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Time Management

Help Me Figure Out How to Spend 12 More Hours a Week

punch_clock.jpgMinor milestone in my household coming soon: my son is starting preschool, meaning I'll suddenly have more time on my hands. It's only three mornings a week though; as much as I'd like to hire someone to read to me, it's not enough time to start anything major. But it is enough that I can't waste the opportunity. Four hours of quiet, non-Sprout time in the morning is perfect for getting the high-priority stuff out of the way. I need to come up with a game plan so I don't end up watching SportsCenter and fiddling with iTunes the whole time.

I have my own strategy, of course, but I wanted to ask the wise elders here how I should spend an extra 12 hours a week, and see if we can spot any holes in my plan.

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Why Are You Reading All That News?

When I wrote about my method for controlling RSS overload a couple weeks ago, 43 Folders user terceiro left a comment that put me in my place:

You’re feeling stress about your RSS feeds? Talk about self-created problems. The real solution to managing RSS feeds is to stop reading RSS feeds. It’s simple ... when a purely optional “convenience” technology is causing stress, it’s time to re-evaluate at a pretty fundamental level.

I read this and thrashed and spluttered like Yosemite Sam for a while before I admitted it: he's right. It is a self-created problem, and I need to understand what makes me feel the need to consume the equivalent of a Carnegie library every day, instead of just finding a more efficient way to choke it down.

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Sink or Swim: Managing RSS Feeds with Better Groups

Besides baseball, coffee, and my music collection, I probably obsess over how I read RSS feeds more than anything. Sometimes it feels like I tinker with the setup more than I actually read the news, but I'm making progress. I won't claim to be completely satisfied with how or why I try to consume so much information from the internet, but lately I've been as content with the process as I can hope.

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Vox Populi: Reasons to Quit

I have a lot of trouble keeping track of what I'm supposed to be doing. It's not that I necessarily have trouble prioritizing my tasks or scheduling things - I mean I do, but that's not the main problem.

The main problem is that I've got too many things I really need (want) to do - too many long-term projects with potential - and I'm never exactly sure when they're a few weeks away from a grand payoff and when they're just wasting my time.

I suppose this is a crisis of faith.

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The 7 deadly sins of instant messaging

I heart instant messaging, but I heart it too much. If you're a chat addict like me, you understand the lure. It's convenient, connecting you to faraway buddies with little cost. It's safe, releasing you from the worry of looking pretty or sounding sexy. And its deliciously fun. How can you not love video effects, screensharing, and presentation-hosting in Leopard's iChat?

Despite the benefits, instant messaging can turn you into a mindless chat drone. Too much chatting replaces real interactions and, soon, people turn into pixels.

To bring richer conversations back into your life, here are 7 bad chatting habits to stop right now. I've formatted them as a "not-to-do" list:

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Ain't Nothin' Wrong With a Little Free Time

Since my days are set to the sleeping patterns of a toddler and the biorhythms of a dog, I have to squeeze my "work," i.e. writing, interviews, blogging, etc, into naptime and the few hours after the boy goes to bed and before I collapse. I'm pretty good about getting the important, bill-paying stuff done, but unfortunately that means what suffers is Me Time, things like reading books or watching a ballgame on TV without a computer in my lap. When I just spent most of my day stressing out about what I wasn't getting done because I was at the playground or reading Richard Scarry books 49 consecutive times, I can't very well justify not doing my stuff when I'm back home and books are put away.

One day this week, the boy was at Grandma's for the day, so I lined up a ton of things to knock out. Most of my afternoon was going to be spent dealing with some carpenters installing a cabinet in our house, so I also knew I had to get busy in the morning. As any time-constrained person knows, feeling squeezed is the best way to make yourself efficient, and I finished everything I needed to by lunch. Then, lo and behold, the furniture guys called and said they couldn't make it, so I was faced with a free afternoon.

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Pmarca productivity: Excellent tips for getting through the day

blog.pmarca.com: The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity

What a fantastic post. And so many great suggestions that I'm hesitant to choose a sample...so I'll limit myself to three:

Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3x5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day.

And then, the next day, do those things...

Don't answer the phone.

Let it go to voicemail, and then every few hours, screen your voicemails and batch the return calls.

Say, twice a day...

Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes.

In my experience, it takes time to tell the difference between your head saying yes and your heart saying yes.

I think the key is whether you're really excited about it.

If you get that little adrenaline spike (in a good way) when you think about it, then your heart is saying yes....

Most of the tips on this page strike me as being very practical, real-world, battlefield advice that works. And even if you can't totally avoid a schedule or totally keep email checking down to twice a day, it won't hurt to soak up the spirit of these ideas and let them move by osmosis into the places where they can do you some good. Shake it up a little.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes 43-folders-esque stuff.

(And triple credit for the Robert Evans reference. Did it make me happy? You bet your ass it did.)

Brian Oberkirch on reducing noise and stealing back attention

Trimming the attention sails at Like It Matters


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The 4-Hour Workweek
by Timothy Ferriss

Friend of the Folders, Brian Oberkirch, has gone on a tempo-attentional crash diet:

I had a “no mas” moment. I have a project generating a ridiculous amount of non-productive email. I have social networking service emails crufting up my inbox. I burned time in online ‘debates’ I just shouldn’t have gotten involved in. And I read Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, which unhinged my mind and helped me think totally differently about goals, workflow, and being a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

I've met with Tim Ferriss a couple times (fascinating guy) and have a galley copy of his new book sitting on my desk right now. With what Brian says (combined with the raves for the book I heard from a couple folks I trust last night), I expect I'll be starting into it today.

Back to Brian's project: while you may not necessarily need to make your world as completely devoid of noise and distraction as Brian has, I encourage you to review his list. There's a gold mine of tips in there for ways you might also choose to wrest back your attention and start responsibly firewalling your time.

Loathe as I am to admit it, I've recently had to adopt one of Brian's dicta and have already used it twice today:

Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

Anything you'd add? Got a felonious time burglar you've recently arrested?

Merlin & Leo: Gentle introduction to GTD

The Tech Guy Labs - Leo Laporte, "The Tech Guy" [2007-03-31]

On last Saturday's Tech Guy radio show, Leo Laporte and I talked about some of the basics of David Allen's Getting Things Done system. For most regular visitors to 43 Folders, this is going to be very introductory stuff, but I think it may be useful to folks who are getting started or are just curious about what "GTD" even means.

My segment appears from about 00:59:30 to about 1:08:45. Here's a link to an MP3 of the show, plus a few of the items that were mentioned in the segment:

Brian Kim: Teach kids time management

Top 5 Things That Should Be Taught In Every School

I enjoyed reading this list and was especially into number five:

#5: Time Management

Speaking of other skills that can be utilized in any job and career is time management. The majority of students never really learn to value their time and mange it while in school. Procrastination is all too rampant (studying right before class, doing homework and essays the day it’s due, partying the night before the exam). This lack of time management often carries over into adulthood, which becomes a major liability.

Learn to make a to do list. Learn to prioritize. Learn to break things down into 30 minute blocks of time. Learn about actionable items. David Allen’s GTD system is your best friend here along with Dan Kennedy’s No B.S Time Management. Again if you’re unfamiliar with these people, Google is your best friend, but I’m sure the majority of readers will know what I’m talking about.

What would you add to the list of skills you think should be taught in school?

[ via: Anarchaia (3/14/07) ]




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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