Time Management Experiment – Part 3

Published March 21, 2010 in productivity - 2 Comments

Time Management Experiment, Part 3. Yes, I'm running out of ideas of what to do with this motif. On the other hand, I can't really be spending hours creating imaginative graphics for posts that are about effective time-management, can I?

My newest self-experiment has run it’s course and as I already reported in the last post, it’s been an interesting experience and an experiment that I can consider a success. In this post, I report on what I learnt and go over some new ideas that I want to implement in order to further improve the “5-hour workday” time-management method.

5 Hours

As stated in the first post in this series, I chose to limit my working hours to just five per day. This is just an arbitrary number; an amount I felt would be limited enough to put the pressure on and keep me focused, but still long enough to get a reasonable amount of stuff done.

Whether five hours is a good amount to choose or not depends on many factors. For my current situation, it was well suited, though maybe limiting work-time even further would have helped me stay even more focused. Five hours, while far shorter than my average workday, is still kind of a lot of time. The time-limitation really did increase my focus and I got the same amount of work done in five hours that would have normally taken me eight or nine hours.

However, this is only the case when you’re not feeling terribly motivated to do your work. There have been many times in my life where I was working passionately, even feverishly on a project and I’d be at it for 12 hours or more every day. In such a situation, limiting the working hours would do nothing for my productivity, as I’d already be working at full capacity and completely focused.
On the other hand, limiting the working hours in such a situation might do wonders for my sanity and my social life…

Define “Work”

Another question is what you want to define as work. A useful definition of work is: Something you need to do (usually for monetary reasons), but would like to do less of.

In other words, “I have to work, but I don’t want to”.
This description is fitting in many, but not all cases. If you’re self-employed and/or you happen to enjoy your work, this definition doesn’t really cut it anymore. Then again, if you’re completely passionate about every aspect of your work, you don’t really need a time-management system. At least in my experience, working with focus on the most essential tasks pretty much comes naturally in this situation.

If you want to limit your working time, you’ll have to decide whether things like household-chores, exercise and writing blog posts count as work or not. I personally recommend keeping these things in the non-work category and keeping the working hours short.

A Matter of Practice

I wasn’t quite satisfied with my time boxes. I often assigned too little time to a task and occasionally also too much. Also, it seems that certain tasks are just better suited for time boxing than other.

However, I don’t feel like I need to change or adjust something about the system because of this. I think effective time-boxing is just a matter of practice. I’m sure that if I keep at it, I’ll get better at setting the right kind of time frames for my tasks. So, for this aspect of the 5-hour workday, I’ll just keep going and see how I do. In case it doesn’t get better with practice, I’ll have to think of something new, but I’ll give it a few weeks at least.

Forward Momentum

I am a great believer in what I call “forward momentum”. Ever notice how things get easier once you just get started? Or how, if you’ve already completed a few tasks, you feel really motivated to attack the next one? That’s forward momentum.

If you stumble out of bed feeling groggy because you overslept and spend the first hour of your day wasting your time and procrastinating, it’s real difficult to get in motion. That’s the flipside of forward momentum: productivity inertia.

I stumbled on a great little idea to increase forward momentum in a blog post called Mastering the Art of Getting Shit Done. I recommend you check it out; it’s a very entertaining read.

The gist of it is this: Start out your day with a few small tasks that you can complete quickly and in direct succession. This way you can cross off a whole bunch of things from your to-do list early on and it should provide a great motivation boost. I’ll be trying this method for myself starting tomorrow.

My time-management experiment continues and so does my over-arching pursuit of incredible productivity skills. I’ll be reporting on how it goes along the way, whenever there is something worth sharing.

  • Jon

    I heard you were looking for a tool to check off your progress towards a goal. Check out http://www.joesgoals.com

    It’s what I use. It’s simple. It’s awesome.

    • Thanks for the tip, Jon!