Friday, March 10, 2006

Modest Change 2: Keeping time

I was, for some reason, totally taken by Thomas Limoncelli's book Time Management for System Administrators. (TM4SA, for short).

I read the sample chapter he had online here, and bought the book to see what the rest was about.

I've picked up and put down many a time management system over the years, starting with Day-Timers and finishing most successfully with David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology. Limoncelli's system doesn't quite displace GTD, but he has for the first time really helped me gain some traction on my task management.

I won't detail here what his system is, as the link above describes the main system pretty well. The book is written for someone who's really never used a time management system before and probably can't understand office life or office politics all that well.

I bought an At-a-Glance 2006 Daily Planning diary to implement the scheme and this has worked pretty well so far. I find myself not really noting much in the Notes or To-Dos sections; I have other home and office systems to log those things. But I do note in the planner book what I hope to accomplish each day or night of the week, and when I review my lists of Active Projects, I make sure each one has a next action written down for a specific day. (It was all to easy for tasks to stay on my GTD context lists and never move; by physically writing them down, I'm forced to confront them and make them move.)

One of TM4SA's key recommendations is that you write down what you want to accomplish each day and transfer undone tasks to the next day or some day in the future. This rankles lots of GTD purists and I understand it. On a bad day, you'll have to transfer most everything forward. But on a good day, you'll get most everything done and there's relatively few tasks to move forward.

TM4SA also recommends estimating about how long each task will take. This has really helped me figure out what I can realistically get to in an evening and so not overbook myself with ridiculously fabuloso projects or commitments when really all I have time to do is write my 1000 words and read. I've found that I really can't do all that I want when I have an evening free--instead, I have to prioritize and choose and do. Which is what time and task management is all about.