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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Paul Graham On Time Management & Procrastrination

Several people ask me repeatedly , how I manage things amidst so much of travel. I do not know whether I am all that good in managing things in time – most of my friends think that I can do better!! However I see some colleagues who do much better on this front – with so much travel they accomplish a lot more.Time management doesn't begin with managing time, it begins with finding our own individual purpose, establishing our mission, and setting our goals to achieve that mission. Paul Graham, points out that there are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, is good procrastination. Type-C procrastinators - put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff. Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work. The mildest seeming people, if they want to do real work, all have a certain degree of ruthlessness when it comes to avoiding errands. The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don't: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything else to work on this for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost more time when you finally get around to them. But if a lot get done during those few days, you will be net more productive. In fact, it may not be a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. There may be types of work that can only be done in long, uninterrupted stretches, when inspiration hits, rather than dutifully in scheduled little slices. Conversely, forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity. The cost of an interruption is not just the time it takes, but that it breaks the time on either side in half. Years back Steven covey’s book First things first defined a minor framework – to classify criticality of time management

1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning,
3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Paul’s advise is certainly good – “the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull one instead of making a to-do list push thing. Work on an ambitious project that one really enjoys, and sail as close to the wind &leave the right things undone.

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