Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Knowing What You're Doing

At the beginning of July, I wrote about busyness--filling our lives with things to do that suck up time we need, or even want, for other things. Today I'm going to write about being busy, busy, busy at work.

I am reading It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life by Joanne Tombrakos. At one point, she suggests tracking your time for a week. Then she asks, "How much of your "busyness" was the good kind--focused and engaged--and how much was distraction from real work?"

This got me thinking of the whole idea of "busyness" at work. How many times are you asked how work is going, and you say, "Oh, I'm busy." Or, worse yet, you're asked what you're actually working on, and you reply, "I'm crazy busy."

If we're really concentrating on how we use our time, we ought to to know what we're doing and be able to describe it. Quickly. If we've been breaking our time into units (something Tombrakos writes about, too) and assigning tasks to them, we should know what those tasks are, correct? Conversely, in order to assign tasks to a unit of time, we have to have tasks in mind. Particularly if we're talking about using some big units, weeks or months, we need to know what it is we're hoping to achieve.

For instance, I can tell you that in June I worked on a lengthy revision that I needed to finish by the end of the month. I had some real time in June. I can also tell you that since then I've only been working part-time. I knew that was going to happen and was able to plan to use the shorter amounts of time I had for planning marketing for the e-book I'm publishing. Researching marketing and planning a book trailer don't require the lengthy immersion periods that I need for writing a first draft or even doing a revision.

Fortunately, I have a number of different kinds of work to do and am now concentrating on matching tasks with whatever time situations I have to deal with. In the past, I might have been blown over by the fact that I had so little time.

Think about whether or not you can describe what you're working on now. Do you know what your time situations will be in the coming months and can you plan tasks that will fit them so that you're getting the best out of whatever time you have?


tanita✿davis said...

This post crosses thought patterns with Cynthia's interview of Mette Ivie Harrison. It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but she must have some time management going for her... or tons of household help.

I think back to how much I hated my life in high school being driven by bells and timers, but it worked...

Gail Gauthier said...

But weren't the bells and timers only during the day? A lot of what high school students have to do is during their own time. If someone wanted to make a case that teenagers often carry a greater time burden than adults, I'd be willing to listen.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Planning tasks to fit the time situations is something I need to get better at doing. I tend to prioritize by doing the most pressing things first, regardless of how much time there is in the time slot. And sometimes that isn't the best way to do it...

Gail Gauthier said...

I think that's called fighting fires.

You know, there used to be a time management plan that involved labeling your tasks A, B, and C. Presumably either the most important or the most pressing would be labeled A. I say "either" because I'm guessing the most pressing become the most important.

The C priorities? Part of the theory around this plan was that as time passed and you hadn't gotten to some (many?) the Cs, it would become clear that you didn't have to get to them, and you could just forget about them.

I don't hear a lot about this anymore.