Archives For Productivity

The Discipline of Time Management

January 18, 2011

Time Management Part 2

You can read part 1 here.

My time management habit began with my inability to keep my class schedule straight freshman year.  The whole, “Mon – Wed – Fri” Class or “Tues – Thurs” class really messed with me. First couple of weeks of college I showed up for a Wed class on Tues and vice versa. I went to the bookstore and picked up the Week-At-A-Glance planner.  I put in my class schedule for the entire semester.  I then put in all test dates from class syllabi.  I did no planning, but at least I knew where I had to be and when every day.  My planner became my second skin.

What I’m about to lay out is the process I followed to start managing my time. Eventually you need to find your process.  I don’t go into the tools, because the tool you choose will vary based on how you like to manage your time.

Step 1

Get a cheap notebook, small enough to carry. Or learn how to use the Notes application on your smart phone.

Step 2

Begin writing all known commitments and appointments, including date and times. If you discover that you double booked yourself, immediately reschedule the commitment.

Step 3

I had a college professor that always used the free 12 month calendar given to him at Hallmark for his calendar. It fit in his pocket and he wrote small enough to put it all in there. Start with cheap or free calendar you can carry.  Put in all your appointments and commitments.

Step 4

Throughout the week, write down all of your new commitments and things you need to do. Most employers have an email system with a calendar that employees use (like Outlook). I’m not one to carry my laptop around with me so I don’t have 24 hour access to my calendar. Writing down new commitments and adding them to my calendar is a daily 5 minute activity.

Step 5

Sunday night I like to look at my to-do list and start scheduling when I’m going to do the list. My lists includes daily living activities such as grocery shopping, laundry, reading, church, Target run and anything else I need to get done. I try to group errands that are in the same area of town together.

I also look at my meetings scheduled at work and block out time to prepare for any meetings.  I wrote a post on this and you can read it here.

I once read that 5 minutes of organization saves an hour of time later. What steps do you follow to manage your time?

Understand the Value of Your Time

January 10, 2011

Time Management Part 1

Pride nurtured by apathy is the root of poor time management skills.  Being habitually late or constantly double booking yourself shows lack of concern for other people and for yourself.  Not only are you burning bridges with people, you aren’t accomplishing your dreams.

Some of the best advice I received was from an engineering professor at Michigan State University. He admonished us to “always know the value of your time – and don’t waste time.”

When my professor gave me that advice, I calculated what I could earn as a Mechanical Engineer after graduation. That revelation caused an immediate behavioral change.

The value of your time may or may not be what you earn per hour at work.  15 years ago, the first time I got paid to be a key note speaker at a banquet, I earned $500.  Keynotes are typically 45 mins so that made my hourly wage nearly $670/ hour.  Since then I’ve earned more as a keynote speaker.  Although, I don’t make thousands of dollars per hour every day, I do bring the value of my time to every hour of the day.

I plan all my time. I plan time to dream, create, work, build relationships, play and time to do NOTHING. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve woken up and wondered “what am I gonna do today?”

I am in no way suggesting you spend every minute of your life trying to make some outlandish hourly wage.  I do suggest that placing a value on your time gives you a perspective. “Time is Money” a quote by Ben Franklin, is an American concept.  Ben Franklin lived a very productive life. He knew the value of his time.

Finally, knowing the value of your time gives you an appreciation of other people’s time. Don’t waste your or other people’s time.  People who are flaky or habitually late, don’t keep close.  And don’t be the flaky or habitually late person.

Part 2 will discuss how to manage your time better.  Part 3 I will share some of  the tools you can use to manage your time.

Do you know the value of your time? How do you determine the value of your time?


September 28, 2010

In project management a milestone is “an end of a stage that marks the completion of a work package or phase typically marked by a high level event such as completion endorsement or signing of a deliverable, document or a high level review meeting.”  The larger and more complex a project is, I make every attempt to celebrate with the team all major milestones. The celebration could be as simple as a thank-you card or gift certificate.  Huge accomplishments always call for big celebrations.

When projects involve a culture change, the milestone may need to be followed by a period of mourning (death of the old way) with the celebration (birth of the new way).

Hardest part for me is that I tend to manage multiple projects at the same time. If I don’t slow down to revel in the moment, I’ll keep pushing myself on the next project. After a few months of that, the ‘what about me?’ becomes my forethought. Taking time to celebrate not only work milestones, but life’s milestones is important for a sense of well-being and maintaining a productive life.

Everyone’s life has major milestones that need to mourned or celebrated. We all celebrate the birth of a child, marriage and buying of the first house. But learn to enjoy major promotions, acceptance into a college or university, celebrate the end of a career as you transition into the new career or learning a new skill.  Don’t allow the speed of life to rob you of your moment!

How do you celebrate milestones in your life?

How to Plan Using Backwards Goal Setting

May 3, 2010

In project management, we plan from the desired end state.  I have found this technique helpful when it comes to planning for the goals I’ve set for my life.  Project management provides processes and structure to achieve that end state.

For example, last year I set a goal to climb Mt. Rainer this year.  I read lots of books and created a plan. This plan included a training plan, gear purchase, picking a date for the climb and making travel arrangements.  At the end of every quarter I re-evaluate my progress towards. As with my Mt. Rainier goal, it has now become a Mt. St. Helens goal. Unplanned travel for work during January and February put me too far behind to climb Mt. Rainier by the end of summer.  I either had to move the date out and change the goal.  Climbing Mt. Rainier in October seemed too dangerous for a novice climber.  Mt. St. Helens in August was the wiser choice.

  1. Set Goal
  2. Deconstruct the goal – that is list everything that needs to be done in order to reach that goal. These becomes milestones or mini-goals that you can now start working towards
  3. Order those steps in sequence.  Some may be done in parallel.  In my example, it doesn’t matter when I buy my gear to climb Mt. St. Helens.
  4. Add dates to those steps
  5. Execute
  6. Celebrate at every milestone.  You are making progress.  Even if the goal needs to be adjusted, the feeling of accomplishment will be there.

4th quarter of every year, I begin setting goals for every area of my life.  After each area has at least one goal, I then complete the above exercise.  By year’s end I have plan for the following year.  By New Year’s Day I’m ready to begin execution.

How do you create a plan to achieve your goals?