If you Google “time management,” the result is a potpourri of tips and tricks for better ways to manage your time. You know, fix your to-do list. Stop answering emails right away. Don’t procrastinate. In short, most of what you find implies that we struggle with time management because we lack adequate self-control to stay off of Facebook, to not spend time gossiping in the hallway, to prioritize our activities. We get advice to try OmniFocus or Remember the Milk or some other system for maintaining your to-do list, which I affectionately refer to as my list of unachievable tasks. Please note that I specifically identified these two systems because I have failed using each of them. There’s your true confession for tonight. Well, that and so far Bullet Journal seems to have the best longevity for me- there’s simply something about the commitment of writing things down that seems to help me. Maybe it’s that as a Generation Xer I’m not actually a digital native. Maybe it’s that I love being able to use different color pens for difference domains of my life. Maybe I just like my handwriting. Regardless, I have a hard time believing that any struggle I perceive with my own time management reflects a personal failure.
I’ve been contemplating the whole time management issue quite a bit lately, mostly because I am acutely aware that I have days when I’m wildly productive and then I have days like…well, today. I promised I would get part of a manuscript written; I didn’t (sorry, Sarah). I intended to get some administrative stuff finalized for the clerkship; I didn’t (this might get done tomorrow). I did make it to three meetings, handled two conference calls, and did some great self-care (including a long dog walk this morning, a good weight workout, yoga, and a massage). What I realized about today’s schedule is that I treated all of the things that I got done as the “big rocks” for the day- and honestly, they probably were for where I am right now. Though I thought about it, I didn’t book in a time to work on the manuscript or the clerkship stuff. I also ended up in a position where the times that would normally be my most productive times for those sorts of activities were not what I had available. I recognize that in academic medicine we often can’t be picky about those things, but when I’m not on clinical service I certainly try to optimize.
Last weekend’s post from Eric Barker discussed creating a system for managing time and activity. While he says it’s a schedule, there’s room for individual variation. Most importantly, as I read it I realized that everything he mentions is the stuff that I do when I’m at my productive best.
And because of Tip #5, that’s all I have for tonight. I’m going to relax and read, maybe head out for another dog walk before bedtime. That manuscript section is priority #1 for tomorrow, and it will be my first work task.