Remedial time management

Filed under: Tempus fugit — Jacob Welsh @ 09:12

I find myself in what I'd like to interpret optimistically as a regressive phase of that messy process of growth.

After some years of a life carefully arranged so as not to burden me with much in the way of deadlines, where I could pursue whatever line of thought or activity seemed interesting or important and at whatever length I pleased, I chose to again submit to the rigors of the time-sensitive way of being. To my younger self these had seemed unwanted impositions from above; and this could even be true, if you take "above" to mean "reality", which doesn't care in the slightest about your wants. In this messy and entropic world, the time-sensitive way is the surest way to survive, to collaborate effectively, and to make the most of the limited time each one of us gets, and is a key part of the elusive "growing up" or "getting one's act together". (I've heard it said that women tend to figure this out earlier, from biological necessity, and I tend to believe it.)

Is it any wonder, after a period of youthful indolence, that my time management skills - which I don't recall having ever been made particularly explicit, relative to their importance - have atrophied? I loaded my schedule up, and things started falling off and making messes. While time management is not my only problem, I do believe it's a big one and would like to take this time while it's fresh in mind to set down what I've learned about it thus far, and primarily for my own reference.

1. Your time is a scarce resource, like any other, but highly non-renewable in that once spent it can never be earned back, and has no substitute.

2. You can never solve all your problems. You can solve some; they will be replaced with more; eventually the small ones will accumulate, or one big one will come along, you will be unable to cope, and you will die. The choices you get are which ones you're willing to suffer with, and how vigorously you will act to keep them at bay.

3. All those tools you know you ought to be using: plans, calendars, agendas, schedules... yes, you need to use them. Take care of them and let them take care of you.

4. Scheduling works by explicitly reserving minimum time blocks for important tasks (and honoring them).

5. Don't "snowball": if you drop one thing, avoid giving up or letting it spill over to other things too.

6. Buffers: allocate extra time to allow for overruns, and all the larger when it's unfamiliar territory.

7. Expect the unexpected: make time for the unplanned opportunities or challenges that arise so frequently.

8. When things don't fit, re-evaluate correctly what the gains and losses are from a given decision.


  1. Here's to that! And look at all those 487 words of it!

    Comment by Diana Coman — 2019-11-14 @ 09:23

  2. Thanks for putting these down, I'ma re-read until I have them ingrained. I'm looking forward to witnessing how scrutinizing your time like I've known you to scrutinize code pays off.

    Comment by Robinson Dorion — 2019-11-14 @ 20:01

  3. [...] with quantity but with topic and on tech you can and do write just fine". Specifically, it's the things that flow from a driving inner necessity to express them that come most [...]

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  4. [...] time with a half-assed mess on this complex topic. Faced with a couple bad options, I'm choosing to not snowball my problems further and move on for now. May I be more productive [...]

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  5. Pushing this a bit beyond the direct concrete steps listed here because there's something important in there that seems overlooked entirely and is worth noting:

    1. Your time is a scarce resource, like any other, but highly non-renewable in that once spent it can never be earned back, and has no substitute.

    Like any other *of its sort*, meaning specifically that it's the sort of resource that will *always* be spent, it can never be saved as such - all you can ever do is to spend it better. As a result, the only option ever on the table goes along the lines of "do or fail" for any specific call and otherwise "do or die" overall.

    Comment by Diana Coman — 2019-11-29 @ 08:04

  6. An important something indeed, thank you.

    Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
    Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
    Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
    In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

    - Raleigh, re Marlowe.

    Comment by Jacob Welsh — 2019-11-29 @ 22:52

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