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What’s the best way to manage your time?

Jeremiah Dillon, head of product marketing at Google Apps For Work, posted a blog post in which employees tried to determine how to use their time wisely. Jeremiah’s advice seemed so obvious and effective that he decided to take it outside the tech giant’s team. Here is a translation of his note.

Recently, I wrote a letter to our team outlining a simple time management challenge. I received a very unexpected response and decided to share it with a much wider circle of people than our team. Someone even stressed and made a video visualizing the idea. Anyway, the original email (except for some inside jokes) is set out below.

To:

Subject: If you don’t have time to read this…read it twice.

Stop. Exhale. Now think about how you allocate your time. If it’s me, I still have a lot to strive for.

It is believed that there are two planning paradigms: manager and employee.

The manager’s day is divided into intervals of 30 minutes, they change tasks every half hour. Something like Tetris – they spin blocks and fill in the blanks.

An employee’s day is different. They need to create, build, develop. But before that, they need to think. The most effective way for them to allocate time is in full-day or half-day blocks. Even a simple 30-minute meeting during a “day of work” can have a disruptive effect.

We all need to be employees.

Okay, that’s a great idea! I will… well… later, anyway… I’m just late for a meeting.

No. It’s not gonna work that way. The only way to change things is to be purposeful. Start a deliberate implementation. You need to be clear about when you reserve “time to work” on your project. We did a little experiment on this topic, and here are the results:

  • The control group was asked to try this technique “sometime next week”. 29% of participants were able to complete the task.
  • Experimental group #1 received the same request, along with detailed information about why it was important (e. g., “you will die if you don’t do it”). 39% did well.
  • Experimental group #2 received the same request, but their participants were also asked to choose a specific place, day, and time on their own. 91% coped.

Take care to protect “time to work” within your calendar by understanding where and when you will be working and, ideally, what you will be working on. And then it will all work out.

Well, then I can schedule it… let’s say Friday night, okay. Just after all the meetings?

Actually, no. Many of our meetings need to be shorter and involve fewer people, and some just aren’t necessary. Better to use those hours as your “time to work.” But don’t put everything off until Friday night – the time you choose matters. The graph of your energy level during the week resembles a wave. Let’s look at this with a concrete example.

Try to do the following:

  • Monday: Energy returns to you after the weekend – schedule not too time-consuming tasks like goal setting, organizing and planning.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday: Energy peaks – tackle the most significant tasks, writing, brainstorming, and allocating your “time to work.
  • Thursday: Energy starts to decline – schedule meetings, especially when you need to find consensus on something.
  • Friday: Lowest level of energy – work on tasks with no specific deadline, do strategic planning and networking.

Always schedule “time to work” closer to the morning, before decision fatigue sets in (this usually happens closer to noon). Leave the afternoon for more mechanical tasks.

My new task for you: create and protect your “time to work”. Before you decide to take someone else’s time, find out if it will interfere with your colleagues’ “time to work”.

I have “time to work” on my calendar. Please don’t assign me anything on top of it and I promise that I will try not to schedule anything on top of yours.

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