As the number of women involved in technical fields increases, it is essential for us to have efficient time management skills in order to successfully balance our hectic and constantly-evolving technology careers with a satisfactory family life. In this article, I have compiled my own personal knowledge acquired over three decades as a female technologist.
When I was a young girl, I often had an abundance of free time and would become easily bored. Now, however, my life mantra seems to be more like “I have no time for X” - for countless things.
Time is a valuable asset. It is not possible to generate more time, unlike money which can be made. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to overlook this fact. Let’s explore some of my strategies to manage time efficiently.
1: Priority is Singular Did you know that the original meaning of the word Priority meant the first or the only thing? There were no “many” priorities. However, over time, we’ve turned it into a laundry list or more accurately, a To-Do list.
Having a singular priority can help focus us on the most important thing.
But Barkha - I have more than one thing to do today - you say.
The way I handle this is by setting up blocks of focus time. So, let’s say that at work I have one priority and many other things that need to be done. I block out time for one thing first, then go to the others as time allows.
If you are like me, though, you may be juggling more than one project at a time, and worrying about the other projects while working on one. My solution to this is to focus on one project per weekday. This way, I know that the other things will get done, I have a focus day coming - and I can get single-minded about the project at hand.
2: Purge is Good You cannot add anything to a full container. To add to the container, you may need to remove some stuff.
Do me a favor - reflect on your last week and tell me how much time did you spend on things that are important vs. things that are just “busy” work?
The reality is that the most productive person in the world has the same number of hours in a day as the least productive, and most of us are somewhere in the middle. One way I optimize time is to monitor where my time goes and eliminate as much “busy” work as I can each day. And, trimming the fat once is not enough. So, I plan my week, review my week and also review each day to see how I can optimize for not “wasting” time.
A note on waste: I only focus on those things I truly regret. There are many things I do daily such as watching TV and playing games - that I enjoy! I do not eliminate those - I gamify those. I reward myself with playtime after I have accomplished my planned activities.
Life without some downtime could get oppressive.
3: Recovery is Essential Speaking of oppression…
How much rest do you need to recover?
How much do you get?
Athletes take time off from working out AND actively recover under medical supervision. We accept that peak performance needs active recovery when it comes to certain groups of people. Why not you?
The advent of wearable tech has made it easier to track metrics on sleep, recovery and much, much more. Trackers are not just for your “steps” but also for how well you have rested and how much you have recovered.
Making recovery an active part of your time management will add to your time, not remove it.
4: Schedule is Your Friend Remember back when we all had to drive to work? Did you ever try to maximize your commute by listening to something useful? I used to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
The funny thing is, since I started work, I seem to have lost that time!
It was easy to complete several audiobooks when the commute forced me to schedule it. Left on my own, it’s like that time is now wasted.
So what is stopping me from just scheduling 30 minutes each day to listen to a book? it’s my mind - worrying about x or y or everything I ever need to do.
I get around this by putting most of my life on a calendar. When the reminder tells me to listen to an audiobook - I get out of my home office and walk into my backyard to listen to my audiobook. When I have a meeting, I take care of it. But I also schedule time for work, time to check messages, time for cooking etc., etc.
This way, I am never worried about my to-do list - since it’s on my calendar - or not that urgent.
Conclusion Women in the tech industry often experience a great deal of pressure. Despite the many technological breakthroughs and the dynamic workplace environment, I wouldn’t exchange my profession for anything else. That said, I’m conscious of the need to make efficient use of my time and strive to do so.
Having proper control over my schedule not only keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and avoids burnout, but it also gives me more opportunities to enjoy the things I love - technology!
Time optimization is just as important to me as optimizing any code or architecture I work on, and I’m always striving to improve. These are some ideas to help you get the most out of your time - try them out and let me know how it goes!