Time Blocking

Dali's Clock

The thing about knowing more about what you’re doing, is that more people want to talk to you about it, and you have less and less time to actually… do it.

And so people block their calendars with “Do not Schedule” and “Make Time!” and presumably try to be diligent about actually enforcing this. But it’s hard. And when my schedule gets crazy and I contemplate doing this, the thing I come back to is – I want the make time to be the default, that other things eat in to. I want the assumption to be that all my “open” time is make time, and when I have time here or there I work on that not on… email.

(I still hate email)

I had a very engineer meeting recently. The guy didn’t block off my calendar, and didn’t book a meeting room, but sent a note saying “I can’t change this event so we’ll just do this”. I’d rushed from thing to thing most of the day, so nearly forgot, and was a couple of minutes late. But it was refreshing, and reminded me I used to be like that. Where a meeting was really just a chat with another engineer, and there was no need to schedule it because my calendar was open enough to remember it, and who needs a meeting room anyway? We’ll find somewhere to get together. Whatevs.

For a year now I’ve been refusing meetings which could be done over lunch (e.g with people wanting to pick my brain on diversity stuff although moving made it easy to cut back on that kind of stuff), but it’s not the solution to my current problem. I absolutely refuse to put “make time” on my calendar. I refuse to get to the point that it’s not the default – all time is make time, unless something specifies otherwise.

But what about going the other way? Blocking off time to handle non-making, whether it’s meetings, or writing design docs, or planning.

I’ve been working on that instead, and it’s sometimes challenging – there can be non-technical emergencies that pull me back. But I’ve found it’s a helpful way to stop the constant pull of “oh I’ll just do X and my head will be clear to code”. I can proxy it by writing it down, and saying, “I’m dealing with this on Tuesday when I’ve blocked out time for a bunch of such tasks”. Working across timezones actually helps, so meetings get blocked into overlapping work time.

The downside, is I’m back to needing a todo list – which I’d pretty much eliminated previously (notes in bug trackers and CLs sufficed).

Anyway, so far my semi-promising strategy for keeping on top of non-technical things, whilst retaining make time as the default. How do you balance?

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