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Time Management I

With so much data at our fingertips and with so many interruptions in business today, it's real tough to stay focused and get things done.  We all have many web sites we monitor, news sources we scan, newsfeeds we browse, emails we need to read and act on, telephone calls we answer, and voice messages we have to listen to and return.  Sometime after we do all that, we have to get our job done.  I struggled myself finding time to start blogging.

Early in my career, I received some great time management training.  The guy who trained me at my first start-up has moved on to other things, so I don't have any recommendations for sources of good time management training.  However, the things that Ken Hecht taught me have stuck with me over the years.  I'll publish a series of tips on time management to pass on some of my experience.

The first thing that I learned about time management was to try to guess how you spend your time, and then figure out how you REALLY spend your time.  This is a good exercise for those of you who don't think you need time management improvement.  If you already know that you succumb to interruption and procrastination, you can skip this exercise.

Try this:  First, write down how you think you SHOULD divide your time between your major categories of activity.  Then, estimate how much of your time in a week you actually spend on these major activities.  For example, how much time communicating via various channels, reading and researching, creating content, working with customers, writing code, in meetings, etc.   Just guess some rough percentages.  Then, try to keep track of this on an hour by hour basis for a week.  At the end of each hour, estimate how much of the previous hour you spent on each of your major activity categories.  You'll be amazed at how far off your estimate is and how far off your estimate and actuals are from what you think you should be doing.  Of course, you have to honest with yourself...

Once you are convinced that you have a problem, the first thing you have to do is set goals for yourself each day.  Start small.  Pick one thing you know you have to do at the start of the day.  Maybe it is work on a major project and hit a milestone.  Maybe it is write a blog post on a particular subject.  Just pick your top priority item for each day first thing in the morning (or, ideally, at the end of the previous day).  Then, make an appointment with yourself to get this item done.  Put it in your calendar and don't double-book this time.  Avoid any and all interruptions during this time.  Just get this one item done.  Once you can do this consistently, try it with two or three things each day.  If you make a good list of your To Do items, you can start to pick these off pretty quickly.

In the future, I'll write about how to manage interruptions and avoid procrastination.  If you have any questions or comments on this subject, put them in the Comments or email me at mike_feinstein@yahoo.com

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Welcome to the blogging world, Mike.

One time management idea I really like is "Getting Things Done" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done). Although setup is a little disruptive initially, I've found that the system works very well.

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