Time Hacks: Managing your Day-to-Day and Long-Term Projects
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  • Thanks Erin. If you’re like me, you want to implement many of these ideas, but first you need to clear your email inbox, finish the reference desk schedule, do that one thing your boss asked for by Friday . . . You may have heard the phrase “if somebody says that they don’t have time, what that means is that it’s not important enough to them.” I disagree. I think that most of us have too many things that are important to us, and we’re running around making ourselves, at best, burned out, and at worst, sick. The saying does have some truth: It’s not about finding time, it’s about making it. However, making time isn’t always simple.So where to start?
  • I think that a good place to start is to assess the current state of affairs: what are we doing with our time now?No doubt you’ve heard of, or perhaps have kept a time log or journal, where you write down how you spend your time periodically throughout the day.These can be a good exercise, but I like to use a faster, less exhaustive approach and here’s why.Time logs take time, and energy, which are both in scarce resources.My time (and I suspect your time) is not spent the same way from day to day, week to week, or one part of the year to the next. Because of that, it would take me a long time to capture enough data to be meaningful for analysis.Stuff changes, sometimes quickly. Why spend too much time keeping track of something that’s a moving target?I’m not good at being regimented, and after years of trying, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am better off playing to my strengths and working around my weaknesses than trying to change my personality.I’ll describe a quick, iterative approach to conducting a time inventory. Once you’ve gone through the steps, you can return to any point in the process and make adjustments.
  • This process involves a series of quick, timed lists. If you feeling anxious about the timer, feel free to keep the list with you and add to it if you think of things later. But try to stick to the 5-minute time frame for the first go through, because I think it’s important to the process. So for this first list, simply jot down what stuff takes up your time.Remember: we simply want to know what’s taking up a lot of time, what’s not. The biggest stuff will bubble up. If a few items get lost in the mix, don’t worry, you’ll surely find them. I like to review my calendar and to-do lists as I do this, because they provide raw data.Here’s a brief example from my time inventory. Notice that some things on the list are ongoing (ref desk), some are ongoing for awhile (task force), and some are a push to the finish line (publication and presentation deadlines). Other tasks are intermittent – I run reference stats when they’re needed.
  • The next step is to get a sense of how long you’re spending on each activity. I’m using hours per week for ease of comparison, pick what works for you.Totally estimate! We’re looking for patterns, not precision.
  • The next 5-minute list is to note how important each activity is. I’m using a notes plus numerical scale.Pause. Notice how everything is important? Let’s take another look. (click)Here is what happens when I assess the relative importance of each activity to me, not to my supervisor or because I made a commitment, or to the angel on my left shoulder. I may not be able to stop doing stuff, but there are times when I do get to make choices, and I can use what I learn from this process.
  • Next, assess when each item on your list needs to be completed.This is just a way to become more aware of short-term priorities. I know that I often feel I must respond to email right now, but really, it can wait. A lot of things can wait. Also, if I start to notice a pattern of tight deadlines, I may need to do something to effect this such as ask for more time from the outset of a project.
  • After completing these four lists, you’ll probably become aware of some patterns, and perhaps some things you want to change. On the screen you’ll see some prompts. Don’t feel that you need to limit yourself and also don’t worry if you don’t have answers for everything. If you have no answers, maybe ask a friend or colleague to look over it with you.
  • Here are some examples from my list. As you can see, I am a little bit type A.We’ll come back to this because there are a few other things to consider.
  • It’s not just about time.I can spend an entire day grading student assignments. I can also spend an entire day getting everything EXCEPT my grading done, until 4pm, at which point I grade madly and don’t get home until 7. Clearly time is not the only factor in getting things done.
  • One of the most important non-time factors is the actual Like most people, I have a wide and fluctuating range of feelings about the things I must get done. Additionally, the items on my list vary in difficulty. Easy things can be comforting, or they might be boring. Activities that are difficult and/or require learning can be exciting or perhaps daunting.
  • Another thing to consider is the quality of the time each activity requires.Can you do accomplish this task in few minutes here and there, or do you need to set aside a larger chunk of time?How often should you schedule this activity? Some things require consistency, others can be picked up anytime.Also consider the time of day – I like to exercise in the morning, before I can talk myself out of it, for example.
  • Finally, the environment that suits you best can vary, both by what it is you’re working on and by mood. Think about things like ambient noise, music, companionship, and interruptions. Consider whether you’d rather work alone or collaborate. Think about your work environment. For example, I find that having enough light helps me to stay focused.
  • This is a visual demonstrating some ideas to consider based on how you feel about a particular task and how much focus it requires. I’d like to highlight a few key points. First try to balance high focus activities with those that require less attention. The human brain is not designed to stay in 1 gear forever, and will function better this waySecond, adults are not so different from children in that incentives can make chores more palatable. I often such as “write 500 words, then take a break and shop for shoes online.” By “distract yourself with shiny things,” I mean that a a really nice note pad and roller ball pen can make even the most onerous task more tolerable. On the flip side, if you tend to get over focused on activities that you are able to find flow with, a timer or another type of time boundary can be a useful way to get through tasks at a reasonable pace.The most important thing is to create balance, whatever that means to you.
  • The last step is to pull all of this into an action plan. Above you’ll see my list of activities, with two columns – some notes about how it’s going, taken from my time inventory and reflection and some ideas for things to change or try, taken from my reflections after the time inventory and on the non-time factors that we just went over. Of course, I wouldn’t try to make all of these changes at once. You could ad a timeline column, or choose one to work on for a week, then moving on to the next Finally, it’s important to check in regularly and see how it’s going, both in terms of this action plan and any aspects of the inventory process which may have changed.
  • So with that – we’re done with the formal portion of this presentation. Thanks for your attention. Any questions for us?

Transcript

  • 1. Ellie Dworak, William Weare & Erin White
  • 2. William Weare
  • 3. Establish goals Determine priorities Map projects to calendar Work in brief, daily sessions
  • 4. “People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
  • 5. “If you want to be great at getting the right things done, you have to start by defining clearly what you want and why you want it.” (Fritz, The truth about getting more done, p. 166)
  • 6. “The reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” Robert J. McKain
  • 7. Map projects to your calendar.
  • 8. “You need to think ahead and make sure you schedule your week in a way that you get to achieve what you want to achieve.” (Fritz, The truth about getting more done, p. 66)
  • 9. Constancy and moderation.
  • 10. Gray, Tara. Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar. Teaching Academy. New Mexico State University, 2005. Rockquemore, Kerry Ann, and Tracey Laszloffy. The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure—Without Losing Your Soul. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2008. Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive AcademicWriting. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2007.
  • 11. Erin White
  • 12. Simple things Hard things Done once do it manually automate it Done often automate it buy or write software Thomas A. Limoncelli, Time Management for System Administrators
  • 13. The “waterfall” or “executive” approach* Managing/triaging the volume Inbox zero (Merlin Mann) and/or inbox as to-do list delete, delegate, defer, do, respond * I made this up.
  • 14. Filters/rules: keep it out of your inbox Simple thing done often: cleaning out messages Listservs, newsletters, automated messages Be ruthless! Examples If to: address is “lita-l@lists.ala.org” Move to folder ListservsLITA If message subject contains “Special Offer” Move to Trash
  • 15. Message templates Simple thing done often: composing similar messages Called “canned messages” in Gmail Examples “The ____ system is currently unavailable. We’ve reported the issue with the vendor and will update you as soon as possible.” Welcome e-mail for new colleagues with orientation information Fielding feedback/common questions
  • 16. Keyboard shortcuts/macros Simple thing done often: replying, archiving/foldering, deleting, searching In Gmail, activate keyboard shortcuts in Settings. Use J and K to navigate through messages in your inbox. Enter to read messages. R to reply. E to archive and remove from inbox. C to compose new. ? to see all shortcuts. Common shortcuts for desktop programs Ctrl+R to reply Ctrl+N to create a new message.
  • 17. List of all projects Project names, owners, statuses, importance As simple as a spreadsheet Separate sheet for finished projects Project charters/plans Scope: what is and is not included RACI: responsible, accountable, consulted, informed Milestones and due dates Checklists for common tasks
  • 18. Google Docs spreadsheets Portable, easy to share/edit on the fly Can be embedded in web pages GitHub One repository for project list One repository for each large project Repositories can have documentation, track issues and milestones
  • 19. 22
  • 20. 23
  • 21. 24
  • 22. 25
  • 23. 26
  • 24. Ellie Dworak
  • 25. Activity Reference desk Online learning assessment task force Book chapter revisions SLA presentation Running reference desk statistics
  • 26. Activity Estimated hours/week Reference desk 8+ Online learning assessment task force 0-4 Book chapter revisions 2-4 SLA presentation 4-6 Running reference desk statistics 0-8
  • 27. Activity Hours/week Relative importance Reference desk 8+ 5 Very! It’s what I do. Online learning assessment task force 0-4 4 It’s interesting, and read our to serve. 2 Will anybody really I agreed report? Book chapter revisions 2-4 5 Sigh. Must be done, I suppose. 3 I’m so done. SLA presentation 4-6 5 Important, a deadlinedeadline. 4 I enjoy this project + approaches. Running reference desk statistics 0-8 4 ImportantOCD. Nobodyis being made. 1 I’m being if a decision else cares.
  • 28. Activity Hours/week Importance When? Reference desk 8+ 5 Whenever I’m scheduled. Online learning assessment task force 0-4 3 Can ask to reschedule meetings; flexible otherwise. Book chapter revisions 2-4 3 We have a whole month . . . SLA presentation 4-6 4 Need a draft this week in order to practice with group. Running reference desk statistics 0-8 3 Not usually a rush.
  • 29. What can you: Stop doing Do less of Do more quickly Ask for help with Relax about What would you like to: Take on Do more of Do differently
  • 30. Stop doing: Always offering to take extra desk hours. Do less: Writing for publication. Keep it in balance. Do more quickly: Creating powerpoint slides. Ask for help with: Hmmmm . . . Relax about: Deadlines that are only in my head. Take on: Learn more about research methods. Do more: Outreach to liaison areas. Do differently: Try not bringing work to the reference desk for awhile.
  • 31. Balance high focus activities with those that require less attention Dedicated chunks of time Selected location Minimize interruptions Stop breathing so loudly, I need to focus Boundaries: set a timer; set a day of the week; complete something else first Don’t tell anybody, but I kinda like this OK to multi-task Location not so important important Interruptions OK, maybe even good Task I could do this standing on my head on the bus Schedule regularly Let yourself be bad at it Small goals with incentives Collaborate/commiserate? I would rather eat nails Brief work sessions Get it over with first thing Distract yourself with shiny things
  • 32. Activity How’s it going? Things to change or try Reference desk I love the desk so much, I end up there more than I can really afford. Pause before offering to take extra desk hours. Online learning assessment task force Good, but I really don’t have time for it and I feel badly about not doing much work yet. Chat with chair about time commitment. Fine, once these revisions are done. But it’s been time consuming and I could use a few months without a publication deadline. Cut back on proposals to one or two a year. SLA presentation Great, but I need to stop revising slides. Set a timer for 5 minutes/slide. Running reference desk statistics Takes me way too much time because I love making graphs and charts. Write down exactly what is needed (e.g. busiest hours during the week) and do just that. Book chapter revisions No more special projects for awhile (if possible) Set aside half a day, turn off telephone, finish.
  • 33. Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/52Q5Q58 Ellie Dworak elliedworak@boisestate.edu Erin White erwhite@vcu.edu William Weare wweare@iupui.edu Image credits http://bit.ly/timehacks