We've reached the huge milestone of episode 10 – thank you, dear listener! In this episode I talk through what I have learned about time management – from how I use my calendar, to the importance of making time for reflection.
- Opposite of "traction" is "distraction".
- Making time to make time - weekly reflection on your previous week, be deliberate about your upcoming week.
- Tracking and awareness is the first step to acknowledging and improving.
- How I've been using a calendar instead of a todo list for a few weeks.
- Pomodoro technique – try it for the most challenging tasks!
- Meetings can be incredibly disruptive – I share a few tips on how to be more careful with meeting time management.
- Enable "Do Not Disturb" on macOS and iOS.
- Having Slack and your email inbox open throughout the day can be incredibly distracting. Try to open them at fixed times and batch up this work.
Actions / take aways
- Take time each week to reflect, and map your time. Book in 15 minutes this week.
- Try using a calendar instead of your todo list to plan your tasks.
- Keep meetings to fixed days in the week – like Mondays and Tuesdays, to free up your other days for deeper work.
- Wrap up meetings with 5 minute breaks in between to refresh and re-energise.
- Close your email and only open it at fixed times in the day.
- Enable "Do Not Disturb" on your devices.
- Don’t be afraid to pause, and make time for you. You can’t spend every waking hour being productive - you will eventually crash. But we each have different limits – so try to find what works best for you.
Links and further reading
- Nir Eyal: https://www.nirandfar.com
- Superhuman (email client I use): https://superhuman.com
- Mailman (tool to batch up your emails before they hit your inbox): https://mailman.to/james-8ntrxq
- Remote meetings (an article I wrote on some tips for better remote meetings): https://www.jamesgill.co/remote-meetings/
- Lifeline Pomodoro Timer for Mac: https://www.saent.com
- Good piece on how one CEO spends their time: https://review.firstround.com/an-exact-breakdown-of-how-one-ceo-spent-his-first-two-years-of-company-building
- New "Focus Mode" coming to iOS soon: https://www.macrumors.com/guide/ios-15-focus-mode/
What is Lost and Founder?
Being a startup founder is not all private jets and parties. Truthfully, being a founder is a lonely, difficult, stressful, yet rewarding way to spend your life. James Gill started GoSquared with two friends from school in 2006, and in this podcast he shares his struggles, excitement, and everything in between with refreshing honesty.
Hi everyone! And welcome to episode... Wait for it... Episode 10 of Lost and Founder!
We have made it to 10 episodes and I am hugely, hugely grateful to everyone who's listening in and who has chosen to join me for either one or all 10 of these episodes and I very much hope that we don't wrap up at episode 10, and continue for many more. But thank you! Thank you for joining for this momentous and historic occasion. And hopefully we'll, we'll have a helpful episode.
So for this episode, what I wanted to talk about was was just one topic and it's about time management.
So let's dive in and start the show.
I want to start the topic of time management with a quote from some one called Amos Tversky who I haven't really come across much before, but I noted down the quote when I came across it a while ago.
Amos Tversky was considered one of the leading decision researchers in the world in his lifetime and he was supposedly an expert in human decision-making.
I just love this quote because it kind of sums up what's been on my mind a little bit in the last few weeks. The quote goes something like this:
"The secret to doing good research is to always be a little bit under employed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours."
And I thought that was such a brilliant summary of, of how I think a lot of people go through their lives. And I, I certainly feel that there's a lot of that in the sort of entrepreneurial communities where you're always trying to maximize every single hour of every single day. And sometimes you can be so focused on short-term productivity, and forget to look up and see the bigger picture and make sure you're actually working on the right stuff and spending those days – which add up to weeks – which add up to months – which add up to years. On the right stuff.
So I thought it would be important to go over that first, because I think it sets the thinking for the rest of this topic. It's all well and good for us to supposedly manage our time on, on the best stuff possible during the day and the week. But if we're not overall clear on what we're trying to do, then all of that optimization is not as big of a deal.
And I another, not that I'm going to litter this podcast episode with quotes, but another person I've increasingly become aware of ever since I've been sort of learning about rhese topics and just general self-improvement. There's another person called Nir Eyal. Well, I'm not sure exactly the best way to pronounce his name, but he's written I think multiple books and, and many talks on sort of self-improvement.
He made a point on one of the talks that I saw, which was around distraction and how we all get frustrated with ourselves or me supposedly get distracted. You know, we end up. Checking a social media feed, or we end up watching that extra episode that we've been bingeing on Netflix and The point that he made was that Actually looking at the word distraction. Or to be distracted.
A distraction is the opposite of traction. And that may sound really blinding the obvious to some people listening, I guess. But That really hit me quite hard because to be distracted you need to be clear about what you're actually trying to build traction towards.
And I think for, for many of us that can sometimes actually be less clear than we would perhaps like, and I th I think that really emphasizes one of those, those things as important about the topic
In that. Yes, managing our time is very important and being clear with how we're spending it and being as productive as possible is good. But. The most important thing is that we are really clear on what we're actually trying to achieve. And that, that is the right thing for us to be trying to achieve and sometimes some time spent on being clear about that. Can make up for. A lot of wasted time that we are when we are supposedly getting distracted.
Now, I view myself as a constant work in progress. There's always room to improve. But one of the things that I've been trying to do more recently is. To take more time out. On a weekly basis to try to think about how I'm going to spend my time in slightly more deliberate ways for the following week.
And this has been a really helpful thing for me to do because so often I will start my week. Without a clear. Agenda of how I'm going to spend my time that week. And what naturally happens is that. The most urgent things that come up every day. Take my time. And before, you know, you've got to Friday afternoon.
Wondering where had that week went and how you didn't spend time on the things that you knew were important at the start of the week, but somehow failed to put time aside for them. And so. I've increasingly been trying to put some time aside. To plan out my, my time for the. For the future for the next week.
But one of the most important aspects of doing that is actually to reflect on the previous week and where I spent my time. And so. Part of what's been helpful for that has been.
Shifting to using my calendar a lot more and using my calendar too. Put time aside for tasks and important work. Using my calendar to reflect and assess where my time was actually spent. And using my calendar to be more deliberate day in, day out with. What I say yes and no to throughout the days and weeks.
And this has been incredibly helpful because I think as I mentioned on maybe one or two previous upsides, I've previously lived my life with. An ever-growing to do list. And. That's been incredibly. Overwhelming and stressful at times, because naturally. I always want to be doing more. I always want to be saying yes to people. I always want to be helping others on the team and outside of the company as well.
And. I naturally over commit. I say yes to far more things than I can physically fit into the day. As far as I'm aware, no one has invented a time machine yet, or the ability to pause time where I can do all of that stuff. And so. I'm not that far into this yet. Like I haven't been doing this for, for years to report back, but from the few weeks where I have been doing this.
I've been a lot more conscious about. How little time I actually have. And how little time I have to spend on those really, truly important things. And that process is teaching me a lot more about how. How careful I need to be about committing to things about promising things to people. Because I don't want to promise things and let people down.
I don't want to promise things to myself and let myself down. Because that way lies. Dissatisfaction and frustration. that would probably be one of my takeaways from this. This episode is that.
Being productive and managing time. Well on a hourly or a daily basis. For me, at least has started with. Making sure. I make time on a weekly basis to reflect and. And be deliberate about how I'm going to spend my time. For the upcoming week. And that has been giving me a, a whole new level of, of focus of, of clarity.
And confidence that I can take. Going into a new week.
I wouldn't be able to do a topic on time management without talking about one of my, perhaps one of my favorite techniques but also a technique I haven't actually used in the world, but that I came across a while ago. Every now and again, I adopt this technique to help me get through. Tough days or tasks.
Really fairing them. And that's the Pomodoro technique. Now for those of you who are slightly more Cultured than me. You want to say that Pomodoro. Is the Italian for tomato. And the Pomodoro technique for those who haven't come across, it is essentially a technique that gets his name from.
An Italian tomato timer and supposedly in Italy at least in the past they have these timers for cooking. Tomatoes. Perfectly for, for a, sort of a pasta sauce. And the timer I believe was around 20 minutes. And that off the back of this people have started using that timeframe and those timers to break up their day and break them up into chunks. And, so today you'll find if you search Pomodoro on, on Google or on the app store, you'll find many, many different apps and tools for helping you manage your time around this technique. And essentially the idea is that you break your day into multiple. I think between six and eight, I believe 20-25 minute chunks. And that you have breaks in between those. And the reason I've found this helpful in the past is that sometimes you can be. Thinking about a mega task. Something that you really, really don't want to do. It might be. Getting back to a massive email from someone you fair or it might be.
Doing something really dull, like an. Checking out. An invoice that has to be sent out and you have to make sure the tax codes are right or something like that. And sometimes it's really easy to put these tasks off. But. I've adopted the Pomodoro technique in the past to get around those tasks.
Because I know that whatever I do, I can just put 20, 25 minutes of my day. Towards that task. And I know that at the end of that 25 minutes, I'm going to get a break or I'm going to get a reward of some sort, and that break might just be going and stretching my legs or making a cup of tea. But it can really help you break the back of some of those bigger, more daunting tasks. And I'd highly encourage just trying it out, maybe for an afternoon or a morning and seeing if it helps you get through some of these, those tougher tasks on a, on a difficult day. And if it, if it helps well, Let me know, and I'd be keen to hear, hear what you learn.
That's another area where I know a lot of people really struggle to manage that time is when they get sucked into meetings. And. Despite many of us now working remotely. Meetings have not gone away. If anything, meetings have grown in importance and Persistence. And. And many of us have been more meetings than we ever used to be before.
Everyone is just a zoom call away. And. Meetings can often. Totally ruin your productivity in a day. I think many people look at a meeting and think that it might be a half hour meeting, but if that half hour meeting. Eating is in the middle of your morning or the middle of your afternoon. It can totally change what you can achieve in that timeframe.
And so. When trying to figure out how to plan your time. It's not always possible. I know because meetings. Can be dependent on others in your team or other people outside of your company. There's sometimes no way of avoiding it, but. As much as possible trying to. Be deliberate about when you have meetings and how long meetings last for.
Can be a game changer for making sure you spend your time in the best way possible. For me, I really have tried for a long time to keep the majority of my meetings to Mondays and Tuesdays. And this has meant that a large part of my week, Wednesdays. Thursdays and Fridays. For the most part meeting free.
Meetings always come up. Of course, there's time here and there that often needs to be given to various meetings and meetings can be, have varying levels of importance. But for me, I know that. Whenever I. Have time in my calendar. I always have this debate of how it should be spent and I often feel guilty.
With however, I'm spending it. If I'm in a meeting, I might be feeling guilty that I'm not spending time. Working on something else. And if I'm working on something else, I sometimes feel guilty about not being in a meeting to share info here, info from other people. And by being more deliberate about my week and when I have those meetings, it's helped me.
I feel a lot less guilty about how I'm spending my time and it's made it a lot clearer to myself and to everyone around me. When I. Around for meetings and when I'm in a mode for meetings and when I'm in a mode of trying to do deeper work, And that's been very, very helpful for me so far. And actually a lot of the team have.
Have embraced that same kind of schedule. And that's been really helpful as a team because when everyone on the team. Adopts a similar kind of schedule that makes it easier to focus time when you do and don't have those meetings. In addition on the subject to meetings. You'll probably notice with a lot of calendar applications.
Like Google calendar and the calendar app on the iPhone. You have these default time slots? It's like 30 minutes or an hour. Or an hour and a half even And those are, those are defaults and defaults are very powerful. In like software design. Because most people use the defaults, but you don't have to obey the defaults. And I'd strongly encourage you to think about.
Next time you have a meeting, does it need to be half an hour? Does it need to be an hour? Because what often happens is that time is blocked out for people and. That time gets used up. But. You may well be able to do what you were doing in half an hour and 15 minutes. You may well only need 25 minutes. You may not need a whole hour to discuss that big thing.
Sometimes you do, of course, but often that's not the case. And particularly now I find with zoom calls. As opposed to the previous life we all had Bowie. We went into an office and. Had to book meeting rooms and you'd move between meeting rooms. He used to have a little bit of a gap between meetings you'd maybe.
Move from one meeting room to another. You'd maybe grab a coffee on the way. But now we're on zoom. It's very easy to go from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM, straight into a call at 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM. 12. 12:00 PM. I don't know, whatever it is. Noon. And then maybe even go onto 1:00 PM. And not even get up from your computer.
Unless you're more deliberate about how you block out and separate those, those different meetings. And I highly encourage you to try to find a way to get a gap, a five minute gap between those calls. Because it can be incredibly draining too. Go straight from cool to cool. Without even moving out of your chair.
So trying to wrap meetings up at five, two is is a really positive thing. And I think trying to encourage everyone to do that is a really healthy way to. Try to move through the zoom fatigue in the best way possible.
The last few comments I wanted to make on time management around more around tooling and workflow stuff. Now for me, there's a few things that constantly distract me during the day. And often prevent me from doing my best or deep work. One of the things is having slack open every day and those listening, I'm sure most people know what slack is by now, but it's like a team chat tool and also having your email open all day and.
Our brains. Are not actually very modern. Our brains are still the same. Kinds of brains and the same way they work. Hasn't changed really for thousands of years. And yet today we have all of this modern technology that is designed to. Grab our attention and keep us addicted. Throughout throughout the day. And I've found that my brain is, it's not that smart when it comes to.
Dealing with things like slack and email. And actually not that it's not just that it's not that smart. It's become addicted to checking. To seeing as there's a new message saying, if someone's asked me a question saying it's not emails, come through. And I've found that I naturally start checking things.
Obsessively throughout the day. And that's just so destructive. Being productive throughout the day. And I've been really trying to tackle that. And so I've been trying to be more deliberate with when I check slack, but I'm still struggling with that. I must admit I haven't figured that out yet.
On the side of email. I've really been trying to check my email only at fixed times during the day. I can in the morning before the day starts just before lunch and just before the end of the day. And there are even tools out there too, that I came across recently called mailman. That helps you batch your email up and it doesn't even let it get to you.
Other than those fixed times during the day. And these things can really help you form better habits and hopefully get over some of the addiction of checking your email. Another thing that I actually have found on my, on my Mac. Most people know there's like a mode on your, on your phone called like do not disturb at least on iOS. And as I'm sure there's something similar on Android.
The Mac has that too. And I continuously have my Mac in do not disturb mode because there's nothing more distracting when you're trying to write something, be creative, be thoughtful than to see something pop up in the top right corner. And. Pull your attention away. A new email, a new message.
And keeping your Mac and do not disturb mode can be. A really simple, easy way to avoid a lot of those distractions. And I encourage you to try those things out and see if they help.
Ironically for an episode on time management. I believe this could be a longest episode I've lost in time to yet, but I hope you'll have found this episode helpful. I've actually certainly found it quite helpful. Reflecting myself on some of the ideas for how to manage time better. I just wanted to wrap up with.
With some takeaways from today's episode. So. I guess. Firstly, we touched on the importance of taking time out. To think about how you're spending your time. And I encourage you to try to block out maybe 30 minutes. Maybe even just 15 minutes for now. At the end of the week to just reflect on how you spent your time last week and think about how you can spend your time next week on the most important things, not just the most urgent things.
I would encourage you to try using a calendar instead of a to-do list. So far from what I've experienced, that's been very, very helpful for me. Give it a go. It might work for you. It might not like you won't know, unless you try it. Keep your meetings. As much as possible. On certain days of the week, so that you have other days where you can be focused and doing deep work.
That can be really helpful individually and it becomes even more helpful as a team.
Try wrapping up meetings with five minutes to spare at the end, because those five minutes can be incredibly helpful for recharging and refreshing yourself before going on to enough meeting.
Definitely try to close your email. During the day, if you can. I know that will depend on the different jobs people have, but trying to not be a. I'm addicted. Email starts with just trying to control that urge to check it. And if you close it, then at least you're not going to be getting the pings and the notifications throughout the day.
Enabling, do not disturb on your devices, especially when you're trying to focus can be incredibly helpful again for not getting sucked into distractions. Unnecessarily. And finally, don't be afraid to pause and make time for you. You can't spend every single hour of every single day, every week.
At maximum productivity. You just can't and. You may be able to for some time, but you will eventually find that it, it pays its price. Probably on your health. And we all have different limits there. Some people. Can go a lot longer than others, but I think we all need a break and we all need to pause every now and again.
And ultimately that's not a bad thing that helps us be better. That helps us re-energize and helps us continue to be our best. I hope it's been a helpful show. I am so. Thrilled to reach to episode 10 every single week. We've hopefully learned something more about ourselves. I know I've been learning a lot by sharing stories.
The ups and downs. And I, I really appreciate everyone. Who's dropped me kind comments on the show so far, and it really encourages me to continue doing this and For all the other people out there that are either starting businesses or thinking about starting businesses. I'm always happy to chat. And if you want to talk to me about everything. Please don't be afraid to reach out and i wish you the best of luck on your journey and i'll catch you soon.
Thanks again for listening and speak soon!