Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Buffer Time? Unit System? Buffer Time? Unit System?

Buffer Times Builds Better Performance at Coaching Positive Performance argues that packing a day with tasks isn't necessarily going to lead to top productivity. It's hard to make the mental transition from one task to another, if you move too rapidly. What to do? Plan some buffer time between tasks.

This sounds a lot like what I call the unit system--the breaking of a workday into units of time with periodic short breaks from work. Time management researchers recommend this work method because, among other things, it gives the brain an opportunity to "reboot" and think it has returned to early in the day when self-discipline is strongest. And research is suppose to support this system as making workers more productive than trying to work intently in one spot all day.

The main difference between what is described as buffer time and the time management break-into-unit technique appears to be that the unit system involves actual planning of the amount of time you're going to spend on a task and the break/buffer. You use a timer as an external support for willpower. The Coaching Positive Performance article doesn't mention anything like that for buffer time. How long you work and how long you spend in "buffer time" is up in the air.

Can We Use The Concept Of Buffer Time In A Different Way?


I like the idea of planning buffer time between completed projects. I'm not sold on using it off and on all day, every day between the many tasks we're working on to complete those projects. Especially since the buffer time article suggests using it in the following ways:
  • To organize administrative details, meaning filing documents for completed tasks and creating files for new ones. In my personal experience, this is hugely important. Poor organizing can mean time problems down the line.
  • To provide you with fallback time in case what you're working on runs long.
  • To use for low-energy work in case you really don't like the idea of taking a break from work.
Those things could be done off-and-on every day, but to me they say "end of project."

Also, if our concern is making mental transitions between different types of work, it seems that we'd need that most when we're shifting from one completed project to another rather than from one task to another during the day.
  • I'm talking making a transition between, say, completing a draft of Project A and starting an entirely new writing project and not between working an hour on Project A today (a task) and then working another hour on Project A today (a task).
  • Or, if we're juggling several projects, we might not be interested in buffer time between working an hour on Project A today (a task), then an hour prepping for an appearance today (another task), then going back to Project A today (still another task). But buffer time after Project A is totally completed (a project) a few weeks down the line or after the appearance prep is done (a project) might be very useful. And desirable.  


On The Other Hand


If you like the idea of breaking your day into blocks of time without any formal time keeping, adapting some kind of buffer system could work for you.

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