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Who controls your time?

As you get into multi-tasking mode it becomes difficult for you to manage your time. More than you, other stakeholders including your supervisors, team members, peers and sometimes external connections manage your time. You decide to complete high priority, highly critical tasks in a day and at 5:00 PM you realize half or more than half tasks are still not yet initiated.

It is a very common problem and unless you take care of your own time, nobody else will take care of it for you. This post is applicable both for Architects as well as non-Architects. Time is precious – no matter who you are and at what level you are.

I have been struggling to manage my own time and not to forget along with so called work-life balance where you are supposed to spend some time for your family members. Here are my personal top 10 time management tips.

  1. Start your day early: You need to begin your day early. Before others decide what you will do throughout the day, you should be able to decide what you want to accomplish throughout the day.
  2. Pen and paper: Use pen and paper to list down all important and critical tasks you want to accomplish. Remember not every important thing is critical. Differentiate important tasks from critical ones and give priority to the ones as appropriate. Have 3 columns list – task description, task initiated and task completed. You can move on unfinished tasks to the next day tasks list and can track those as appropriate.
  3. Identity dependencies and delegate soon: You cannot do all the planned tasks on your own. You will have certain dependencies on your own team or other stakeholders. Break the task in small pieces and delegate the work to others as early as possible. You should not wait till you reach the task in the list. Sooner you delegate to others, sooner you will get completed work from others.
  4. Do you need your Outlook throughout the day? Mail communication is important but it is annoying as well. Along with required communication your mail box is flooded with certain announcements, mailers, and non-important mails. Either you need to work in offline mode or close that annoying pop-up at the bottom. You do not need to get disturbed while working on critical task. If you do not need mail interference, just close your Outlook and check your mails once in a while by syncing mails on your own.
  5. Mark mails with appropriate To and CC: This tip is again related to email communication. Mark people on To and CC list only and only if they are required. More the people you mark on mails, more time you would be spending on reading their mails and dealing with their opinions. It goes with your intent, criticality and organization culture though.
  6. Block your calendar for your own purpose: On Monday morning you should block 1-2 hours per day throughout the week for your own purpose. If you cannot mark same time slot throughout the week, its fine at least mark different time slots to read something new, close your own expense reports, close long pending document review or so. It is you who can save you from time crunched situation.
  7. Coffee breaks: Do you take unwanted coffee breaks since someone just popped on your cabin and asked you to accompany him/her? You need to be busy for some part of the day managing your own job. Do let others know without any guilt that you are busy and cannot take break at the moment. Others will not get offended if you convey it in right way. You just need to convey it for your own sake.
  8. Blackberry: Another most annoying digital device in corporate life is blackberry (or any other mail device you carry in your pocket). How often you turn it off? Do you need to be connected with it 24*7? Turn it off once in a while when you have critical deliverable and do not want to be disturbed. You will find some space for sure.
  9. Working lunch: If it works, prefer working lunch than work after lunch with people. Bite of pizza or visit to nearby restaurant while discussing something can save additional 1 hour in your calendar.
  10. Make use of time whenever you find it: To be more effective, you should be able to break tasks in small pieces and assign priority to it. You need to squeeze in tasks in small time windows you have. Move tasks up and down, change priorities and finish as many as you can in small windows. This takes some time and but it can be definitely do-able.

Your time is your own and nobody should control it. Be disciplined with your calendars, notes, delegation activities and blocking your own calendar. Do it on regular basis and you will find lots of time for your own. 

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12 Comments

  1. Dinkar Gupta says:

    Nice post Swarraj.. almost all are on my list too.. Personally I do use “personal kanban board” on my desktop and use pomodoro as my focussed time management technique..

    The only thing I try not to do is working lunches, unless unavoidable.

  2. Dinkar Gupta says:

    And yes one more thing.. If you want to manage time well, manage your health well, which leads to mental agility. Start your day with a good fitness workout/your favorite sport. It will give us clearer, more focused mind to start the day !

  3. Nice blog Swarraj !! Couple of points are already in practice but definitely there are couple of points to take away from this blog, Similar to your working lunch point, I am fond of having working tea/coffee break 🙂 & most of time its effective, I remember, We have solved couple of complex problem at tea breaks 🙂

  4. dilipsharma2020 says:

    Great points for a good work life balance. Just a though on point#2 , we can use a smart mobile app like digital note book to maintain task list and get some analytics done at a later stage to manage tasks properly and improve work life balance.

    Thanks

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nice thoughts…

  6. Pinaki says:

    Very nice article and invaluable tips! My favourite “Differentiate important tasks from critical ones and give priority to the ones as appropriate.”
    I believe, managing time is all about managing the priorities in our life. At any point of time, we can ask question like “What is the most important thing that I can do right now (or today, this week, this month etc. ) which will help me to be what we want to be?” Then we can ensure to finish that task (in that moment, week, month etc.) before jumping on anything else. If we can make a habit of doing this in regular basis, our life will be much easier to manage.

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