The importance of time management

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Published on 7 September 2023 by Andrew Owen (4 minutes)

When I became a developer advocate, one of the first and best pieces of advice I was given was to protect my development time. Essentially, don’t take on so much other stuff that you don’t have time to code. It’s in most people’s nature to want to help. But it’s important to recognize how much time you actually have and be able to say no when you already have a full schedule.

I did my first stint of working fully remote about a decade ago. I’m still using the same Ikea Markus chair (which is a good cheap alternative to the Herman Miller Aeron that I had in the office). If you’re also a parent, it’s doubly important to take control of your time. I wasn’t terrible at it but I knew I could use some help so I bought the second edition of Jeff Davidson’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Managing Your Time”. I’d changed jobs by the time I got around to reading it. But it was worth it.

It comes with a handy cheat sheet, which I’ve adopted and adapted and will try to briefly summarize:

  • At the end of the work day, stop working.
  • Replace time killing activities like doom-scrolling with high quality content, be that books, television, films or something entirely different.
  • Work out what your time is worth and if it’s cheaper to pay someone to do something than the time you would spend on it, do that. I get accountants to do my tax returns.
  • File your paperwork.
  • Buy any device that actually saves you time. In my case it’s my iPad which is my workhorse outside work.
  • Don’t multitask. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day seven days a week and get as many hours sleep as you need to feel rested in the morning. In my case I need between six and seven hours.
  • Declutter your life. I didn’t throw out my books, but I did replace my IT reference books with electronic versions. I’m in the process of scanning years of accumulated papers with the iPad.
  • Give yourself time to relax. Spending time with family is important but you also need time for yourself.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. I spend an hour a day walking my son to and from school and I try to do some yoga in the morning while my coffee is brewing.
  • The trade-off between the time saved on ready meals and how you feel after eating them compared to cooking from fresh ingredients isn’t worth it.
  • When negative thoughts intrude, acknowledge them and then go back to what you were doing.
  • Say no when you don’t have the time to spare, especially to meetings, particularly if they go on for more than an hour.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Take breaks during the day. I recommend having video water cooler chats with colleagues whenever you can.
  • Pay bills when they arrive.
  • Try to complete at least one small task a day during the working week for the sense of accomplishment.
  • Spend time with friends.

Since the pandemic, I’ve become the stay-at-home parent who does the school runs, provisioning and cooking while working a full time job, trying to stay in shape, writing a weekly blog, working on a retro computer project and still finding time to unwind. It’s fair to say I have a pretty hectic schedule. I’m deeply into the Apple ecosystem at this point, but I’ve found that electronic reminders don’t work for me. Because my schedule is closely tied to the school year, I’ve gone back to using an academic diary like I did at university. Specifically, Stella Cottrell’s “Student Planner”.

It has all the standard diary stuff but also includes tips on time management, writing, well-being, cooking, finances and professional development. I use stickers to keep track of which days which recycling needs to be put out. I mark key dates on the monthly planner. I have a monthly to-do list for big tasks, and any that don’t get completed I carry over to the next month. I’ve had some tasks that have been carried over for more than a year now, but I always try to prioritize what needs doing the most urgently.

And my final gem of wisdom is this: If possible, don’t leave it until the morning of publication to write and translate your blog article on time management.