04/09: Welcome to"Coffee talk". This week - Time management

time-management
calendar
coffeetalk
time

#1

Welcome to the first “coffee talk” thread on the Asana Community. This was an idea put forward by @Alexis. In this thread we can discuss productivity in general (i.e. not necessarily Asana related). It’s meant as a casual discussion, everyone welcome.

I’ve been “volun-told” to go first :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: So here we go…

I’m aware of two main schools of thought when it comes to time management and using your calendar:

  1. A Getting Things Done (GTD) enthusiast would argue that the calendar should be used for time sensitive events and appointments only e.g. meetings, scheduled phone calls etc. In other words, tasks do NOT belong on your calendar.

  2. Then there’s the “time blocking” approach where you use your calendar to plan and block out time for working on tasks.

I personally fall into this second category but I know that a lot of people either don’t like time blocking or they call into this first category.

What are your thoughts on time management and the roll that a calendar plays in this?


#2

haha love it! This is an awesome thread. Excited to see what people say.

I think the calendar is a powerful accountability tool for time management. I use the time blocking approach to spend my time. I find that using a method like GTD, while super useful for some, is too time consuming in itself for me. So, I just block off my calendar with what I want to get done and follow through. I can be as specific as ~specific task~ or as loose as ~My Tasks~ as an indication to myself that I need to go down my My Tasks list. When I’m trying to be extra mindful, I’ll also block off the time on my calendar after the fact to have a record of what I actually did.


#3

Great, I like the idea of having a general theme e.g. “MyTasks”


#4

I do it very similar plus a weekly quick analysis if I spend enough time on the things which are really important to me.
Moreover, I block time in advance of the week for sports, friends and family to make sure that no “important” meeting gets between me and what is really important :family_man_woman_girl_boy:


#5

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen!

One of the things I notices is that the more granular my tasks are, the more I need to block time on the calendar to work on certain areas. Because my title could easily be “Jack of all trades”, I assign each time reserved on the calendar for a specific area I manage. This helps me being more focussed. Another advantage to this approach is that people can see I am booked up and they cannot schedule meetings in those specific times.

As @Sebastian_Paasch I tend to pre-book personal time in the calendar to make sure I make time for non-work related moments!


#6

I always find it super interesting learning about the work habits of others.
Personally, I would block off time dedicated for a specific task, but before I’d go out and execute on it, I would have a short planning phase where I break it down into smaller subtasks within it.
I feel this helps pave the way towards completing the larger tasks, while having “small wins” along the way.

:coffee::+1:


#7

I usually only put definite appointments in my calendar, unless I have a particularly important task and I don’t want to be disturbed, but that’s not very often. I generally keep all of my tasks separate, in Asana.

When it comes to organising my workload, I don’t like the idea of having to follow a strict order. I’d prefer to have 3 or 4 things to do in one day, then decide on the day in which order I’d like to do them. That leaves a bit of flexibility for if I’m not in the mood for one thing, or need a caffeine boost before starting another. If I meticulously blocked out time for tasks, I’d only end up shifting things around and putting them back anyway.

Now that I think about it, I tend to have quite a loose approach. As long as everything gets done by the deadline, I like the freedom to dip in and out as the mood takes me.


#8

I definitely work more along the lines of @Mark_Hudson’s method. Prior to Asana, I was using a pen & paper Productivity Planner which encouraged the 5 daily tasks method with timed intervals but the focus was completing the 3 major tasks of the day. That has worked better for me than anything so far (in relations to focus, not pen & paper. :wink: .)

I’m curious, for those blocking off time - do you find this correlates better with those who telecommute or work in an office? For me, simply blocking off time on a calendar would not stop interruptions. Often, even closing my office door doesn’t.

Also, regarding blocking off time - when you are working on task 1 and you’ve completed the allotted time but you’re not finished with the task, do you stop and move onto the next task?
I personally have “tunnel vision” on tasks. I really don’t like to stop until the task is complete if I can and especially if I have good creative momentum going.

I like @Eyal_Ronel’s step of breaking down larger tasks. I do have to do this sometimes too because I have the mentality of “oh, I’ll just knock out these smaller tasks and get them off my plate so that I can then really focus on big task.” But the problem with that is that the smaller tasks never go away. More just keep getting added and then suddenly, big task is way behind schedule and I start feeling extremely stressed. Then at some point, I have to “eat the frog.” Asana is really helping visualize the break-down.


#9

Moreover, I block time in advance of the week for sports, friends and family to make sure that no “important” meeting gets between me and what is really important :family_man_woman_girl_boy:

Same! I actually have a lot of this set up to repeat so that I don’t have to manually create these appointments each week.


#10

@Mark_Hudson and @Crystal_Alifanow although my time blocking approach may seem strict, I will move events around and update my calendar on the fly as I progress throughout the day. Not only to keep an accurate record of how long tasks took, but I’ll also move things around as more urgent work comes up i.e. it can be flexible if needed


#11

For me it is not about where I work (I work from home or from anywhere actually), and it is not even blocking a calendar time for a specific task. It is more reserving time to dedicate to a specific group of tasks. All of this is extremely flexible in my case. If I have a task which is taking longer, that has the priority over the calendar. I guess for me it is more a case of helping my discipline.

When I had less granular tasks, it was easier. Having multiple small tasks coming from different team mates, I need to focus on one group at a time.


#12

Thank you for introducing me to the phrase ‘eat the frog’! :frog: :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


#13

I work according the GTD-principle and do not have tasks in my agenda. I only have things in there that have a specific date/time (deadlines etc.) or meetings.

Reading one of the blogs of Paul Boag https://boagworld.com/digital-strategy/finding-time/#17 I might reconsider putting some blocks in my agenda for working on specific tasks/projects. (btw, this blog has 31 other interesting points)

As for using Asana for GTD:

  • I check / set 3-5 tasks on today (due date and Tab+Y) that I will be working on that day
  • I name my tasks according the desired outcome: i.e. sketched this outline, produced this image, etc.
  • My weekly maintenance is project with weekly recurring tasks (neat feature in Asana)

I used to work with tags for ‘later/maybe’ or ‘next actions’ etc, but I find the ‘new’, ‘today’, ‘upcoming’ and ‘later’ categories in ‘my tasks’ just as helpful.

Considering updating your project, is one of my favourite (new) things that is now in Asana. Although it is in my checklist for the weekly maintenance, having Asana prompt me to consider updating a long forgotten/inactive project is really nice.

Just my 2 cents.


#14

I block time off in my tasks for two reasons:

  1. When I need to signal to my team that I need some uninterrupted work time to do something that can’t be done during fragmented time. This won’t keep them from instant messaging (I change my status on IM to Do Not Disturb if the time is really sacred) but it cannot prevent having my time fragmented into a zillion pieces by calls and meetings.
  2. When I need to get myself to focus on something and am struggling, especially if I’m starting to get behind in things. Having the time in my calendar increases my commitment, but it also makes me aware of just how much time I think I need to complete the task. I have a tendency to be overly optimistic and then panic when I realize there is too much left to do in the allotted time.

#15

For time management on tasks:

  • I block off time on my calendar so that my team knows that I’m focused on a client or project.
  • I snooze my Asana Inbox so that I am not easily distracted.
  • I track my time on Harvest so hold myself accountable to only working on the task at hand.

#16

Hello everyone! First post on the forums, glad that other people talk about this stuff! Question, especially to @paulminors, I love the idea of time-blocking and especially being about to look back and see what I’ve accomplished. It clears my conscience of feeling like I’m not doing enough. And I love Asana for its flexibility and making sense of all the tasks I need to accomplish. How do you put both asana and time blocking together? It seems like if I time block the tasks to get done for the day, even allowing for flexibility, I don’t need to refer to Asana for the next thing to do unless I finished my time blocks early. I’m asking because I’m still in the stage of developing my workflow. Asana would be very useful for the phase of actually assigning time blocks but after that, it seems like primary reference would come from the calendar instead of Asana. How do you work these two together?

Would love to hear from anyone else as well!


#17

Hey @Josh_Redd great question! Yes, you’re right, you could just be looking at your calendar. However, I still rely on Asana as not every task is on my calendar. e.g. small stuff that takes a few minutes doesn’t get blocked. Also, Asana is used for planning on a daily/weekly basis so you still need to refer to it when work enters your “inbox”


#18

That makes sense. I suppose that would be really helpful for a team, which Asana is obviously geared toward. I didn’t really think about that as an individual user. If only there was one program to do it all and one ring to bind them…