Monday, April 5, 2010

Time Management and Personal Metrics

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I used to shun the idea of rigidly planning your day and strict rituals like writing down exactly what you are going to accomplish as soon as you wake up. I felt like that would be rigid and constraining and that things should naturally flow into each other. That was mistaken. You do need a hack. The very first thing I do each day is look at my to-do list and see what needs to happen and then look at my schedule and see how much time I have to get it done. I then set a goal for what I am going to get done that particular day, otherwise you just feel like you're on a treadmill working on a never-ending task list. I try to start with the biggest and most important project and see it to completion- it's harder to get started on the big projects after you've been working on something else, and getting it done and over with makes things a lot easier for the rest of the day.

In addition to the morning ritual, I've been tracking every minute of my days for about the past week and a half. The graph above is a visual representation of one of those days (it's not exactly representative of all my days). The helpful part about recording your time isn't what you'd expect- you'd expect that you would record all your time, see where it's going and then make adjustments based on what you saw. In practice, simply because you are recording your time, you immediately become more productive. You do in fact realize how much time you spend on "the plumbing" (as I like to call it) like paying bills or running errands and you have a renewed appreciation/desire for an assistant or a housekeeper. It’s hard to keep up the recording constantly but it offers a lot of insight on what you do and just how little time is really spent on the things that are truly important.

I've been recording my sleep for a while now and started recording my time more recently - if I had the opportunity to have a minimally intrusive record of my day, I'd definitely go for it. 

I would be really interested in seeing the same chart or the minute-by-minute play-by-play for other people, like Ben Casnocha or Tim Ferriss or any CEO or political leaders or anybody, really. I agree with Ben Casnocha and Tom Peters that you can find out what someone really cares about just by looking at their daily calendar.

A few assorted observations:
  • So far it seems a bit odd and self-centered to focus on myself so much. 
  • I'm acutely aware that the data does not tell the whole story.
  • Personal metrics taken to the extreme

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