Here it is in a nutshell… if you want to manage your time well, you’ve got to:
1. Plan it
2. Track it
3. Evaluate it
Teams must additionally:
4. Broadcast it
To give the important more attention than the urgent, you must plan. To make informed choices about how to budget your time, you must track how you spend it. To continue making mindful decisions—what’s important? what’s urgent? what should I dedicate more of my time to? less of my time to?—you must assess. And teams, well… whether they’re asynchronous or sharing time and space, teams that collaborate effectively don’t do it in the dark. Methods and tools vary, and many add unnecessary complexity to what is really rather straightforward. Enter Daycast’s raison d'être—to cut the clutter and make these four things as simple and friction-free as possible.
Plan (the verb, not the noun).
What we hear most often from people who chafe at the idea of day planning is that it’s too confining; they don’t want to be locked in. This, we’ve learned, is almost always code for I don’t want to feel like a failure when I don’t stick to my plans. What we wouldn’t give to permanently disabuse the entire human population of the false notion that good time management equals the rigid execution of plans! Friends, you aren’t supposed to stick to your plans 100% of the time. If you did that, you wouldn’t be adapting to evolving circumstances, changing needs, and fluctuating resources. Which—in case it’s not clear—would be bad time management.
But let’s say your day planning history reveals that you always miss the mark; no plan survives the daily influx of distractions, demands, and detours. This creates regret which in turn begets inertia against ever making plans again. Why bother planning when the plans themselves are meaningless? This line of thinking is a trap, nicely elucidated by Elizabeth George Saunders, who writes in The New York Times that, “Since past experience has told you that your efforts do not have the power to improve your situation, you justify not acting as avoiding effort that won’t effect [sic] change. Your passivity is your way of feeling in control of a seemingly uncontrollable situation.”
Folks, there are reasons—discoverable, remediable reasons—why a well-intentioned day planning effort might consistently fail to deliver, the most common of which is overcommitting. When you refuse to acknowledge constraints (e.g., the limited number of hours in a day, the complexity of tasks, not to mention all the dependencies you don’t control and your hopelessly finite nature), you may think you’re hustling, reaching for peak productivity… no. It’s a betrayal of your highest priorities.
"When we set things up to make any real balance in our lives a virtual impossibility, we are evincing disloyalty to what we value most."
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
Our advice? Take several minutes each day to consider how you can make judicious use of it. That may involve a leisurely, two-hour lunch with friends, an extended session of focused work on a high-impact project, and attentive, thoughtful discussion with a potential client about their vision and expectations. None of which is both possible and anxiety-free without mindful planning. There are too many options, too much vying for time in this attention economy of ours for any of us to spend our days that way if we just show up each morning and hope for the best.
Essentially, day planning is the art of choosing. Of saying yes to a few things and no to everything else. You cannot do it all. What, then, will you do? Choose. There. That’s your plan.
Track, or: Come out of the fog.
Here’s time management expert Laura Vanderkam on the “time fog” (her phrase and oh, so apt) that lifted when she started tracking how she spent her weekly allotment of 168 hours: “I soon realized I’d been lying to myself about where the time was going. What I thought was a 60-hour workweek wasn’t even close. I would have guessed I spent hours doing dishes when in fact I spent minutes.” On the other side of that coin is the dogged sense that we aren’t doing enough, that surely whatever time we spent immersed in concentrated work this morning won’t cut it because the project isn’t even halfway done and we’ve got to keep going and it’s gorgeous outside and we could really use a walk but no, there’s no time for that, nocando NO. Phew!
Perspective—it’s the single biggest gift of time tracking.
Too many time trackers on the market fail to grasp what we consider to be one of the points of the whole exercise… to get off of the grind, eschew ever-accelerating productivity, protect puttering and tinkering and gazing into the distance. Time tracking lets you go at that Netflix series with gusto, free from the background guilt that nibbles away at your enjoyment to the point where even though you watch, you don’t get the restorative benefits of having done so.
When you know how you used your time today, you can make informed decisions about how to use it tomorrow. Over time and with experimentation, you begin to get a clearer sense of how long specific tasks tend to take, what fulfilling productivity looks like for you, and when you ought to push yourself versus when it’s best to ease off the throttle.
Generally, though, a walk break never hurts.
Evaluate… with your brain, not a bar chart.
Look, we go all heart-eyes-emoji over good data visualization too, but we also know this: If you’re mindfully planning your days and consistently tracking your time, you don’t need an infographic or a detailed report to assess, at the end of each day, how well you managed your time. Do that assessment most every day and a picture will emerge. It’s impossible, for example, to approach your time thoughtfully and somehow fail to notice that you spent the morning distracted by your inbox and the afternoon in a series of fruitless meetings. Truly. Show us someone who can’t begin to evaluate their time management efforts without, at the very least, a bar chart, and we’ll show you someone who doesn’t plan their days and track their time.
Reflect. Think. Consider. Metrics are awesome, but they should aid critical thinking, not replace it.
"For me, the evaluation piece is critical. It’s not about grading myself. It’s more of a Dear Diary moment—what went well today? what do I wish I'd done differently? do I need to ask for help with anything? Without that reflection, I just go from one thing to the next and the point of it all starts to get fuzzy."
- Holly H., Marketing Specialist
These are practical things—plan your day, track your time, evaluate your effort—that we think most people agree with, but struggle to actually do every day. Daycast helps.
Teams: Show your work.
Even if every member of a team is practicing effective time management, the team as a whole can mismanage time when teammates have limited awareness of each other’s daily progress and priorities. The answer to this problem has historically been meetings. Then email got added to the mix. Then messaging platforms like Slack. And teams are still mismanaging their time—working at cross purposes, duplicating efforts, etc. The trouble, as we see it, arises from these two aspects of meetings and email and Slack:
They provide information at the informer’s convenience, which is rarely when the receiver needs the info.
But what if you could check in on a teammate’s plan when it benefits you to do so and without interrupting them? That’s precisely what we mean when we say “broadcast”—each team member’s plan for their day should be visible to everyone else on the team. When actively working on a particular task in one’s day plan, it should be obvious to anyone who cares to look which task in the plan is the one being worked.
To be clear, this level of transparency will likely hurt rather than help teams in toxic work cultures. For those teams, healing the culture comes first.
Another point of clarity: None of this is to suggest that meetings, email, and Slack aren’t helpful; they are. We use them all. And we practice transparency. It was a critical missing element for us until we built and started using Daycast.
We call it The Daycast Difference.
There’s no high-brow philosophy here, no complicated system or rigid prescription. It simply comes down to this:
If you work from a considered plan, your efforts will bear more fruit than if you dive in headfirst each day and plow through whatever comes your way.
If you track your time from that same plan, you’ll get the data you need to bill clients and improve your planning efforts without having to fight for it.
If at the end of each day you reflect on how it went, you’ll unplug and tune your time management practice more thoroughly than if you just put a pin in things and go home.
For a few, the Daycast difference is noticeable right away. For most, letting go of reactive work habits and (ultimately) self-sabotaging time management practices takes a while. We recommend you download Daycast and use it free for 30 days. Plan, track, and assess each workday. We believe you’ll be glad you did.
Top photo by Harry Sanhu