Ok, so this isn’t exactly an info sec topic, but it’s something I see a lot of people struggling with…and something I revisit somewhat regularly to make sure what I’m doing still works.
Time and task management can be difficult. Especially when you are working on (multiple) projects with no real deadlines or deadlines far in the future. I think there’s a real benefit to figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t. If the way you work doesn’t fit the culture at a potential job, you may want to consider whether you can adapt or if there’s room for people who function a bit differently than the norm. Plus when you are looking at opportunities, you can measure how well you match the opportunity.
I think an important place to start is knowing how you function. I work in spurts for the most part – ridiculous productivity for a chunk of time followed by staring at a wall. I have found that I do different things in different chunks of concentration. Quieter things that are less active, I can do for at most 25 minutes at a time before I have to take a break (thank you Pomodoro Technique!). Things that are more engaging, like coding, I can go for an hour or two before wanting or needing to take a break. It’s also helpful if you can estimate how much time you need for different things as well. I find when I estimate how much time things will take, I’m often able to squeeze in quick tasks in chunks of time that otherwise would seem too short to do anything.
I’ve also found planning how much brain power project tasks will need is important. Productive Flourishing has a nice system for this that has you rate the energy level needed for your daily tasks. This is really helpful for those days when you are kind of fried, but still need to be productive. Find those low energy tasks and start checking them off the list. The brain power concept also relates to whether or not I can do tasks when there are people around or I’m otherwise likely to be interrupted. I intentionally reserve times when I can isolate myself for things that I really need to concentrate on or would prefer not to be interrupted midstream on.
I’m a big fan of Productive Flourishing’s planners for work stuff. I find forcing myself to plan my work day with them at least helps me have a plan for how to get things done. So that’s my desktop written system. Physically writing out my day makes me pay more attention to when I’ll fit things in. Productive Flourishing has the basics available for free, but they also have a paid version where you get the digital files for the entire year plus some extras and a new printed option.
But I don’t trust my memory to write everything down or just remember things. So I use ToodleDo as my electronic to do list. I can make folders, set priorities and contexts, connect tasks to goals, identify status, have start and due dates, and set reminders. The paid version has a lot of additional options, but the free version has worked for me for years. I combine this with the DGT GTD app on my phone. Being able to offload stuff onto a to do list immediately has been a lifesaver for me. The combination of ToodleDo and DGT GTD means I almost always have a way to get tasks saved in a way that I’m not going to forget. I only loosely use the GTD method, but it gave me some good ideas.
When I’m actually working, I like to use the Pomodoro Method and the Tomato Timer when I know I have a lot of things to get through. The defined chunks of time help me move on to the next task or project rather than lingering on one thing. I also like to use Toggl to keep track of how much time I’m spending on things. I don’t use either all of the time, but when I find myself struggling to feel/be productive or wondering where my time has gone, they have helped me pinpoint what is going on.
That looks like a lot written out like that…but it’s what works for me. I often have the attention span of a gnat, so it may be more than what most people need. I’m also that person who works with either music or TV going in the background all the time. There are very few times when I actually want or need quiet to work. I have friends who can’t stand to work around me because it’s too distracting.
PS – I’m realizing some of this sounds like major advertising for these things, but really I just like all of them and have no financial ties to any of them. I like to share things I find helpful 🙂
DGT GTD & To-Do List: Android App by dgtale: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dg.gtd.android.lite
Pomodoro Technique: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
Productive Flourishing: https://www.productiveflourishing.com/free-planners/
Tomato Timer: https://tomato-timer.com/#