More Time In The Day
Have you ever felt that you have more things to do than you have time to do them? I feel like this all the time. I have struggled with time management my whole life. I have found some ways to make it better, but by and large it is a constant struggle. I can still see a difference between when I started to attempt to manage my time and now, though, so it is important to keep trying. Sometimes it’s a slow change that you won’t notice until you reflect on it.
I have taken four things to heart recently that have helped me grow and accomplish more:
- Take it in Chunks
- Take Your Time
- Set Deadlines & Reminders
- Ask for Help
For a TL;DR see the bottom of the article.
I tend to take on more than I can handle at one time. I have been learning the art of taking things slow and steady. The main issue here for me is that I look at the whole picture when I am working on a problem, but I have been trying to break down the larger problem into smaller problems. By having bite sized tasks, I am able to focus on the specific issue instead of getting distracted with other parts I am not working on.
The best way I have found to accomplish this is to take some time to plan. As I am getting further and further into web development projects, I am needing to break the larger problems into smaller ones, and this will sometimes go two to three layers deep. This is not something I can do in my head, so I have found ways to keep track of these various chunks. Currently I am using Trello as my main project tool. It is a free service with paid add-ons, but I have not really needed anything more than the free tier offers. With Trello I have been able to break my larger projects out and see what I have to do in a nice view. I can come back to a section of the project and flesh it out more, and I know exactly what I need to do as I am going through it.
Trello organizes things in Boards, Lists, and Cards. Cards are the individual tasks, and are the most important part to standardize for yourself. They have power-ups that let you add additional functionality, but you only get one in the free version. I have been using the Google Drive power-up and it accomplishes most of my needs. I can attach documents, photos, or anything in my Google Drive account that pertains to the task. This has been extremely helpful in organizing these Dev Diaries on my website, enhancing my website itself, client projects, and more. The free tier is kind of limited, but it works great for simple tracking and helps you stay on top of things.
There are tons of web based services out there like this, but you can also keep track of this in a spreadsheet, a text document, handwritten notes, etc. The medium of keeping track is not as important as just keeping track in general.
Taking your time ties into taking things in chunks but is more focused on the quality of your work. I find that I tend to rush through things because I am focused on the end goal. Knowing where you want to end is not a bad thing, but it really is about the journey. I have been slowing things down lately and focusing on one thing at a time. I find that when I do this I am more deliberate in what I do. I may also find that something doesn’t fit as I am working on it and that it needs to be reworked. Because I’m focused on this small chunk instead of the end goal, it is easier to manage.
When working on a project, sometimes the scope of the entire project gets distracting and causes time to be used inefficiently. By taking the smaller chunk, and taking my time with that chunk, I produce a higher quality outcome faster than I would have otherwise. When the task is more manageable, it is easier to focus. I have found a few things, working with WordPress, that I wanted to dive further into. I took some time to find a training on LinkedIn Learning that dealt with the subject. I used to just Google Search it until I found a workable solution, but this did not always yield the best results and it wasn’t helping me learn to solve the problem. Though the training may sometimes take longer than just finding the answer, the information applies to more than just the current task I am working on. I’ve also had later tasks use information from a training I went through, so I had to spend less time finding a solution for future tasks.
I have found that by taking my time, being more methodical in my approach, and focusing on the task at hand in that time, yields a higher quality product faster. It is not easy for me, as I have always been one to tackle the entire problem all at once, but doing it that was was wholly ineffective and inefficient.
Now, none of this will matter if you don’t actually complete the project. One thing that used to get me stuck was not setting a firm (or firm-ish) deadline for myself. You can, and most likely will, sit on projects without a deadline. It sounds simple enough, but in practice is a bit more difficult. I am one who likes creative endeavors, but I have found that a lot of my ideas or projects have gone unfinished in the past. It wasn’t so much of an issue with committing to the project as it was getting lost in it and feeling overwhelmed.
By planning out my projects and taking my time, it has become easier to set and stick to deadlines. Especially for my own projects where I am not relying on outside sources for content or information. This is a bit of an art, and I was woefully off when I first started, but I am getting more accurate in my estimates as time goes on. Trello has helped with this because you can set a due date for each card, but I have also used Tick Tick, which is a To-Do list application on mobile and desktop. This is what I originally used (and still do for certain tasks), but having an all-in-one platform like Trello has been a huge help.
Setting reminders for these tasks at intervals or various stages is a huge help, especially if you are working on a project with a team. Having the deadline is great, but if you are not working on the tasks when they need to be worked on things pile up and you will be behind schedule fast. Fine-tuning your workflow and system will ensure you are completing everything on time. With the free version of Trello there is only one reminder option, so once or twice a week I’ll go through all my tasks and see what needs to be completed. It is essentially a re-calibration to get me back on track.
Asking for help has always been a hard thing for me to do. I am a very independent person and like to figure things out on my own. On the whole, this is not a bad thing, but when I get stuck on something I tend to spend too much time on it. At times, this has caused me to get behind schedule or to be delayed.
The key here is to know your limits. One thing I learned when I was working in call center operations was to “know what you don’t know.” There is a matrix of “questions” and “answers” for known and unknown data. I have seen it in business and leadership articles, but it really stood out to me in that role. One of my coworkers told me you want to live in the space of knowing what you don’t know, that way you know what you need to work on or figure out. There will always be things in the other quadrants, but you want to move more and more into that space. To me, this has been knowing my limits. If you don’t know what your limits are then you will not be able to improve or grow.
Once you know your limits and gaps in knowledge you can start working on them. There will be things that may be too difficult to learn on your own, and I have run into this many a time. This is where asking for help really comes into play. Having a community or group that is knowledgeable in the field you are working in is an invaluable resource. You need to be able to ask questions of those who are more knowledgeable and can help you. I have found online communities to be great, but it can also be coworkers who have been in the role longer than you. Personally, I have been involved in a few subreddit groups for web development and design, and it has been an amazing help.
The main point here is to know the questions you need to ask and have someone you can bring those questions to. It is not a weakness to ask for help, but it shows great strength in being humble and coming to those more knowledgeable for help.
These are all principles I try to apply daily. I am not perfect in them, but I am always striving to improve. One thing I have learned recently from Jim Kwik’s podcast is that teaching something to others helps you remember it yourself. I am hoping that by writing these articles I can help others to grow, but it’s also to help me remember these things myself.
TL;DR & References
- Take it in Chunks
- Focus on one task at a time.
- This allows for better planning and execution of a project.
- If you look at the whole project all the time you will miss details and lose efficiency and effectiveness.
- Take Your Time
- Take each task and focus on it.
- Don’t be afraid to find external resources/trainings to dive into a topic further.
- Focus on the journey and each task individually, not the whole project. You will get lost and distracted otherwise.
- Set Deadlines/Reminders
- Don’t be afraid to overestimate or underestimate in the beginning. Creating deadlines is an art.
- Set reminders for tasks to keep track of them. Setting them at various stages or intervals is helpful.
- It is good to recalibrate periodically to make sure everything is in order.
- Ask for Help
- It is good to figure things out on your own, but don’t get stuck
- Know the limit on when you need to ask for help
- Find a group or community you can ask questions to help out when you get stuck