Stop the thieves of time

Here are two free-to-use websites that help you manage your time, as well as some helpful information about how to use timesheets to do “job sculpting.”

The Pomodoro approach

It’s widely accepted that our attention flags after a certain amount of time (that’s why 15 minute stand-up meetings are popular). Using the Pomodoro method, you allocate 25 minutes to focus on a task or project, and then 5 minutes to take a break (check e-mail or social media, grab a coffee, etc.) The 25 minute intervals work best if you get rid of as many sources of distraction as possible. The website helps you use this method – and it’s so easy I don’t even need to describe it here.

Time sheets and job sculpting

A common source of frustration is feeling that we don’t have enough time for the things we most need or want to do. In an approach called job sculpting, managers hire and place staff by matching their areas of interest and ability to the job responsibilities.

I’ve borrowed from this approach at various times during my career. One simple exercise involves chunking my time into types of tasks, and then tracking the amount of time I spend on each type of task. This helps me stay focused on the activities or tasks that will help me succeed in my current endeavor. It also can provide documentation to help my manager or my colleagues understand how much time certain responsibilities take. Ultimately, I spend less time dithering in unproductive areas and more time focusing on the work that moves ENGIE Services U.S. forward.

But how does this work in practice?

During periods of time when I feel I need to re-focus, I use a free account at a website called My Hours.

(They don’t require you to input a credit card or any more personal information besides your name and email address).

MyHours and similar websites are intended for freelancers who track billable hours, but they can easily be repurposed to help balance your tasks at work. For example, my projects are:

Strategy / vision – any activity used to gain insight or do overall planning. Because marketers can easily get overwhelmed by executing projects, it’s important to allocate enough time to strategy.

Execution – anything related to planning and executing marketing activities (from trade show coordination to writing to meetings)

Internal communication – sharing or receiving ideas and information related to company culture or processes

I kept it as simple as possible so that I don’t have to think too much about tracking time – the point is to chunk things into general buckets and discipline myself not to get stuck in time-wasting activities.

Someone else might choose to monitor their stress levels by using Steven Covey’s categories.

  • Urgent and important
  • Important but not urgent
  • Urgent but not important
  • Neither urgent not important

Or, If you have different constituencies you’re accountable to, you can set them up as “Clients” to understand how much of your time they’re taking.

After using a time tracker for a while, you can understand how you’re spending your time, and make changes if needed. I guarantee you will be surprised.

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