Ways To Fail At Time Management

​Time is the resource we are least able to get more of. It’s a far more complicated topic than most examinations of it will lead you to believe. This episode focusses on things that are obvious but still burn through your time. Each alone is not much but when combined or allowed to snowball they contribute heavily to poor time management.

“Why another episode on time management? Because it’s always…timely?”

Once you’ve cleaned up the larger mistakes and time sinks you may still see little valuable time available. This is the result of allowing the little things to build up or combine to eat away at the time you have available.

Episode Breakdown

12:50 Being Uncomfortable

General discomfort hurts your ability to get things done to such a degree that it inhibits proper time management. For example being too hot or two cold or in a too loud or too quiet environment creates stress increasing the likelihood of mistakes.

This can include emotional issues as well. If you’ve just had a fight with your significant other you will not be focussed on work until that is resolved. Discomfort becomes distraction.

Resolve discomfort as soon as possible so that it doesn’t grow into an active distraction. It’s better to interrupt problems than to be interrupted by them.

18:46 Using Substandard Tools

How long have you spent waiting on ‘bargain basement’ computers to boot, apply updates, compile, etc?

It may seem like only moments of your time but they add up and these small delays lead to larger ones as most people are not very good at waiting. While waiting you may find ways to distract yourself and then a few minutes turns into hours of distraction before you get back to work.

The answer to this one is a rare time that throwing money at a problem actually helps. Get the right equipment for the job. This may even include smaller specialized equipment.

30:52 Not Being Honest

“Open lies are expensive in terms of time management.”

Small ‘white’ lies are not cheap either. It takes more time to tell a lie well and convinvingly than it does to tell the truth.

Particularly pernicious are self lies, especially the ones you tell yourself that you want to be true. When you behave as if you enjoy a task it reinforces the situation to where you will do more of that task. You will resent it the entire time and that lack of initial honesty is what landed you in the position.

33:28 Poor Communication

“Bad communication is a tremendous time sink.

Many developers dislike engaging in face-to-face or even phone communication preferring instead to use text, email, and chat. This may seem faster in the moment but it results in poor quality of communication which eventually leads to the more direct forms.

Use the clearest communication channel you have to get the information across to others. This may mean getting up and walking down the hall to explain to another developer what you are doing. Also make sure the receiver understands your message before continuing.

37:58 Working on the Wrong Things For Long-Term Purposes

“A lot of poor time management is frankly people just working on the wrong things.”

It’s very easy to be busy. There is a reason physics differentiates between force and work. Most people are forceful, few are working.

Ask yourself whether a task is actually going to matter tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now. If not then figure out how to do it less or not at all.

39:30 Failing to Habit Stack Effectively

Sometimes putting improvements in the wrong order can be worse than not having the improvements. A little bit of planning on the front end can take a long task list from unruly to manageable.

In a way this is like budgeting. Financial advisors will tell you to get an emergency fund together before all out attacking debt. This way when something comes up like a broken down car or medical emergency you are not scrambling and adding more debt to the situation.

Figure out a long term plan for improving your time management. Then determine the optimal order for the pieces. Don’t do something because it works for someone else but take the time to figure out how it will work for you. Discover a set of habits you can add, one at a time to continually improve your time management. Order them in a way there the earlier tasks help the later ones.

42:05 Failing to Procrastinate

“Sometimes work goes away if you leave it alone.”

Projects may change scope or entire directions, documents may become more clear, and task may change while you are working on one aspect that in retrospect is not even needed. Remember most people do not have their stuff together very well. Waiting until the last responsible moment to start allows for these changes to take place.

By immediately jumping on some tasks, you will also show that your time has less value. This leads others to find stuff for you to do because your time is less expensive.

This in no way means to blow off deadlines only that you recognize that if something isn’t urgent then put your focus on the more urgent tasks needing your attention. Find out when something is due and work backwards from there with some padding for unforseen circumstances to figure out when to start.

47:37 Not Clearing Off Smaller Tasks

“Having a pile of work hanging over your head makes you slower.”

Small tasks in most people’s checklists take up just as much space as big tasks and most people judge the amount of work by how many things they have to do, not by how big the things they have to do are.

Start your day by obliterating a small task. It will help establish momentum and help quickly cut down your list of things to do. You can also keep small, lower priority tasks off the main task list that you see and just move them over as needed.

The main point is to remember the cognitive overhead of having things to do is often heavier than actually doing them.

49:53 Emotional Enmeshment with Other People’s Problems

“People with problems will eat every bit of time you give them.”

A lot of people’s problems are frankly there by their own choices. That’s not to be negative towards them, but their problems are not due to your choices, and odds are good that you really can’t fix their issues in a permanent manner.

“Be especially careful of people who characterize themselves as ‘unlucky’.”

This doesn’t mean that you don’t help legitimate close friends that you actually care about, but rather that you prioritize such “help” in such a way that it doesn’t eat your life too.

54:11 Overindulgence in Productivity Resources

Pick a system that looks like it will work and run with it. It’s very easy to see someone else’s way of being productive and then burn through too much time trying to implement it for yourself.

It’s also very easy to become a connoisseur of productivity systems, without actually being productive.

IoTease: Project

1981 Portable VCR Raspberry Pi Media Center

This project takes an early 80’s Sharp VC-2300H portable VCR and replaces the insides with a Raspberry Pi core using Raspbmc centre software. It includes an Arduino based clock and EL wire “tape” that ejects to reveal a USB hub. The original buttons are maintained and used for functions such as PLAY and PAUSE. It also has a 15″ HD screen on the back and can be controlled with a media center remote.

Tricks of the Trade

In error handling when you get an error and go on like nothing happened it can lead to disaster. Small errors that are ignored can cascade and crash a bigger process. Deal with problems as quickly as you can. Don’t be in a situation where a problem gets worse. Catch problems early and fail fast, don’t hide the error.

Editor’s Notes:

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