Time Management From the Inside Out

I pride myself on ability. I’m good at most of what I do. Not because I only do what I am good at, but because I get good at what I do. One area has always escaped me, though - time management. No, chronic lateness is not my malaise and I don’t generally lack motivation to get going on things - well, except cleaning house. My problem revolves around staying on track. I have a tendency to be schizophrenic when it comes to my work; my lack of concentration can lead to some interesting developments through the day.

This generally serves me well, as my constantly changing view point allows me to see nearly every possible aspect of program and create a plan of attack to meet each challenge my clients will or may face with the software I develop for them. A project I am still working on has recently hit the point that it needs to start developing into a usable piece of code instead of a continually evolving framework. As this time came about, I read a magazine article in Bicycling about finding more time to ride. The tips were provided by a supposed expert in time management, Julie Morgenstern and referenced her book, Time Management from the Inside Out. Finding more bike time is always good and the need to really buckle down and get this project in a workable state made head over to Barnes & Noble to get this book.

Of course, being the mega-carry-all-books under the sun kind of store that B&N is, I was able to find a copy. (And you thought I wasn’t going to get it, right?) I read through the introduction which must speak to me in order for me to invest the time necessary to read the whole book. The intro was well written, to the point, and easy to read. So me and the book made our way home. The book was an easy read - it took just over a week of an hour or so of reading each night. The whole book had a common-sensical tone and most of it fell under the “why didn’t I think of that” or “why don’t I do it that way already?” headers.

One of the tools she suggests you employ is a Time Map - the overall picture of what you want to do with your time. This isn’t the planner, it is the guide that your planner should be based on. Think of it as your personal time mission statement. This is a very individual thing, and she suggests that it stay as simple and open, or as detailed as you want. One consistent theme throughout the book is that you should build your schedule around how you work and play - your goals. Though she offers some very specific tips, each of them come in the form of instruction any good teacher would use. They each are general guidelines that you are to follow to come to your own outcome. There are no “7:15 - Get out of bed, 7:20 - Brush teeth & other personal hygiene, 7:30 - …”. This book’s advice is all very open-ended.

Morgenstern’s time management skills came from her organizing background. This “perfect” one thing and apply it to everything mentality makes this book a double bonus. The constant cross-referencing makes it easy to see how her time management and organizational skills could easily apply to other areas of your life. One obvious cross-over is the ability to manage a team based on these same principles. The chapter Purge offered some great advice for delegation, a task I sometimes find myself having to work harder than I should on.

I found this book to be well written and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to hone their time management skills. It should be required reading to anyone who is even considering team management of any sort. For me, it was best to read the book cover-to-cover and now I plan on going back through it to do the exercises. Knowing the reasons behind what I am doing and how the results will be applied, I believe my exercises will be much more productive.