Google Employee Explains How To ‘Design’ Your Time, Not Just Manage It

For many of us, there always seems to be far more to do every day than there is time to do it. Work can seem like a never-ending cycle of long meetings, urgent tasks and overflowing inboxes. Google employee, Thomas Davies shares how you should “design your time” rather than manage it. According to him, “managing” your time starts from the premise that the best you can do is to keep your workload “manageable”. The change in mindset to “designing your time” can help you see the bigger picture and might help you in the long run.

Break everything into quadrants.

Since you can write strategic plans for just about any big project, why not take the same approach for your time? Planning will help you think critically about which projects will have the greatest positive impact, instead of just coping with everything that comes your way. Davies starts by dividing his work responsibilities into four quadrants: people development, business operations, transactional tasks and representative tasks. Your four quadrants might be labeled different, but you can only have four of them.

By dividing your work into the quadrants, you will realize that not all tasks are created equal—one quadrant will have lower-value tasks, and you probably will not spend an equal amount of time working on tasks in each quadrant. This exercise is not about segregating your day into neat 25% chunks, but to help you see that if you focus on business impact and personal enjoyment, you can design what you do, rather than just doing what needs to be done.

Through this quadrants, you should be able to recognize what you actually like about your job and become more intentional about doing those things. Even if you have periods when you are immersed in doing tasks in just one quadrant, you can intentionally set aside a small amount of time to build in tasks from the quadrant you find more energizing, which would help keep you happier and more productive.

Get used to saying “no”.

Designing your time each week works best when you learn to say no to some tasks. The day is just not long enough to do every task asked of you. After breaking your work down into quadrants you can ask yourself questions like, “will my participation in this meeting really have the greatest impact on my company? Is there something else I can work on that will lead to greater results?”

Your four-quadrant system will only work if you can say “no” because it defines a hierarchy of value. Your refusing to participate in certain things is not because you simply dislike the task, but because you know that your time is better spent elsewhere. This helps you respect the time you scheduled for yourself. For instance, if you are working on a report, give yourself permission to not respond immediately to every email—this ensures that you are not simply managing your inbox, but doing so by design.

Head over here to read more about what it means to “design” your time.

[via Fast Company, image via Shutterstock]

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