Episode 204 | 9 Tactics for Aggressive Time Management

Show Notes


[00:00] ROB: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I discuss nine tactics for aggressive time management. This is Start Ups for the Rest of Us episode 204.

[00:08] Music

[00:15] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products. Whether you’ve built your first product or are just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:24] MIKE: And I’m Mike.

[00:25] ROB: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week Mike?

[00:29] MIKE: Dear Skype, you’re not actually improving my Skype experience when you just randomly upgrade in the middle of the day for an hour.

[00:35] ROB: Oh, and then the UI is different every time they do.

[00:39] MIKE: It drives me nuts. I mean I understand there are certain types of software and there’s time where you need to do it, but it seems like every single time I fire it up it’s just like, “There’s something new! Here you go. Learn it all over again.” It drives me insane.

[00:53] ROB: Yeah, that’s not cool. On a lighter note, we have pictures from MicroConf 2014 in Vegas and those are live at microconfpics.com. So if you want to check out some of the fun, speaker photos, attendee photos, and all kinds of tasty goodness, it’s over there microconfpics.com.

[01:09] MIKE: Cool. I’m upgrading my iPad to iOS 8. I read the other day that iOS 8 adoption is apparently really low and I think it would be a lot higher if it didn’t take forty-five hours to download and then midway through it decides it can’t finish the connection so it just dies.

[01:24] ROB: Did it?

[01:25] MIKE: So you have to start over.

[01:26] ROB: Forty-five hours seems like an unusually long connection. So I haven’t upgraded because I’m heading out of the country tomorrow and the last thing I needed was to either be in the middle of an update or to get an update and have it break something. And I bring multiple devices, you know, this year we decided not to bring – we pretty much aren’t bringing any physical books. Trying to bring as little paper with us as possible, just purely because we’re moving around so much in Thailand and don’t want the weight.

[01:51] MIKE: Yeah I don’t blame you. It’s nice with the Kindles, you can just put lots and lots of books on there and if you get bored you’ve got your whole library. It’s awesome.

[01:57] ROB: It’s crazy, yup. And they don’t take up much room and then the nice part is you can also put PDFs in there as well. And you can download them in advance and you don’t have to worry about – Because sometimes Dropbox will download something but then it’ll restart and nothing will be there. Whereas with the Kindle if you’ve download it into your library it should be there when you get there so that even if we don’t have internet access we should be able to practice music and do some of the independent study stuff we’re doing with one of our kids who’s in school. That should all be in tact.

[02:24] MIKE: Do you do that through the Kindle app or just through an actual Kindle?

[02:29] ROB: No we have Kindle app on iPhone and then you email the PDFs to your Kindle app address that you can get from Amazon.

[02:37] MIKE: So, the only other thing I’ve got is that I held my first webinar this past week. You know, it didn’t go nearly as well as I would have liked. I didn’t get much in terms of attendance. At the same time, I had a very short time window to promote it and I’m still trying to figure out how to promote it. That’s one of the big things that’s kind of on my list is to figure out how to start promoting the webinar because over time, I don’t want to saturate my list with the same webinar over and over again so I’ve let them know and told them and I have to figure out how to scale that up. Try to do that.

[03:05] ROB: I’ve heard a couple of approaches; the one that I hear most often is to use the Facebook newsfeed and you can actually put a short video in there. There’s one recent recording – I think it was ConversionCast – and I would listen back a couple of episodes and someone talks about promoting webinars directly using Facebook newsfeed ads which kind of talks through the process that they use and that’s where I would start if I was going to do it. I have not actually done it, but they have a lot of success with it.

[03:29] MIKE: I’ll have to take a look at that. I did try to record it using GoToWebinar’s built-in recording and they just completely mangled the entire thing. I don’t know what happened. The webinar itself went fine but then the recording itself, it was all messed up. All the transitions and stuff, it just hung up –

[03:44] ROB: Oh no.

[03:45] MIKE: And then I tried converting it to other formats thinking that was it but it’s the source that’s messed up. This past week has just been a total bust for me.

[03:52] ROB: Yeah, that’s a bummer. Do you have an alternative for recording your webinars? Are you going to try to do it through Camtasia or something?

[03:59] MIKE: I’m just going to try to do it again. If I do it again the next time I do the webinar and it doesn’t record again what I’ll do is I’ll give the webinar separately and just record it through Camtasia and that way I can polish it up a little bit. And there are services that you can use where you can send them a webinar or a podcast or something along those lines and you can have white papers and eBooks and stuff created out of them. So I have to take a look at that; I learned about it at the Business of Software so I’m going to take a look and see if I can generate some content out of that kind of thing.

[04:28] ROB: Very good. Well let’s dive into our topic for today. We’re going to talk about nine tactics for aggressive time management. A listener of the show emailed me and he said: “I just read a good article in Entrepreneur Magazine on time management in an age of information overload. This is a topic I’m very interested in because I think I lose a lot of time in my effort to be responsive. I suspect that this is something that a lot of folks in the startup tech community struggle with.” So I gave this a bit of thought and what I didn’t want to do was record an episode where we say the same things you’ve already heard about time management which is: don’t check email in the morning, only reply twice a day, take notes, and have a to do list, and all that kind of stuff. So I really wanted to try to get a little more aggressive with it and maybe talk a little deeper about some of the ways that you and I manage our time in a way that I’ve found to be more effective over the years.

[05:18] So we have nine points here and I think I’ll just dive into the first one. The first tactic is to answer email in the morning even though everyone says not to. The key here is to have the willpower to prioritize, to move things out of your email into your to do list, and to not sit there and kill two hours managing your email. Because if you lose the morning – which tends to be most people’s most productive time – then you’re doing this wrong. But over the years I’ve realized that not checking it in the morning doesn’t work for my particular work scenario because I have urgent support requests that are sometimes there, I have issues that come up that I need to triage and I need to be able to prioritize and if I try to come in and do something first that doesn’t involve email, I will often leave the most important thing until lunch time at which point it’s too late.

[06:03] MIKE: Yeah, I answer email first thing in the morning as well. I have a tendency to have a lot of emails come in overnight that I have to deal with and if I don’t deal with them then somewhere in the back of my mind there’s this little voice saying, “Hey you’ve got a ton of email that you have to do something about.” And then I’ll check it kind of periodically throughout the day but I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I do the same thing as you: I spend some time first thing in the morning, get most of my email cleared kind of out of the way, and then deal with it as it comes in throughout the day. But there’s also times when I’ll just pause my email and just ignore it for several hours at a time before I need to come back to it.

[06:35] ROB: Yeah, that’s what I do as well: I check it first thing in the morning, I triage everything, if it’s a quick reply, I reply instantly. I delete most of it, frankly, I put some of it into Trello, I try to get to inbox zero – I don’t always. And then I will just close the Gmail tab. I have no pop-up notifications, nothing that notifies me when a new email is sent. And then I’ll sit and try to get – now that I have my day prioritized and laid out, the agenda set – then I try to get at least a couple of solid hours of work in before lunch.

[07:05] MIKE: Now, do you answer emails in the evenings too or no?

[07:08] ROB: I do answer emails in the evenings but not every night. Typically if something requires a quick response, I will do it on my phone if I’m out and I’m able to check email. When I’m with my kids in the evening, I typically try to put my phone in another room so I don’t check it for a few hours, but then I will check it, let’s say eight or nine o’clock after the kids have gone to bed and if there’s something that’s either a quick response or that’s urgent I will reply. But if there’s anything that requires more thought or a little more work, then I try to triage it, get it out of the inbox so it’s set on the agenda either for the next day or for down the line. And I do use the A and the B priority stuff in Trello, so if it’s something that can wait I will kind of kick it down the line and expect to get to it in a week or two when I have time.

[07:54] Second tactic I want to talk about, which is something that I’ve already touched on a little bit, is to turn off email, Facebook, and Twitter notifications and any other social network or any other thing that can interrupt you during the day. Text messages are a big one as well. I think a big exception, of course, is if you’re kids’ school is going to call or there’s something you really have to be alerted to. But, frankly, I turn off all notifications and people know that they should text me or they should call me if it’s urgent.

[08:22] MIKE: So by Facebook and Twitter notifications you mean, you have these apps installed on your phone or your iPad or whatever and you have the notification to pop up to the screen turned off? Like the banner?

[08:33] ROB: Exactly. I know people that every time they’re mentioned on Twitter, their phone buzzes like it’s a text message. And every time that someone likes one of their posts or does something on Facebook – shares their post, I don’t know what it is, but they do something – then they get a buzz on their phone. Frankly, if you’re trying to get work done that is awful.

[08:51] MIKE: Yeah I know what you mean. I actually got to the point where I turned off a lot of them. I still have one, that prescription app I think it’s from Walgreens – Rx Reminder or something like that – and what it does is it just reminds me every two hours to drink a glass of water and the primary use of it is actually to remind me to drink eight glasses of water a day.

[09:08] ROB: Yeah, well that makes sense. And every two hours isn’t actually that bad. I have things like, obviously calendar reminders if I have a call, or if I have something where I need to be somewhere, yes, those are going to buzz because I need the reminder ten minutes before. And then if you’re doing a Pomodoro technique where you’re working in twenty-five minute stretches, obviously you need a timer or some kind of alert to alert you to the end of that. So I wouldn’t say turn off all notifications of any kind, but it’s the things that are interrupting, the things that take your focus away. What I find is that people slip in and out of this, I do as well, where sometimes I find myself just leaving my Gmail tab open because it’s like my lizard brain wants me to get distracted and it doesn’t want to sit down and do the hard work. And I have to actively think, “Close this down. Shut off the notifications, really get to work” and force yourself to do it. Because your mind doesn’t want you to do it because that’s the hard work and you’re kind of trying to trick it into focusing.

[10:05] MIKE: I’ve found myself doing that sometimes where I’ll be flipping over to my email every once in a while – every couple of minutes – and it’s like, “Wait.” If I’m working I’ll actually close down the tab, like you were just saying, and put a pause on the email box so that even if I go to my phone the stuff just doesn’t show up.

[10:21] ROB: Third technique I want to talk about is to stop watching, listening to, reading, or otherwise consuming mainstream news. If something important happens, you are going to hear about it – someone’s going to talk about it, someone’s going to mention it – you’re going to hear about it. Instead of news, I choose to focus on listening to audiobooks or podcasts that actually educate you, or listening purely to fiction. Stuff that’s actually going to relax you and kind of get your creative juices flowing. Instead of news of your phone, instead of sitting there and thumbing through news stories from the day which is just… It’s strange, it’s similar to Facebook and Twitter where I’ll find myself… I’ve actually deleted Facebook from my phone. And the reason is because I would find myself going to Facebook and the top two posts are interesting and relating to me: it’s my wife saying something or my mom or something. So I read through it and then before long I’ve been on there for ten minutes and I’m looking at people from high school and I really don’t care what they’re up to; I don’t care what their kid’s doing, or whatever. And yet, you get sucked into this thing. And that’s what I feel like the news on my phone turned into; the New York Times alerts and it would have news that was interesting at the top but then I’d spend fifteen minutes reading it, and it’s just a way for your mind to kind of try to occupy itself instead of actually being calm and actually either centering yourself for the day or thinking about things that are important.

[11:39] Instead of reading news on your phone, think about being productive like answering emails, or write a blog post, or write notes for a blog post, or schedule a Tweet for that matter, engage with your audience a little bit. There is very, very little value that you will get from mainstream news whereas you can actually get some value out of certain audiobooks, podcasts, and, potentially, listening to fiction.

[12:01] MIKE: I totally agree with you. I notice different people have their favorite news websites and stuff like that, and I do as well, but the one I’ve sort of gravitated towards is CNN.com and MSN.com and I’ve found that just by not going there ever, it’s wasn’t as if I ever missed anything. And you’re right – other people will mention it to you if it’s important. And the reality is that most of the stuff you see on mainstream news is just clearly not important to you. It just doesn’t matter. It’s not going to materially affect your life. And I’d say that’s the real problem with them; they’re sucking away your time and not really giving anything back to you.

[12:35] ROB: That’s the issue I have with it. I’m not saying that news is not valuable, I’m not saying that being informed about the world, and politics, and what’s going on is not valuable. But doing it every time you’re standing in line or every thirty minutes compulsively checking the news – and I’ve got friends who are news junkies – it winds up being a tremendous amount of time and it’s a bit of a crutch or an addiction of sorts, just like Facebook and Twitter and social networks and all that stuff can be. Or email can be for us, where we actually want to seek that interruption and it kind of relaxes us. It’s getting away from that stuff that you’re doing impulsively and I think news is a big one.

[13:09] So the fourth tactic I want to talk about – I mentioned already – is to put your phone in the other room when you’re with your family. And the reason I say that is because when you’re working, you should be working. You should be working really hard. And when you’re not working, when you’re with your family, you should be with your family. And you should be doing that really well. So you either need to figure out a way to not take your phone out of your pocket – which I do almost instinctively every ten or fifteen minutes. And so putting it in the other room, out just getting it out of arm’s reach, is a good way to really step away from something for a few hours.

[13:41] MIKE: You know, when I carried my phone around in my pocket a lot I had this natural tendency to pull out my phone and check my email and Twitter and all this other stuff just because I had my phone with me. Even if the phone is just not in your pocket, if it’s somewhere else – like if it’s on the microwave, or it’s on a shelf, or something like that – it doesn’t even need to be in the other room. As long as it’s inconvenient for you to go get it, that’s generally enough of a hurdle for you to not do it.

[14:05] ROB: Tactic number five is: don’t say “Email me” or “Call me” unless you really mean it. And what I mean by that is, at the end of my talks, I used to say, “Here’s my email address. Email me if you have questions.” Or when I’d meet with founders, we’d have a discussion over lunch and I’d do something to help them out and at the end I’d say, “Email me if you every have questions.” If you do that long enough, suddenly you are going to get too many emails and you’re not going to be able to answer them all and you’re going to feel guilty. So I’ve now taken a little more of a strategic approach to this and when I’m at the end of a meeting with founders or with people asking me advice, I typically say, “Well, I wish you the best of luck with it.” And, you know, if they do email me, that’s cool. And if they ask, “Can I email you with questions?” I’ll always say, “Yes,” because I still answer a lot of these emails. But I’ve stopped putting it out there because at a certain point, it just becomes a little too much to keep up with.

[14:59] The sixth tactic is to say, “No” a lot. This requires quite a bit of discipline, actually. I get multiple requests per day for my time for different reasons: people want to jump on calls, people have questions, people have… there’s just a ton of different things it could revolve around. Whether it’s MicroConf or any number of projects or apps that I’m working on, and the way that I’ve found to guard my time is to say “No.” And I have to say no to stuff that I want to do, even stuff that will help people out, there’s some local stuff where people have asked me to speak and I really have wanted to, and it would be fun, and it would give back to them, and sometimes I do do it. But other times, you just have to say “No.” And you can’t just weigh the time. If somebody says, “Hey, can you come do a twenty minute talk somewhere,” or “Help us out by just writing a little bit of code or doing two hours of tech support for this local Nonprofit.” If you have the time, that’s awesome, but you also have to think about the greater ramifications of that. A twenty minute talk means you then have to prep it, you have to practice it, you have to show up, you have to be there for whatever, the full hour, you have to talk to people afterwards, you may get invited to do other things. It always turns into more time than you think it’s going to. And, I’ve always made it a point to donate quite a bit of my time and money to charities and Nonprofits and I value those things. At a certain point, you do have to learn to say “No” to people that you really want to interact with.

[16:21] MIKE: Yeah, I think that most of the time your default answer should be “No” unless there’s a very compelling reason to say “Yes” to that kind of stuff. I think one of the underlying reasons for that is that if you start saying “Yes” to a lot of things, then what tends to happen is that you get asked to do more things. And it’s not to say that those aren’t helpful for other people but, at the same time, at some point you’re probably going to find yourself overcommitted. And when you’re overcommitted, that’s when you start to feel guilty because then things start to fall on the floor. And you feel more guilty about letting other people’s stuff fall on the floor than your own, so what will happen is that you will end up helping other people instead of doing the things that you really need to do, and you’ll start pushing those off.

[16:59] ROB: I also think this depends on where you’re at in your career. I think early on in your career you should say “Yes” to more because you tend to have more time available and you are seeking opportunities. You’re looking for ways to interact, to be around more people, and to build a network and all that stuff. But as time goes on, I see people overcommitting themselves. Actually, most people overcommit themselves in general, both in their personal lives and in their professional lives, and I think that learning to say “No” – I like what you said about making it the default response and then only reconsidering if there’s a compelling reason to do that. And that compelling reason doesn’t just need to be a selfish reason. It could be a compelling reason like, “Wow, this is a really good cause” or “These developers are really going to get a lot of value out of it.” I drove up to Mountain View – which is three hours from Fresno – and I gave a talk at the Googleplex to a Google developer group or something. It was a long drive and stuff, but I realized A) I really wanted to do a talk at the Googleplex, that was kind of fun. B) there were a lot of folks there; like, if there had been twenty-five people there, I wouldn’t have gone, but there wound up being 100-150 people. And the third reason: my parents live up there and my brother, so I was able to tie all that in and convince myself, “You know what, this is a good cause, I’m going to donate my time, it’s going to be fun, people are going to get value out of it, and I’m going to be able to work a family trip into it too.” So there are compelling reasons to do it but, especially as time goes on and your time becomes more and more valuable, I think leading with “No” and figuring out if you should say “Yes” is the right approach.

[18:27] Seventh tactic is to schedule time for Twitter like a mad person. Either don’t do Twitter at all or, if you do it, schedule it and do one, maybe two times a day. Schedule your Tweets in bulk. There’s a bunch of systems and ways for doing this, I’m not going to go into them here, but I find that Twitter can be – just like Facebook – a real time suck and a real default thing. If you’re not able to block yourself from doing it, there are tools you can download that will keep you from doing it. But I’ve found that just getting on there once in the morning and once in the afternoon, looking through, responding to everyone, and then scheduling some Tweets, personally, has been a really good approach for me and it keeps me from thinking about it all the time, it keeps me from interrupting myself with it, but it also keeps me engaged. It’s not like I log in every three days or four days and then people feel like you’re ignoring them.

[19:16] MIKE: Yeah I’m a little bit worse at this than you are, I think. I’ll log onto Twitter kind of when I get bored. Anytime my email hits where it says “So-and-so sent you a message,” that’s when I tend to go and look at Twitter. I like your approach of just hitting it once in the morning and then once in the afternoon, because that way you’ve got scheduled times for it and you can dedicate that time for it. But I know a lot of people will use it for, essentially, conversations back and forth. To me I find that extremely interrupting, I’d rather just use email or just use a phone call or something like that.

[19:46] ROB: Yeah I rarely do the conversation thing. Every once in a while it will happen but, when I schedule time for it, I try to keep it to less than ten minutes – and that’s both for the reading and responding and scheduling stuff. And I’m managing multiple Twitter accounts so I’m moving pretty quickly when I do that.

[20:01] Tactic number eight is to remove the mental burden of remembering things and let the cloud handle it. So this is similar to if you’ve heard of GTD, getting things done. Basically it’s to use a written to-do list of some kind, whether that’s on paper – I recommend using something in the cloud, like Trello, is what we use. Shopping lists I used to have on paper; we did away with that and now we have a doc in Simplenote and it’s shared between the two of us and any time any of us brings up something at the store, one of us adds it. There’s a system in place, basically, to capture that information. Let’s say I’m at dinner, I’m in a conversation and someone mentions something that needs to be an action item for me, they’re like, “Oh hey, did I mention I saw a typo on your website the other day?” or “There’s this fantastic new movie or this new iOS app that you need to download.” I never try to remember it, I always say, “I’m totally going to email that to myself right now.” Pop open email and I just have Trello as the contact name, and that’s my Trello board, and it goes to the top of the board and the next time I go in there I move it to the appropriate board and I actually have an iOS app queue and I have a movie queue and I have all this stuff that I do. One step beyond that is to actually have different email addresses for each of those boards so I don’t have to touch it twice, because realistically I shouldn’t have to touch that issue twice.

[21:14] MIKE: Similar to you, I think you said you use Simplenote? We use a program called AnyList and my wife and I are both signed up for it. That way if we’re at the store or something like that and the other person thinks of something they can add it and it pops up right on the list so that we need to go get whatever it is. So if we’re missing milk, or eggs, or whatever, if for whatever reason it didn’t end up on the list, you can check it and it will show you what is crossed off so you can almost see where in the store somebody is based on what they’ve checked off. We have a process in place where once you’re done shopping, before you go and start adding other things to it, you delete the list so that way you see all the deleted entries get removed as well. It’s just a process and as long as you have that process in place, to manage that information you don’t have to think about it anymore. And that’s the key thing, not having to think about it or try to remember stuff that you really have no business trying to remember.

[22:09] ROB: The ninth and final tactic that we’ll talk about is to eliminate meetings. There’s this concept of the maker’s schedule versus the manager’s schedule, something that Paul Graham talked about in an essay. The idea is that makers need long stretches of quiet productivity and managers tend to chop their day up with a bunch of meetings. And I think salespeople are like that too, they need to have a lot of meetings and they have to work around client schedules, so they will have very interrupted schedules. In my opinion, trying to be both a maker and a manager at the same time is incredibly unproductive and if you can avoid it at all cost, I would do so. This is one of the reasons that I have slowly weaned myself away from development, because as much as I love developing and I love creating and building, you need a maker’s schedule to do that and I just have too much going on with all the projects that I’m working on and everything that I’m doing. So I’ve had to hire people who can have maker’s schedules, and I respect their maker’s schedules. There are no meetings ay our company, the only thing we have a weekly lunch that we all go to and talk, but other than that we interact and we take care of things as they come up. But I never want to time box these guys’ time because I know what it’s like to be a developer and be working on something and realize, “Wow, in fifteen minutes I have a meeting and I have to stop what I’m doing.” It’s incredibly bad for productivity.

[23:27] MIKE: Yeah, I’ve been trying to wean myself away from that as well so that I’m not doing any more of the development tasks. I would say I have more of a manager’s schedule. How do you resolve the discrepancy where you’ve got to do a maker’s schedule in order to do things like Ad Words and things like that? Because, obviously, there’s content creation, there’s website tweaks, and maybe you’re not making anything but you’re doing things that do require some concentration in order to do it.

[23:54] ROB: Absolutely, like writing copy. The long-form homepage on Drip took me an hour to do the first round and then like four hours of revising and then I’ve written a couple of blog posts recently that have been several hours in the making. And when I did those, I basically went off the grid. I turned off all notifications, I blocked out about two hours to get the initial round done, and I did my thing where I drank some caffeine, I turned on loud music in the headphones, and I just went into the zone, and I totally cranked it out really as fast as I possibly could, and I totally blocked things off. If I have any type of call or anything scheduled, I can’t do that because I know that if I’m time boxed on the outside that I’m going to get interrupted, there’s something in the back of my mind that won’t let me get into flow because I’m thinking about it. So when I say I blocked off two hours, what I actually mean is that I put two hours on the calendar, I mentally said, “Alright, I’m going to try to sprint for two hours,” but I had nothing scheduled for three or four so I knew that if I ran over and I kept being in the flow, that I would just continue to crank on that. In fact, one day I got so motivated that I wrote the complete blog post and I still had another thought and I started another one and got a complete draft done, and then I went in and revised my sales letter all in one day. And, typically, I just don’t have enough good glucose that is available to create that much content, but some days you’ll find that if you do, in fact, get in the zone that it can carry over like that.

[25:14] MIKE: So, to clarify, this isn’t necessarily about maintaining a maker’s schedule or a manager’s schedule, it’s being able to interleave them between each other such that maybe on one day you do one and on a different day you do the other. It sounds like it’s not strictly about eliminating one and just doing the other instead.

[25:31] ROB: Yeah, perhaps. If I could help it I would not have meetings ever. I would not do Skype calls, I would not do the podcast interviews and stuff, but I enjoy them and they help me in my business. So I do, In fact, find it a necessary thing that I have to balance. I don’t know that everyone has to, though. I think that, if at all possible, if I didn’t have these podcast interviews and the other stuff that I do via Skype that I would try to have much, much more of a maker’s schedule. But I think if you are forced into it then, yes, it’s the ability to switch between them quickly, because to try to block out that time and to get into the zone quickly is hard, it’s a learned skill and you need to figure out what your triggers are for that. We’ve talked about that a little bit in the past; I’ll often loop a song over and over and over and listen to it straight for two hours and then, for weeks, anytime I play that song it will trigger me into the zone. And that’s the way that I’m able to sometimes get into the zone in three or four minutes, which is kind of unheard of. Typically it takes you fifteen or twenty minutes to really get into the flow, but if you figure out your triggers, you can switch back and forth between makers’ and managers’ schedules faster.

[26:34] MIKE: I like the idea of just scheduling two, three, or four hours or whatever on your calendar so that you’re not interrupted for other things. But obviously that’s also going to take – You have to start turning off your phone and doing various things and schedule that in such a way that you know you’re not going to be interrupted. Because the second you’re interrupted when you’re trying to establish that maker’s schedule, everything just goes right out the window. You take such a hit in your productivity that it almost wasn’t worth even scheduling that time to begin with.

[27:02] ROB: That’s right, that’s exactly right. And you really have to do most of the previous eight tactics we’ve talked about in order for this last one to work, and that’s why I put it last.

[27:10] So to review, our nine tactics that we talked about are to answer email in the morning; number two, to turn off email, Facebook, and Twitter notifications; number three, to stop watching, listening to, reading, or otherwise consuming mainstream news; number four; to put your phone in the other room when you’re with your family; number five, don’t say “Email me” or “Call me” unless you mean it; number six, to say “No” a lot; number seven, schedule time for Twitter; number eight, remove the mental burden of remembering things; and number nine, eliminate meetings and figure out if you’re going to have a maker’s schedule or a manager’s schedule.

[27:39] MIKE: If you have a question for us or a suggestion for a podcast episode, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at Questions@StartupsfortheRestofUS.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re out of control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Startups and visit StartupsfortheRestofUs.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening; we’ll see you next time.

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2 Responses to “Episode 204 | 9 Tactics for Aggressive Time Management”

  1. Nice episode guys, though I must say I got a wild impulse about halfway through to tweet @Mike asking whether he could come speak at my local software group?

  2. Good episode! I don’t know why the maker vs manager schedule post didn’t hit home before because I had read it before, but in the last two months I’ve changed my schedule and it’s had a world of impact in a positive way on my productivity. I get sucked into a bunch of meetings by various groups that I’m involved in for work. After realizing I couldn’t regularly do a maker-day & manager-day, I now protect my mornings when I’m the most productive & creative with a furious passion.

    As an early riser, I get a few hours of work done before the kids get up and I can see them off to school & have some “me” time either out on a run or in the gym. The break for the kids is nice to have, aside from the obvious family time, but it’s good for work as it forces me to do a certain type of work before they get up because I know I’m in a time box. The exercise time is great because it’s just healthy, but I find my mind is more calm after a run or gym.

    The afternoons can be “maker” times as well but I assume there will be meetings / conference calls. I do try to batch them up, but it doesn’t always work. In the last two weeks this new schedule has allowed me to get so much more stuff done… and it’s quality work.

    If I may, I’ll throw a 10th item on your list for me: “condition people that you are not immediately accessible all the time”. I need Skype open during the day, I need text messages open for some of the same reasons you explained. But one thing I’ve done for 95% of the people who contact me is delay my response. Over time people no longer have the expectation that you’ll immediately respond to an email, or Skype, or FB message, or LinkedIn email, or Twitter DM. With this expectation gone, I no longer feel the mental pressure to keep up with others expectations.