Last week I ran a time management workshop, the second of this year. This workshop is always a bit of a challenge as people work in such different ways, so I try to concentrate on giving tips and ideas for things that I know work for me, or for colleagues.
Time management can seem a vague concept. The workshop is designed to get people thinking about how they spend their time, and how they can plan their day more effectively. As I mention a lot of computer and web-based resources in the workshop I thought I’d do a quick round-up here of some of them. Additional suggestions are welcome in the comments!
Working in short bursts, 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, is a great tool for productivity and in beating procrastination. You can time yourself with a kitchen timer or a stop watch (I use the one on my phone) or try one of these tools.
Strict Pomodoro Plugin for Chrome that gives you 25 minute countdowns, and also blocks distracting websites for those 25 minutes.
Tomato Timer Simple web-based pomodoro timer that pings when your time is up
Simple Timer Clean and simple Firefox timer plug in. This is the one I use when I don’t have my phone to hand.
Pomodairo Lightweight desktop timer. You’ll need to install Adobe Air to run this one
To do lists
For any time management strategy to work you need to know what you have to do, and when. Start off with pencil and paper, or try one of these.
Remember the Milk What started out as a shopping list tool is now a powerful cross-platform to list application. You can sync it with existing calendars and task software and there are also Android and iOS apps.
Todoist Task/to-do list manager that can be synced across devices and accessed from the web. You can also set it up to remember tasks by email, and colour code tasks. This can be useful if you have a to do list for your research, and another for paid work, for example.
Evernote I included this here because you can use it for to do list, but Evernote also functions as useful note-taking software. The ability to create ‘notes’ from multiple sources and sync across different devices and platforms means that many people find it a useful way of starting to organise their research. The elephant is cute, too.
Leechblock Add-on for Firefox. If you just can’t stop yourself checking time-wasting websites while you are working, but can’t unplug your browser because you need access to the internet for research, this is for you. You can block access to specific at specific times of day, or restrict access to certain sites all together.
StayFocused Add-on for Chrome that works in a similar way to Leechblock. You can also specify the length of ‘productive’ time that must pass before you can access time-wasting websites.
Plotting your tasks
Freemind For me, nothing beats paper and felt tips for drawing mind maps. However, if you want to take the mindmapping approach and prefer to work on a computer, this is an option for you. It’s the one I have on my work PC, but most of my mindmaps are still hand drawn.
Tom’s Planner Online Gantt chart creator, for if you prefer to use project management techniques in managing your time.
Gliffy You can create simple flow diagrams in most word processing packages, but if you want to try something different, this has a range of different templates to get you started.
Any other suggestions for time management tools are welcome in the comments. I’d especially welcome suggestions for different browsers and non-Windows operating systems, as well as smartphone apps.