The Value Time Boxing

In case you are wondering where I have been...

Long story dad requires care at home because he is paralyzed. My mom is normally doing what she can to take care of him, but had a gallbladder removed so she was unable to care for him. As a result, I was at home caring for my dad and that alone was a full time job and left me occupied to the extent that I wasn't able to focus on much else.

Thankfully, mom is OK and is recovering and is able to return to most of what she was doing before, therefore, so am I.

I want to visit a productivity method known as time boxing. This can also be referred as time blocking. Essentially, the entire goal here is to ensure that you have time blocked out for activities that need to be done. This can be done by placing the most important activities on a calendar. This method is especially effective in the case that you are not already scheduling every activity that you need to do. Here are a few ways you can benefit from time boxing.

  1. You get a clear picture of what you need to do. When you have the most significant things on your calendar, you have a strong understanding of when you are most busy and what you have to do.

  2. This will prevent double booking. Just because you may not have to work or have an appointment at the time, doesn't mean you are free. Having the largest projects and tasks scheduled will help prevent you from over-scheduling yourself.

  3. It is easier to let others know that you busy. You can schedule tasks out ahead of time further. If you are using Google calendar or another shared calendar, then those shared with you will see when you are busy and have a lot to do.

I have taken a different direction regarding scheduling myself. For the longest time, I was scheduling every single activity that I was doing. However, I have dialed back a bit with some of that and now only schedule the most significant things. So far, I have found this to be more effective and less cumbersome. I will update periodically on how well this works out.

Also, be on the lookout for future exciting things. I am finishing up my book so look for details to come soon.

An Interesting Idea

I was recently listening to a podcast and someone had a really interesting idea. They have tried one thing and it had helped increased efficiency significantly. It all came down to not looking at the time very often. In fact they were bold enough to not look at the time at all except for setting phone reminders. I was personally very surprised to hear that eliminating your concept of how much time has passed will actually make someone more efficient. I always thought that a limited awareness of how long activities take would not help. 

This is a very unique concept and I never considered how not looking at the time and not being aware of how you spend your time. This is just about the opposite of my approach. This is why I wanted to bring this up. There are many different approaches and the goal is for you to find the method that works for you the best. Below are just a few reasons you should take a different approach.

  1. Gain a fresh perspective. Doing something different than what you are doing is a great way to get a new perspective on a method. Seeing something from a different perspective is very helpful and can provide the opportunity to improve what you are doing.

  2. Understand what works best. The only way to really know which works best for you is to try several different approaches. Once you find the best one, you should go along with it.

  3. Ideas out of your own can be great. This is true even what we are doing works great. It is always good to benefit from perspective outside our own.

I am definitely in support of trying new methods in order to maximize our productivity. While this is not something I would have considered, it could work very well. It is always good to have an open perspective and always be looking for the best way to do something. Let me know of any unique and different productivity concepts. I do plan to explore more productivity ideas that are different than I would consider.

Developing a New Routine

I have previously hinted at developing a new routine in the past. My last post discussed when you should ditch your old routine. I have also discussed why you should change your routine and how to determine that it is the right time. The focus of this post is to discuss some of the best options that I have found when you do decide to take the plunge and develop a whole new routine from scratch. There are many times why this may be warranted. Here are are just a few examples of when this may be appropriate.

  • You have been working full time and were laid off - this also works the other way around

  • A change in your family life - getting married, divorced, a birth in the family, or a death in the family

  • Moving to a new location for any reason

  • When your routine is not working like mentioned in the last post

Here are a few ways you can start a whole new routine.

  1. Get all of your activities in once place. Whether you use paper, your computer, or your phone - get all of your activities in one place. This will give you an idea of what you have to do and what you need to schedule.

  2. Decide on the priorities of your activities. The next step is to place all of the activities that you have placed on your list in order of priorities. Since the whole point here is to develop a new routine, you need to find which activities that are the highest priorities.

  3. Make a time budget and then a schedule. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know me by now. Making a time budget and a schedule that you follow has helped me significantly and I will advocate for it.

  4. Analyze your routine regularly. Check on a regular basis based on the period of time of your choosing to ensure how well your routine has been working. If you find yourself not following your routine than you realize that you still need to make adjustments.

I am in the process of making a new routine. It has gotten to the point occasionally where I don't look at my schedule and that is not helpful. I am currently working on a new schedule that would be in a way that I can follow it. I tend to enjoy readjusting my schedule and making a new schedule. This creates a sense of freshness and excitement. You may not be like this, so I do understand why you may not see much value in doing this. Wherever you stand on this, please let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

When it is Time to Ditch Your Current Routine

We are still in the beginning of the year. Many of us are still evaluating our lives, goals, finances, schedules, etc. There are many different ways we can go about each new year and that will differ for each you each time. Every once in a while, we may come to a place where our current schedule and routine isn't working. This could manifest in a number of ways. The most obvious would be that we are not getting the results that we want or need to succeed at the task we have at hand. We may get to the point where our schedule is not useful to us anymore. In this case, we may want to draft out a whole new routine altogether. I seem to do this about every 2-3 years. There is no particular schedule for when I do this, I just go ahead and do it when I deem it is time to do so. Here are some signs to tell it is time to change our schedule.

  1. What you are doing is not working. This is the most obvious sign that there needs to be a change. If what you are doing isn't getting you the results that you need, then it is time to make changes. 

  2. What you are doing is not sustainable. If you are doing too much and you are regularly worn out, you will not be able to complete the things that you set out to do.

  3. What you are doing is not challenging enough. You may be finding yourself with too much free time or just completely bored with your life at the moment. A new year always provides an excellent opportunity to reach a new goal and do something that you weren't doing before.

  4. What you are currently doing doesn't make sense. If there is a better way to do what you are doing, then do it. If it is not easy to make the change, at least work towards making the change. Sometimes we do things just because that is how we have been doing them for years, or even decades or longer. It may not even make sense to do things a certain way anymore. Perhaps, maybe it never did.

I am in the process of making changes to my personal schedule and routines. As I said earlier, it is an excellent time to decide to make changes. Please also note that January is not the only good time to make changes and adjustments, I am excited for what is ahead, and on that note, there will be some exciting announcements coming soon. Stay tuned and thank you for reading.

Re-evaluating Priorities

We all have a set of priorities. We may have good ones in place, or maybe we don’t. In most cases there is not a definitive way to determine whether the priorities you hold are good or not and that is not what we are here to determine. However, we should be aware of what our priorities are. It is very beneficial to get an accounting of what our priorities are and what they mean to you at the time. While the beginning of the year like it is now is an excellent time to do this, it is a great exercise to do at least 4 times or perhaps monthly. Knowing what our priorities are will play all kinds of roles in getting us to the goals we are seeking and using our time for the best. Here are a few examples

  1. You know what we are working for. Having a strong idea of what your priorities are will reflect in all areas of our life. You can proceed with clarity of thought and keep moving.

  2. You are less distracted. As long as you have your priorities narrowed down to attainable parts of your goals, then you will be be focused on what you are trying to achieve.

  3. You are making the most of your time. As long as you are spending the majority of your time on your priorities then you are making the most of your time.

  4. You are overall satisfied. I can speak to this myself that when I am doing things that are not in part of my priorities I feel drained and unfulfilled. When you are getting closer to your goals and are within your priorities, you will feel more fulfilled.

While focusing in on your main goal will yield you the best results. I would recommend keeping a relatively short list of priorities that you can access quickly. Let’s say you place about five things on a list, I would review that list as frequently as possible for two reasons. For one, to remind you of what your priorities are and second to re-evaluate them to see if they still hold the value that they once did. As we are still early in the year, we may be still be working through goals for the year and taking a look at what has been working and not been working in the prior year. I wish you all of the best in this process. 

Happy New Year!

Another year is done, and this will come down to two general feelings. There are people who are saying “already”, and the rest of you are saying “finally.” If you had taken action on the last post and have reviewed the last year, you will have arrived at either one of those two conclusions. We all have had ups and down this past year. We can put that behind us now and look to the year ahead. There are several ways we can plan on the new year and you probably have already had done some of that by now. Here are just a few quick things to consider when going into the new year.

  1. Plan Realistically. Do not expect to accomplish a decade worth of accomplishments in just one year. Remember that life is going to happen and things will not go as planned.

  2. Don’t plan too easily. You will need to have goals lofty enough that they do challenge you. Just like you shouldn’t plan too ambitiously, but also you should have something that does push you.

  3. Take advantage of the support around you. New Year’s is the time when many people are talking about changing their life and reaching their goals. Now is the time to do something big and different because you will at least have the support around you of others trying to reach their goals. Also take note that the excitement around resolutions and goals will fade quickly, so you should be ready to continue on when everyone goes their own way.

  4. Remember one step at a time. Don’t try to achieve your whole year’s goal in January. If you can, you planned something too easy. Remember that you are most effective doing steady and consistent progress to reach your goals.

I hope you are have amazing plans and goals for 2019. I wish only the best for all of you in the new year and I want to thank you for reading this blog. I wish each and every one of you a happy new year!

Holiday Season Review

It is a special time of the year. Whether the holidays bring you happy or sad memories, and most likely a bit of both, it is true that this time of the year is unique. It is unique that we do celebrate holidays, but also is unique that it provides an excellent opportunity to take an accounting of how your year went. I regularly make this time at the end of the year to review what happened during the year and what I think went well and what I think could have went better. Here are a few things to consider doing before you close out the year.

  1. Consider how you spent your time well. I recommend any type of review begin on a positive note. This will encourage you to keep going and will encourage you to keep going. Try to make this list as long and detailed as possible, yet be realistic. If you have been tracking your time all year, take a look at the reports. If not, you can take an educated guess at where the majority of your time went.

  2. Now consider what didn't go well. It is very important to understand what didn't go well with your time. Identify where you wasted time, what you struggled to complete, what goals you didn't make, etc. Also make this as comprehensive as possible. You want to know in detail what didn't work so you can shoot to correct this going forward.

  3. Take a balanced look. Once both lists are complete, take a big picture overall view. This would be a good time to determine whether you are overall happy with the direction of your life based on how you spend your time and how well you are meeting your goals.

  4. Start thinking about the next year. Begin to think about your plan and goals for next year. Think about how you are going to plan your next year and what you want to achieve. My next post will discuss more about planning the next year. I would recommend not doing it all at once. Spend a lot of time reflecting first. Then you can go ahead and plan.

That's all I am going to share this week. As I know this is the holiday season and we will be spending time with our families. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!

Why I am Ditching my Current Time Tracking System

This post will be a little different and will be anecdotal. For the past several years I have always been all about tracking every single activity. I have broken this down to over 200 different activities. It has gotten to the point where the tracking itself and even the reports have become more cumbersome than useful. I believed it was excellent for a season and makes a wonderful experiment to get an accounting for nearly every single minute of the day, week, month, and year. I would still recommend you do this if this the what you want to do. Remember that whatever system that works for you is the one that you use and definitely that this system will change from time to time. I am going in a different direction and ditching the extremely detailed time tracking that I have been doing. I will still be tracking my time, but it will be different and is using a different app. For over three years I have used aTimeLogger/TimeTrack iO to track everything, which was a manual process. Prior to that I was using Excel, which was even more manual. I have recently came across an app that tracks time more autonomously. This app, Smarter Time will still require manual entry and editing, but far less than everything I have used before. 

This is still a shout out for TimeTrack iO/aTimeLogger and I will still recommend them as they are excellent tools and will only get better. Hey, Excel or pen and paper is great if that works for you.

Here are reasons why I would recommend anyone to switch time tracking methods, in this case from more detailed to less.

  1. To save time! TimeTracking takes time. What better place to talk about saving time than a blog like this. While I still say it’s a worthy investment to track your time, if you find a way for it to take less time, go ahead with it. 

  2. The new system provides better data. If your old system became so complicated that the data isn’t useful anymore because there is just one much, then it is time to simplify. You will then be able to get more relevant data.

  3. If you find your old method to be stale or a chore. Since tracking your time is optional, there is no need for it to become a chore for you. Whenever it does, then there is an adjustment needed so that it is enjoyable.

  4. Your life significantly changes. I could imagine that there could be times and circumstances where tracking your time is not beneficial. While I don’t think that would ever be me, but maybe you don’t have a need or any desire to track your time and if you don’t see a need, don’t do something you don’t want to be doing. It may also be beneficial to take a break also, or only track a few items.

Everyone is different and the system needs to work for you. I will always recommend tracking your time, have a time budget and follow it or time goals, and whatever you use to be most effective in your life and to make the time for your purpose. Please let me know your thoughts and what time tracking strategies that you use if you use any at all. 

Don’t Ruin the Lives of Others with Bad Time Management

We all know someone who drives us crazy because they are extraordinarily bad at time management. They commit every time management sin imaginable. He off she is always late, does everything last minute, doesn’t plan at all whatsoever, and somehow it becomes your responsibility to fix everything and it’s your fault when something falls through the cracks. This can be the case with a boss, a close friend or family member, a team member, a co-worker, etc. The things we do rarely effect just ourselves so it is important to understand how what we do effects those around you. In the case of bad time management practices, below are just a few ideas that I have have come up with.

  1. You stress others out. Poor planning on your part means those who you manage have to rearrange their priorities while they already have a busy schedule. This means things that were going to do won’t get done as planned and they will be more stressed out and aggravated. There are emergencies in life and that is understood, but there is an urgency several times a week, especially due to poor planning, those around you will be frustrated.

  2. Momentum is interrupted. Every company, family, and individual performs better when there is a pattern and a momentum going on. When this is interrupted, everything may get off track and is not at an optimal level anymore. A decreased level of productivity often results in frustration and aggravation because people are not reaching the things they are seeking to achieve.

  3. Unintended consequences. Things in life ripple out, one things effect another and we don’t usually have a way to see this until it may be too late. Not everything is predictable, and for example say an employee is overwhelmed and stressed because of many urgent demands over the past months, many of which resulted from poor planning. The employee becomes openly frustrated and lowers the morale in general, and then possibly good employees go looking for work in another company, and that can ripple out further. That is just an example, but we should be aware of possible unintended consequences.

  4. You don’t get what you are looking for. People will get frustrated with you if you manage your time poorly and it negatively effects them as well. If they are working for you, they will likely end up not doing their best work. The same with a friendship or relationship or whatever else. If we continually manage our time so poorly that we miss commitments that are important to others, stress out the lives of our employees, or end up performing work poorly and miss important deadlines that will frustrate our bosses and managers, then we will not get the results in life we are desiring. There are countless examples of this, here are just a few

    1. Loss of a job because of poor performance

    2. Failing or doing poorly in a class because of poor performance

    3. Losing a friend or a relationship because we miss our commitments

    4. Upsetting a child by missing a commitment

    5. Letting down your parents by not doing what you are saying

There are so many ways to annoy others by managing our time poorly. This can be destructive to ourselves and those around us. While we never can be perfect at managing our time, we can always do better. If it is something we don’t prioritize in our life, it will most likely suffer. It may be a skill that some people can do better than others, but we must remember the importance of managing our time to the point that we can function and that the lack of it doesn’t hinder us. 

How to Identify Wasted Time

There are several ways to waste time, and many of us are well aware of how and when we are wasting time. There are a lot of obvious ways to determine we are wasting time. Most of us spend too much time on activities that we don’t really need to. More often that not, it is not something that we consciously wake up and do. We don’t wake up and plan to spend two hours watching random videos on YouTube, scrolling your Facebook timeline for 15 minutes, or end up doing a low priority task that may not even need to get done at all. We all fall in the trap occasionally, and sometimes we are aware and other times we are not. The solution is simple for the time wastes that we are aware of. You just need to consciously decide to not waste time doing those activities as much. What you need to be aware of are the time wastes that sneak in. Here are a few tricks on how to identify these things.

  1. Watch the little things. You need to pay attention to the little things, you need to pay attention to the activities that you end up wasting much more time than you would expect. Remember that 5 minutes here and there can add up to much more quickly than expect. Five minutes three times a day is an hour and 45 minutes a week, which is 91 hours a year!

  2. Remember the dangers of distraction. You are not just losing the five minutes each time you go to do the activity, remember that you also lose the time that you spend getting back to the activity that you were doing before.

  3. Pay attention to your momentum. Remember that it is not only the distraction that will cost you more time than you would want, but also loss of momentum that can add up to even more lost time. When you have a positive momentum on a task, you are getting much more done than you would if you just working in spurts. Even worse is disrupting that momentum.

  4. Do you really need to be doing this? You should get in the habit of questioning everything that you do. If you answer yes, then keep doing it, even though it may not be something that you want to be doing. In this case it is probably something that you have to be doing. Now if you answer no, find out why. More often than not, we can find a few things that we don’t need to be doing at all. This is the low hanging fruit of cleaning up your schedule.

There are plenty of ways to waste time, there are no ends to the options we have now a days. While the path to wasting time may appear enticing, we need to understand that the costs outweighs the benefits. Therefore, it is worth putting forth the effort in searching out ways on which your time may be slipping through the cracks. Please let me know your thoughts and if there are any methods that you personally use to identify how time slips away from us.