Time Management Baseline

While this year’s theme is time management, there are some things you should get in order before you start trying to structure a productivity system to help with your time management. In particular, you need to actually be able to track tasks that you need to do, whether they are on your most critical projects or not. You need to be able to focus on a single tasks or similar types of tasks effectively for a period of time. You need to be able to manage useful documentation, as well as more secure data so that you don’t waste time due to lack of structure. You also need to be able to track things like your habits and moods as part of creating useful feedback for your productivity system so that you can continue to improve. You also need to have some tooling in place for lightweight automations – a task that is done for you automatically ceases to be a burden, after all. Finally, you need to have a clean way to plan your work, beyond the level of what a todo list application can provide.

The most effective time management and productivity system you can build is one that provides just enough structure to meet your needs and then gets out of the way. However, there are some things that seem to be common to most such systems, especially systems that developers build for themselves. As developers, we have some things on our side when trying to improve our personal productivity. For one, we tend to understand how systems can be wired together and automated. We also tend to be a little bit more comfortable “rolling our own” as far as software is concerned – if we don’t have a simple tool for a simple purpose, we can build one. However, therein lies the challenge. As developers, we can build systems, but we need things to be structured reasonably well if those systems are going to tie into other systems. Towards that end, we need to understand the various roles that different pieces of software play in our productivity systems along with which things they CANNOT do well.

While improving your time management and general planning skills is absolutely critical, they are severely hampered unless you have some other things in place to help you. These underlying structural pieces will make it easier to better manage your time and productivity, as well as making it easier to automatically track what you’ve done. Even better, because you are probably a software developer (or at least a techie), these tools can really help you scale up what you are doing, to the point where larger automations or outsourcing can help you further. These tools also help you to remain relatively location and context agnostic, which means that you can continue to operate your productivity system no matter where you are. Best of all, if done properly, it all connects together well enough that you can use the right tool for the job in the moment while being certain that the data is available in some future moment when you need it.

Tagged with: , , ,