June 4, 2018

The endless search for more time

The endless search for more time

Have you ever wished for more hours in a day?

If only there was a 25th hour in a day. You would for sure finish all of your work, wouldn't you?

More time does not necessarily mean more productivity. As humans, we do a great job of filling up our time. The question is, what are you filling your time with?

Time management is a hard skill to master and I find it even more so in the tech industry (maybe that's just because that's the industry I am in). We live very dynamic work schedules with meetings, late night deployments, regular working hours and don't forget about those ad-hoc bugs, problems, and support cases that need our immediate attention. With all of this happening, when do we actually find time to get our work done?

At the beginning of my career I would use the regular work day to attend meetings, communicate/plan with my team, and deal with problems that popped up. By the time I got home, I would have a complete to-do list of activities to work on and used the evening to get them finished. Although this schedule worked great for me because I work better at night, I soon realized that I spent every waking moment working. This might not sound bad if you are a workaholic, but there is this thing that happens when you finish work for the day - it's called life.

Leveraging techniques such as time boxing and Pomodoro, I have gotten better at time management. One aspect which is often overlooked is recognizing what you are spending your time on. Before you can optimize something, you need to know what the baseline is. For this, I conducted an experiment where I documented everything I did throughout the day. After 3 weeks of doing this, I came to understand multiple things about what I was spending my time on. One of them was how much time I was spending on work to pass the time (busy work).

Another thing I realized was that my days could be categorized into 4 groups.

  1. On-site meeting days
  2. Office Days
  3. Hybrid Days
  4. Special Days

After cutting out busy work and understanding what type of day I was about to have, made managing my time a lot easier. After adding a to-do list to the picture, my very hectic and dynamic work days are now very organized.

An added benefit to this, you start to enjoy life outside of work more. Instead of worrying about that task you didn't finish earlier, you now enjoy the moment. Whether you are out with friends or enjoying time with your family, you are more engaged in the moment instead of off in your head worrying about work.

I would love to hear what techniques you use to organize your time and how you prevent from being overwhelmed. Leave your comments below.