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Time Management – Not So Easy

Steve Jones sent me this link on time management that discusses two things – getting ‘ambushed’ at the start of the day with unexpected tasks and the power of ritual. It was timely (as it were) because I’d just had a miserable day where I had some goals to hit and spent most of the day reacting to calls and requests.

The article puts the emphasis on making your list first, and then reading email. I like that, but I’m not sure it’s always possible depending on the job and situation. In the case of this particular day I elected to prioritize things that I felt would benefit from immediate attention at the expense of my planned agenda. Good decision or bad? It felt bad at the time because it wasn’t what I wanted to do – I wanted to finish the final 2% of something I’d been on for longer than planned and put it away for good.

Ritual, aka patterns, are definitely one of the ways that most people win, including me. They aren’t inherently good or bad, they just are. I don’t think you get the big wins by never changing from the pattern, but you don’t get the big wins by deviating a lot either.

Not sure I’ve learned a lesson though I know it’s there to be learned. One thought that does come to mind is that I think this is marginally easier when you work on or with a team because you can get some feedback - ‘should I change course for this?’. I usually work solo and just have to make the call on day to day stuff.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Anonymous on 29 July 2009

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Posted by Steve Jones on 29 July 2009

It was an interesting article. Not sure it fits me either, but it made me think about planning a touch more for the day.

The hard part is when your list runs into the next day. A few weeks later you have a serious list of things to do.

Posted by jcrawf02 on 30 July 2009

I think that's the trick. Forget who it was (Rockefeller?) said to only focus on the three most important items. i.e. stratify into High, Med, Low and 2-minute priority (if 2-minute, you can complete it within that timeframe, so just do it).  If it's not High priority, don't bother going further with it. If it's High, rank them in order of importance, and ONLY LOOK AT YOUR TOP THREE.  

If you get those done, great. Tomorrow, you only have to decide on the general stratification for new tasks, and decide which are your new top three (carrying any over from yesterday). Ignore the rest, so as not to be overwhelmed.

personally, when this was working the best for me (need to get back to it), it was in Excel, with reference data based on requestor (so I could give more weight to the CEO than my peer, and the most weight to my wife), then calculate a score based on stratification, proximity to due date and requestor.

Pivot table that only showed me the top three items was what I referenced each day, new tasks were added to the full list, but I never really looked at it.

And, best advice ever was from www.fourhourworkweek.com, where Tim mentions only reading email at specific times of the day and NEVER first thing.

Now if I could only follow my own hints...

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