Written by our superstar Technical Support Specialist, Johnny Lagow
Time is a precious commodity in our lives that we often realize too late has already slipped through our fingers. We are left in a daze of worry as to where the past day, month, or year has gone.
In a monochronic culture such as our own, we are expected to perform tasks in a linear fashion, with lateness simply being tolerated and reinforced by the phrase “Time is money.” From my high school career to my college years, I have found that my own scheduling betrays this system, making it difficult to meet deadlines or arrive at a solution without also being late to the party. As time has gone on, I have realized the necessity of adapting to stricter time management but found it difficult to discover an effective method of accomplishing this.
As a college student, before joining the TheraPlan team, I tried to cut blocks of time out of the day, designating specific periods of work or relaxation:
5:00PM – 6:00PM: Calc 2 Homework;
6:00PM – 7:30PM: Write Fiction;
7:30PM – 8:30PM: Clean House…
As I applied this schedule to my daily routine, it became increasingly evident that this model would not work long-term, as I often became more engrossed in some tasks and their allotted time would override others. On top of this, my interest in tasks would wane and wax from day to day, and an allotted block of time dedicated to homework or hobbies could easily devolve into blankly staring at a book or computer screen.
Cut to February 2018. After an incredible amount of time wasted during my exploration of failed time management methods I found employment at TheraPlan. Here, we have a fast-paced development environment in which a flurry of tasks makes time management a must. I knew I needed to find something to hold me accountable. My first attempt involved the Pomodoro Technique, in which a timer is set for 25-minute work intervals with five-minute breaks in between. (There are such timers available as both web-based systems and phone applications.) Unfortunately, I found that the break intervals served only to literally break my concentration, and the work intervals were much too short for the tasks I needed to complete.
My next discovery was the one that stuck. I downloaded a time management app called Forest, which offered an interesting solution to my scheduling and concentration blocks. Using the app is simple: select a block of time (10-minute increments) and a type of tree you would like to grow, then get to work. If you exit the app, the tree will die. However, if you are successful in working until the time is up, you will be rewarded with a fully-grown tree sitting in a digital plane like a towering trophy (which you can name)!
I’ve found this method of time management to be both flexible and rewarding. I quickly adopted it not only during my days at TheraPlan, but also out of the office. I like that I can cut my work day into chunks: an hour for development, thirty minutes for database review, etc. At home, I can allocate an hour of cleaning the house and another hour for personal writing. At the end of the day, I am rewarded with an expression of my productivity: an entire forest, each tree representing a task I was able to accomplish without much interruption.
Of course, the most difficult question then becomes: How do you rank items in order of importance and allot the correct amount of time? For me, this question will always be answered in terms of deadlines. Does a bug in TheraPlan need to be rectified within a week? Schedule an hour of time now. How about another item that is required in two months? Schedule 15 minutes a day.
What about fitting in TheraPlan support calls? This will always be the only exception to my loyalty to the time management app. At TheraPlan, we take pride in our high-quality, unlimited customer support, and continuously strive to improve the user experience. If we are working on an important software development item (even one that is due that very same day), we will gladly set it aside immediately to work on a client’s issue.
I hope that I may have introduced you to an interesting method of time management that can help increase your day-to-day productivity. Those of us in the software development world aren’t the only ones who can benefit from paying better attention to how we use our time!