10 Tips For Better Time Management
Every now and then I come across software developers who keep complaining how
difficult it is to find time from their daily schedule to learn new things.
Although city life is quite busy, more often than not people lack the will,
energy and time management skills to deal with the situation. More often than not this lack of time is due to the fact that people poorly
manage their time. They don't have any strategy to manage their time
effectively. Here are my top 10 tips that can help you manage your time in a
better way. If you apply the following tips you can manage your time in a
better way than before. I am not going to give you any fancy charts or figures
that mostly look nice on paper. I am going to share some practical tips that you
can start using right now!
1. Take only things that can fit on your plate
Let's face it - you have limited resources in terms of time, energy and
ability to complete a task. Even if you desire to complete more tasks in a day
there is going to be a limit for what you can accomplish in a day. Rather than
attempting to finish too many tasks that won't fit in a day take only those
tasks that you can fit on your plate. If you take too many tasks at a time
chances are you won't be able to finish them all. And then this "failure" will
build pressure to complete them in a hurry the next day. This, in turn, can
cause more errors than expected delaying the completion of the task further. So,
it is important to identity and start what you can finish in a day. Be realistic
while doing so. Apply common sense and past experience of completing these
tasks. By some experience you can arrive at a limit that is optimal for you -
not too low (no laziness allowed), not too high (no fatigue allowed).
2. Plan one day at a time
A common mistake some people commit is they plan for a longer timespan. More
the timespan more the chances of unexpected obstacles. Don't plan for a week,
for example, because something unexpected or unplanned may come up. To begin
with, plan only one day (or even lesser) - today - at a time. Once you plan stick to that plan by
all means. Many people change their plan too frequently. Be firm. Once you
chalk out a plan do not change it under any circumstances. Over a period of
time you will learn to introduce some amount of flexibility in your daily
schedule. But till that time be rigid about your daily plan. Learn to say NO to
whatever that comes unplanned.
3. Set priority for tasks
Simply picking tasks to finish in a day is not sufficient. You also need to
prioritize them. Not all tasks are equally important. Their urgency level is
also different. Based on importance and urgency you need to set some priority to
them. You can set the priority in different ways - on a scale of 1 to 10 OR Low,
BelowNormal, Normal, AboveNormal and High (yes! these values are taken from
CacheItemPriority enumeration of ASP.NET.) Remember that this priority is for
the tasks to be finished in a day. Once a priority is set start completing them
in High to Low order. If you can't complete a Low priority task on that day, it
may get carry forwarded to the next day and possibly climb up in the priority
4. Avoid distractions
You should learn to avoid all sorts of distractions. If you are involved in
something urgent or important tell people around you not to disturb you. You
can't expect them to know your urgency unless you specifically let them know.
Learn to switch off that mobile phone. Also, turn off those instant email
notifications and alerts of all kinds. Don't keep checking email every now and
them. If you are doing something don't keep the ongoing task to respond to an
email. Don't plug-in those earphones while doing something important. These and
many other distractions cause loss of time. Though it might be just a few
seconds or minutes, when it adds up it can be considerable chunk of time. What's
more is that your mind wanders away with every such distraction and needs more
time to focus on the task being completed.
5. Manage your on-line time in a better way
As a software developer you are connected to the Internet for a big chunk of
your work day. However, just because you have an Internet connection doesn't
mean you should remain always remain online. Many people have habit of checking
emails frequently. They log-in to Facebook or Twitter every now and then. This
is unnecessary. Make a strict habit of accessing email and social networking
sites at a specific time of a day. Set the frequency of checking these resources
too. A work day usually has a "prime time" where your energy level and
productivity is high. Don't spend this prime time in checking emails or social
networking. A few things that can help include:
- Just because an email arrived in your inbox doesn't mean you should
respond it instantly. Don't keep aside your task at hand schedule just to
respond that email.
- Decide priority and importance for emails. This is especially true if
you receive dozens of them every day. Use email filters to categorize them
in separate folders and look at them as per scheduled time slot.
- Learn to clean-up your news feeds on social networking sites such as
- Use some social networking plugin to enhance your Facebook and Twitter
- Make a small list of important websites / blogs that are helpful to you
in your daily work or upgrading your knowledge. Instead of reading hundreds
of different websites keep an eye of these selected websites for updates.
- Turn off all instant alerts or notifications. This includes email and
social networking websites.
- While reading an online content it is easy to wander away in the pile of
information. Be focused. Make a point to stick to the original topic you
were reading / searching.
6. Manage your travel time in a better way
If you live in a city such as Mumbai, chances are you spend reasonable amount
of time in travelling - from your home to the office and back home. This time is
hardly productive but you can utilize it in a better way. Pick a mode of travel
that is comfortable. For example, instead of going in normal but opt for AC bus.
Why? If you opt for AC bus chances are you will get a place to sit. Once you are
in a comfortable position you can think of some creative ways to utilize this
time. Here are a few tips:
- Carry a portable media player and listen to audio / videos and podcasts
on the way.
- If comfortable glance over a technical book or magazine that adds some
- Carry a notepad and pen. Note down, draw, visualize concepts related to
your work or new things that you have learned. This will allow you to revise
what you learned.
- Sleep. I am not kidding! I have seen many developers who don't get
adequate sleep at night due to several reasons (going late from the office,
family background, surrounding environment etc.) If you can't do anything
else use this time to induce relaxation and rest in your body. Use some yoga
technique such as Yoga Nidra or Ajapa to relax during this time. The
recharged body is more efficient in completing the tasks once you reach the
office or home.
7. Set expectations of the people around you
People around you in the office as well as home have certain expectations
from you. These expectations are set based on how you interact with them daily.
For example, a person who help others every time sets the same expectation for
the people around him. Then one day if he doesn't render his help people find it
odd or may even develop ill feelings about him. They may easily forget all the
occasions when he helped them and remember this one instance when he
refused to help them. If your behavior indicates that you are always available
in case they need anything - important or unimportant doesn't matter -
then they are going to expect the same for entire life! You need to signal them
that you don't like to be disturbed while doing something important. You can't
assume that they will know the significance of the activity you are doing
automatically. You need to specifically convey that need to them. Also tell them
why that activity is important to you. For example, instead of simply telling
your family members not to disturb you, you can tell them how finishing the task
at hand is going to help you and the family (say promotion or salary rise or a
new job). Here are a few things to take into consideration:
- Learn to say NO
- Learn to delegate tasks.
- If you are being assigned too much responsibilities, flag them to your
seniors in appropriate manner.
- In professional relations it is alright to politely refuse to
participate in personal events. If you become too much friendly with a
person you may find it difficult to say NO to him.
- Don't let others push or force you to participate in something that is
going to affect your schedules.
- Convey the importance of timely finishing a task at hand to your family
members. After completing the task spend some quality time with them.
8. Avoid daydreaming and unimportant chitchat
While doing a task don't allow your attention to wander away. If you must
think about something unrelated to the current task, finish the task first and
then spend some time to think about the matter before you focusing back on your
work. Make a point to avoid unnecessary chitchat or vague talking. Learn to
switch your mobile off while finishing some important task. I have seen many
developers who keep some messenger application (Yahoo Messender or Facebook
Messenger) running in the background as they do their work. Every now and then
they switch to the messenger to participate in the chat. Learn to avoid such
9. Increase your energy level
Time management is not about merely making time slots available to do some
work. It is equality important that you possess the necessary energy to complete
the tasks. In fact if your "energy sheath" (as we yogis call it) is strong you
can perform much more work in a given timespan. To increase your energy level
three things are important - diet, sleep and prana. Take healthy diet -
food that is Satvik in nature and that you can digest easily. Take
enough sleep. If possible take a power nap in the afternoon. Yoga has many types
of breathing exercises (Pranayama) that revitalize the whole energy
system in the body. Learn them from some expert and make them a part of your
10. Keep fit
This may sound like an unrelated topic for our discussion. However, your
physical and mental fitness plays a vital role in time management. An unhealthy
mind-body equipment can't focus on a task at hand. It cannot generate good
"energy sheath" and as a result you end up missing the deadlines. Exercising
daily and keep yourself fit is an important aspect of holistic living. Exercises
such as brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming and yoga postures are all good
for the overall physical fitness. If you are suffering from an ailment consult a
medical expert immediately and eliminate the root cause as soon as possible. A
healthy individual is capable to doing much more amount of work in a given
timespan as compared to an unhealthy and physically unfit person.