Some Thoughts on Time Management: Baby Daddy Edition
I am hoping to address something that is asked of me often with this blog entry.
“How do you manage your time so well? I mean, you have a wife and a baby and you still manage to stay well ahead of schedule”
This conversation (or some variation of it) happens more than I care to admit. The answer is simple really: Priority. Time management is an ongoing game of re-prioritization and impact mitigation. I have refined my interpersonal value scale such that my decision making is a reflex. This value scale is a complex system of logical and emotional statements designed to quantify the tasks I face in a given day such that I can assess importance and calibrate my priorities appropriately. A good example of one of this ingrained philosophical statements would be:
“I owe it to my family to make the most of the time I spend apart from them in order to make the most of the time we are together (free of distraction).”
That statement in many cases initiates proactivity and deters procrastination. Opting not to “make hay while the sun shines” has a negative impact on my ability to spend quality time with my family and is thus irresponsible and selfish. I maintain deeply rooted convictions such as this to govern my decision making. That is an example of a very emotional (but logical) personal statement. The more logical statements start with questions such as:
“How much time is required to complete?”
“When is the deadline?”
and most importantly
“What conditions are required to optimize success and reduce the required time for completion?”
The mistake many people make is in allowing themselves to perform tasks in sub optimal conditions. This will cost you time! The conditions will not always be perfect, but it is up to you to be aware of the factors that will contribute toward diminished returns. Free yourself of hindrance and distraction. Work with opportunity AND environment in mind. What I mean to say is be a right place, right time type and you will already be leagues ahead of your peers. Calibrating this mechanism effectively takes time and experience, so start working on it now. Understanding the compromise it takes to make conditions right for productivity with the understanding that the right time is NOW (9 times out of 10) and that LATER is typically just that, late.
Subdivide your time and keep regular “productivity hours.” I jokingly refer to my productivity time as office hours, but this established routine keeps me in check and forces me to respect that time. When that time is not specifically allocated I use it to do personal productivity work of skill building. This can be something like sketching or perhaps a hobby that is intellectually engaging or physically gratifying. The important thing is to leave time budgeted for personal productivity beyond work and school tasks. By maintaining this block of time it is easier to measure your ability to perform tasks and begin to subdivide (budget smaller blocks of time within the large block) appropriately. This is the hardest part, but this is a skill that will allow you to more accurately quote people for your services and understand the investment required on your part.
I am going to wrap this up by talking about deadlines. The biggest mistake I see being made is related to the understanding of deadlines for deliverables. If you have a presentation due for a 1:00pm class on a Wednesday, 1:00pm Wednesday IS NOT THE DEADLINE. Think through all of the other things that must happen after finishing the deliverable: proofing, revision, rehearsing, etc. All of those tasks take time and require a completed deliverable to begin. Back up your deadlines appropriately to factor in the intangibles and the unknowns. If you are “over-prepared” you are flexible. Trust me when I say you want to be flexible. If someone throws you a curveball it will not phase you and you will knock it out of the park. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Start developing your personal value scale and take back as much time as you can get, then finish strong and celebrate! Fun is fun-er when you don’t have an assortment of soul sucking tasks looming about like death eaters. I can’t believe I am finding an appropriate opportunity for this, but go forth and “git er done.”