or more professional referred to by book authors as "Time Management Skills" to better sell their titles. Anyway, as a rehash of my working philosophy, I recently shared an article with my colleagues on how to seriously lie and cheat one's way to buy more time. Here's a reprint of it:
Best Bang for Your Buck Time
Our Warchief is on the campaign to increase our tactical effectiveness across all theaters of operations we are currently deployed. Being the idle sleepy unit deep and safe in friendly territory, I have been assigned the mission to write up some short operational manuals and doctrines for quick dissemination to our frontline units.
In this session we’re going to delve into this skill of “time bargaining”. Everybody knows that it takes time to learn anything. And even more time to master it. We also know we pour a lot of time and energy into our project work and really have very little remaining at the end of the day (or night) to put into acquiring new knowledge. How’s a poor bloke ever going to find time to learn and progress? Today I am going to share a few simple practices on how to “cheat” time.
Transmute your commute into a library
Some of you may already know this habit of mine. I was slapped with this blazingly simple lesson from a time management book (which I cannot recall) back when I was in university. Those who take public transport, observe the passengers. Those walking in the streets, observe their actions. What are they doing? Mostly nothing. Until we acquire teleportation technology or master the art of ninjitsu, we are going to spend a significant amount of our daily time on commuting. Add up the hours each day and it becomes a scary amount. As much as possible I try to carry at least one book with me wherever I go, and as long as nobody’s talking to me, or I dislike that individual, I will be flipping the pages.
Of course those who drive are not advised to do so, but I swear if I had four eyes and four arms, I’d be reading while I ride my motor bike!
I’ll be there… an hour or two later…
This is a story of a friend’s friend who, back in his school days, followed a rigid routine that hardly required any real discipline. You know those good old days, when social obligations were always more important than finishing and handing in your tutorial assignment or thesis. There is always a circle somewhere partying or having fun outside. The dreadful consequences of refusing the invitation are oh so pressurizing. Here’s the neat deal: unlike morning reveille for soldier Physical Training, one seldom gets punished for arriving late at a party (in fact, arriving late always equates fashion, or so the movies tell me). My friend’s friend dealt with the social magnets with a cheery, “sure I’ll be there! But I can only come by a little later!”
And then he spent that one or two hours studying feverishly before relaxing at the party. But please don’t try this on somebody’s wedding dinner!
Establish your own knowledge base
Search technology is probably the next best thing after the Internet itself. It is just getting easier and easier to find relevant information and answers out there on the Internet. But there are still some portions that don’t get picked up by radar very effectively, and web content is changing every day; a great deal of deep and useful discussions and childish quarrels still take place in newsgroups and mailing lists, and ringing the doorbell of each and every interesting site or blog requires hiring a dedicated servant.
Searching these places where you know lies pearls of knowledge is possible today with a web search engine (if they have exposed a web interface), but still not as simple as it should be. And what if I want to search for a single thing across all these dimensions? Some programs to build my own archive:
1. Outlook with Windows Desktop Search
Technology mailing lists deliver 300-400 emails a day to my mailbox. Filtering rules put them in their correct category.
2. Omea Reader
Free aggregator from JetBrains stores and indexes discussions from private MVP newsgroups, and RSS feeds from a wide variety of interesting blogs.
3. Keep a blog of sorts to document your own lessons
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it ~ George Santayana
We will forget our own mistakes and lessons. Period. A blog need not always be PR-oriented, and you get to remain anonymous if you want to be so. Just put it there so you can retrace your own history without having to visit an exorbitant shrink to put you into a trance to make you remember that bitmask value you used to encode that character string.
With these, I also get to eavesdrop on more gossip than I can possibly do by my physical self all my life, and get to remember what a spanking I deserve in my younger days. It is all about recalling things faster. Yes it is gigabytes of storage we’re looking at here, but that takes years to swell up to such a size. Disk is cheap, time is not.
Alternatively Scott Mitchell (an author for ASP.NET) uses Gmail as his KB stash, which is probably the fastest kick-start method to KB building.
Well, hopefully these can help you find that “extra” time you’ve always wanted. Even better, if you practice neat tricks to deceive the Time Warden into giving you more time, be sure to share them with us! Enjoy your trip home!