Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time management self checklist

A lot of students have problems in doing work efficiently. One root cause is on bad time management. The following talk video by Randy Pausch could be useful to watch:

Here are the slides and materials for the talk:

If you complain about you don't have enough time in getting your work done, do a simple book-keeping on how you spend your time: handling emails, handling text messages, handling IM chats, browsing through or commenting/status-updating at facebook, twittering, watching TV, doing actual real work... Then sum up the portion of time allocated on each type of activities, you could find out some insights and figure out what do to to fix those issues...

Walking through the key points mentioned in Randy's talk, I make the following check list for reflecting what I have done well and what I have done badly. They may be boring to you (if so, stop reading them:) but writing the list down actually helps myself to reflect my time-management habits.

++ I don't have a messy desk (I used to have in my first year of new faculty life)
++ I can find things easily (heavily relying on google but knowing what appropriate search keywords to use, indexed in my mind)
+- I don't miss appointments unless sometimes they are in too early morning (don't arrange your defense in early morning unless you send a reminder to me the night before!).
++ I am normally prepared for my meetings (but the critical factor is my students need to be prepared when meeting with me).
-+ I sometimes am tired/unable to concentrate (but there I often drifted my thinking to some great research ideas)
++ I do planning (more precisely, I am deadline driven)
++ I have a todo list being my "Tasks" in my gmail but there I list only long-term tasks and I treat the emails in my inbox as my todo list)
- I need to do better on "Covey’s four-quadrant TODO": I tend to focus on things due soon (no matter important ones or not)
+- I do touch each piece of email once but I indeed consider my inbox as my TODO list (not seeing too much the negative side of it)
+ I don't call that much so the issues on reducing call duration don't apply to me.
++ I have a comfortable office (not messy and not with a soft comfortable chair)
-- I too much rely on my email inbox for my todo list and I don’t make time enough for important things.
+ I learn to say "No" reasonably well.
- I don't easily find out my creative/thinking time (maybe being late at night). But I don't tend to use such time to do creative thinking. I do creative thinking often when meeting with students; the meeting times may not overlap with my creative/thinking time but I do call students to my office for meetings whenever I like (of course when they are in the lab) rather than arranging fixed time.
- I don't easily find my dead time (maybe morning) so I don't do specific things during it such as scheduling meetings, phone calls, and mundane stuff.
-- I have big problems with interruptions with email "ding" arrivals; I still don't want to turn it off.:( So I rarely have too long blocks of time in devoting to things without email interruptions unless the deadlines for the things are immediately upcoming.
-- I don't tend to cut things short like when chatting with colleagues unplanned at hallway or my office. I do have a desk clock on my desk but the time there is not accurate and I rarely look at it.
-- I don't have a time journal so I cannot analyze it. But I do think about and focus on what things I could do but others couldn't easily (or are not good at). I do often think about how to do things more efficiently.
-- I don't have work-life balance (yet) -- more precisely not much life yet.
-- I am not too much on procrastination but I am a last-minute person (very likely because my todo list is often not short).
+ I am doing fine with delegation such as letting students manage group matters and take group roles, not to say training them how to write papers and carry out research (being maybe a type of delegation of paper writing or research development?). But I am a bit cautious on delegating some tasks to my students unless they get fair recognition/benefits that they deserve.
- I don't have too many meetings with colleagues but I do have frequent meetings with students (where students need to have an agenda beforehand and need to to have a todo list for upcoming period as meeting outcomes).
-- I read frequently my emails over "vacation". Need to stop that!
- I watch TV while working before my laptop for some time at nights. I still don't want to cut off my TV watching time, which is not much each week (I need some time off anyway).
- I don't normally turn money into time (after all, I don't have that much money while still having some spare time). Instead, I may pursue more on turning time into money.:)
+ I normally eat well, sleep well, and exercise ok (but I need to keep it up regularly.. now it time for me to go to gym since I am reaching the end of my blog entry)
+ I normally keep up my promise.


  1. One question, how do you handle if your students prioritize tasks that eventually effect you differently than you would like them to?

  2. @Adrian Such situations happen. What I could do is to realize and resolve such prioritization differences early on. For example, before the end of each one-on-one meeting, the student who is meeting with me needs to tell me their todo list for the upcoming week, etc.

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  4. thanks for sharing mate! Time Management is really essential...could save your career, family, or even a relationship…