Friday, February 01, 2008

Time Management for dummies!

There are a lot of things I want to blog about right now, but I'll start with this, since it is at the root of all the other articles I want to write. What is time management all about? It's about making use of those bits and small crums of free time!

Turn time into knowledge! I mean you wake up in the morning, you do what you need to do: make the bed, wash, pet the pet, wife the wife, make the meal, eat the meal, read your emails and blogs, etc... and you are left with about 17 minutes of extra time. If you leave home you get to the office too early, if you watch a TV series episode you leave in 50 minutes and you get there too late. You can't read a book, because that would mean make yourself confortable, open the book, get in the atmosphere of it, then get out of it and leave through the front door in 17 minutes. It can't be done and let you feel good about it. So, what to do?

My first choice is audio podcasts. I download a few (related to programming, but that's my personal interest), all in MP3 format, I choose one every morning and copy it on my cell phone. I use the handsfree to listen to it and that's it. In an ideal world I could do that while washing, making the bed, cooking the meal and eating it, but then I would mess the wife and pet part. Even so, audio files will run through the 17 minutes, through you leaving the house, walking to the car or bus or tram or even directly to the office, during the trip with any means of transportation and up until you get to the office.

Ok, you're in the tram, right in the middle of the distance between home and office and the podcast ends. You have a small cell phone with capacity for only one podcast or you ran out of battery. What to do?

My second choice: a PDA. I am using an 5 year old PDA, one that is black and white, has no screen backlight, it was a present from my uncle (Thanks, Alex!). I use a simple text reader like HandStory to read text books. The advantage is that the battery holds a lot (no cell or Bluetooth capability or graphics or lights to consume it) and you leave the book in the exact place where you stopped reading. Yes: turn PDA on, continue reading, turn PDA off. That means zero time consumed on finding the book, the page, the paragraph. The PDA comes with it's own protective casing and it fits perfectly in my jeans pocket. I can have tens of books on it and I need to recharge it once a week or even two weeks.
Of course, a new PDA could be used both as an audio player and a book reader.

So we've covered staying in touch with the world evolution with audio files and keeping literated by using text books. What's next? Video! In theory you could use the PDA for video feeds, but that would be pointless, in my opinion, since you cannot watch video while walking and something really small cannot give the output that is required for comfort. But that's me.

Anyway, I plan to write an entire article about open courseware next, but you may already know what I am hinting at. Use open courseware videos or video presentations on your computer while you are waiting for programs to compile, in the office lunch break or even in the background while you work. If something needs video, you can switch quickly, rewind a little, and see it done. You can watch parts of it before you leave for work or while you are eating when you come back.

And there you have it. Every single moment of your day can be used to absorb information. What are the downsides? Besides the obvious medical issues like reading or watching something on a screen every single moment (I don't have problems with this yet and I've been kind of glued to the screen for at least 10 years), there is the absorbtion capacity problem. At times you will feel totally wasted, tired, stupid, nothing works, you don't get the world around you, it's like your IQ has droppped a few stories to a neighbour below. Well, in that case TAKE A BREAK! Yes, that's all that is required. Take a day off or spend a weekend day doing absolutely nothing. With so many distractions around you, it will be difficult, especially after you've trained yourself to gobble down information, but think of it like jogging. Even if you manage to do it for half an hour, there is a small moment when you need to stop in order to continue running. Walking fast doesn't cut it, you need to stop.

Happy gobbling! :)