Make use of time, let not advantage slip. ~William Shakespeare
If you’re like me, many days start with the whole calendar jam-packed with meetings, conference calls and tasks that must be done by a certain time. And then those surprise demands for time happen.
I sometimes “joke” that I start my day making a list people I’m going to disappoint. With most of my days already fully planned (over-booked) in advance, what else can I do but react to an unplanned demand for my time by kicking something else down the road? And you know where this leads…your normal x hour work week extends to x+n. Which robs you of time that you’d wanted to spend on yourself or your family, while at the same time (probably) negatively affecting your work responsibilities.
There’s no end to advice, systems (e.g. Getting Things Done – GTD) and tools to help you be more productive, and much of it is aimed at taking an overflowing bucket of tasks and prioritizing them. Get the important stuff done first then take care of the less important later…if ever. But there’s really not much focus on how to deal with unplanned demands for time. Yeah…I guess you could stop for a sec, prioritize the new time demand…yeah…right…answer the boss’s IM with a message that you need to check your todo list priorities!
Before you start explaining to me why I should have put the Lync on “Do not disturb” in the first place, I’m going stop the decent into that rat hole because I’m not intending to cover this part ( unplanned time demands) of the time management dilemma anyway. Sorry.
What I really want to start a discussion about is what you can do to make sure you make the best use of unexpected free time. You know…you start work with a full slate, then someone wisely cancels a meeting because some of the invitees can’t make it. Do you have a plan for what to do with that unexpected time windfall? Frankly, until recently, I hadn’t even thought about it. Does your fancy GTD system kick in? Maybe, but I doubt if it’s 100% of the answer. It can help, but I think taking good advantage of unexpected free time is more about discipline than planning.
I recently came across an article by Timo Kiander where he uses an example of arriving home to find his wife and daughter taking a nap. What would I have done?…probably check the news. (Which typically has the effect of clicking my BP up a couple of notches!) And what do we do if that unnecessary meeting is canceled…probably check email, or our favorite social media outlet. Is that REALLY the best way to go?
Timo, on the other hand, quickly transitioned into working on his blog for an hour. His advice?…”
Always know what your next action is and when the unexpected time block occurs, act immediately!”
I’ll bet that checking out Timo’s thoughts on this will add another dimension to your own thinking about time management. After all, if you only gain an hour of productive time a week, over a year you’d have an extra 50 hours invested in something import to you. Timo seems to be focused on work in his article but, by writing “…something important to you…”, I mean to imply more than work related tasks only. Your thoughts?