Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Do Time Management techniques work?

February 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Some people simply dismiss self-help books. They believe in their own abilities.

Some people turn to religion and God. They ask God for wisdom and help.

some people constantly read self-helps books and look for ways to improve themselves.

I’m curious — let’s pick one area of self-help, Time Management — do the Time Management techniques work?

I picked two books: the widely popular Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

and No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs.  

Getting Things Done (GTD) has quite a following among knowledge workers. I have to say that I had a hard time to finish reading the book — for some reason, I don’t enjoy the flow of the book. But, I did manage to finish reading the book.

I tried to practice GTD techniques at work. It was very difficult for me — I work in product management. Most of my tasks have a dependency on others — I don’t have complete control over the task, and I have to wait for others to complete their tasks before I can mark my task complete. To apply  GTD, I’d have to constantly make lists, but it’s very hard for me to cross any of them out. There is a tremendous overhead of listing every single task. I think GTD is much better suited for folks who work in a more independent, isolated manner — e.g. software developers, accountants, etc. At least in my case, I feel there were too much overhead to keep listing tasks.

In contrary, Dan Kennedy’s advice seems to be quite helpful to me. I was able to immediately apply a number of tips:

  • Don’t pick up your phone. Only answer phone calls at certain time. I also applied the same techniques to my emails and IM requests.
  • Close-door policy, not open door — I started to close my office door when I need to concentrate and get work done. I intentionally make myself unavailable at certain time so that I can focus on getting things done
  • Minimize number of meetings. Always come prepared with an agenda for meetings. — Instead of having one-hour meetings, I start to schedule 30-minute meetings.
  • Don’t let time drone drag you down — there are a few people at work who just keep talking and go off-topic. I will let them know that they’re off topic, and need to focus on the topic of discussion.
  • Go off peak hour
    • Avoid the peak traffic hour for commuting
    • Avoid the peak hour for doing grocery – instead of going to Costco on Sat or Sun afternoons, I go to Costco on Friday or Monday evening – no more long checkout lines! 🙂
  • Block time. For example, I block an hour in the morning to write — something I really enjoy doing, but couldn’t find time to do previously.

None of these advice are earth shattering. They’re common sense. However, the book serves as a good reminder.

Here is where I’m with regard to self-help/time management books:

  • Most of the advice from self-help books are  common sense, but they still serve as good reminders. I find it helpful to read them once a while. Even if you get one or two good ideas that you could implement, it might make a big impact on how you work and live.
  • The self-help gurus like to claim that their books/methods is a cure-all solution. But, I think the reality is that it’s up for the readers to find the right approach to his/her own specific situation. There is no one-book-fit-all solution.
  • If you spend time to read a self-help book, make sure you actually do it and make some changes. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

Worthwhile self-help books:

Tags: Tools & Tips

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