Time Management and Organizing Your Life

Posted on July 26, 2006

3 weeks and I’m still holding fast to my Time Management plan. Its like a diet program in some senses, most of the information is common sense, the real trick is to understand how everything fits together, what it really means, and then to light a fire under your butt to keep you on the path. So far I’ve got 3 weeks and I’m still with the program. I mentioned before that I switched from my PDA (OpenZaurus) to a Franklin Covey PAA, and I’m really glad that I did.

Have you considered a PAA? If your kicking it around, I found that Franklin Covey provides a Free Sample 31 Day Planner as a PDF which you can print and use. It’ll give you an idea of how you’d use a PAA and get you started on the right foot. I know some people are just using a small notebook for the purpose but I really like the Franklin Covey pages and form factor.

When I explored the Franklin Covey (FC) system I found that a lot of the methods that Time Management uses came from, at least partially, Franklin Covey. A lot of the stuff that isn’t so applicable to SysAdmin’s was stripped away or is presented in a diffrent way thats more suitable, but I found some parts of the FC system very useful, in particular this idea of Roles and Big Rocks.

FC suggests that you sit down and outline your personal values, your long term goals, and define your roles. Personally I struggle with the values and goals part (which is a discussion thats not suitable to have here) but the roles bit has been a revelation. The idea is to sit down and make a list of all your various roles. That is, we all wear diffrent hats in life, we’re diffrent people to diffrent persons. For instance, I wear (at least) one hat in the OpenSolaris community, things are expected of me and my work is viewed and expected by certain people. However, I can work my ass off for OpenSolaris and leave my brothers and sisters in the Enlightenment Project wondering where I am and when I’m going to complete something. Normally all these various roles are just jumbled in my head and so spitting them out onto paper alone was a real amazing thing. My list looks like this:

    Ben’s Roles:

  • Father/Husband
  • Christian
  • Enlightenment
  • OpenSolaris
  • Author/Blogger
  • SysAdmin (Employee)

So I have responsabilities in each of these areas on an ongoing basis and lots of people know me in each individual role but not neccisarily in any of the others. By laying these out I now can focus on each of those areas specifically and in an organized manner.

In FC planners there is a bookmark to making flipping to Today easy. They provide insert cards called your “Weekly Compass” to put in that bookmark, which look like this:

On that card I put each of my roles and a list of “Big Rocks”, or important goals, for each of those roles. The “Big Rock” idea comes from an analogy Covey makes about putting the big important things in your life first and then filling in everything around them. So while I may not have my “Big Rocks” as daily todo items, I’m always looking at them which allows me to keep them in mind as I plan day-to-day activities.

On a more practical level, it also serves as a “Who’s pissed off at me today?” reminder. Like I said before, I can work my tail off at work for 4 weeks and be a star in the office but other OpenSolaris developers, Enlightenment developers, bloggers, readers, etc, are going to think I died or something. Its important to find that balance between various parts of our lifes and I think Franklin Covey’s system really helps put it all into perspective better than any other method.

Perhaps the most supprising thing about defining your personal roles, at least for me, is that the list isn’t nearly as long as you think it is. Since I’ve started to see the breakdown of my roles I feel a lot more calm because its not a undefinable and uncomprehensable list of monumental size, its really pretty short and sweet and simple. Translation: stress relief, massive stress relief. Now instead of going all out in all directions I can feel happy knowing that I did one thing for OpenSolaris, one for my blog, one for E, so on and so forth. And feeling productive feels really, really, really good.