“Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back” -Peter Drucker
A constant among those professionals in digital marketing, IT, or accounting who I’ve talked with is they feel time is constantly slipping away as Peter puts it or it’s getting in the way. Regardless, there is a negative perception of time. I too worry about time. But why am I not more grateful for it? After all, it’s the one outlet we have to do great work.
What makes up your day? How we spend our time not only determines the outcome of our day or year, but also drives how we impact the world over the course of our lives.Let’s start with how we spend our day with two questions to ask yourself at work and outside:
1. What’s most important to your success?How long am I spending on it?
At Work How much time am I spending on the pixel depth of a footer shadow vs. the entire page information hierarchy? What will contribute more to the overall success of the project? Engineers & creatives have this tendency to get overly involved in the design or coding process — by the time that deadmau5 album hits the end after 2 hours and 20 minutes, you look up and wonder where that time went. It’s exciting to get immersed in your work, but it can easily turn into hyper-focusing on small things that don’t provide significant overall value.
At Home If kids are #1, how many hours are you involved in sports, reading to them, asking about their passions and really fostering them? And just as importantly, what’s the quality of that time? Are you constantly checking your phone at the dinner table? Is work always on your mind? You can run a similar exercise for other things in your life — God, family, friends… your startup.I find that the things I truly care about don’t stack up to commuting, Netflix, and work, which get a surprising percentage of my time.
Fragmentation of our time
The time we spend at work, with our teams, onsite with clients, and using the different mediums in which we interact through spreads our focus thin—the constant fragmentation of our time is adding busy work to our lives with only about 32% of our time dedicated to the work we love (see chart above).
Jason Fried of 37Signals talks a bit about fragmentation as well: Why work doesn’t happen at work.We used to work on one large project at a time and visit one client per day. Now with technology and the internet, we can web conference with many clients in a day and hold multiple conversations at a time with chat.For the sake of speed, we limit the depth of our interactions and design to stay busy.We need to slow down and focus.
Slow living & focus suggestions
How can you focus and spend time better to do better work? Here are some tips:
- Smaller teams, daily stand-ups so you don’t have to email or instant message each other which is a big time sync compared to face-to-face which is instant and focused. While scrum has brought smaller teams and daily stand-ups to many software companies, it doesn’t mean you should adopt the entire scrum methodology for your agency.
- Scrumfall — a hybrid of traditional waterfall client communication with internal scrum management — is as close as I like to get in the agency space.
- Eliminate distractions by closing your email and your calendar, by turning off notifications on chat, and by cleaning your desk. More focus suggestions from ZenHabits.
- Adopt the Pomodoro Technique: Work in 20/30-minute blocks of time. Take 5-minute breaks at the end of each cycle. This rhythm will help you stay focused on concrete tasks at hand.
Image: Maria Grønlund: Color My Day