A few days ago, I wrote a quick note about how I manage time. A lot of people wrote back, with really good tips for how they manage time. (Also: I love that people I went to high school with read this - Hey KAS!) Here are the time management tips.
Nick: “I treat my inbox like a to-do list. Unanswered and unread emails are things I have not yet done. I make sure to open, label and archive all emails as they come in and as my time is available, to make sure that I don’t get overwhelmed by volume. I have a system of labeling, filtering and multiple inboxes that while kind of obsessive, is my way of managing my time.
I also set my reading habits / requirements on a regular basis, making sure to not get too far behind in my subscriptions but also setting reasonable goals (aka, don’t NEED to read the entire newspaper everyday, but should try and read all of the timely magazines I receive regularly before they move out of relevancy.
if an item appears in my written agenda, that means it is a needed to-do item and should be promptly finished. try and avoid putting things in there that i won’t finish but make sure to post things that will be done.”
Caddie: “ 1. Panic Time As a reporter will constant deadlines, I would get pretty stressed into the lead up to going on air, even if I knew I was probably tracking okay. The stressy/anxious state was making me much slower and much less effective. So I started setting ‘panic times’, thinking to myself “actually I’m tracking okay here. I’ve still got 2 hours, that should be enough time, this is not the time to panic. But if I’ve made little progress, been sidetracked or haven’t reached the person I had hoped to by, say, one hour’s time - that’s the time to panic. &2. Productive Procrastination I have the tendency to procrastinate as much as the next person. But over time I realised it wasn’t so much that I particularly wanted to watch cat videos on the internet or rearrange my desk again, it was more to do with boredom and just wanting to do something different for a bit. So I began procrastinating doing really productive things, things that I had to do pretty soon anyway, and then returning to or starting the original task. It works for me, and often means you’re saving/buying yourself extra time, but you’re still getting important stuff done and changing things up a bit.”
Anders: “ I use the Cory Doctorow trick of writing “TK” where a fact is missing, instead of interrupting my writing flow to google facts underway (where I’d wake up two hours later wondering how I found this particular corner of the internet). Then I run through in the end, filling in the easy-search-findable TKs. Also, when rewriting and editing; it’s only allowed to move forward through the text. I also keep a notepad handy to jot down things that suddenly pop into my head, trying to tempt me away from writing. Having a few words on paper makes the urgency of the thought evaporate (in some methodologies I believe it might be called a Parking Space) (I also do 2 and 5 in your list (and most of the cooking))”
Dave:“Thanks for the insights on time management. I’m self employed and work at home, so have unlimited opportunities to fritter away time if I’m not careful about it. I’m not familiar with AText but long ago I started using TextExpander, which seems to do much the same thing. It was indispensable when I was a copywriter for a book-club company and had to insert boilerplate copy over and over.
Regarding limiting screen time before bed, you’re on to something there. Studies have found that the (bluish) wavelength of light used in digital screens encourage wakefulness, which is not helpful when trying to sleep. (I did a blog post about it here.
I plan to do a follow-up post that addresses some ways to counter screen-caused insomnia– besides limiting screen time close to bedtime, there’s the app F.lux, which changes the light wavelength of your computer screen during the evening. I’ve recently heard of people wearing special colored goggles around the house at night, to filter out certain types of light.”
Christine: “ I consider myself fairly productive… here are some things I do.
Even if I have nothing scheduled all week, I give people concrete times and days to meet up. Rather than saying, “yeah get at me for next week.” I say, “I’m free Monday or Tuesday.” It’s surprising how much easier it is to make plans.
I schedule time to be spontaneous and time to do nothing. It keeps my brain fresh. (Heeey zombies!)
I work smart, not hard. If I notice I am working hard on something, but it is not going anywhere, I put it down for a bit and work on something I know I can make progress on. If it has to get done, I just split it into increments. But often working on other things like an excel report often drives me to the next step of a different project. Which leads me to…
The Spaghetti Method. I throw a lot of ideas out at once and see what sticks. I write a lot of stuff down that goes no where, but sometimes I come back to it days, weeks, years, later with the next puzzle piece.
I don’t clean and I am alone. you can be really productive if you are messy and don’t have a boyfriend.”
Casey:“I use an unmanageably long list on Clear, but I go low tech with Post-Its for tasks of the day. I place tasks I want to accomplish on my wall in one color, meetings in another, and yet another color for project ideas.”
Kimberly Ann : “HOW I MANAGE MY TIME
1) I have a loose schedule that I try to abide by when I work from home. It goes like this: Schedule tweets for the literary journal I run first while drinking tea. Then, check to see if students have contacted me. This typically takes me 2 hours. I have a window of time where I check the Office Hours board for my online class at least twice. Following this, if I haven’t already eaten something/done my yoga, I will do those things.
2) I usually watch a dumb TV show while I eat lunch. This gives me time away from my computer to decompress. I try to keep my phone in different rooms than I am in, but then my husband gets mad when I don’t answer… my phone is perpetually on silent. Maybe when we move we will get a landline.
3) If my morning has been productive, my afternoon is often much less structured. I make lists. I get satisfaction in crossing things off of them.
4) I have daily goals for each day, as in both things I do every day and things I do certain days a week. I have these lists written on paper hanging above my desk. As the semester changes, these routine goals will change. They are due for a change.
5) I try to keep my desk clean. Every Monday I take a #weeklydeskshot and post it to instagram. This inspires me to have it clean to start the week off. Sometimes it’s not. I take the picture anyway. Having a clean desk is REALLY helpful to me in ways that words can’t entirely explain. I manage my time more poorly when my desk is not clean. Having a messy desk is distracting. I was interviewed very briefly about this for the website Real Pants for their “from the desk of…” series.
6) In the same way, I try to keep my laptop’s screen “clean”. I put certain tabs in a certain order based on a) where they “normally” are and also b) how important they are to my task at hand. The most important tab when I am working is the tab to the left. I try to close tabs I am not using. I reorder the tabs if one is more important then the other and I try to keep “related” tabs open next to each other.
7) I email myself links I want to remember if I need to close a tab to concentrate on the tabs at hand. I have an elaborate labeling system in gmail that could be better checked in on. My “DO THIS” tab needs a friend called “YOU PROBABLY WON’T DO THIS BUT YOU WANT TO”, for instance.
6) I sign out of my social media after each use (MOST OF THE TIME). When I don’t log out (because of course I don’t always follow through with what I know I should be doing) more time gets wasted. I know this, so I try to log out every time and log in when I have a specific task in mind.
7) I draft emails and then send them later. Giving myself time to look away from something helps me edit something before I send it. Even if it’s a personal email to a friend, I always want to send something coherent that has every sentence as something worth reading for the other person. This saves time for me because then I don’t have to explain something again because I explained it poorly the first time or send follow up emails because I forgot to include something the first time.”
Polanorth:“For those on a Mac, I have a similar program that runs on the background called TypeIt4Me. I know what you mean. Never have to remember passwords or URLs.
I can even put an entire resume on TypeIt4Me and just type the acronym and it appears at the cursor place.”
Nathania:“I think having the ability to pre-write essays in your head is an incredible skill! Is it something you’ve always been able to do or something you taught yourself to do because of a job requirement? (Mel: I’ve always done this. I guess it started when I was writing a column, running a humor magazine, and writing essays in college. Needed to keep track of stuff.)
I’m not sure if I ever learned to be good at managing my time but maybe it’s because the way I perceive time and what’s important to me has changed as I’ve gotten older (I sound older than I am saying that – I’m comparing how I felt as a teen to how I feel now in my mid-twenties).
I think as a video editor and writer (esp. when working alone or remotely), I manage my time by remembering to look after myself: making sure I get enough sunlight, walking around the block to clear my head, chatting to other people, eating lunch away from my desk, doing something nice for myself once I’ve completed a big task or series of small tasks.”
Cindy:“Do you find you write better to music? (Mel: Nope. ) I write full time and it’s only been in the past 3-4 years I’ve found that I can positively influence the pace of my work with the right background music - for me, it’s either classical Indian instrumental or belly dancing music, I can’t write with words in a language I understand being sung near me ;-)
It’s just the right pace to keep my mind moving at the right speed. Most days I need to average 4-6K words, so this is something I think about a lot.”