How many times have you found yourself driving home from work wondering what exactly you got done that day? How many times in a day do you get interrupted by others asking, “Do you have a quick sec?” which is really a 10-minute conversation that leads to scheduling another meeting for time that you don’t have.
Coming from a university/school setting and switching to an eight-hour day job here at Concurrency, has been a learning experience in managing time, priorities, and projects. To help me with this, I was recommended to read Dominica DeGrandis’ book Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow. This book focuses on “the real crime of the century – time theft.” She provides various solutions to make gaining back your time, and therefore your money, simple and easy to understand. These five “time thieves” that she identifies are the most common areas as to why work does not get done in a day. They include but not limited to:
- Too Much Work-In-Progress (WIP)
- Unknown Dependencies
- Unplanned Work
- Conflicting Priorities
- Neglected Work
By reading this book, I saw the clear thieves in my daily life and learned how to defend myself from them in my school and work life.
As mentioned before, having working at Concurrency has been an experience for me in regards to time management. I come into work and immediately I have a list of things to do ranging from project work, technical training, and other internship program assignments. Here is where I identified my first thief, Too Much Work-In-Progress. With these various outlets of work to do I gained a backlog of things that needed to get done, and sometimes were not getting done as fast as I would have liked. I also began to mildly stress out about my list. After reading this book however, I saw how useful the Kanban system works in helping to sort out that list. I thought to use this system in my own list as a way to ease my stress and to really focus on the most important things that needed to get done first. Project work comes first as it is billable time, so I set aside the first half of my day working on those tasks. Next, I looked at what needed to get done after that had some urgency after the projects. So I focused on some technical training work to keep up with my training plan provided to me by my project champion. Lastly, I worked on scheduling time to look over my other internship program assignments such as blog writing and the passport program. I used those as fillers for time when urgency on projects weren’t high or were dependent on something else. Using the Kanban system has really helped to ease the stress of work life and has given me a different perspective at how to work in the office.
When it comes to my school life it can be difficult to balance and prioritize between class, studying, and extra curriculars. After reading this book there have been multiple times where I found myself identifying just exactly where those five “time thieves” consistently pop up. One major thief is conflicting priorities. My schedule is consistently changing and never simple. Whether I am meeting someone for lunch or meeting to study with someone, there’s always something that I have to cancel in order to get things done. I don’t want to brag but I get stopped on the street a lot, and during those times I am always saying “we should hang out sometime!” Now normally this is something generic people say to be nice, but then they message me to schedule a time. It’s times like those that also add unplanned work to my schedule. Another thief that effects my school life is neglected work. When it comes to finals time, life can get pretty hectic. There’s homework that still needs to be done, essays that are half written, and three exams that are within one day of each other. Prioritizing is one of the hardest things to do in that situation because even when you’re doing one assignment your brain is still focused on the long list of things that you still need to get done. Personally, my mind scatters when I have a long list of things to do, making it very hard to stay focused on the task at hand. This then causes me to jump from assignment to assignment, and in turn I neglect my work. Now that I have identified some of the most prominent time thieves, I will be working on bettering my prioritization of my schedule and to not neglect my work by using one of DeGrandis’ suggestions. That being a Kanban system. I believe that by using a Kanban system it will help me to organize my thoughts and see my plan for the weeks work rather than a simple list. It will also allow me to see the high priority tasks easier as well.
The workplace and school life are both riddled with the work of time thieves. The important part is to identify them and really do something about it, and to not just say “yeah that’s exactly what happens!” and then continue on doing the same thing. Change doesn’t happen by just talking. Dominica DeGrandis’ book is something that everyone should read no matter what occupation because everyone has problems with time management one way or another.