Time management


25 July 2008


I am frequently asked how I manage my time, and how I manage to get so much done. I don’t know that my approach is right for everyone, but in case it helps here are some comments on how I work.

One of the main traps that people fall into is to do things that are urgent, but not necessarily important. They react to the urgency of deadlines, and demands of colleagues, and end up spending a lot of time on things that don’t really matter much. Often the most important things don’t have deadlines and aren’t urgent. For academics, the important things include writing books and research papers (which are usually not urgent), while the urgent things include attending meetings and doing administrative tasks (which are usually not important).

I maintain a “to do” list of everything that I am working on or that needs doing. Each item has a deadline (which may be a long time away) and a priority. I try to work on things that are high priority and spend as little time as possible on things that are low priority.

I use an incredibly useful free online tool to manage my “to do” list called “Todoist”. It allows items to have deadlines and priorities. My to-do list integrates with Gmail in Chrome using this extension. It is easy to add tasks, change deadlines, mark items as completed, etc. Because I usually have my browser open, this keeps my to-do list visible as well and reminds me what I should be working on.

In addition to the to-do list, here are some additional ideas that I find helpful.

I’m sure other people have other approaches which work for them. But this is what I do, and it seems to work for me.