How many hours do a day have?

Twenty-four, you may answer, possibly with a bit of a sarcastic undertone… Of course, you will be right, but… please don’t plan as if it has. Of course not, my workday is only eight hours long… Or is it…

I often plan for an eight hour day… IT NEVER WORKS !!! Sometime last year I paged through a Slideshare (which unfortunately I could not locate again since) that listed some things the author wished he knew earlier. All the items was reasonably agreeable, so much so that I forgot all of them; except for one that really resonated: Only plan for a 4-5 hour day!, the rest will take care of itself…

I then realized that that is my main mistake: I think in terms of eight hour days, but for some mysterious reason seem to ‘just forget’ that all 8 hours cannot just be ‘productive’. Now you may be in a completely different job than mine – maybe your job can only survive if you can bill 8 hours a day to clients, or maybe you do something that fits a more standard norm – but if you do some knowledge work requiring dealing with people chances are we are in pretty similar boats…

So why plan for only 50% of my day? No it’s not because I’m a lazy bastard (at least not only, lol), but due to a range of factors. It seems to be extremely difficult to estimate writing time, planning to write a certain volume sometimes takes three hours, and sometimes 30 minutes. Interruptions are part of the job – a student looking for an explanation, a parent phoning,… Interestingly some of my best ideas pop into my head when I’m doing completely unrelated work. Reading about a topic can easily lead you to new ideas, rather important in my job, and impossible to plan for…

My main time management resolution for the year: plan only 4-5 hours work per day. That way I will still end up working 10-12 hours some days, but maybe, just maybe I can have a couple of more normal 8 hour days…

Full disclosure: This post is the direct result of not listening to myself today… Maybe I’ll be finished with today’s planned work by tomorrow evening…

Maybe you have some time management tips you can share with me? I’ll be grateful if you drop a comment… I need all the help I can get!


5 Responses to How many hours do a day have?

  1. Laurie Butgereit says:

    There was some famous entrepreneur ( I must look up his name) who claims he made it rich only working half days. He claims you can either work the first 12 hours of the day or the last 12 hours of the day. either case will work.

  2. Dirk Strauss says:

    I have 3 inboxes in Outlook that uses rules to filter email. If I receive a mail with my address in the To field and the sender is someone in my organisation, I send it to a priority Inbox. I will read that email almost immediately.

    If I receive a mail with my address in the cc field, it goes to my second, less prioritized inbox. I will read that email once I have some free time or during an email break. If you want my immediate attention to an email, don’t cc me.

    My third inbox is for everything else. I look at this inbox perhaps once a week (usually to see what can be deleted, perhaps read some lolcat emails etc).

    I admit, that in the beginning I saw myself right clicking on some emails and creating a rule to move that email to another inbox based upon a special condition, but once that was all done, the management of my emails became so much easier.

    I then also do work sprints. That is a time during which I focus on a single task only. Nothing else matters. I screen my calls (caller ID on my land-line), I minimise Outlook, I ignore everything for a full hour or two (usually 2). As a rule I never answer calls during work hours that I don’t recognise. Those are usually time wasters (people selling something).

    I then also mute the Skype IM notification sound because…
    there is
    nothing so infuriating
    as someone
    that sends an IM
    with a single sentence
    split over multiple
    IM messages.

    Skype will play that annoying IM message sound for each line above. Grrrr, that is an attention destroyer!

    Some of the tips above are adaptations of Scott Hanselman’s excellent talk on productivity. Check it out:

    • rabotha says:

      Thanks Dirk, recognized some of Scott’s tips there – used to follow his blog religiously when I still coded… Many tools that I use even today came from his well-known list One of the first things I do on a device is disable sounds and pop-ups with notifications – ok most of them, my phone still rings, and my meeting notifications still pops…

      You definitively touch on the holy grail of time management: minimize interruptions, maximize focus time.

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