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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Time Management

I have mentioned before that multitasking can be a productive working routine, diversion of attention and focus notwithstanding, since it can be a more efficient use of one’s time if used properly. Think of it abstractly: each task requires a certain amount of time to get done. If we put all the tasks that need to be done (and there are indeed a lot of them) in one single sequence, we spend a maximum amount of time in getting all of them done. If, on the other hand, we design goalposts and junctions for switching tasks, we may be able to save some time, which, in the long run, may end up being a lot of time. Take a look at this diagram:

time management

The line on top represents completing tasks sequentially, while the two lines below show the effect of doing things concurrently, which, as shown by the overall length of the whole process, is significantly shorter than the one on top. 

It is a mathematical axiom that doing things concurrently requires shorter time than doing them one after another, but clearly one must not switch between tasks too often or too quickly, or one would never make any progress in anything or get anything done, since, as warned by pscyhologists, one’s attention span goes awry if one does not buckle down on the task at hand. As mentioned before, I like to switch tasks when the task at hand is in limbo i.e. it does not require my immediate attention and can take care of itself, let it be running a program on my devices, scanning documents that I have just read, inserting footnotes in a paper that I have just written. These pockets of self-automation which can be processed by efficient machines are what I call ‘dead pockets’, and rather than wait for these self-automated processes to finish, I would seize the opportunity to start another task and make headway into it, since such ‘dead pockets’ are in effect chunks of time where one can end up being inactive and unproductive, and the difference lies in whether one recognises such ‘dead pockets’ and make the most out of them by working in their duration rather than passively wait for them to complete. The key in maximising efficiency in time management, therefore, may lie in minimising the number and length of ‘dead pockets’ in one’s working routine, and one can make more progress in one’s multitasked lives by being active for as long as one can. After all, active engagement is far more powerful and effective than passive observance, even though the latter is clearly fundamental for a successful execution of the former. Time is often our biggest enemy, since although we are always in need of more of it, we constantly feel the need for it. As the old saying goes, ‘there are simply not enough hours in the day to get things done’. It is time to make time our closest ally in moving forward.

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