TMS Interview 006 -- Manage Your Time in a Flexible Way

Dr. Guo is a normal developer in North America. She has been doing some private projects, and is currently in the epidemic WFH phase.

  • What scenarios does your time management workflow apply to?

Working with flexible hours. I personally prefer being calm and relaxed at work.

  • What tools do you need for your time management workflow?

Google Calendar + Github

  • Please briefly describe your time management workflow?

I think the important things will not be forgotten, forgetting trivial things is no harm. In the past, I would struggle to write down everything in case I forgot, but in recent years, I've slowly turned to grasping the important things instead of the trivial ones.

I manage three kinds of tasks in different ways.

A. Company work

Focus on the long-term output instead of short-term burnouts.

Generally, meetings are the main focus. I use Google Docs to manage schedules and assign tasks, and I check the schedule regularly. I try to schedule meetings together, and aim to have only one big meeting block on each day, which may have 3-12 meetings in it. I leave space at the beginning and end of the day for emails and other things that need to be concentrated. I aim to have 1-2 days a week without meetings for deep thinking. During busy time, I work overtime in the evenings, but I don't touch company work on weekends.

During epidemic WFH, I divide time between work and private projects . I only work during set work hours, and switch (mood and computer) to private projects as soon as the time is up.

B. Private projects

Focus on results.

We use a de-centric way to work: we communicate in Slack, use Github Issues to move the project forward, occasionally call with Zoom when the need arises, use Github Milestones to manage tasks within the project, and use Google Spreadsheet to manage different projects. During the week, because I'm at work, I usually go over the current projects in the morning and evening, and I'll go over them on Github Issues. There is also a super sprint of no more than 2-3 months for the intensive rush phase. We check the progress multiple times, constantly consider process optimization and reallocation to ensure significant progress each week.

C. Learning projects

Focus on quick wins and energy management.

When I need learn some technical content from online courses without deadlines, I call them learning super sprints. I only use this approach when there is a need to learn, and I will turn back to my normal routine when the learning is finished. Regardless of the actual schedule of the course, I always try finishing a super sprint within 1 -2 months, quick and more intensive. I try to spend a large chunk of the day studying intensely in a relatively short period of time, usually waking up early in the morning or working late at night. I spend a large chunk of time on focusing, and each study time may be 5-6 hours, no breaks in between, until finished. I use a notebook to track the progress in this period without special management.

There is no concurrent super sprints of studying and private projects. Even during super sprint weekends, I will leave one day when I don't do anything. If a super sprint is intensive, I will give myself a long break (1 month or more) to recharge my energy.

  • How long have you been sticking with this workflow?

Over 10 years.

  • What are the advantages of this workflow?

Super sprint allows me to achieve a lot of things in short time, so I can unplug myself during the rest periods.

  • The biggest pain point in time management right now?

Type A is more difficult to measure the effect of doing something, as it requires manual analysis of ROI for different types of tasks.

Type B lacks visualization of project progress. Zenhub, the closest tool on the market, is too expensive.

Type C is painless. When I find the interest of what I wish to learn, I will have little requirement for time management.

  • The ideal time management workflow is? What kind of tools are needed?

It would be nice to have a good visualization tool that can freely blend different types of above tasks.

  • Can you recommend a book on time management? The one that affected you the most.

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.

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Dr. Guo is a very productive programmer who has worked for several big tech companies, and has been running her own projects as well. Her ability to control both her own projects and the work of a large company is inseparable from her time management philosophy: using different strategies/approaches. Manage different types of projects while staying calm and relaxed. In the long run, this approach keeps her efficient while keeping herself physically and mentally healthy.

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If you would like to share your time management insights, please answer a few questions below and email us at post (2) acacess.com and we'll edit and publish.

  • Please introduce yourself briefly.
  • What scenarios does your time management workflow apply to?
  • What tools do you need for your time management workflow?
  • Please briefly describe your time management workflow?
  • How long have you been sticking with this workflow?
  • The advantages of this workflow?
  • The biggest pain point in time management at the moment?
  • What is the ideal time management workflow? What tools are needed?
  • Can you recommend a book on time management? The one that affected you the most.
  • Can you recommend a friend to share her/his time management tips?