Time Allocation

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Takeaways

  • Time is the most precious resources
  • Split big activities into small activities
  • Set 10 minutes time slot of each activities
  • Prepare a special calendar for time slotting

The Problem

Everybody has one resources in common, which is time. Time is something that you will never regain. That makes it the most precious resources. Once it wasted, it wasted forever.

I used to create my to-do-list in when the day is started. After it, usually I have a problem on deciding which one to start. This leads into indecisiveness and often brings me into doing small things that doesn’t matter much, like replying emails on issues that is not urgent. Later on, I find the day finished without completing all important things that I should do.

There are two problems that caused this. First is the task definition sometimes too big in scope, like “work on project X”, which looks like a big monster when you are starting it. Second is I didn’t commit myself to finish it in a certain time block. The undefined scope of activities makes me fail to identify how much resources needed to complete it.

Splitting the Big Chunk

When activities becomes too big and unclear. It is advisable to split the big tasks into small activities that doable. When you know what to do, then it will become a lot easier to complete things. You can use mind map or simply just listing down the tasks in Outlook to do this. Mine was the last one, and it helps.

Practical example for this is, to split activity of “work on project X”. I look at my emails, decide what I need to work on and what are the other things I should do. Emails will be marked as to-do, and other activities will be defined as tasks. Usually I have about 4-6 projects that is in-progress, and I have its colour coded categories to group these tasks. Categories represents the projects, and marked emails + tasks represent small activities.

How detail should we go? For me, I limit the definition of small activities into something achievable in 10-20 minutes. If it is unclear, there is an activity itself to make things clear, like by checking with line manager or colleagues.

Allocating the Activities

Coming back to the part of not wasting our most precious resources, I mapped these small activities into my calendar. This is one of the best thing that I learned that makes myself work.

Our digital calendar (Outlook, Google Calendar) usually have time slots in hours. By default, when you enter a new appointment, it will be an one hour activity. Previously I slotted time for each project, like two hours for project A, one hour for project B, and so on. Often this leads myself into confusion on what should I do in that hour, if I have everything completes, or unclear.

The better way of doing it is to map all tasks that I have defined earlier to the calendar. So we exactly know what needs to be done on that period. But putting it in hours will leads us to have no time to complete all. That is why I make the slot bigger, by changing it to 10 minutes. As I mentioned before, my tasks are a ten minutes activities. So in one hour I can achieve six activities.

This allocation is done in the morning, and usually I spend about half an hour to do. At first there will be some difficulties, but once you have sustain it, it will become a lot easier. This half hour activities should be done only for quick read and categorise activities, not for replying emails and start doing things. The real action should be done on the time slot that defined on it.

Special Calendar for Allocation

There is one additional things that If you put all tasks within your shared calendar, people will see it when they are going to schedule a meeting with you. I realised this on the first day implementing this, when my colleague see my calendar full of small things. To avoid it, I created a local calendar that is created specially for allocation or scheduling. I display it in overlay so that I can see both. So other people will not see it, but I keep my activities manageable.

Will it Work?

Yes for me, but not sure for you. I think it depends on your work style. I like everything to be organised. On the other hand, I learned it in hard way, after years of frustration of getting overwhelmed with a lot of things and always leave office feeling guilty. I also have some personal projects (like writing this blog, for example) which I never achieve because I could not manage my time well. Above had changed me a little, to end the day with more things done.

For me, it is always interesting to learn something new. If you are interested to discuss on this, feel free to put your view in comments or even contact myself through email.

* icon is created by Scott Lewis.

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