Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alpha Mail: time management

Martel asks how he can more effectively manage his time:
I'm a regular reader of both Vox Populi and Alpha Game.  Although I don't always agree with you, I can't help but be impressed by how much knowledge you manage to acquire, how much you write, and all the other stuff you do with your life.

I therefore suspect that you're a master of time management.  Do you have any suggestions as on how one should maximize one's time?  Is there an underlying frame through which you view time that helps you maintain such consistent output, or are there any specific techniques you use? Any help would be much appreciated.
I wouldn't call myself a master of time management. I'm lazy, I procrastinate, and I am appallingly bad about keeping to the schedules I set myself. That being said, I do always find the time to get the important things done and I seldom have any trouble popping up a blog post or two.  But to the extent I can offer any advice, it is as follows:
  1. Become a creature of habit.  It's much easier to get things done when you do them on auto-pilot.
  2. Set ambitious schedules. Even if you don't keep to them, you'll get a lot farther than you will if you don't try.
  3. Keep the television watching to a minimum. One hour per day, tops.
  4. Avoid getting sucked into pointless internet debates. Make your case, succinctly, and then learn to let it go. You don't need to have the last word; people are perfectly capable of discerning who is an idiot and who is not without your help.
  5. Avoid unnecessary socializing. This sucks up as much or more time than most time-wasters. One is seldom genuinely obliged to do as many things as most people seem to feel the need to do. Your best friend's wedding is an obligation. The funeral of your mother's cousin you never met, not so much.
  6. Don't fight yourself. When you're tired, go to bed. If you're not feeling motivated to do X, do Y instead. It's the MJ approach. If your shot isn't falling, then play defense and take the other team's scorer out of the game. Just don't bench yourself in front of the TV.
  7. Always read everywhere. I actually spend very little time "reading" anymore, in the sense of sitting down with a book. But I read at the gym, when waiting in lines, when waiting while running errands, and on the train. There is usually a book's worth of waiting time per week, so why not use it? There is no excuse not to with all the excellent ereaders on smartphones out there.
  8. Read one serious book for every two pieces of mind-candy.
  9. Go to bed later/get up earlier than everyone else. People are the ultimate distraction. The more alone time you have, the more you can get done.
  10. Focus on the important. The urgent will disappear soon on its own.
I don't know if those things will work for Martel or anyone else, but they seem to work for me.

19 comments:

Daniel von Elz-Rübenach said...

Good Advice. Unfortunately I took it too much to heart. So much so, in fact, that I can't stop reading your fiction, Vox. I've happily lost sleep over ATOB, not to mention all the other stuff that I've already read. I finished Summa, Witchking, Wardog, Magic Broken and more just on the elliptical at the gym! You are a Godsend, Sir. Please keep writing. We enjoy it all, as I assume I'm definitely not alone with regard to this. I had almost given up Fantasy Fiction in its entirety. So nice to read something that not only involves Faith and puts it in a positive and fulfilling light, but also works whilst also being completely devoid of sex with dead things and animals. Your work is an inspiration. Many thanks to you.

tz said...

To elaborate on #7, audiobooks, like from downpour.com (and blackstone audio, its parent) help, an.d astro player pro on android has pitch corrected speed from fractions up to 6x. I usually do 2x including podcasts, especially news.

I have massive ADD but found I can multitask. I have index cards and colored pilot petite pens from jetpens.com (no app works, maybe if I get a stylus or better voice recognition that works in noisy places). I list everything that has a deadline, urgent and important, then when my queue is empty, I look for one or more I can do or advance right then. I'm packing for a multimonth contract 2000+ miles away, so I have a lot. But when I think of something (oh, yea, those houseplants), I just jot a note. Or a quick circuit or code fragment.

Habits help, but forcing them doesn't. But I'm warming up. Many of my comments are in the morning where I now have a slow start habit and there is a pattern of misspellings since I'm using a tablet, typically m or n instead of an interword space. The other is at my evening meal - I eat once a day since going low-carb. Usually where they are playing trivia for gift cards so I have three hours. All that might change when I start the new contract, but I will get into those rythms (it is more rythm than habit).

I'm also more event than clock driven. If I happen to be in an area, I'll stop and pick up something if I think of it. But it is balanced. Normal rythms with syncopation.

Also, to Internet discussion, less is more. Yeas or nays are the least useful post. A new reason for either side, the more unexpected, the more welcome. Even better is the orthognal - not yea or nay, but something that cuts through or across to provoke thought on both sides. Clarification is also for small doses - at least on Vox's blogs. The audience usually gets your point and understands but doesn't agree.

tz said...

And the "Web page reader paid" app for Android, it is a bit clunky, but works well for the longer articles like the Deputy killer article Vox linked to.

LP 999/Eliza said...

I doubt people understand how much tv depresses them and takes away from personal care like sleep and gym time.

Vox said...

Please keep writing.

No problem. There is a new novel and a new novella coming out on Dec 2nd. SF, not fantasy, but still devoid of any sex with dead things and animals.

LibertyPortraits said...

What are a few of your favorite ereaders? I recently got a smartphone and it's easier to carry around with me than my Kindle.

RobertT said...

In my years in the corporate world, the benefit I came to appreciate the most was access to management seminars for senior executives. Predictably, many of them turned out to be the same old dribble designed to occupy the drones, but one of them, one I actually fought not to attend, a time management seminar turned out to be absolutely superlative and the foundation of my management style. I still have a clear cube I got at that class communicating different aspects of the main points made during the three day seminar. That cube sits on my table today (no one in my employ has desks due to that class) because it is one of my treasured possessions.

Two very practical things stand out from that class.

The first was an understanding of this kind of situation, where I often found myself before this class - When a staff person is struggling with a difficult assignment and he comes to you for help, the common response of a busy manager is to say, "Leave it here and I'll take a look at it." Then in a couple of days when he sticks his head in your office door and asks, "How are you coming along with that problem?, " he's managing you. You are now in the subservient role and he is in the management role. So whatever monkey he carries into your office, make certain, he carries it back out when he leaves.

The other was the advice to remove any chairs from my office to prevent the biggest time waster of all, people coming in, sitting down and taking control of my time with their jabber. These will generally be your peers and superiors. It was considered very odd when I removed the chairs from my office, but if there's no place to sit, people don't tend to linger. I have the smallest office in my company with the least furniture. No one has desks or filing cabinets. This doesn’t seem so odd today, but before the internet, it was considered radical. The prominent feature of my office today is a trophy wall which is there for effect. Only my staff see it, but they know they aren't dealing with a lightweight.

These concepts grew until they morphed into the management philosophy I use to this day. Today I do absolutely no hands on work other than setting strategies and reviewing product before it goes to the client. My time is more profitably used for thinking and cramming new information into my databank.

Vox said...

Aldiko is the ereader I use on my phones and tablets.

badgerhut said...


I've found that the #1 thing that enhances my own time management is breaking tasks and projects down into "atomic" items that can be accomplished in one sitting. If I can move from task A to task B to task C without having to stop and think "OK what actually needs to get done here" during the context switch, I'm MUCH more efficient in burning through the list. I get analysis paralysis and wandering mind easily, so I have short "planning periods" during the workday where I fill out the steps of my forthcoming tasks.

David Allen of GTD fame called these Next Actions. Whenever I leave a meeting with coworkers, for one, I ask for Next Actions so everyone's clear on exactly what's going to get done.

Related to this is defining the concept of "doneness" very carefully. Don't let something get assigned to you if you don't have an agreed-upon, preferably in email/writing, definition of where your work ends. This keeps you from getting put on a project that suffers endless mission creep and takes over your ability to own your time.

If you work in a decent workplace or have a decent friend group, this shouldn't be a big problem, but if you don't, you've probably experienced people trying to hold you accountable for more than you agreed to do. Setting boundaries is like standing up to a shit test - it will either modify the behavior or cause a confrontation of which you come out as the better half.

A close second for me is something Vox alluded to, and that is being very stingy with what you actually commit yourself to doing, esp when you are committing to others (as in the workplace or in organized activities with friends). When someone asks "how do I get more done?" I reframe to "how do you limit what you have to get done?" IMHO beyond a certain point of commitment, people are cognitively overwhelmed, and so can't manage their time at all.

LibertyPortraits said...

Just checked out Aldiko, it's very nice. I like their selection of free ebooks, there are several I haven't found for my Kindle that can keep me occupied the next time I'm on the Jon (John?) at work.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

11. Avoid leaving unnecessarily long comments on blog posts.

Daniel von Elz-Rübenach said...

Vox wrote: No problem. There is a new novel and a new novella coming out on Dec 2nd. SF, not fantasy, but still devoid of any sex with dead things and animals.

Heh! Well then I'm sold. No Scalzified manboob Redshirts either, I trust. Good Man. I will definitely buy and review them. OT, but I must say I enjoy immensely how well you craftily weave the languages and monikers of the civilisations of Selenoth seamlessly into the current and former languages of our Ancestral Europe....adds a refreshing depth to the places, the people, and their titles that one rarely finds in fictional literature these days. I will be including this excellence in my review on Amazon, when finished with the work. I rather expected & delighted in the Saxon/Germanic bent of the language of the Witchkings...fitting.

Langes Leben, Mein Freund..viel Glück und Alles Gute im Zukunft.

alphaisassumed said...

Thanks.


Martel

Vox said...

Langes Leben, Mein Freund..viel Glück und Alles Gute im Zukunft.

Danke schön und gleichfalls.

Peabody said...

If you have a collection of reference material you consult on a regular basis, arrange it so that it's all within arm's reach. That helped me by keeping me in one spot. Good luck!

LP 999/Eliza said...

Another helpful option is wearing nose cancelling headphones with reading in a noisy area it just seems like its music versus sweet silence or muffled noise.

aurictech said...

WRT Point #4, Randy Milholland has done a fine job of paraphrasing Nietzsche for the Internet age....

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