Monday, February 22, 2010

Time Management: Tips and hacks

I thought I'd follow up on some ideas from the Facebook post about how to stop myself from wasting time on the internet. Please let me know your ideas for not procrastinating, both online and in real life.

* I've started breaking my internet addiction through giving myself designated 'offline hours' and a dedicated half-hour in the evening where I can do guilt-free browsing and read anything I want. Also: no internet before 9 in the morning (which, it turns out, is quite hard for me to stick to)

* As part of this, I went on a one-week media fast - no news sites, or political sites, or newspapers/radio/TV. This felt great, and freed up an amazing amount of time.

* I built up some strong negative emotions
(like loathing, frustration, or boredom) towards particular websites - which motivated me to block them in my hosts file. This means I can't access these sites without manually unblocking them. Seems to be working - I don't miss them, and I think I *wanted* an excuse not to go back to them. (And unless Facebook makes some changes to its new homepage design - which has made the site way more irritating - it's another site that might be joining this group.)

* Decided to not follow or read
blog posts comments or discussions - this is tougher, but I've realised that I don't really process these conversations very well. They sort of swim in a haze through my eyes and brain and don't really sink into my long-term memory. A complete waste of my time, really, to look at them or check back in on them.

* I've re-categorised all my Google Reader feeds, allocating them to either 'Must Read' blogs, 'Skippable' blogs (where I can delete their posts if I'm running out of time). I also have a Probation' category now - where I put all the new blogs I'm subscribing to. I give them about a month in Probation and then decide whether to unsubscribe from them or not. Having a Probation category has also prompted me to delete several big blogs from my feed - most notably Aintitcool - which has significantly reduced the amount of infocrap I need to wade through.

Also a big shout-out to Billy from the previous Facebook post: he introduced me to the studyhacks site, which led me to this long but good talk by Merlin Mann about time and attention, and his recommendation of the 4 Hour Work Week was the tipping point into me getting the book out and having a read. Fascinating stuff.

What about you? What do you do?


Anonymous said...

1. I only allow myself to blog or comment on blogs in the evenings or at the weekends when I have nothing else to do. (or sometimes while I'm eating lunch like now)
2. I've deleted everything that annoys me from my reader. If something doesn't inform or entertain me I don't want to read it.
3. I try, though often fail, not to read news sites like Stuff. Psychologically it is much better for me not to follow the most recent horrible murder but I do get sucked in from time to time.
4. I read one time management hint which is probably true but I have not succeeded in yet which is that the best thing you could do to improve productivity is not check your email first thing when you start work but just get straight into doing some writing/whatever is a priority.
5. I'm trying really hard to be more linear and less scattered in my attention and focus since a couple of people in different contexts, pointed out to me that I have a tendency to work on too many things at a time resulting in me not completing tasks and projects. I wasn't very pleased to have this pointed out, I think some of my main strengths are that I'm full of ideas and enthusiasms and curiosity driven- but when I tried to just work on one thing for two hours and simply couldn't I realised they were right and I had basically trained myself to work as if I have ADD.
6. I'm getting better at prioritising. When I get a new idea I now add it to a list of possible projects that I'm not allowed to start until I've finished something else.

Karen said...

My problem is not so much procrastinating, but feeling guilty because I can't do everything... So I've working on setting priorities... doing as much as I can and not feeling guilty when I don't get everything done... much happier. I try to get >40 minutes exercise most days (walk or swim most lunchtimes... run or bike ride whenever kids are with their Dad), which used to feel like a selfish waste of time, but I now realise makes me far more productive than the time I lose...

In terms of the internet, I only let myself check gmail and look at science pages at work (cos I can fool myself it's legit) and google the odd question...

I check facebook, gmail, sometimes twitter when the kids have gone to bed... Then (if I feel like it) I let myself spend an hour wandering around blogs I like and political stuff and fun stuff (and more science I guess) about 3 nights a week... but only if I have done at least an hour of chores or study first. I don't try and limit myself more than that, because apart from Wednesday night gaming, the internet is my substitute for adult conversation in the evenings :-)

Steve Hickey said...

Amanda, every single one of your tips is golden. I've recently started using your #4 (Do your first bit of work before checking email) and it has transformed my mornings.

As I mentioned at the library, I've been finding similar things about my ability to concentrate. Re-learning how to focus is like heavy gym training for my mind.

Steve Hickey said...

Karen, I hear you about the 'wanting to do everything' thing. I often find myself in a cycle of "Say yes to everything / get over-committed / stress / collapse / cancel lots of stuff / have a good life where I feel like I can say yes to more things". You've just made me realise that getting rid of (or controlling) that cycle is the next big step for me with time management.

I admire your control with the internet usage, too!

Karen said...

Steve... good luck with controlling the cycle... reading my comment, I'm surprised by how confident I sounded!

Last month was really good for me... I achieved several medium term goals and managed to keep the kids happy through a very busy patch I expected to be stressful (included my oldest son starting school).

Now is okay, I think...I'm still feeling unusually competent, but I'm back to the every day keeping it all together and trying to stay motivated for the longer term

(and as for internet usage control, that comes and goes too I think... I should be in bed, but whatever it is I want right now from this machine I clearly haven't got it yet!)