21 sept. 2009

Just as you should have an organized work space, you should also design your time, develop a time design for your work. I know that I am vastly inefficient in some respects, but still manage to get things done. If you are relatively inefficient, then even a modest change can be significant. If you are already 98% efficient, on the other hand, changes are less likely to make a difference. What I'm suggested here is that you change from your 20% efficiency rate to about a 40%.

My basic time design is to pre-crastinate on Sunday evening. (pre = before; cras = tomorrow). I make a list of things to do Monday morning, and then, if I can, I do a few things before Monday morning. Then, Monday, I do as many things as early in the morning as I can. I teach on Monday till 5:20, so I just fill the day with useful tasks as much as possible and don't do anything productive after 5. Tuesday, I work until about noon. Then, I do another pretty intense day on Wed. Thursday, Friday, Sat., I do specific tasks, read and reflect on things, but don't put in solid whole days of work. Then I begin again on Sunday.

A few general principles:

Efficient work is oriented toward tasks rather than time. What is better: working 2 hours and getting five things done, or working 7 hours and getting about 3 or for 4 things done? Since tasks expand to fill the time alloted, it is better to allot less time rather than more to any particular set of tasks.

Ever notice how service is worse in a restaurant when it's not busy? Being more busy increases efficiency. Your server will bring you the food faster if she has 10 tables full of customers. Of course, this principle only works up to a certain point. With 30 tables you will never get fed.

If I get an article to review I tend to do it right away. I open the envelope and start reading the article. The next day, first thing, I write up the review. The more tasks that can be handled that way the better. The explanation is a rather obvious one: you lose time by having to refresh your memory and approach the task three or four separate times over the space of a month. You also clear mental space by not having as many things hanging over you, and save time by not having to keep track of extra tasks.

Many things are quite dull. Filling out a conflict of interest form, ordering a parking sticker, etc... I do dull tasks like that as quickly as possible.

Laziness is the friend of efficiency. Inefficient work is much harder to do, because time and energy is wasted on avoiding work. The fact that I am lazy, then, makes me want to be more efficient.

6 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

What about work that's supposed to reflect consideration over time? E.g. book reviews, memoirs, essays...

Jonathan dijo...

Memoirs are not written in a day.

Elisa Gabbert dijo...

Wow, you are using my precrastinate term! That's great.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, and I should have credited you for it but I didn't remember whose term it was. Thanks for the reminder.

Elisa Gabbert dijo...

I can see why it would be easier for me to remember than you. You're the only person I know of who has picked it up despite other attempts to popularize it.

Jordan dijo...

That helps. Thanks.

I've heard it said that the first hour is the most valuable - and that it's very dangerous to give that hour to e-mail instead of the task at hand...