Monday, January 16, 2017

Time management matrix

I could certainly use more time.  Like most people, I work five days a week and have two days off.  It's like we live to work.  It'd sure be nice to reverse that and only work two days.

Someday :).  But for the time being, we make do with the time we have. We have a TODO list that usually keeps growing.  In fact, we may have multiple lists lying around, both physically and digitally. Every now and then, we decide to start with a clean slate.  But the process just repeats.  The new list inevitably grows.

One thing I recently thought about doing and actually did :) was to come up with what I now call my time management matrix.

You start with an inventory of all the things you need or want to do, particularly the recurring items.  Here are just a few examples to jog your memory:

  • Pick one task from my non-recurring TODO list.
  • Catch up on my reading.
  • Learn something new.
  • Practice playing my favorite musical instrument.
  • Blog.
  • Meditate.
  • Nap.
  • Be mindful.

Then, come up with a list of your "free" times.  Yes, you likely have some.  They're probably just occupied with less important stuff that you could do away with.  Remember my post about questioning your habits?  Here are a few examples of "free" times:

  • Waiting (anywhere, e.g. at the doctor's office, at your kid's violin lessons, at the car shop, etc.)
  • On the treadmill
  • Driving
  • On board a shuttle or train (I'm actually drafting this post while I'm on a ferry.)
  • Watching a game (unless you don't want to miss a single second.)
  • Real free time (I'm sure you have those, however rarely.)

Once you have both lists, you simply match them up.  A natural and efficient way is to come up with a matrix (hence, the title of this post) with the free times as your columns and your tasks as your rows.  

Then, check the cells that are feasible.  Only certain combinations will be.  For example, you could listen to an audio book while driving or running on a treadmill.  If you're just walking, you could even read (although not all people can).  You obviously can't read while driving or you might want to hold off on calling people if you're on board the train (you know, so as not to annoy the people next to you).

The thing I like about this is that it keeps me aware of the things I could do when. Without this, I'd normally just randomly do whatever came to mind and it usually includes incessantly refreshing my emails or portfolios.  It's obviously a waste of time but my brain doesn't know any better.  With this, it will.

It will obviously require discipline but you should allow yourself to take a break from time to time.  If all you're feeling like doing is listen to music, then that's all you do.  This happens to me.  Sometimes, when I'm on the treadmill, I just want to sing. :)  But it sure feels nice and cozy to know that I have this matrix as my map whenever I decide to get back on the trail.

I would like to point out the last task example I listed above... being mindful.  May I suggest that you check the cells for that row under all the columns?  In other words, do it every time you remember.  In fact, I would go as far as creating a column called "Every time".  We usually get lost in our thoughts.  And when we do, we waste time, either by being idle or by being distracted.  We should try to catch ourselves as often as possible and switch to a mindful state.   Step outside of your body (well, figuratively of course) and observe yourself thinking the thought.  Be truly in the present and appreciate yourself, your surroundings, your loved ones, everyone, and everything.  It's a wonderful feeling to be in that state.  Try it.

This reminds me of another book I've read.  It's called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.  Mr. Tolle talks about this and other profound life-changing insights.  Now that I think about it, I should add it to the list on my subconscious mind post.  In fact, let me do that now.  Brb... back... done. :)

Almost at our destination.  Taking my family out this MLK day.  This was another productive ride on the ferry.  (Note after the fact:  On our way back, I decided to catch up on my reading and then napped a bit.  We had a fun day at the pier.)

Keep trusting your informed gut,

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