In a world full of tools, frameworks, tutorials, articles, code editors, and Github, there is still one resource that is more important to the web professional than any other… time.
Time is the ultimate resource.
The problem with time is that it’s difficult to manage and no one has a way of creating more of it. People usually discuss time management in the context of using techniques, apps and strategies to speed up your work, but that’s where we all get it terribly wrong.
It’s not only about working faster. Sometimes it’s about not working at all.
Time has this controlling dichotomy of uptime versus downtime and distraction versus focus. There is a science to managing time that also means managing energy. In order to get what we need out of our profession, our lives, and our passions, we’ll need to master how we use our time.
Here are the areas I’ve been focusing on lately to better manage my time, downtime, work and energy:
To get the most out of your time it is very important to clearly understand exactly how you’re going to use it. Having a project management tool like Basecamp, Flow, or the new Goes to Work, affords you the opportunity to map out exactly what you need to do so you can get it done. Otherwise, you may find yourself like a ship without a rudder, weaving in and out of ideas and tasks without truly getting anything done.
Understand what needs to get done, reverse engineer it into actionable steps, and get to work. This will make you exponentially more productive by the time you actually sit down to do the work.
I love to read. I especially love to read about the latest around the web (It is my job as a writer and editor after all). But I have to say that removing the RSS reader apps from all of my devices was one of the best things I’ve ever done. There are enough distractions in the world as it is. We don’t need software pinging us every time someone releases a new article.
I’ve found that the best information comes from the same few sources and that the really good content will always find me through friends or Twitter.
Designated Time for Work, Email and Twitter
I’ve found that my best work comes from singular focus on the task at hand. When it’s time to work, it’s very difficult to do your best work when you’re only 40% engaged. Multi-tasking was the buzzword of the 90’s but we’ve seen where that got us. Designate separate time to work, to check email, and to check your social networks.
Checking Twitter and Email twice a day and working in solid, focused blocks of two hours has seemed to work for me best.
This seems to be a lot to ask of a web professional, but it’s amazing how much stress can be removed from your life by working offline. As I write this, I’ve turned my wifi off and I’m working strictly in iA writer. If I’m trying to think clearly and deliver a solid message, I don’t need Sparrow dinging for email, Tweetbot swooshing for DMs, or Campfire ringing in the latest animated gif (although those do bring joy to one’s life).
Working in your code editor, or gasp, Photoshop offline will help you focus and will make you feel much lighter as you try to solve the world’s problems with code.
Saying No to Projects
Getting the most out of your time isn’t always about saying what you’re going to do. Many times it means saying what you’re not going to do. I think it’s good to want to help friends or take on all of the projects you can (we need money after all), but saying no to projects actually leads to being open to better projects that are more in your favor.
The key here is being able to identify the best projects and setting the best constraints up front. Leverage your time by doing the best projects, that create the most benefit, and in the least amount of time. Talk about a win/win/win.
Spend Time with People
Many times the best thing a web professional can do is to get away from the web. Time spent with friends and family is time well spent because it increases your capacity to do more work by renewing your energy. The hardest thing for web professionals to remember is that we’re human first. There is absolutely no replacement for human love and interaction. Don’t ignore the ones you love that are all around you, to build foundation-less relationships in the virtual world.
I’ve had the great pleasure to interview and become friends with some of the best web professionals in the world. Every one of them said that their career took off when they identified what was really important and started spending more time with the ones they loved.
Spend Time Completely Free of Work
It seems counter-intuitive to say that being more productive means spending more time away from work, but working at 100% for 3 hours a day has been proven to out-produce 40% over a 9 hour workday. Our bodies and minds need to be renewed and that is nearly impossible if we’re always online and always working.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I don’t even claim to have more than five. But over the course of my thirty-three years I’ve been productive and I’ve wasted years of precious time. These strategies are what I’ve tested and that are currently working for me. Your ability to preserve your own greatest resource of time may differ, but I hope that this article has at least made you stop and consider your options.
What are some of the strategies you use to be more productive?