down list of to-do items. Some things are non-linear inherently, so converting them to linear form is gonna make things messy. Instead, keep things in a quadrant and cut through them in the order. Any PIM tool that does not allow one to have such a view of to-do lists is not worth it.
  • He stresses some words: “You don’t find time for doing important things, you make it.
  • Learn to say NO. Again, this is something that is told to us many times, but it is high time we realize the importance of it. As noted earlier, we can do it now, or realize later.
  • He says, “Clutter is death.” Sure there are people who can get things done even in the presence of clutter, but they can do even more if there is no clutter. The investment (in the form of time) put in, definitely reaps in benefits when organized life is just habitual. It wont, then, take up our conscious part of mind or much time. In short, more discipline brings more productivity. Clutter fears you? – remember Divide and Conquer.
  • He emphasizes that time management is not being selfish – it is about being fair. You don’t allow your time to be wasted and don’t waste others’ time.
  • Interruptions are one big suckers of time. He points to some research data and says, “The average interruption takes about 6-7 minutes and it takes about 4-5 minutes to recover from an interruption”. Such a big sucker? I can very readily see that email is one. There can be other distractions in the environment. Proper arrangements should be made to avoid interruptions. While he is at this, he explains his brilliant idea – he cuts a window in his door, puts a glass and then shields the glass. He says that the trick has worked. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Time journal is another technology that comes to our rescue -unconsciosuly or mundanely lead your life except for logging what have you been doing once in 15 minutes. Let a couple of days pass and then look into the time journal to see what has been done in the past couple of days. It is a powerful feedback mechanism to see how are we going through a typical day.
  • While we are at the journal thingy, he suggests that we ask some important questions:
    • What is unnecessary?
    • What could be delegated?
    • What can be made more efficient?
    • What is wasting others’ time?
  • He says that delegating can be made more humble by challenging the person, telling them what to do instead of how to do, and giving the relative importance of the task. This is a neater way of doing things than commanding.
  • And for people who delegate tasks to you – “ignorance is your friend”, says Randy. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Finally he gives some last general advice like:
    • Turn money into time – you need not do all the mundane things
    • Kill television. Watching something repeatedly is like whiling away your time, without the other person whiling away his/her time.
    • Finally eat, sleep and exercise. What happens if you don’t do that – you will get hungry, tired and sick. ๐Ÿ™‚
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