The Effective Architect Part 2: Focus Your Time
In this 5-part series, we’re looking at 25 ways you can work smarter, not harder in 2019. Part 2 explores how you can proactively manage your most precious resource, your time.
Focus your time
There are only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. We need to be strategic about how we use the finite time we have. We also need to be realistic. You can't plan every minute of the day, so it’s important to build a buffer into your schedule. If you have 8 hours at work, consider that only 5 to 6 will be productive. We have a tendency to overestimate what we can do in a day but underestimate what we can do in a year. Take the long view and work consistently and steadily.
Big rocks first
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey uses the analogy of a glass jar to represent your day. The idea is to first fill your jar with the big rocks, the things that are most important to you. Once you’ve done that, you can add in the smaller rocks, then gravel and sand—the increasingly less important tasks. If you fill your jar with sand first, you won’t have room for the high-priority stuff. So remember, focus on those big rocks first.
Instead of working more hours, try working fewer. Limiting your time at work forces you to focus on the most important tasks. Plus, research shows that working more than 40 hours a week actually decreases productivity.
Keep a time log
Record how you spend your time during the course of a typical week. This log should be more detailed than a timesheet. You want to record everything you do during the work day. Writing an email to a client, surfing the Internet, getting coffee—get it all down in the log. Do this for a whole week and you’ll have a really good picture of what you actually do with your time. Check out the Self Journal by BestSelf Co. for an analog solution or RescueTime for a digital one.
Multitasking is a myth. The human brain is not designed to do more than one thing at a time. When we’re multitasking, we’re shifting context from one task to another. It takes our brain time to do this shift, so it’s less efficient to multitask. Studies have shown that it takes longer to do two tasks simultaneously than one at a time.
If you’re working on multiple projects, try working on similar tasks in a series rather than jumping from project to project. This will save you time and energy and help you stay focused.
In Part 3 of this series, we’ll focus on how to better manage your information and wrangle all those emails, phone calls, and other distractions coming across your desk.