Since time itself cannot be stretched it is important to carefully choose what you invest your time in. We very often lose significant amounts of the value of time by not investing in the meta-activity “time management”. The thing is that “Time Management” is a different discipline for every profession, depending on the results that need to be achieved, and there is not one global rule that an organization can impose, but there are still some best practices you can benefit from.
If you manage a project (and a client)
The first thing that pops up in Google when you search for “Time Management” is the popular schema you see below. If you are one of those animals, that receive more than 50 emails or notifications a day or in other words – a project manager, check out the advices of Ludivine Lemaire:
Depending of your function, it is quite hard to put priorities on your daily tasks. Priorities are always moving, according to the scheduled work and the eventual unexpected requests. The best thing would be to make Friday night or Monday morning the global schedule of your week, then daily (first hour in the morning or before leaving for the day after) adjust the task you’ll do during the day.
Here is a tool you can also use if you have difficulties to assess the urgency of a request :
You have to evaluate each task : is it urgent AND important ? Do it now. Is it not urgent but quite important? Delay … It’s a difficult exercise to do but you’ll see, “practicing” is the best way to move forward.
Finally, here are 3 rules you can also use to help you dealing with tasks priorities:
- If it takes less than 15 minutes: do it right away
- If it takes more than 15 minutes and less than one hour: create a task on your calendar and schedule it
- If it takes more than one our: create a meeting with yourself on your calendar
There are different ways to deal with the distractions that take you out of “concentration mode”.
As a Project Manager, make sure to organize daily meeting on the beginning of the day (and at the end if possible), so the team you are working with is able to summarize and regroup it’s questions, and know what to do during the day.
If you have a long task that requires all your attention, just put a meeting with yourself on your calendar, book 2 working hours, try to isolate yourself for a moment in a room. If it’s not possible, you can switch of all “disruptive elements” that may disturb you: email, Skype notifications… and if you are on open space, let people know you’ll not be available for the next hour.
The most important thing to agree on, in the office, is a non intrusive way to ask help from people. Don’t go directly at the desk of someone if you have a question. If you use Skype, try to ping the person to see if he’s available or not.
Try to gather the questions you have if there are not blocking you in your current task.
If you code
Focus on the deliverables:
Make sure the project you are working on is scoped well and that the tasks have a clear deliverable goal and description. Once you really know what you are doing, time management will be a piece of cake.
Track your R&D time
The time spent on R&D should be framed and directed. If not, you might end up with hundred tabs open, hundreds hours spent and no results achieved. Staying conscious about the time invested in a problem will help you tremendously on being more efficient and advance faster.
Ask for help
There are two very important variables when asking for help: When and Who.
It is a very precise moment, a millisecond – right after you have tried hard enough to know you cannot cope and right before you get stuck. If you manage to hit that exact moment, you also have to know who to turn to. Usually there are many ways to solve a problem, but when programming it is particularly important to choose the good way and avoid future complications.
There are a lot of useful tools out there than can help you in organizing your time and tasks, so you can choose what suites you best, but we recommend the following:
Target Process is a tool we use in our daily work. The software fits with our agile software development practices. It can be customized to support custom project management approaches and workflows. It allows you to track the time spent and time remaining (depending on the estimation) on each task and project. Task and projects are organized in a pipeline with different stages from the initials plans to the completion and can be assigned to teams and people, so you know who is doing what at all times, and follow their progress.
Trello is another useful tool you can use for your personal tasks. It is very similar to Target Process in a way that you can set your tasks in different stages depending on their urgency, importance and how far are they to completion.