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Time Travel

I’ve always thought a great use of a genie’s three wishes would be to never have to sleep, then you could do twice as much with your life. After reading Rework and The Myth of Multitasking I realised that perhaps I could get twice as much out of my life without the need for a mythical lamp or 1.21 jiggawatts. It has now been six weeks since I completely changed my daily routine and thought I’d record my progress… and hurdles.

My initial revelation after reading the books above was that:

  1. I was spinning too many plates at once and need to get oragnised.
  2. Unexpected/unplanned tasks was eating up half of my day.
  3. Desperation was dictating my daily schedule.
I hid

I’ve always worked in amongst the staff in an open plan office so that I’d be easily available. In reality I was talking to people every 15 minutes about a movie, something funny a client did, or an irrelevant project issue. So I moved into a spare office. The door was usually open so staff were free to come in if they needed anything, but having to make a special trip to see me cut down the banter by 80%.

I ignored the phone

I had my secretary answer all my calls, let people know I was unavailable but that I would call them back in a few hours (more on my calling schedule later).

The biggest challenge was not simply using the system to avoid the “challenging” calls. I was so used to the “hope they so-and-so doesn’t call me today” system that I was quite scared about proactively getting in touch with them. It only took a few days to realise that getting it out of the way quickly was a much less stressful way to work, and clients were really impressed that they could rely on me to deal with their issues.

I split my day

I created three 30 minute phone call windows into my day when I would return all these calls: 9am, 11:30am and 4:30pm. This gave me two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon of uninterrupted, heads-down, get-in-the-zone time. The morning was for quotes and running and smaller jobs that needed addressing, the afternoons were for big projects, and there was still some contingency time at the end of the day.

If you have something that you know needs dealing with, you have three options:

  1. Do it right now.
  2. Plan a realistic time for it in the near future.
  3. Turn it into a worry which sticks in the back of your mind.
I scheduled stuff

On day one I went through everything I had on, categorised jobs based on what time of the day I could do them (either in my morning tidy-up time or my afternoon big-project time), prioritised them and put them in Outlook. I left one day a week empty as a backup.

It’s very scary to look at a disorganised workload and try and make sense of it. Quite shocking to see all that needed to be done. At first I felt bad that I had to schedule some jobs for three weeks away because there just wasn’t space… then I realised those jobs had already been hanging around for three months!

I should have seen it coming

At the start of the year I split all my staff’s time into “support time” and “project time” – support time for all the little random jobs which pop up, and project time for focussed, uninterrupted work on larger projects – I can’t believe it took me almost half a year to realise that a similar system would be good for me too! Right now I am getting a lot more done, I’m less stressed, clients trust me more, and since I’m generally home earlier my wife is also happier too :)

If you’ve been affected by my new routine, tried something similar yourself or have some of your own tips, please leave a comment below it’d be great to hear from you.

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