Time Management by Tomato

Maybe I’m a different breed
Maybe I’m not listening
So blame it on my A.D.D. baby
Awolnation – Sail


Like a fireman

Putting out fires all day.

Time. There’s never enough time, especially at work. You get bombarded with so many things that need to get done. How do you get to everything?

Seriously, how do you get to it. I didn’t intend to start out like an infomercial. As I’ve moved up the ladder at work, there is more and more I have to get to every day, and heaven help me if I let even the smallest task fall through the cracks. It wasn’t bad when I started working in an office. I asked my boss what to do, he told me and I did it. Repeat when that task was complete. Advancing and taking on more responsibility lead to more tasks, more projects, and more supervisors with demands.

To make things a little more complicated, I probably have adult A.D.D., though I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I show most of the signs.

I started researching time management (should that be quoted?) techniques years ago. My firm sent me to a seminar on time management. Schedule 45 minute hours to leave yourself 15 minutes per hour to take care of anything unexpected. What about when the entire day is one unexpected flare-up after another?

The common theme for many of the programs I’ve looked at is to keep a list of stuff to do. Some say a To-Do Today list, others a master list of EVERYTHING you have to get done. I borrowed an audio seminar from a friend. It had a few ideas in it, such as tracking what you do and categorizing in 15 minute blocks. Unfortunately there is no category on the time log for keeping the time log up to date. The same borrowed seminar discussed a way of categorizing tasks on urgency and importance. This actually worked for me because I can handle just about anything that is thrown my way, but when I have too many choices of what to do, I freeze trying to decide what to do next.

I tried Getting Things Done. This seems like it could be a great system, if you have the time to implement it properly. I didn’t. I managed to clear my desk once, and I tried to set up the multiple lists. I did NOT, as David Allen recommends, begin the process without interruptions. I am not to the level of management where I can ignore everything for a day or more (I’m not sure that level actually exists), and I didn’t have the commitment to go in to the office on the weekend. An 80 mile round trip 5 days a week is more than enough for me thank you very much. There were some tidbits that I took from that program, such as keeping an agenda for the next time you meet with someone informally, and how to effectively process the Inbox.

A few other random tips I’ve collected (and at least attempt to use) include:

  • Only answer voice mail/email at specific times, once or twice a day. This works to a point, but I’ve found that if I put off responding that one of several things happens next-
    • I get a call asking why I haven’t responded to an email or vice-versa in a time frame that the sender deems appropriate.
    • My supervisor gets a call or office visit from said sender asking why I haven’t responded.
    • I get accused of being unresponsive or ignoring said sender.
      • All of these can happen in an hour or two.
  • Use the delay send feature in Outlook (and possibly other mail software). This way you can respond to email immediately, but avoid being trapped in an infinite game of email ping-pong that some people like to play that usually ends after 8 hours with you thinking “Where did the day go and did I actually accomplish anything?” The answer is typically no.
    • Downsides to this are the same as the twice-a-day method.
  • Don’t answer your phone. Always let it go to voice mail.
    • This is a minefield if I’ve ever heard one. If you’re in business where you rely on someone else requiring your services in exchange for compensation, you should probably pick up the phone most of the time if you want to remain employed. I try to pick up with a few exceptions.
      • Someone’s in my office. Ever been talking to someone who always answers the phone and goes into an unrelated conversation while you’re sitting there looking around. I find that rude and annoying, and try never to do that. Going back to my self diagnosed A.D.D., all this does is cause to forget what I’m talking about in both conversations.
      • I’m in the middle of something that takes concentration. If I’m on a time crunch trying to finish something and I can’t afford the distraction, I’ll ignore the ring. Sometimes I turn the ringer to silent or set calls to go straight to voice mail, but I usually forget to reset to normal for a while. This applies for things that will take a half hour or so. Anything more in depth than that usually defaults to “answer mode”.

The title of this post is a reference to something I read that made me start thinking about this time and attention management struggle that I deal with every day. It’s called The Pomodoro Technique. It essentially has you work on something for set periods of time, taking short breaks at set intervals. I’m not sure this would work too well for me. It’s bad enough trying to get my concentration back after answering a phone call or checking on the email ding. Taking a scheduled stop seems like it would derail my day completely.

So, anyone out there have any tips on how to “manage” time, attention, focus, etc.?

Rock on!


Getting (and Staying) Technical

I just posted this to my other blog. I’ve added some additional asides and commentary here. I wanted to make a couple of personal points here that I don’t feel should be included in my work-related blog:

SPAR Point Group contributor Sam Billingsley posted an article on remaining technical at the executive level. While I’m not exactly at that 30,000 foot level of the corporate strata, I do have to deal with the struggle between being a “manager” and remaining technical.


A couple of years ago, my firm decided to take the plunge and start offering Laser Scanning. I was (and remain) a Surveying and Mapping Project Manager. I’ve also always been a very hands-on technical guy. Essentially, if it involved a new piece of equipment or software, I could usually dig in and figure out how to not only use whatever it was, but be up and productive quickly. When the “We should REALLY be offering scanning services” decision was made, I was all over it.

I often put quotes around the various forms of manage (manage, manager, management, etc.) This is due to the fact that this word and its various forms get thrown around so much that they have lost all real meaning to me.

A few years ago, when I moved into more of a “management” role as opposed to a technical role, I was told that I would need to “manage” more and be less hands-on. I have no problem training someone to do what I do. This was the case with Laser Scanning. I was told within a couple of months after completing our first significant project that I needed to train someone on the process.

This distinction between being a “manager” and a “technician” has been presented to me several times. Usually this happens in that icon of the corporate world, The Annual Review. I’ve been told a number of times that I need to choose which direction I’m going to go. Why? This by the same folks who lament the rift between “office” and “field” staff.

Here’s the problem with that. We only have one model of scanner, we only use a couple of specific softwares to produce deliverables from point clouds, and I’ve been THE office guy for over a year now…

I’m STILL learning how to use this stuff!!!

I’m a Professional Surveyor and Mapper licensed in the State of Florida. Surveying is a professional field. With that out of the way, we are also a very technical field. Civil engineers that I work with sometimes say “Surveyors get all the cool toys.” Surveying is a profession, but there is a major technical element to this profession.

How can I, or any other young professional (yes, I still consider myself young) hope to “manage” a technical field without staying technical? If I hand over everything I’ve learned and then take a step back, how do I know what I’m talking about in a year or two? Do I have competent staff that I trust to dig in and learn what I know at least as well as I know it? Absolutely! But, how do I train more people, or offer troubleshooting help when someone is stuck, or figure out a tweak in the software that allows me to create a much more detailed ground surface model in less time than it took me two weeks ago (true story), if I “manage” from a safe distance?

…Technically speaking.

Rock on!

What have I been doing all this time?

I overslept Friday morning. I’ve said before that I’m not an early riser by choice (which is why I’m writing this at 11:00 pm). Friday morning was rough. Two hits on the snooze, then heard the wife’s alarm sound off. Still not feeling it. Finally looked at my phone and what I thought was fifteen minutes was an hour.

Oh crap!

BUT, I still made it to work on time somehow. I didn’t skip anything getting ready, and still managed to make it in on time.


My big question now is, what the heck do I do on a normal day that takes an hour+ more than I apparently need? I try to give myself some extra time in the morning to account for things like those alarm snoozes and my general distaste for anything pre-dawn, but an hour?

I think I need to streamline my morning routine a little.

Conference Survival

Conference BannerI recently attended a 3D Imaging conference out of state, and I learned a few things that I’d like to share.

Arrive early. Leave late.

It’s not much fun when you realize at the end of the first day of the conference that, adjusting for time zones, you’ve been up traveling since 1:30 in the morning, and it’s now 10:00 at night. Traveling can take it out of you. Get there a day early to adjust. Likewise, forget the hectic checking out the same day the conference ends. Stay an extra day and enjoy the amenities at the hotel. If your hotel doesn’t have amenities, see if you can scam….I mean, take advantage of some of the on-site relaxation at the conference hotel. One more thing you should do take at least one extra day off for recovery. It’s also recommended to take one day per time zone change to fully recover sleep patterns and kick the jet lag. Since you were probably tied to the office through your smartphone/tablet/laptop/lojack while you were away, you can be sure that the office won’t miss you. It will be like you were never gone. (more…)