Time. Friend or enemy? I go back and forth. And lately, with so many different obligations pulling at me, I've been trying to manage it better.
Some of that involves compartmentalization. That's really just a combination of scheduling time for specific tasks and then mindfully concentrating on them during that time. Simple doesn't always mean easy though, not for my monkey mind. But I'm getting better.
I've taken a hard look at my priorities, and rearranged some things. Meals are simpler. Television is practically gone. Later evenings and earlier mornings add hours to the day. I've limited time sucks like running errands, household chores, email and social networking.
Balance is paramount, though. Without it, focus turns to exhaustion and creativity dwindles. Julia Cameron's insistence that we must keep our creative wells filled comes to mind. Expending energy of any kind requires fuel. Running requires calories. Creating and thinking require images, ideas, nature and things that tease and spark the imagination. So I'm scheduling more time to read (something I had virtually given up over the last year unless it was research related). The time I spend in the gardens is meditative if I'm not worrying about something else I should be doing. Cooking mindfully is almost better than eating. And daily walks, golf, time with K and with friends -- all important.
Then there are the tools. I posted over at Mayhem and Magic a while back about how I use calendars, schedules, and other organizing techniques. But the management of time, rather than tasks, is a little different.
That's where the hourglass above comes in. I got one for my Nashville girlfriend for Christmas, and while I was at it, got one for myself. Just because it looked cool. I don't indulge in knickknacks very often, so why not? Turned out this was a very useful purchase, though.
Turning over the hourglass (which does indeed take an hour to empty) is like crawling into a time box. All I have to do for that hour is what is right in front of me. That's usually writing or editing. An hour is short enough that I don't get itchy and I don't feel guilty, and long enough I can lose myself in what I'm doing. After an hour I get up and do something else, then come back and work some more. Four or five flips of that glass allows for an awful lot of productivity. Also, there is something more right-brained about sands falling through glass than a clock ticking. Something almost comforting.
Over at The Writing Bug there's a post about The Pomodoro Technique. Essentially it's using a timer for 25 minute increments to concentrate on the task at hand. I already do something similar, using the timer on my I-Phone. I set it for twenty minutes, and then accomplish as much as I can in that twenty minutes on a particular project. I typically use it for things like household chores, weeding and yard clean up, Facebooking, reading and commenting on blogs, trimming plants, emailing or doing cooking prep. The trick is that once the timer goes off I have to stop. I got done what I got done. That's it. Time to move on.
Do you have any time managements tips and tricks to share?