Engineers are some of the most productive and best time managers I know.
We are capable of designing crazy infrastructure, sending people to space, and connecting communities all over the world. Genuinely remarkable what the recent generation of engineers has been able to accomplish.
Unfortunately, many engineers struggle to develop the necessary skills to grow early in their careers. Here is a simple framework that can 10x your productivity.
Identifying Time Wasters
Engineers waste an average of 3.5 hours per day checking email or being distracted.
Imagine what you can do with all that time. The world around us is designed to take away our most precious asset, our attention. By identifying where our time is going, we can eliminate those distractions. Keep track of your screen time (phones typically give you this information) and identify the apps that are stealing your attention.
Time wasters are not only at your fingertips; meetings and other unnecessary distractions also happen at the office. Meetings that could have been shorter or removed altogether, ambient noise, or even no clarity on what you need to work on.
Keep track of these time wasters and focus on removing 85% of them.
Establishing a Schedule
What does your calendar tell you about your day?
I live off my calendar. It does not exist to me if it is not on the calendar. 100% of the events and meetings I need to attend get added to the calendar. Not only that, but when I am working on many projects and need more structure to keep me going, I implement calendar blocking.
If you haven’t heard of calendar blocking, it is simply a practice to schedule blocks of time to focus on a single task. It allows me to not only focus on one task but gives me a sense of urgency to finish it during the time block.
Using your calendar for daily planning is great, but the magic happens in the monthly view. Scheduling project deadlines and important dates allow you to keep track of significant milestones coming up.
Time Management Strategies
I could go on for a while on this topic, and I do in my PE Exam Study Guide. But there are small things you can start doing now to get better with your time. Here are four strategies to try today:
- Task Batching: Do similar tasks together. For instance, don’t combine a task that requires engineering calculations with one that requires CAD work.
- Automate Trivial Tasks: I have a love/hate relationship with automation, but it is an effective way to get trivial tasks out of the way. Setting recurring tasks, filtering emails, and automated notifications are some examples of easy tasks to automate.
- Time Blocking: Block time to have deep work sessions. This gives you a sense of urgency to finish the task and keeps you on schedule.
Plan your day
Day planning is a simple but effective way to keep you on task during the day. I typically do 15 min at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day.
In the morning, I take a look at calendar events, tasks, or any important milestones coming up.
At the end of the day, I look at what I accomplished, spend 5 minutes reflecting, and plan for the next day.
Multitasking can be an effective way to manage time in the short term, but it can take a toll on productivity in the long term.
When multitasking, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not focus on the task. To eliminate multitasking, try to focus on one task at a time and break it down into small, achievable goals. You can also create a to-do list and prioritize the most important items. Setting aside time to take breaks and step away from work is also important.
This will help you stay focused and be more productive.
Now it is your turn
Some people are skeptical about “Time Management” and prefer “Energy Management.” While they are different, they both play a role in how you can become more productive.
These strategies are guaranteed to help you in your career and daily life. This week, implement one of these principles and note what worked and didn’t.
Last week, we talked about 10 skills for engineers. Did you try any of them? Here is my update:
Self-care was something that fell off the side last week. I was busy with work and could stay on track. Working out didn’t happen much, and my morning walks disappeared, all to prioritize work. I could tell my relationships were suffering, but getting out of the rut was hard.
Saturday and Sunday were spent doing things I liked. We spent it with family and even had some of them over for the Super Bowl. Overall a great way to step away from obligations and reset for the week.