Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Time Management:: Optimize It To Maximize Personal Productivity And ROI

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Every minute of your workday is an investment made in accomplishing something. 

It follows that you want to maximize your personal productivity, or ROI

This is a daunting task without a bit of old school disciplinary "no excuses" guidelines to follow in managing your time as if it were a precious but limited asset. 

In fact, YOU (yes, YOU!) are a Human Asset with only so many productive hours available to accomplish those things that are most important to you.

Your ability to manage your time -- to optimize it -- will govern your personal productivity and value to yourself as well as to your team members. 

The oft-quoted Pareto Principle states that we "invest 20% of our time to achieve 80% of our results." The key here is to find out which of those investments of time we should maximize.

The efficient utilization of all of the working hours within the space of a single day requires a knowledge of how much needs to be done and by when, as well as a timer or timing device to provide for rest breaks at regular intervals to avoid the loss of productivity, focus and creativity which comes from working at a singular task for too long.

Fatigue is the enemy of inspiration, creativity and quality. Accumulated fatigue brought about through hard-bore focusing on a single task actually makes solutions become more elusive and accumulates to negative stress -- and too much negative stress leads to burnout.

The vast majority of plane crashes and surgical failures (i.e., those where results are disastrous for a relatively routine procedure are due to Human Error; and most Human Error is due to severe lethargy (fatigue) which impairs judgment, or excessive multitasking during a process that requires full alertness and attention.  

A device or system is needed to organize your time, alert you (by an alarm) to the "overkill" hazard potential of growing cross-eyed dealing with one task, and to track (over a period) how you typically invest your time. A system of this sort can tell you a great deal about your own work priorities and patterns. Further, a tool of this sort gives you a basis to prepare personal time invested versus productivity regarding any of your work tasks. This invaluable feedback can be acted upon to change the ways in which you invest your working time.

These are the necessary attributes of any such system or tool:

1) segment your work day into small increments ("carve up your neuroses into viable doses");

2) assign tasks to each of those segments (generally anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes of concentrated, dedicated time to a single task);

3) alarm or signal you when it is time to break away from your task and rest - imposed discipline works;

4) let you know when it is time to return to your task, and which task that is;

5) let you check the finished items off of your calendered "to do" list, and to prepare for the next day's productive continuance.

My friend and colleague, RD Watkins, pointed  out my need for the utilization of an automated system for time management (seeing how I was having difficulty managing my workload), and for actually measuring how and on what activities I was investing my time. With this latter knowledge, he advised me that I'd be able, over time, to actually optimize my brain-hours to the matrix of tasks versus time that would maximize my ability to finish important projects. An elegant concept! Maximizing my own personal Return On My Time Invested.

RD's email to me regarding one such system follows:

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: RD Watkins
To: 'Douglas E Castle'
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 9:49 AM
Subject: ACTION: - Pomodoro Timer | RDWatkins

Sorry it took me an additional day to find this timer/tool for you. Simply unzip the file and double-click on the exe inside (KeepFocused.exe). This will start a small window that asks what the task is that you are going to be working on for the next 25 minutes. Then click OK to start it. The small bar can be moved to an unobtrusive corner of your screen by putting your curser over the far left-hand icon on the bar (a hand symbol) clicking down, and holding and dragging it wherever you wish it to sit. A pop-up will appear in the middle of your screen when your designated 25 minute block of work time has expired.
Links For Download:


That is the quick summary and the extent to which I have experience with this tool. I hope it helps you stick to your doctor’s recommendations and that it frees up more of your time, health and energy.
RD Watkins
MPower Brands™ Managing Partner, Executive VP, CIO/CTO
PMI Certified PMP® | IT Project+™ Certified by CompTIA

tel: 301.259.1617

Your time is your greatest asset. Why not invest it as wisely as possible? It simply requires a tool to allocate your time, to alert you as to when it is time to rest and then to resume the next activity, and a study of the the metrics generated by or derived from that tool, which become actionable data.

Taking this just a bit further, if every member of your team, division or unit were to do this with identically-coded tasks, the composite data result would give you amazing insight into which members were the best at utilization of their time in general, and as focused toward a given objective. This data could be used constructively to produce greater harmony and synergy.

Douglas E. Castle for The Business And Project Planning And Management Blog  

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