March 15, 2007
Lately I’ve been seeing a major number of links to time management questions and issues and this is in fact a fascinating subject mainly because we are all subject to the same conditions: willing to do more work and fun stuff and restricted to 24 hours a day to do that.
In fact, one of the reasons, IMO, for bright/popular/successful people to be this way is not because they are extremely intelligent [= high IQ] (are they members of mensa?) but because they are able to use their time wisely.
I am surely in a constant struggle with time, always trying to find how many minutes can I spare by doing things in a different way and I currently see my time efficiency improving because of the decision I make on what I do with the time I have. Because, you see… it’s not usual for things to be fair among everyone but in this nature is terribly fair. No matter who you are, you get exactly 24 hours a day… what you do with them… is exactly another matter.
Now, I hopefully will be able to give some insight on how I prepare my day and which decisions are heavily influence my daily time efficiency. The first most important thing is to have a priority list: What’s most important after all? Is it going out with friends and having fun? Working? Out-of-work development? Being with your parents/girlfriend/family? Watching TV? Playing video games? This list may not be explicit but you have to be aware of the top ten. In computing terms what you’re really doing is attaching nice levels to things in your life.
After this there are obviously stuff you really need to do, like working [even if you don’t like it], so even if that has a very high nice level (low priority), you’re bound to do it anyway so you may just had it to your schedule, things like visiting your mother weekly, doing your laundry weekly, registering and analyzing bank account every two weeks, money spent/earned every month, etc. After this scheduling what you do is an art… not a science.
So, here’s a bit of my experience and my day. Due to my special conditions (away in the UK from my family and girlfriend) I can spend a lot of time doing things other things like open source development for my own amusement and use. But I also have to work. On the other hand, I’m learning to play the guitar and I like reading but if I did nothing more I would get unhealthy and probably fat, so I need the gym. Well, there’s nothing more to it so… that’s it. On a regular week day:
- I wake up at 8.00 (in this hour I just get dressed, take breakfast and prepare lunch);
- I’m at work by 9.00;
- I work straight through lunch and mid-afternoon meal (I have some cookies and coffee here at all times) and I leave by 19.00 to make the 10 hour work day;
- I get home with 5 hours to do whatever I need (bound to be at bed by 00.00), usually I start by player the guitar and studying music theory, then I just choose one open source software project to work on and work on it for 3 hours or so and spend the rest of the time chatting with my girlfriend;
- At 00.00 I’m bound to go to bed and reading up until 01.00 or something. Sleeping 7 hours will make me prepared enough for the next day;
Weekend is pretty different, I don’t work on my PhD and buy a DVD to watch or something and I work on my open source software besides doing the nasty stuff like laundry, looking at myself in the mirror, taking care of things at home, shopping, etc.
Mostly, one of the things really improving my time efficiency is not going home for lunch like I did (taking me 1h.30m a day, which amounted to 4h.30m a week [a lot!]), instead I prepare a sandwich (with whatever inside) every morning (taking me 10m) and eat it while reading a paper or just drafting something. Not leaving your computer and standing by your office at all times is also good. Initially I left for chatting with other (and having coffee) and that took me about 30 m every day (amounting to 2h.30m hours a week). Then you get home… forget work [unless you have a deadline] and work on your projects. I pick one for the day [usually I have 4/5 running on parallel and another 5 on stack]. I do all my hobbie-reading in bed. This is because that’s the only thing you can do in bed and it feels good. So I leave for bed at 00.00 and I just read through an hour or until I feel sleepy. If I read before going to bed probably I would end up trashing time which could be instead used for programming and I even if I spent 00.00-01.00 reading outside bed, I would feel it was a waste of time because I could be programming as well and instead of focusing on reading I would be focusing on what I could be doing instead. Major waste of time! Leaving my house to go to the city center should be done for shopping only and I minimize it to once a week and I usually take 2h. This is quite and improvement since initially I took 3h but since I got aware of bus timetables, I was able to improve my time efficiency [have the buses on-time helps a lot]. I play the guitar about an hour almost each day, there are two days that I just go to the gym. This is also important because unless you go to the gym to look like superman you don’t need anything more than 2 hours a week of intensive training. I used to go 3 times a week but it was just too much and a waste of time. I just don’t want to get fatty, that’s all! This is really working great because I see my PhD going forward as well as my own projects, nothing else is in the way. This makes me feel great and strengthens me for the next day.
But as you see, this is quite the schedule which fits my life and my priority list. You surely have other life and priority list so you need to find time for your things. As long as you’re aware of what you want you can’t keep saying “Ah, I don’t have time for this or I don’t have time for that… You choose what to do with the time you’re given.” If you chose to go out with friends [major waste of time] then, hell, that was your choice. If you chose to see a DVD instead of working, again, your choice. The important thing is to be aware to where your time is going. Is your time going to useless things your don’t want? Can you improve your time by arranging the order of how you do things? Can you avoid going with your colleagues to a useless coffee meeting? Can you be as efficient as you are now by sleeping one hour less?
As I said, this is an art, not a science, but it is surely a subject you should take some time to look at closely. Have fun!
… and don’t waste your time reading useless posts :-)