Better Work Time Balance

I kinda suck at time management. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. I’m easily distracted, and rubbish at saying “No.”. I try to manage tasks and my time, with Bear and Things3. My work can sometimes be project based. By that I mean structured, long running, and not interrupt driven. In contrast, a lot of my work is interrupt driven. Disparate tasks with different deadlines and changing priorities. This can mean deferring something in progress, in order to pick up some higher priority task.

We often hear about context switching being the scourge of productivity. The mental overhead of tidying up loose ends, ramping down, then ramping up to another, unrelated task, can be quite a burden. Be that as it may, it’s not always something that can be avoided.

With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at my work week with a view to maximising time to focus without interruption, and allowing myself time to accept interruption without it negatively impacting how I feel about my productivity. Interruption doesn’t always have to be as immediate as someone buzzing around my desk: I’m thinking of regular scheduled meetings and 1:1s which break up the working day and week.

I want to particularly clarify that I find 1:1s with my reports, and my manager, incredibly useful and valuable. To suggest they are noise or a mere disruption would be grossly unfair. Grouping them together on one day though, does allow me to plan around them, and ensure I’m maximising the time my brain is in 1:1 mentoring mode.

With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at my schedule and identified that I have no regular scheduled meetings on a Monday. I have a regular team meeting on a Friday, and Friday is often a day used for team retrospectives.

As an experiment, I’ve blocked out most of Monday, outside of lunch and daily standup meetings, for ‘Weekly Focus’. The idea being, folk shouldn’t schedule meetings during that already scheduled time. I’ve also coalesced my 1:1 meetings with my reports such that they all take place in a contiguous block on a Friday. I can also use this non-keyboard day to schedule other ad-hoc chats and meetings, without feeling guilt or concern about not being at the keyboard etc.

I’m hoping this will allow me to dedicate my full attention to my reports, and have quality, productive discussions with them. There is a chance of burnout, dedicating a two hour block of time to mentoring, interpersonal discussions and the like. I think it’s worth pursuing though.

That leaves Tuesday through Thursday where I can reasonably expect to have my day broken up by ad-hoc and other scheduled meetings and chats.

Let’s see how this experiment goes!


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