Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Product Management: time management

Alarm rings.  It's 5:40am.  I get up.  Turn off the alarm, change out of my pajama, and I'm grab my iPhone.  Now I'm already at work.  As I start to make my way down the stairs, I start to flip through all news updates that came in while I slept.  That's how my day starts.  Or should I say that's how my night continues?  Because it was just about 6 hours ago when I last checked the news from iPad...

Setting deadline will create boundaries in your day,
and create urgency to get it done in time.
I'm sure my story is similar to most of yours.  There is very little disconnected time.  Even if you put in 8-to-6 working hours each day, you come home and get right on to your mobile device.  You don't really have downtime when you can decompress.  And it's getting worse, not better.

I don't think it is coincidence that I find more blog entries talking about how to do more in less time, how to better deal with stress of having to catch up constantly, and how it is more efficient to work on one thing at a time.  Everyone is feeling the pinch.  Starting from your boss to you and your direct reports, everyone is putting in more hours just to keep up.  Or is it?

As we have get more connected and stay connected all the time, it's becoming more important how and where you set the boundary.  I think time management is going to be increasingly more important skill to have.  The gap between top time managers and the rest will widen as it becomes so easy to get sloppy about how you use your time.

After thinking about this for a bit, here's what I am doing to better manage my time.  I encourage you to make your own list of things that you can do.

1. Make a big chunk of time (i.e. don't get distracted by emails)

It's important to make a solid block of time to concentrate on a task.  For me, a key thing is not to get distracted by email or IM while I'm on that block of time.  Create as big of a chunk of time as you can, and work on the important thing first.

2. Set up the end time, and end by it

I still remember how my college English professor defined self control.  Self control is knowing what to do, when to do it and when to stop.  Setting the end time and sticking to it is important for two reasons.  One is that it creates sense of urgency and boundary so that I can get that extra boost from knowing the deadline.  The other is that without knowing the end it's impossible to plan the rest of day around.

3. Do the task that has multiplier effect first (i.e. do important ones first)

I work on something that's important first.  When I get up, I remind myself what I am to focus on this week.  Based on weekly agenda, I decide what needs to get done each day.  If a task is going to move your weekly agenda a step closer to completion, that's what I'll be working on first before I look at any other task.

4. Aware of duplicated work, and avoid them in future

I watch out for your time waste by looking for duplicate works.  Whenever I notice that I'm doing copy-and-paste or trying to recall something that I should know, I take a note to improve the process.  These are signs of redundant work or avoidable context switch.  Once I had trouble writing weekly status, I started writing daily as and when I knocked off a task and updated on our collaboration platform.  No more trying to recall what I did or copying and pasting from other format.

Any time management tip that you care to share?

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